JUSTICE THOMAS’S OPINION ON LIBEL HAS MERIT, BUT IT DOESN’T THREATEN PRESS FREEDOM OR VINDICATE TRUMP

By Jonathan Carmichael

There might be some merit to Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion criticizing the decision in the 1964 Supreme Court defamation case, New York Times v. Sullivan, but it does not vindicate Trump’s anti-press comments, nor should it cause any honest news organizations to assume a defensive posture.

The landmark case set a precedent in defamation lawsuits which increased the burden on the accuser by requiring proof that the defendant knew the information to be false and that the defendant acted with “actual malice.”

Thomas makes several objective arguments against the 1964 decision that are worth serious consideration and debate. This does not, however, vindicate Trump’s anti-press statements, despite the fact that Trump called for opening up libel laws. Publishing a story critical of the president does not constitute libel, even if the story is published by a news organization with an obvious opposing political bias. Even in the event that Thomas’s opinion were to lead to an undoing of all or part of the decision in question, no accuser — not even the president of the United States — should have a winnable libel case against the publisher if the published content is factually accurate.

By the same token, the media shouldn’t be in an uproar over Thomas’s opinion. If this causes some news organizations to strengthen their journalistic integrity by applying more rigorous fact checking practices and requiring multiple first-hand sources to avoid publishing falsities, then so be it. But there is no reason to characterize Thomas’s opinion as an attack on press freedom as some seem to imply it is.

Judging by Thomas’s opinion, he is a proponent of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and is not suggesting a repeal of either. A basis for his argument against the New York Times v. Sullivan decision is that, “Although the Court held that its newly minted actual-malice rule was ‘required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments,’ . . . it made no attempt to base that rule on the original understanding of those provisions.”

One legitimate reason to fear a repeal of the defamation precedent is the potential that some states could decide against a defendant simply because a story is unflattering, despite the factual accuracy of the information in question. Unlike the “actual malice” standard, however, that would be an attack on the First Amendment press freedom clause (via the Fourteenth Amendment) and would likely be met with heavy dissent across the political spectrum.

To make a broader point, the fact that an overwhelming majority of the mainstream media have an undoubtedly leftist bias should not have any influence on the value one places on the first amendment as it regards freedom of the press. Many problems exist in the realm of the press, news organizations, journalism, and “the media,” but it’s important that one thinks about those issues objectively, defines his concepts, standards, expectations, and the problems, determines the true cause(s), and — this is crucial — avoids the fatal mistake of devaluing the constitutional protection of freedom of the press.

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Capitalism, not conservatism, is the antidote to socialism

By Jonathan Carmichael

Fox News published an opinion piece titled, How to get your child to just say no to socialism.[1] The general concept of the article, written by Justin Haskins, is long overdue, and more voices like his should be heard. Haskins, identifies some important distinctions between socialism and capitalism, but to the detriment of his cause, however, he misses the mark in two key ways.

First, Haskins implies that conservatism, rather than capitalism, is the antidote to socialism. To further erode his purported position, Haskins emphasizes charity as a primary. Those two inaccuracies might fool a non-critical mind in the short term, but they ultimately serve to render opponents of socialism intellectually and philosophically impotent by casting a murky cloud of inconsistency over the argument.

Capitalism—not a mixed economy, and not conservatism, republicanism, or libertarianism—is the moral, philosophical, and practical antithesis to socialism and all variants of statism. This fact of reality must be emphasized in any proper argument for social and economic freedom and against statist regimes like socialism.

Conservatism is an ideology that favors “traditional values,” such as family and religion. Those are two areas in which conservatives claim to know what’s best, and they intend to impose social controls to see to it that everyone falls in line. They talk a big game about economic freedom, but separation of state and economy is not their aim. In fact, it isn’t that they don’t want government interference in the economy, they simply want to be in control of the interference.

They advocate reforms, as a cure to society’s ills; reforms to health care, the regulatory system, senior entitlements, and the tax code.[2] Their reforms are simply a means of manipulating Americans’ behavior to align with the conservative’s traditional values. They rail against big government, but their solution is not much different than the current mixed economy. Conservatives, like all mixed economy constituents, think theirs is a better way of managing government controls.

Like the so called progressives, conservatives represent the mixed economy. Each side has a different recipe for the mix. They quibble over the variety, quality, and quantity of poison the mix should contain, but to all proponents of the mixed economy, outright elimination of the poison is not an option. The taste might be slightly altered, but it’s still a mix of poison and nutrition—statism and capitalism.

With regard to children learning to reject socialism, a proper moral foundation should precede any discussion of politics. If one considers the essential opposing characteristics of the political spectrum to be freedom and force—that is to say that capitalism represents freedom and that everything from a mixed economy to the most vile totalitarian regime represents varying degrees of force—then one can draw moral conclusions about political systems.

As a child, if one holds a moral premise that initiating force on another individual is wrong, then the choice about political systems will be clear when that time comes. For one to draw the proper conclusion, however, the political systems must be honestly and accurately represented.

When it comes to charity in a capitalist society, it is absolutely voluntary. One can choose how to manage his wealth. If he wants to help someone who he thinks is deserving, then he has every right to do so. Charity, however, is not of primary importance, and as long as people like Haskins argue that it is, the socialists will claim the moral high ground. Consequently, those who are attempting to draw an honest conclusion about which political system is right, whether they are children or adults, will not see the true value of capitalism, nor will they grasp the immorality of socialism.

In a capitalist society, every individual is free to make his or her own choices and live as he or she sees fit. When the government is not stealing our income and wealth, when people aren’t institutionalized, disincentivized, and victimized as recipients in wealth distribution schemes, far fewer people are in need of economic assistance. For the majority of those who are, the need is only a temporary setback. If they desire assistance, they are free to ask friends and family or to seek out private charity organizations. Individuals in such a society are generally more self-reliant and eager to lend a hand to help other deserving people gain or regain their own self-reliance.[3]

An honest look at pre-welfare state America provides ample evidence that, when left free—and when government properly respects property rights—Americans are overwhelmingly charitable. In a society of freedom of association and mutually beneficial trade, we value other human beings. In general, we view one another benevolently—not as a potential antagonist whose “need” constitutes a government forced claim on the product of our effort—but as a fellow advocate of freedom and individual rights whose rational thought and productive actions are a potential value to us.

Freedom is the essential distinction and the primary moral value that refutes socialism. If one truly wants to eradicate poverty, then neither socialism nor conservatism are viable options. Capitalism is the clear choice. It’s clear because it is the only system that removes force from the equation and leaves individuals free, both economically and socially, to live in accordance with their own values and to pursue their own happiness.


Footnotes

[1] https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/how-to-get-your-child-to-just-say-no-to-socialism

[2] https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/what-conservatives-are

[3] Watkins, D. (2014). Rooseveltcare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance. Ayn Rand Institute.

The Anti-American Dream

This European is excellent on the First Amendment and the consequences of America’s progressive education.

My only criticism is his equating of political power with economic power (a fallacy that Ayn Rand called package-dealing). To his credit, he does point out that the First Amendment “only applies to government censorship and not to private companies.”

If, however, he were to integrate the distinction between political power and economic power into his thinking, he might avoid painting “big tech” as a censoring villain while still expressing disapproval for the actions particular companies have taken.

— but overall, really good commentary!

“Sometimes the worst enemies of capitalism are capitalists”

Capitalism And The Mixed Economy Are Not Synonymous

By Jonathan Carmichael

An opinion piece in The Hill titled, “Let capitalism—not government—build needed infrastructure,”[1] deserves both praise and criticism. The author argues that infrastructure owned and maintained by government (e.g., bridges, highways, pipelines, dams, and airports), should be privatized. In his words, “opening the infrastructure market to private ownership would ensure sufficient funding and would introduce innovation and cost-effectiveness.”[2]

In that, the author is correct. A proper government—one that exists to protect individual rights—has no business building and maintaining infrastructure. In a truly free market, which can only exist under capitalism, the best ideas, when properly executed, will rise to the top—not by subsidies or government protection from competition—but on merit; because they provide consumers with a superior value.

Rather than defend capitalism, however, the author undermines any honest attempt to do so by propounding the idea that capitalism is problematic. For example, the author refers to “inherent warts and blemishes of the capitalist system” and presupposes that prior to now, it was “imperative for the government . . . to finance, own and maintain the country’s infrastructure.”

The author commits multiple fallacies, but the focus of this post is to address his incorrect concept of capitalism; particularly, his act of equating capitalism with the mixed economy; the mix being that of capitalism and statism, which, in both theory and practice, is anti-capitalist.

His is a common misidentification in which one recognizes legitimate problems existing under our mixed economy (e.g., cronyism, political inequality, government protected monopolies) and wrongfully associates them with capitalism rather than their actual cause, the statist elements of the mixed economy. One who accepts this false concept[3] of capitalism, therefore, accepts that capitalism has “inherent warts and blemishes.”

Capitalism and statism are opposites. Capitalism is a corollary to individualism and logically follows from the idea that each and every individual possesses the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Statism is a corollary to collectivism and logically requires that some groups of individuals sacrifice to other groups of individuals and live (or die) for the state, the public, the community, the greater good, society, humanity, a race, or some other collective. Just as good is to evil, freedom is to enslavement, nutrition is to poison, and life is to death; capitalism is to statism.

All of the inherent problems of the mixed economy are characteristics and consequences of its statist elements; not of capitalism. Capitalism necessitates the absence of government interference in the economy. Thus, capitalism exists only to the degree that the economy is free of government interference.

Perilously, few people make the distinction between capitalism and the mixed economy, and even fewer identify the mixed economy’s statist elements as evil or inimical to capitalism. Instead, most identify the mixed economy as capitalism and, consequently, presuppose that capitalism is inherently problematic.

Consider freedom as it relates to each of the two opposing political philosophies of our mixed economy, statism and capitalism. Statist actions and practices—whether of the regulatory or welfare entitlement variety—possess the distinction of denying freedom. In contrast, capitalism distinctly requires freedom: Freedom from government controls; freedom from force; freedom from coercion; freedom from regulation; freedom from government created barriers to market entry; freedom of thought and action; freedom of voluntary association; and freedom of voluntary trade.

The act of denying, abating, and suppressing freedom from a given political socio-economic system disqualifies it from being capitalism. In the 19th century and early 20th century, the U.S. was as close to capitalism as any country has ever been. Major progressive reforms under Woodrow Wilson[4] and again under FDR[5] moved the U.S. significantly away from capitalism and deeper into statism, and subsequent presidents and congresses have continued the increase of statist elements in the lives of Americans.

Yes, some pockets of capitalism still remain, and some industries are freer than others; but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the mixed economy is equivalent to or synonymous with capitalism. The concepts and, thus, the words that identify them are not interchangeable.

To borrow from Harry Binswanger’s 2013 Forbes column titled, “Statism: Whether Fascist or Communist, It’s The Deadly Opposite of Capitalism”[6]:

A government that taxes 40 percent or more of our income, that controls our medical care, that regulates business so thoroughly that every firm large enough to afford it has a department of “compliance,” a government that controls the money supply, sets bank reserve-ratios, regulates stock offerings, margin-ratios, home construction, determines what pharmaceuticals and medical innovations can be sold, operates schools and universities, runs the passenger rail system, forbids “offensive” speech, increasingly intervenes in diet, subsidizes agriculture and “green” businesses, imposes tariffs, decides which businesses may merge, and . . . spies on its own citizens–is not a government remotely consistent with capitalism.[7]

The author of The Hill piece correctly acknowledges that government ownership of infrastructure puts it “in a position to abuse its power with impunity.” He observes that the government has “no incentive to keep projects on schedule and within budget,” or to concern itself with product quality. He points out that the government is guilty of “manipulating supply and demand to justify constantly raising taxes, user fees and tolls, ostensibly for building and maintaining roads while neglecting the assets’ maintenance and repair.”[8]

Kudos to the author for identifying several logical consequences that arise from government involvement in the economy. Indeed, these and many more logical consequences apply to all areas of the economy, not only infrastructure.

Despite his correct acknowledgements and good ideas, the author does more damage than good to the pro-capitalism argument. His credential as a senior fellow at a conservative think tank only makes matters worse. This is a person who most Americans associate with capitalism due to his “conservative” credentials. He is a presumed authority on the matter. What conservatives actually stand for, however, is a topic for a later date.

In her essay, “The Anatomy of Compromise” as published in her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand identified a few rules (as she called them) “about the working of principles in practice and about the relationship of principles to goals.” One of the rules is as follows: “When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.”[9] Rand expounds:

In order to win, the rational side of any controversy requires that its goals be understood; it has nothing to hide, since reality is its ally. The irrational side has to deceive, to confuse, to evade, to hide its goals. Fog, murk, and blindness are not the tools of reason; they are the only tools of irrationality.[10]

One who intends to argue for anything in honest standing should educate himself on the principles of both his and his opposition’s positions and use clearly defined terms. Advocates of capitalism are no exception.

To defend capitalism unequivocally and unapologetically, perhaps the easiest thing any honest of its advocates can do is to avoid misidentifying the current system (the mixed economy) as capitalism. Furthermore, a defender of capitalism—or any honest individual—should correct any misuse of the term, capitalism; especially when it explicates or implies subsumed principles contrary to capitalism.

To educate yourself on the principles of capitalism and statism, read Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal[11] and encourage others to do the same.


Footnotes

[1] Markovsky, A. (2018, Dec 10). Let capitalism — not government — build needed infrastructure. The Hill.

[2] Markovsky, (2018, Dec 10). Let capitalism.

[3] This is an example of what Ayn Rand called the fallacy of package-dealing.

[4] Tariff Act, Federal Income Tax, Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, Clayton Antitrust Act, Adamson Act.

[5] The New Deal, Social Security Administration, etc.

[6] Binswanger, H. (2013, Nov 13). Statism: Whether Fascist or Communist, It’s The Deadly Opposite of Capitalism. Forbes.

[7] Binswanger, (2013, Nov 13). Statism:.

[8] Markovsky, (2018, Dec 10). Let capitalism.

[9] Rand, A. (1966). The Anatomy of Compromise. In A. Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

[10] Rand, (1966). The Anatomy of Compromise..

[11] Rand, Ayn, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen. 1967. Capitalism: the unknown ideal. New York: Signet. ;

No, we don’t need a new ideology called “moral capitalism.” We need actual capitalism.

By Jonathan Carmichael

Despite the hoopla, Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s call for “moral capitalism”[1] doesn’t represent a radical or novel idea. Similar to all proponents of statist policies and practices, Kennedy’s political ideas uphold no rational morality, preserve the statist elements of our mixed economy, and, logically, can only lead to further government controls and, therefore, less freedom; unequivocally not capitalism.

Kennedy’s rhetoric effectively captured the attention of his fellow politicians and the press, but an attempt to discover Kennedy’s political philosophy reveals more of the same collectivist ideas explicitly associated with the left and poorly challenged—if at all challenged—by the right.

Kennedy’s primary concern is funding the various existing welfare state programs along with any new programs that might arise under the growing statist elements of the current mixed economy. He hasn’t defined the particular actions that he thinks will achieve his ideal, but some of the things he advocates are wealth redistribution, increasing the government prescribed minimum wage, government meddling in corporate structures, and taxing the rich—among other measures—to “meet our needs in infrastructure, childcare, health care, college and climate change.”[2]

Kennedy, although not unique in this regard, paints wealth creators as an evil element of society who should be punished. He pits CEOs against workers and “the rich” against the rest of society in a Marxist style class warfare.

Such ideas regard some individuals’ needs as a moral claim against—and justification to violate the individual rights of—those who they condemn as the villains of society, such as CEOs, “the rich,” successful entrepreneurs, those in the finance industry, employers, “the 1 percent,” “greedy capitalists,” and other productive individuals they decry as immoral, greedy, selfish, and powerful.

By what criteria are they condemned? By their virtue of being productive; by the fact that they achieved wealth and success; because they dared to take risks and pursue their own self-interests; because they created value where there was none; and because they assert their moral right to profit from their intellectual achievements.

Proponents of the class warfare narrative claim that injustice is committed by value-creators against those who rely on the value they create, such as jobs, loans, goods, services, knowledge, and entire industries.

The actual injustice is the violation of rights committed by government against the individuals who create value. Measures like those advocated by Kennedy initiate and reinforce some of these injustices. The irrational principle behind such rights-violating actions holds that the more value one creates, the more he is indebted to anyone who needs what he has created. This is an absolute injustice and the antithesis of capitalism.

Confusingly, Kennedy rebukes what he calls “Trump’s zero-sum game world view,” in which for “some segment of this society to win, somebody else has to lose,”[3] while Kennedy himself displays the same view by invoking the popular but misleading pie metaphor; “Americans spend their days fighting each other over economic crumbs—while our system quietly hand delivers the entire pie to those at the top.”[4]

As authors Yaron Brook and Don Watkins have pointed out,[5] the pie metaphor encapsulates two false premises: 1) That wealth is fixed, i.e., it doesn’t grow; and 2) Wealth is owned collectively by society rather than individuals. The truth is that every individual owns his own pie, and some grow their pie larger than others do.

There’s clearly nothing new to Kennedy’s ideas. In this case he’s employed the use of political campaign style tactics to appeal to “the economic needs of working class and middle-class voters.”[6] Moreover, he’s corruptly described his ideal political system as moral when it entails coercive force, makes no mention of protecting individual rights, and upholds the needs of society as a moral standard. These are not the hallmarks of capitalism. Kennedy’s proposals are inimical to capitalism and identical to or consistent with the statist elements which currently exist in the U.S.’s mixed economy. To call it capitalism is dishonest.

Contrary to Kennedy, we don’t need a new ideology called “moral capitalism.” We need actual capitalism.

By recognizing individual rights, capitalism is the political corollary to Individualism; the idea that each and every man is an end in himself and must exist for his own sake, independent of the demands, wants, and needs of others. Such is the idea that led to the Declaration of Independence and man’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Collectivism, on the other hand, regards man in terms of an aggregate, community, group, society, race, gender, tribe, class, et cetera. One’s purpose, according to collectivists, is to serve the collective, and he is of value only insofar as he does so. The political corollary to collectivism is any variant of statism (e.g., socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism). Under statism, the individual is subjugated to the demands of the state; he becomes a means to the ends of others.

Capitalism, more specifically laissez-faire capitalism, as described by Ayn Rand, entails separation of state and economics and is “based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.”[7]

Capitalism permits man to act corresponding to the nature of man, a rational animal, and it is, therefore, moral. The fundamental requirement for man to think and act on his own rational judgement is the freedom to do so. A proper political system entails a government that exists to protect individual rights, and thus preserve one’s—everyone’s—freedom to think and act on his own rational judgement. That system is capitalism.

The only way to establish a proper system of capitalism out of our current mixed economy is to deliberately, consistently, and systematically remove the statist elements.

If you uphold the moral value of individualism and individual rights then advocate unapologetically for capitalism; the only moral social system.


Footnotes

[1] LeBlanc, S. (2018, Nov 28). US Rep. Kennedy: Democrats should embrace “moral capitalism”.

[2] LeBlanc, (2018, Nov 28). “moral capitalism”.

[3] Wood, M., & Ryssdal, K. (2018, Dec 04). 93: Rep. Joe Kennedy is all about moral capitalism, and that sounds familiar.

[4] LeBlanc, (2018, Nov 28). “moral capitalism”.

[5] Brook, Yaron, and Don Watkins. 2011. “When It Comes to Wealth Creation, There Is No Pie.” Forbes.; See also, Brook, Y., & Watkins, D. (2016). Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

[6]  LeBlanc, (2018, Nov 28). “moral capitalism”.

[7] Rand, Ayn, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen. 1967. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet. a