Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ethics in a Statist System

Ethics, which is determining right and wrong actions, requires at least two moral individuals to be in contact with one another. By moral, I mean beings capable of thinking and capable of acting. A man cannot be moral in respect to a rock; he can commit no wrong to the rock and the rock cannot act at all, denying the existence of ethics in this particular case. A person who could think but could not act, even in the presence of another human being, cannot participate in any ethical situation, as they are completely unable to affect any change to the situation.

Politics encompasses a large subset of ethics. In politics, right and wrong are defined, stated, and enforced by a body that possess a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The other subset includes all actions that one should take but which may not be compelled with the use of force. Because politics is a subset of ethics, people become passionate about the subject. A declaration that the other person's politics are wrong is an indication that their ethics are wrong, as politics are a part of ethics.

Ethics (and hence politics) is a realm that is distinctly human and in many ways sets us apart from other species, being intrinsic to the quality of being human.

Socialism, or any other statist philosophy, degrades this human quality by denying humans the chance to act as they see fit. People are forced to pay for the so called "safety net." No choice is allowed; without choice, the people of such a society cannot be considered ethical as ethics requires choosing the correct option. Without choice, their is no choosing, and hence no ethics. It is partly because of this that the massive amount of wealth taken from successful businesses and rich individuals is not accredited to them as ethical by their detractors. Ironically, the more that is taken from these people by force, the less ethical they can be (as they have less to act with), and hence the more they will be demonized.

A free market system prevents people from acting rather than forcing them to act in a particular way. Imagine there being five possible actions for a situation, A B C D and E. The free market system, combined with respect for natural liberties but with no provision for positive liberties, removes option E from the allowed options but lets the individual decide between A B C and D. Statist systems act differently. Rather than removing an option but leaving a choice, the Statist will decide the one particular action for that individual to make. They may say, "you shall do B", in which case the person must do B. That person, however, is no longer an ethical being, as ethics requires choice. The more options left to the individual, the more choice they have, and hence the more they can participate in that human quality known as ethics.

This is not to say they will always choose the correct, "ethical" answer. They may very well choose to do wrong, but if they do so it is their responsibility and that individual can be held accountable for doing wrong or right. Not so in a statist system. When a man does B because he was given the choice between B and death (being completely removed from ethical decisions forever), he cannot truly be said to be responsible. He will say that he was just following orders, which is exactly true. There is no reason to believe a state's orders will be more moral than that of an individual, as the state is composed of individuals. If anything, the opposite is true, as the state will have the power to do wrong with impunity more than the individual.

That a free market system will outperform a socialist system (namely because the socialist system lacks the minute detail of information available to a free market) has been dealt with elsewhere. I believe I have shown that a free market system is also ethically preferable in that is allows ethical beings to exist, whereas a statist system chooses for its people in many circumstances and becomes the only ethical being by denying to its people the chance to act in accordance with a distinctly human quality.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thoughts Concerning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission 558 U.S. ___ (2010)
Argued March 24, 2009
Reargued September 9, 2009
Decided January 21, 2010

This recent decision touching on election finance laws concerning corporate contributions has created quite a stir over the last few weeks, even leading to a Presidential dressing down face to face with members of the Supreme Court during his State of the Union. That this case or its decision should be so controversial surprised me until I noticed a common thread among those who disagree with the outcome. Dissenters almost always argue that this decision is wrong because it will allow corporations to spend a great deal of money in future political campaigns, causing all sorts of woe. Whether that will actually be the case or not is actually irrelevant, however. The question at hand is whether the Federal Government had the authority to pass such a law at all, not whether the law was good or bad policy. Such policy outcomes should not even be raised in discussions concerning Citizens United as they are moot if there is no Constitutional authority allowing such laws to stand.

First off, let me remind the readers that Article VI of the Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

That same Constitution is amended in the first Amendment to state:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Simply put, 1) judges are bound to rule only on laws that are in accordance with the Constitution. 2) The Constitution explicitly prohibits Congress from passing any law abridging the freedom of speech. 3) Laws prohibiting speech are not in pursuance of this aspect of the Constitution; ergo, 4) such laws are not laws at all and judges have no responsibility to follow them.

I do not think anyone will question the deductive logic of this syllogism. The question now is, does the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 abridge free speech? I believe it did, as did the Court. If a corporation published any advocacy within 60 days of an election, it would have committed a felony. Clearly, there is a law banning an action, and in this case that action is political speech. The 1st Amendment exists mainly for the protection of political speech, which is considered to be the heart and soul of democracy itself. I ask my reader to please read the 1st Amendment again, in particular the part stating Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech; note there are no exceptions made. Any case of Congress banning political speech by an American citizen or groups thereof (the right of the people peaceably to assemble) is unconstitutional.

It really is that simple. Congress cannot ban peaceful political speech (no exceptions); this bill banned speech for peaceful corporations; ergo, it is unconstitutional. Critics of this ruling need to show how Congress has the authority to ban political speech by corporations within the framework of the Constitution. The 1st Amendment is perfectly clear on this, so I am not sure where a critic could even begin to defend the constitutionality of such a ban, which probably explains why most critics have taken to populist attacks not based on the Constitution. There are significant flaws with that argument, too, but as I mentioned, that point is moot until some critic presents a convincing case that the Federal Government has the authority to ban such speech.