Belching Cows and Global Warming

The temperature fluctuates every day and every season by dozens of degrees. Average temperature has fluctuated many times between ice ages and warming trends over hundreds of thousands of years.

If humans continue their current emissions of greenhouse gasses, the temperature of the earth might increase by a few degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. If humans destroy their modern industrial society and revert to barbarism, the temperature of the earth might increase by a few degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Is it conceivable that environmentalists are using global warming as a pretext to denigrate industrial society and socialize vast tracts of the economy? Rousseau managed to condemn technological achievements and promote statism even before industrialization really took off. If it were not for global warming, would environmentalists advocate free markets and praise industrial society, or would they continue to advocate political controls and reduced human use of resources?

Yet people can most effectively deal with changes of weather and other problems when they are free to innovate within a free market — i.e., within the context of private property rights, voluntary association, and economic liberty. The environmentalist “solution,” to put politicians and bureaucrats in control of more of the economy, will waste vast resources and slow the rate of technological innovation. (Gus Van Horn discusses this issue.)

Keith Lockitch explains why some environmentalists blast even “green consumerism:” “the goal of environmentalism is not any alleged benefit to mankind; its goal is to preserve nature untouched — to prevent nature from being altered for human purposes.”

In his October 16 column for the Rocky Mountain News, Vincent Carroll discusses the latest environmentalist attack on human activity:

When an ultra-establishment voice such as the Los Angeles Times devotes a 1,600-word editorial to the perils of “Killer cow emissions,” not as parody but as serious analysis, you know that concern over porterhouse steaks has elbowed its way into the mainstream.

After noting that “livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. — more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet,” the Times slogs through a variety of tactics that might reduce the impact of the methane gas that cattle produce (mostly through belching). It then concludes, however, that none of these measures would be enough.

The only alternative: “eating less meat.” As a result, “the government should not only get out of the business of promoting unhealthful and environmentally destructive foods, it should be actively discouraging them.”

Let’s be clear what the Times is saying: The government should actively discourage eating beef in order to combat global warming.

The Times’s October 15 editorial is worth quoting at greater length:

It’s a silent but deadly source of greenhouse gases that contributes more to global warming than the entire world transportation sector, yet politicians almost never discuss it, and environmental lobbyists and other green activist groups seem unaware of its existence. …

Most of the national debate about global warming centers on carbon dioxide, the world’s most abundant greenhouse gas, and its major sources — fossil fuels. Seldom mentioned is that cows and other ruminants, such as sheep and goats, are walking gas factories that take in fodder and put out methane and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases that are far more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane, with 21 times the warming potential of CO2, comes from both ends of a cow, but mostly the front. … [I]t’s estimated that a single cow can belch out anywhere from 25 to 130 gallons of methane a day.

Now, I do agree that possible subsidies of beef production should be eliminated. And I’m fine with voluntary efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through new technology.

But when environmentalists advocate expansive political controls of cows, they risk making themselves laughingstocks. I have no doubt that some environmentalists will continue to push the anti-cow line, though, in part because it fits so beautifully with the animal-rights agenda.

The environmentalist movement wants to tightly control human activity and reduce human energy use. The shame is that, if environmentalists are successful, they will destroy the market dynamism that would otherwise enable the rapid development of technology. In a truly free market, people would be free to produce and trade unshackled by government controls, capable of dramatic advances in energy production (and other fields) well before the year 2100. Does anyone really believe that politicians, bureaucrats, and political moochers are the ones capable of directing technological revolutions? But the path of liberty would enable people to use dramatically more energy and exploit many more resources (eventually off-world as well), and environmentalists can’t have that.

Government Financing is Not “Private”

Here is yet another example of how advocates of individual rights and free markets must fight both “liberals” and “conservatives.”

Diane Carman writes for the October 16 Denver Post:

For conservatives, the belief that private industry does everything better and at less cost than the evil government is the sacred 11th commandment of politics.

And, the debacle with Blackwater USA notwithstanding, there’s no question that some jobs are done best by private contractors.

On that everyone can agree.

Trouble is, a whole back-slapping system of financial rewards has evolved to corrupt the process. …

Here in Colorado, private firms supply everything, even bus drivers and prisons. Former Gov. Bill Owens was a believer in the 11th commandment, so contracts for public services during his terms exploded.

One result was a $300 million computer system that never worked, Carman notes.

In Carman’s world, then, you can either work directly for the government or indirectly for the government. If you work indirectly for the government, then that’s “private” enterprise.

What’s missing from this picture? Hmm… I know it’s a toughie! How about the possibility of not working for the government at all?

Let’s take the example of bus drivers. Is it true that bus drivers either have to work for the government directly or work for companies that contract with the government? Obviously not. The alternative is to get government out of the business of running busses and allow bussing companies to operate independently, with the ability to set their own rates and routes and compete on a free market.

Carman actually knows that it’s possible not to work for the government — after all, she works for The Denver Post — yet she packages government contracting together with real free enterprise as “private.” But a company that’s paid by the government — i.e., by tax dollars taken forcibly from citizens — is not really “private” at all. A truly private enterprise earns its revenues from willing customers.

I’ll take another example to drive home the point. Currently, book publishers decide which books to publish and then sell the books to readers who buy them. That’s private enterprise. But what if the government published books? (In fact, the government publishes government reports already.) If the government pays a contractor to print and distribute books, is that “private” in the same sense? To take an extreme example, if the government taxed everyone at a rate of 100 percent, then hired contractors for every job, then, by Carman’s reasoning, that would be an entirely “private” economy.

So it is rather important to maintain the distinction between a real free market — actual private enterprise — and government contracting, which relies on the forcible transfer of wealth.

Is there a legitimate role for government contracting? Yes — but only for tasks essential for the government to fulfill its job of protecting individual rights (which need not involve coercive taxation). For example, the government may properly hire contractors to build military equipment. However, when it comes to prisons, I think employees should work directly for the government, not for contractors, because of the perverse incentives created by indirect financing.

Carman makes another crucial mistake. She presumes that one must hold one of two views: either the government should finance bus drivers and all sorts of other occupations, or the government is “evil.” What this leaves out is the view that government plays a crucial and essential role in protecting individual rights, but that government should be restricted to that role. The fact that government is not evil does not imply that government should restrict, compete with, or push out (actually) private enterprise.

Unfortunately, Carman draws her errors directly from the conservative movement. Conservatives often fail to distinguish between the proper and essential role of government and the misuse of governmental power. Conservatives usually endorse the forcible transfer of wealth, though for “conservative” aims. Conservatives also pretend that government contracting means the same thing as “private” enterprise.

Here’s a recent example. A Colorado Republican release from October 16 states:

Leadership and members of House and Senate Republican caucuses gathered on the west steps of the Capitol today to unveil a comprehensive education package…

Among the GOP proposals addressing those priorities: a uniform, statewide curriculum standard to graduate high school; a general proficiency exam before any student could graduate; a requirement to display English proficiency before a student could graduate, and a plan to reward and retain the best teachers through performance bonuses. …

Assistant Senate Republican Leader Nancy Spence… the ranking GOP member of the Senate Education Committee, showcased two of her education-reform bills at the conference. One of the bills would offer parents tuition assistance for special-needs children, and the other offered performance incentives to teachers.

She said that students with special needs are particularly vulnerable when their educational options are limited and that their parents ought to be able to choose a program, private or public, that addresses the unique challenges their children face.

There’s that word “private” again, this time used by Republicans to mean government-financed schools for “students with special needs.”

But what does a real “private” or free-market school look like? It does not accept any tax dollars. It earns its revenues from willing customers. It sets rates of tuition, perhaps including sliding scales to accommodate the poor, in cooperation with its customers. It might accept charitable donations or even (actually) private vouchers, meaning vouchers funded voluntarily, rather than through tax dollars.

But, with a few rare and quiet exceptions, conservatives will not endorse free markets in education. Government-run education is conservative orthodoxy. True, some conservatives want the government to control education via tax-funded vouchers, and they pretend that this is the same thing as “private” education, but this is merely a minor variation on the theme of government force.

Indeed, Colorado Republicans have proudly assumed the role of central planners. They want to micromanage every government-run school in the state. And why do government-run schools require such micromanagement? Because of the perverse incentives created by tax financing. Government-run schools face little incentive to serve their “customers.” These Republicans have no problem with government-run schools; they just want the government to run the schools their way.

Here is another example. This evening, the El Pomar Foundation is hosting a talk with Thomas Krannawitter of Hillsdale College. Here’s what Krannawitter has to say about government-run education:

In Ohio, as in the rest of America, taxpayers for years have poured billions of dollars into failing public schools. Dissatisfied with dismal results, the citizens of Cleveland decided to try something different. Parents would be given a voucher — tax dollars, that is — they could use to send their children to any school of their choice, public or private. By making choice available to more parents, schools would compete to attract students, providing a powerful incentive for all schools to strive for educational excellence. …

Contrary to the ACLU, the men who framed and ratified the Constitution and Bill of Rights rightly believed political freedom and good government require moral citizens capable of governing themselves. And they thought religion a powerful means of moral education that ought to be promoted by government.

Krannawitter confuses government-financed schools with “private” schools, thereby helping to obliterate the very idea of an actually “private,” free-market school. He enthusiastically endorses tax-financed education. And he suggests that government should also spend tax dollars to promote religion.

The broader critique is that Krannawitter conflates religion and morality, when actually objective morality can only be derived independently of religion. Religion undermines morality. But that debate is too broad for this post. For now, I need merely point out that Krannawitter does not advocate the right to control one’s own resources with respect to education or even religion; he believes the government should be in control.

The modern contest between “liberals” and “conservatives” is merely one to seize government control over our lives.

Religious Right, Meet Religious Left

A few days ago, I wrote “that one eventual possibility is for the… religious right and religious left [to] grow closer together.”

The future is now.

In his October 14 blog for the Rocky Mountain News, “Faith in the planet,” M.E. Sprengelmeyer writes:

In American politics, we’re used to hearing Republicans use the language of faith. And we’re used to hearing Democrats talk tough on protecting the environment.

But this year, we’re starting to notice candidates from both sides mixing the two, perhaps hoping that breaking that language barrier can win them cross-over support.

Sprengelmeyer offers quotes from two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee.

Obama:

The Bible tells us that when God created the Earth, he entrusted us with the responsibility to take care of that Earth — to exercise stewardship over His creation. … I don’t believe that this separation [of church and state] means that we should leave our religion at the door before entering the public square.

Huckabee:

My faith is my life – it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don’t separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

The difference between the candidates is that Obama is losing out to a secularist, Hillary Clinton, who uses the language of religion strategically, while Huckabee is losing out to a dedicated religionist, Mitt Romney, who believes “we are a religious people.” The left will rally behind Clinton, while the religious right is threatening to leave Giuliani at the altar should he manage to take the lead.

It is indeed interesting that, substantively, the quoted comments of Obama and Huckabee are identical. It is true that the religious left is more interested in expanding the welfare and environmentalist state, while the religious right is more interested in outlawing abortion and promoting religion through government. However, both sides care a lot more about attaining their pet goals than they do about stopping the religionists on the other side of the aisle. The tendency will be for both sides of the religious divide to “compromise” by tolerating the goals of the other side in order to promote their own agendas. Thus, it is not much of a surprise to see the religious right warming up to environmentalism or the religious left downplaying the separation of church and state. The religious right and the religious left are already united in their desire to use the force of government to advance their religious agendas.

FreeColorado.com Update — Health Policy

Here’s the latest from the Colorado Freedom Report:

Insurance mandates threaten your health
“Insurance mandates are morally wrong because they violate the rights of individuals to control their own lives and resources. The government has no more right to force us to buy health insurance than it does to force us to buy shoes, houses, hamburgers, or Bibles. … Instead of trying to force people to buy health insurance, why doesn’t Dr. Pramenko take a look at why health insurance is too expensive for some people to afford?” (by Linn and Ari Armstrong)

Restore Liberty in Health Care in Colorado
“The role of government in regard to health care should be to cease and desist. The proper role of government is not to force anyone to do anything. Government’s proper role is to protect every person’s right to liberty. But subsidies, tax distortions, insurance mandates, employer mandates and individual mandates violate this right and wreck the market.” (by Richard Watts)

“Get the Hell Out of the Way”

In his October 12 article for The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Mike Saccone writes:

Dr. Jim Schroeder warned four members of a statewide health reform commission that over-involving government in doctor-patient relations could push a large number of physicians to leave the business.

“The role of government should be to get the hell out of the way and let the doctors meet with the patients,” Schroeder said, his voice wavering with emotion.

Schroeder said any attempt from policymakers to expand existing government-managed health insurance programs or to create a single-payer, government-run health insurance program could allow the state to lower how much it pays physicians for their work.

“If you’re not paid for what you’re doing… you’re not going to stay in the field,” the local pediatric cardiologist said.

Schroeder’s comments came as part of a Thursday evening forum the Senate Bill 208 Commission hosted in Grand Junction to receive feedback on its five possible health care reform proposals.

These meetings all seem to go about the same way. Those who seek “concentrated benefits” of government wealth transfers show up in large numbers, while those on whom the costs are dispersed mostly stay away. Yet, as I noted previously, Brian Schwartz spoke eloquently at one of the meetings of the hazards of government-controlled medicine. I was heartened to read Dr. Schroeder’s comments. And Richard Watts tells me that he advocated liberty in medicine at a hearing in Craig.

Of course, the issue of payment discussed in the article is only one of many problems with government-run medicine. Medicaid and Medicare already pay doctors less than what services cost to provide. The bureaucracy and political meddling also induce especially the best doctors to leave the field. Political controls harm doctors as well as their patients, as both groups look to influence politicians and bureaucrats, rather than enter into voluntary, mutually beneficial relationships with each other.

Unfortunately, many who work in related fields are drawn by the siren song. Saccone continues:

Kristy Schmidt, director of community and consumer relations for the Marillac Clinic, said requirements for individuals to have their own health insurance are a good idea.

“Having everyone pay into the system will decrease costs for all,” Schmidt said.

But Schmidt’s statement is false. Forcing people to purchase health insurance violates their rights to control their own resources without addressing the underlying problems caused by existing political controls. Obviously, the point of the mandate is not to “decrease costs for all.” The point is to force some people to subsidize others through insurance. Because politically-enforced insurance would act more like pre-paid medical care, it would encourage people to seek more care without regard for cost, thereby increasing average “costs for all,” at least until price controls and rationing kicks in.

No, Dr. Schroeder offers the correct diagnosis and the correct remedy: “The role of government should be to get the hell out of the way and let the doctors meet with the patients.”

“An Extreme Free-Market View”

As I write, sunrise is a few short hours away. But, as I was checking the papers for the baseball updates, I came across Jason Salzman’s latest column for the Rocky Mountain News. He writes:

In response to my last column documenting how Denver journalists love and embed the conservative/libertarian Independence Institute, some people asked whom I’d quote instead of institute President Jon Caldara. …

For an extreme free-market view, there’s Ari Armstrong (ariarmstrong.com) [hey, that’s me!] and Brian T. [Schwartz] (wakalix.com), among others.

So, before heading to bed, I wanted to welcome Salzman’s readers who may have wandered this way. Because extreme exhaustion in defense of liberty is no vice! (Or something like that.)

Unlike most politicians and commentators these days, I don’t get ruffled when somebody suggests that I’m “extreme.” If this strikes you as odd, allow me to ask you a few questions.

Do you want to be extremely happy, or just sort of happy? (I’m not talking about a superficial giddiness, but a deep enjoyment of life.)

Would you like to live in an extremely just society, or a society that’s just only some of the time?

Should we strive to be extremely good, extremely virtuous, extremely moral, or just pretty good?

The alternative to extreme happiness, justice, and goodness is some amount of unhappiness, injustice, and destructive vice. (Please don’t confuse “vice” with activities that can be healthy in the right context, such as moderate drinking.)

Imagine yourself in the mid-1800s. The abolitionists called for the abolition — the complete abandonment — of slavery. They took the extreme position that slavery is morally wrong and should be completely outlawed. The moderates, on the other hand, argued that slavery should merely be restricted. Would you have been on the side of the abolitionists or the moderates?

Just as I would have been proud to call myself an abolitionist in the mid-1800s, so I am proud to advocate an “extreme free-market view” today.

What is a free market? An individual market is any space or network in which people can exchange goods or services. E-bay is a market. The market in the broader sense is the sum of such networks and transactions. A free market is one in which people interact voluntarily, free from the initiation of force. For example, if you and I agree to swap an apple for an egg, that’s a free-market transaction. If one party takes something by force, threat of force, or fraud, then the market is no longer free. Force has replaced voluntary association. Buying groceries is an example of a free-market trade. Robbing a grocery store is an example of force.

The proper and necessary function of government is to protect each individual’s right to control his or her own life, resources, and property, as consistent with the equal protection of the rights of others. You have the right to control your property and trade the fruits of your labor with others, so long as you don’t violate the property rights of others in the process.

An extremely free market is one in which people’s rights are consistently protected. The alternative is a society in which some people exert force against others.

Obviously I’ve given only the briefest overview of the basic theory. But that should give you a basic sense of where I’m coming from.

Here are some examples, again in brief, of how my “extreme free-market view” plays out with respect to particular issues. People have the right to control their own resources, so politicians should not force them to fund the health care of others. Voluntary charity is fine, but forced wealth transfers are not. People have the right to control their own property, so they should be left free to set smoking policy there. Company owners have the right to run their businesses and offer goods and services to willing customers, so businesses should not have to seek permission from the FTC or other bureaucracy to merge or otherwise operate. People own their homes, so local governments should not be able to take those homes away by force.

I realize that many of you have been trained since you could walk to compromise for the sake of compromise, reject any position that dares invoke a principle (except the “principle” that “there are not principles”), and always seek the centrist position, regardless of who defines the boundaries.

“Compromise.” Even if you’re compromising the good for the sake of the bad, the just for the sake of injustice?

“Be reasonable.” But how can you reason apart from principles?

“Why go to extremes?” Do you wish to be moderate in pursuit of justice? Sanction the violation of only some rights?

A consistently or “extremely” free market means that individuals’ rights are consistently protected, that people are free to control their own resources and associate voluntarily. The alternative is that some people control others by force.

I’ve written quite a lot more about political issues for the Colorado Freedom Report. For more about compromise, please see Ayn Rand’s essay, “Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?” in The Virtue of Selfishness. See also Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which sees its fiftieth anniversary this month.

Candidates’ Mailing Addresses

So I’m sending a copy of the letter, “Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters,” to candidates at the national and state level. Since I’m looking up the addresses, I’d thought I’d pass them along (even though only some of them will be relevant to most voters).

Of course, the 2008 elections are still more than a year away. But I wanted to introduce the letter early in the political season. There’s not much activity in the state legislative races at this point, but next year I’ll mail a copy of the letter to those candidates, too.

President

It turns out that there are a ridiculous number of people who think they’re running for president. The number just for Republicans approaches 100. So I’m going to send the letter only to candidates who are leading. I’m working from Vote Smart.

Rudolph W. Giuliani
1585 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Mike Huckabee
Carter Wamp
Policy
Post Office Box 2008
Little Rock, AR 72203

John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Mitt Romney
585 Commercial Street
Boston, MA 02109

Fred Thompson
Friends of Fred Thompson
Incorporated Post Office Box 128349
Nashville, TN 37212-8349

Joe Biden
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Hillary Clinton
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

John Edwards
1201 Old Greensboro Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Bill Richardson
490 Old Santa Fe Trail Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

U.S. Senate for Colorado

Bob Schaffer (I couldn’t easily find a mailing address.)
team@BobSchaffer.org

Mark Udall
8690 Wolff Court, #200
Westminster, CO 80031

U.S. Congress for Colorado’s Second District

(The following two candidates are Democrats, as Democrats always win this Boulder-centered race.)

Joan Fitz-Gerald
9975 Wadsworth Parkway – Unit K2 #401
Westminster, CO 80021-6814

Jared Polis
PO Box 4572
Boulder, CO 80306

Colorado Republicans and Democrats

Republican Party of Colorado
5950 S. Willow Drive, Suite 220
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Democratic Party of Colorado
777 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

Church/State Separation Endorsed by Colorado Voters

The signatories offer the following announcement as a non-exclusive letter to the editor.

As advocates of individual rights and free markets, we are deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, we also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, we will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state. We ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,
Ari Armstrong, Westminster
Tom Hall, Louisville
Diana Hsieh, Sedalia
Paul Hsieh, Sedalia
Mike Williams, Denver
Leonard Peikoff, Colorado Springs
Richard Watts, Hayden
Cara Thompson, Denver
Hannah Krening, Larkspur
Erika Hanson Brown, Denver
Bill Faulkner, Broomfield
Cameron Craig, Denver
Bryan Armentrout, Erie

Version for Individual Voters

Note: Voters have permission to reproduce and distribute the following declaration. The document may be signed by individual voters and sent to the candidates for whom they will have an opportunity to vote. The names and addresses of candidates generally can be found through regional newspapers and Secretaries of State.

Dear Candidate,

I hereby add my name to the following declaration:

As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.

In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:

1. Endorse the separation of church and state.

2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.

3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.

4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.

5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.

Signed,

Subverting Free Speech in the Name of Free Speech

A few days ago I wrote the entry, “McSwane Is No Defender of Free Speech.” J. David McSwane, editor of Colorado State University’s Rocky Mountain Collegian, published what I described as “a four-word, nonsensical, profane utterance in place of an actual editorial” — “Taser this? F– Bush,” spelling out the F-bomb. (I’ve seen the punctuation between “this” and “F—” published three ways — a question mark, ellipses, and a dash — but that’s an irrelevant detail.)

Unfortunately, various journalists and commentators continue to completely misunderstand the concept of free speech. Indeed, by setting up a false conception of “free speech,” they are actively undermining real free speech.

Free speech, as I wrote in greater detail previously, means that you are free to say and write what you want, with your own resources, without suffering any force or threat of force from the government.

Free speech implies that you are free to start a newspaper and establish policy for that newspaper. It means that you are free to hire and fire writers at your discretion. If you are forcibly prevented from hiring and firing writers at your discretion, then your rights of free speech are being violated. If you choose to fire a writer, then you are certainly NOT violating the free-speech rights of that writer, who may continue to say and write whatever he or she wishes, only not with your resources.

There are three complications.

First, generally newspapers are owned by corporations. This just means that policy is set according to the legally established governors of the corporation (the voting stock holders acting through a management team).

Second, typically newspapers hire writers according to a contract. Most assuredly, newspapers do NOT offer contracts that allow writers to write whatever they want. If writers violate the terms of their contracts, then they may be fired before the contract (otherwise) expires.

Third, college newspapers are affiliated with tax-funded institutions, a condition that, as I discussed previously, generates all sorts of intractable problems, as the tax-funded advocacy of any idea automatically violates somebody’s rights of free speech. Nevertheless, as I also discussed, this issue is irrelevant in the case of McSwane, because McSwane failed to uphold the clear, published policies of the paper that are in accordance with normal standards of professional journalism. The tax funding of colleges does not imply that all standards fly out the window.

With that context established, I’ll take a look at a new article that was brought to my attention by a reader.

UCLA’s Daily Bruin published an article on the matter today (October 8). The story is by Jessica Roy:

Since it ran, the [four-word] message has sparked a nationwide dialogue about freedom of speech and the rights of college newspapers.

“Even though I think that it was in bad taste, it’s certainly their right to go ahead and express whatever views it is that they have,” said Arthur Lechtholz-Zey, chief executive officer of L.O.G.I.C. (Liberty, Objectivity, Greed, Individualism and Capitalism), a UCLA student group associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, which promotes objectivism and the value of philosophy in general.

“Certainly I don’t think anybody should be punished for this,” he added.

The Board of Student Communications at Colorado State is an independent group that oversees the newspaper, which relies on advertising rather than student fees for its funding. …

But Ryan Dunn, a third-year law student at UCLA, said he believes the paper overstepped the boundaries of freedom of speech and the press.

“I think there’s obviously a limit (to freedom of speech). They need to be aware of what their words can cause,” Dunn said. …

Lechtholz-Zey said advertisers were well within their own freedom of speech rights to cancel any affiliation with the paper. …

What the article reveals is that these American college students have no idea what is the significance or meaning of the First Amendment or the right of free speech.

It is debatable whether the CSU paper is truly “independent” or a part of the tax-funded institution. However, if it is “independent,” then any possible First Amendment concern about firing McSwane evaporates.

I was most disappointed to read the comments of Lechtholz-Zey; Objectivists should know better. Lechtholz-Zey makes two errors. First, he confuses the paper’s right to publish what it wants with the paper’s right to fire McSwane. Second, he conflates getting fired with government-backed punishment. Only the latter actually violates First Amendment rights. At least Lechtholz-Zey gets it right when discussing the rights of advertisers.

But Dunn’s comments are far worse. Dunn first suggests that firing McSwane would have somehow violated his rights of free speech. It would not have done so. More seriously, Dunn outright endorses the limitation of free speech. The right of free speech is absolute — within its context. For example, prohibiting somebody from yelling “fire!” in a theater, when there is no fire, is no limitation of that person’s rights of free speech. The person has no such right. Instead, the prohibition protects the theater owners’ rights of property and expression. When people start talking about limiting free speech, then actual abuses of free speech are just around the corner.

What is frightening is that many of tomorrow’s journalists and lawyers — the people who should be most concerned with defending the First Amendment and the right of free speech — have no idea of what rights are.

How to Access Dental Care Without Insurance

Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., wrote the following comments for the October 7 Rocky Mountain News:

While 770,000 Coloradans are without health insurance, twice that number of citizens do not have dental insurance and, therefore, lack access for preventive and restorative services. They must wait until their dental problem becomes a medical emergency before they are likely to get service. …

Therefore, it is my hope that Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform takes seriously the need to include dental care as part of an overall strategy in fixing our health-care system in Colorado.

Wiant’s assertion is false. It is simply not true that people who lack dental insurance therefore “lack access for preventive and restorative services.” They have all kinds of access. Since Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is apparently ignorant of this fact, I’ll describe how people may access dental care.

Step One: Locate a phone book.

Step Two: Look up “dentist” in the phone book. It’s under “D.”

Step Three: Using a telephone, call a dentist in the phone book.

Step Four: Make an appointment to see the dentist.

Step Five: Go to see the dentist at the appointed time.

Step Six: Pay the bill.

As an alternative to the first two steps, look on-line — I found 2,080 dentists listed through DexKnows — or ask friends for a referral (which is what my wife and I did).

My wife and I do not have dental insurance. Indeed, we have never used our high-deductible insurance to cover any medical cost. We pay all of our medical and dental costs out of pocket (or out of our Health Savings Account, which is an extension of our “pocket”). And we like it that way.

My wife and I have both been very proactive in seeking out (and purchasing) “preventive and restorative” dental services. For example, just within the last few weeks, I had my first cavity filled (which was tiny because I went in as soon as I noticed it), and my wife had a filling replaced. Months ago I had a cracked molar repaired. We both get regular check-ups and cleanings.

Our dentist does an outstanding job. He is worth every cent that we’ve ever paid him — and much, much more. We get a spectacular value for our money with him, and I am proud to pay him for the services that he renders. Now that’s “access.”

We don’t need Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., to force us to purchase dental insurance that we neither want nor need. And that’s really what he’s saying here. It is now common knowledge that the 208 Commission has endorsed an “individual mandate” for Colorado, meaning that the Commission wants to force people to buy “insurance” that’s approved by politicians and bureaucrats (as opposed to, say, removing the political impediments that make insurance too expensive for some people to purchase).

But Wiant is concerned with the fraction of people lacking dental insurance who have trouble with Step Six. But they don’t need “insurance” (i.e., government-managed, pre-paid care that others are forced to fund) in order to have “access.” Those without funds to pay for dental services can and should set up payment plans or turn to voluntary charity.

Wiant’s article is indicative of what we can look for if the political takeover of medicine advances. Special interests will continually lobby to have their favored services included in the politically-enforced mix. As people “access” more of the “free” (or nearly free) services, the result will be price controls and rationing. Real “access” will be reduced.

By the way, “Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation.” And what manner of group is that? According to its web page:

In November of 1999, Anthem Insurance, a for-profit company, purchased Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado, which had non-profit status. This sale yielded proceeds of $155 million. As mandated by Colorado state law, the profit from the sale was dedicated to benefit the health of the people of Colorado. Caring for Colorado Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(4), tax-exempt Foundation, was endowed to fulfill this responsibilty (sic).

Let us leave aside the absurdity of state laws stacked on federal tax codes micromanaging mergers. Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is, by advocating more political control of medicine, actively undermining ” the health of the people of Colorado.”