Rob Natelson: Some Humor on the Corruption of Modern Universities

A high school senior who has just gone through the college admissions process humorously reflects on her experience in this Wall Street Journal op-ed. Her column is a good P.S. to my recent posting on what’s wrong at modern universities.

Beneath the humor, the analysis by Suzy Lee Weiss of the skewed criteria many admissions officers use is dead-on right—most notably some of the “political correctness” factors that assure that left-leaning students get a better chance of admission to prestige colleges than right-leaning and moderate students receive. Not mentioned, though: The ethnic groups favored in the “diversity” game are selected to be those at the core of the national Democratic Party’s base (African-Americans, Indians, Hispanics). You won’t find Mormons on the list, for example, even though they historically have been the victims of severe discrimination. You see, they mostly vote Republican.

Rob Natelson: Protecting People Against “Gun Control”

    Like the Montana Constitution, the Colorado Constitution guarantees citizen gun rights. Nevertheless, Colorado recently became the first Rocky Mountain state to impose sweeping limits on gun and gun-magazine ownership in violation of its own basic law and of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The action is concerning for Montana, because Rocky Mountain trends often start in Colorado.

    Attracting considerable notice has been my speech to the Pro-Second Amendment Committee of Grand Junction, Colorado, where I explained the original meaning of the Second Amendment, including the significance of the words “the right” and “infringe.” Particularly noticed has been the part where I show that you can use the same arguments the gun controllers use to restrict other constitutional rights, including free speech and sexual choice.

    I’ve reproduced part of the speech below. In it, I refer to the Colorado Constitution’s gun-rights provision. The Montana Constitution’s comparable section is Article II, Section 12: “The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own home, person, and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.”

    The speech also mentions that the Colorado Constitution defines the “militia” be include, essentially, all able-bodied men of military age. The comparable provision in the Montana Constitution is Article V, Section 13(2): “The militia forces shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of the state except those exempted by law.”

    Here are the excerpts:

My talk tonight will address three different, but related, topics.

    First, I’ll speak about the right to keep and bear arms as that right is enshrined in both the United States and Colorado Constitutions. I will be speaking about what those rights actually mean as the constitution-writers understood them, not as the courts have distorted them. I’ll discuss why those rights are there, what their scope is, and what it means to infringe them.

    Second, I’m going to speak about the politicians in the Colorado legislature who voted for bills designed to control and harass Colorado gun owners. I’ll say something about the convoluted thinking of those politicians, and what I think really motivates them.

    Finally, I will suggest a way citizens can respond to what those politicians have done.

    * * * *

    The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states that:

    “A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    What does this amendment really mean?

    In recent years, people offering answers to that question have often focused on the militia part of  the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state. . .”

    But in my view, that’s the wrong place to begin. The militia phrase is what lawyers call a “preamble”—a non-binding explanation of intent. It is not the effective, or operative, part of the amendment. In other words, it is only a guide to interpretation, not the actual law. The actual law is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    Notice two things about the phrase I just read.  First, it refers to “THE right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Like “the freedom of speech” and “the freedom of the press” in the First Amendment. The Founders were referring to a right already existing before the Constitution was ever adopted. In the Founders’ view, it was a natural right, given by God and not to be impaired by government. On the contrary, it was a right that government must guarantee.

    Another thing this phrase—THE right to keep and bear arms—implies is that the Founders knew the scope of the right. In other words, they understood what it did and didn’t include. We can understand what it did and didn’t include by examining the history of the Founding. It has always bothered me that so many judges and constitutional writers merely speculate about what First and Second Amendment rights mean, rather than going to the historical records and finding out.

    I’ll say more in a moment about what is and isn’t encompassed by the Second Amendment.

    So—this phrase refers to “THE right to keep and bear arms.” It also says that this right “shall not be infringed.” What does that mean? On this subject, also, there’s no need to speculate. Because 18th century dictionaries tell us exactly what “infringe” meant.

    In this context, the word “infringe” meant to reduce or impair in any way. In other words, government shall not reduce or impair in any way “THE right to keep and bear arms.” Today, political demagogues talk about imposing “common-sense” or “reasonable” restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. But the Constitution, properly understood, is clear that there are NO permissible restrictions on the right, however much the politicians may think they are “common sense” or “reasonable.”

    On the other hand, the Founding-Era record also tells us that not every use of every weapon is part of the right that cannot be infringed. So let’s look now at what the right does and doesn’t include.

    History makes it clear that the Second Amendment is designed to serve four principal purposes.

    First, it guarantees the states militia power of their own to balance the military power of the federal government;

    Second, it promotes the God-given right of personal self defense;

    Third, it enables the citizenry to repel foreign invasion; and

    Fourth, it enables the citizenry to overthrow domestic tyrants and intimidate or discipline those who otherwise would be tyrants.

    [The speech passed over the first purpose as more relevant to federal rather than state gun control, and then continued as follows:] . . . I’ll discuss here the other three principles. We begin with the right of self-defense.

    In order to enable people to defend themselves, the right to keep and bear arms has to include weapons sufficient for that purpose. Which weapons are sufficient for the purpose of self-defense will vary according to changes in technology and in society.

    Advocates of gun control tend to be the same sort of people who argue in favor of the idea of a “living Constitution.” Of course, usually when people argue for a “living Constitution,” what they really want is a dead Constitution. Specifically, they want to eliminate almost every constitutional limit on the power of federal politicians and allow those politicians to control almost everything except abortion, which they want the politicians to subsidize.

    Yet some of the people who think the Constitution should be manipulated to meet allegedly new conditions take a very different tack when applying the Second Amendment. To them, the Second Amendment, if it protects individual rights at all, should be limited to militia duty with muskets and flintlocks.

    But if the Second Amendment is based partly on a right to personal self-defense—and it is—then this narrow view is wrong.  The Second Amendment cannot be limited to muskets and flintlocks any more than the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce can be limited to trade in sailing ships and horse-drawn wagons.  Even an old-fashioned constitutionalist like myself believes that Congress can use the Commerce Power to regulate railroads and air travel, although those forms of travel did not exist when the Constitution was ratified. Otherwise, the Commerce Power would mean nothing. For the same reason, the right to keep and bear arms must include the free use of modern technology appropriate for self-defense.

    It is true that when the Second Amendment was ratified, a standard capacity 30 round magazine would not be necessary for personal self-defense. But now, when when mass murderers and terrorists have modern weapons, citizens need standard capacity magazines for self defense. They also need handguns and a range of other weapons. That is one reason the Second Amendment protects their use today.

    In addition to self-defense, the Second Amendment was adopted to enable citizens to defend against tyrants foreign and domestic. At this point it becomes helpful to turn to the Second Amendment’s preamble: The Amendment seeks a “well regulated militia.” In 18th century language, “a well regulated militia” meant a “well-trained militia.”

    The “militia” that the Second Amendment says should be well trained consists of all able bodied men. Article XVII, Section 1 of the Colorado Constitution expresses this well: It says, “The militia of the state shall consist of all able-bodied male residents of the state between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years; except, such persons as may be exempted by the laws of the United States, or of the state.” That was pretty much the American Founders’ view of the matter. Read Madison’s language in Number 46 of The Federalist Papers, and you’ll see what I mean. It is pretty much the understanding of our fathers and grandfathers when gun use and safety was commonly taught in public school.

    So according to the Second Amendment, we want all men of military age well trained in the use of weapons. And why is this? Because, as the preamble tells us, this is “necessary for the security of a free state.” By “a free state,” the Constitution means “a free country.”

    So all men of military age should be well-trained in weapons so that America survives as a free country.

    Well, what weapons? Obviously, the muskets and single-shot rifles in use when the Second Amendment was adopted are no longer sufficient to do the job. Today the Second Amendment protects a range of weapons appropriate for citizen militias resisting foreign invaders and tyrannical politicians.

    Now at this point someone favoring gun control always comes up with the line, “Well, does that mean that citizens have the right to hoard naval artillery and atomic bombs?”  And the answer is “No, the Second Amendment doesn’t encompass naval artillery or atomic bombs any more than the First Amendment includes falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” The language and purposes of the Second Amendment, as well as its history, tell us what it excludes as well as what it includes.  Naval artillery and atomic bombs are not customary for personal self-defense and they never have been militia weapons used for repelling foreign invaders and domestic tyrants. In fact, the Second Amendment itself refers to the right to bear arms—that is, to carry arms—referring to weapons that normally are carried by a human being.

    Let’s focus for a minute on another purpose of the Second Amendment: protecting against domestic tyrants. We tend not to discuss this purpose much, but it might possibly have some relevance to the authoritarian types who currently dominate the Colorado legislature.

    Politicians in America right now tend to fall into either of two groups. There are those who generally favor freedom but also strongly support law enforcement. And there are those who are skeptical toward law enforcement but nevertheless seek to expand the power of government in many areas of life, and particularly in economic affairs. It’s not intuitively obvious which group should be for gun control.  You might think that those who favor economic freedom might be for gun control as a way of backing law enforcement. Or you might think those who favor more economic regulation might be against gun control because they are skeptical about law enforcement and might not want to give the police a monopoly over weapons.

    But we all know what the situation is in real life: In real life, the biggest advocates of gun control are precisely those who want to lord it over the rest of us in nearly every other aspect of life.

    Why is this? Well, reflect on the fact that the modern era of gun control began with the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. This law—if an unconstitutional act can be called a “law”—was passed in the wake of some ghastly political assassinations. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It’s reasonable to assume that those who wish to fasten more and more fetters on the productive people of American society might consider that one day they might go too far, and face physical and armed opposition.

    Indeed, just the fact that many citizens are armed may have a moderating influence on authoritarian politicians.

    The author of the first draft of the Second Amendment was James Madison. Madison’s favorite book of political theory was Aristotle’s Politics. Several times in that work Aristotle makes the point that all citizens should be should have weapons, and that only those with weapons should be citizens. Otherwise, he wrote, those that are disarmed are the slaves of those who are armed.

    The point was made another way by Jean Louis DeLolme, a Swiss jurist. DeLolme wrote a book on the English constitution that we know Madison read, and that was a source for other American Founders as well. In speaking of the need for an armed citizenry, DeLolme wrote:

    The Power of the People is not when they strike, but when they keep in awe. It is when they can overthrow every thing, that they never need to move; and Manlius [a Roman consul] included all in four words, when he said to the People of Rome, Ostendite bellum, pacem habebis. [Look toward war, and you shall have peace].

    The widespread ownership of firearms, therefore, helps to preserve freedom, usually without the need for armed violence. When politicians limit or harass gun ownership, the threat is far wider than the threat to guns alone. By reducing the number of citizens who are armed, gun control emboldens the authoritarian politicians to control everything else we do, thereby imperiling freedom generally.

    And this brings us specifically to the majority that now controls the state legislature.

    Certainly, their political views are pretty skewed. Consider one example.

    The same politicians who voted for gun control were by and large the politicians who voted for civil unions. If you have read that bill, you know it goes far beyond civil unions: It is really a same-sex marriage bill that is labeled a civil union measure in an effort to evade the marriage rules of the Colorado Constitution.

    Now, one basis for the civil unions bill is the U.S. Supreme Court’s holdings that the right to engage in sex outside of marriage, both heterosexual and homosexual, is a federal constitutional right. The Founders would have been astonished at this for a number of reasons. But that is what the modern Supreme Court says.

    Now, ask yourself: What would be the reaction of the Colorado legislature’s majority to a proposal requiring a background check before anyone could exercise the constitutional right of non-marital sex? What would be the reaction to a bill saying that the eager couple had to pay the fee for that background check? What would be the reaction of Speaker Ferrandino or Senate President Morse to a bill stating that the eager couple was limited to “15 rounds,” so to speak?

    No doubt those legislative leaders would explode in outrage. How can you limit a constitutional right that way?” they’d sputter.

    “Well,” we might respond. “You’re doing just that with an enumerated constitutional right—the Second Amendment.”

    When they stopped sputtering, they might argue that, well, “Guns are different. Fifteen thousand Americans die from gun violence each year.”

    “Are they?” We might say. “In fact, 17,000 Americans die from AIDS each year, primarily as a result of non-marital sex—and that figure doesn’t even count other sexually-transmitted diseases. So if you can impose background checks and the like on our right to keep and bear arms, then we can impose similar restrictions on your right to bare other parts of your body.”

    The same sort of argument that applies to the unenumerated right of non-marital sex and the enumerated right to keep and bear arms also applies to the enumerated rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. As a child of the 1960s and 70s, I remember how free use of the First Amendment allowed protesters to pressure the federal government into some fatal mistakes in Southeast Asia—mistakes that, as widely predicted, led inevitably to a bloodbath in which 2 million people died. You see, free speech can be very dangerous.

    But this is emphatically NOT an argument for government restrictions on free speech—nor is an argument for government restrictions on non-marital sex. As the courts properly hold, the state and federal constitutions protect even rights with potentially-dangerous consequences. For example, the courts hold that the government generally may NOT impose prior restraints on a person seeking to exercise First Amendment rights.

    Yet the worthies who run the Colorado legislature think nothing of imposing burdensome prior restraints on the entirely innocent enjoyment of Second Amendment rights.

    I think we can explain the difference partly because authoritarians understand, at some level, that disarmed citizens are easier to push around than armed citizens.

[The speech concluded by suggesting responses such as a lawsuit, recall efforts, and a citizen’s initiative to overturn the law.]

Legislature Watching

I’ve been a little out of sorts the past few days with whatever it is that’s making the rounds, but that’s given me a chance to sit and watch the legislature on my fancy computer gadget box in the basement. It’s like magic. The Legislative Services Division has really done a nice job of making information on the 2013 session visible and easily accessible. You can look up bills, find your legislator, watch or listen to hearings and floor sessions, and much more. Kudos to them.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I’m going to be lazy today and just redirect you to some work we’ve already done at MPI on two issues that are currently hot in Helena.

The first is Medicaid expansion. Rob and I have been beating this to death here and here , I know. And you can get all the facts and date you need from our policy note. But you really need to tell your legislators how you feel about creating an entirely new dependency class of young, able, childless adults. The arguments and facts and data are all in the blogs and policy notes we’ve done, but they mean nothing if you don’t show your concern. You can bet the victim industry and hospitals who stand to gain enormously are lobbying the hell out of our reps up in Helena. Somebody’s got to stand up for the taxpayer and for the basic morality of a system that rewards earned success rather than punishes it.

The other hot topic is campaign finance reform. I laid out the argument here that the problem we have isn’t money in politics, it’s politics in money. And so whatever ‘reforms’ we try are for nothing if we don’t reduce the size, scope and power of the government to pick winners and losers. Anything else is putting the cart before the horse. This issue divides those of us on the right and there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the issue. But please take a look at arguments against limiting free speech before letting emotional arguments take the day.

Missoulian: Montana Checkbook, salaries go online

…The database won praise from Carl Graham, CEO of the Montana Policy Institute, which had been pushing the state to create online sites showing both expenses and salaries. His group successfully sued the state over the salary information during the Schweitzer administration and put the pay information on its website…

This story appeared in Lee newspapers across the state.

Click here to continue reading…

Big Sky Business Journal: MPI and New State Transparency Site

…”The state website came as a complete surprise, albeit a nice one,” said Carl Graham, whose organization, Montana Policy Institute, (MPI) fought long and hard to get such a site.

Click here to continue article…

MPI Policy Note 01-13: Medicaid Expansion Can Wait

Proponents of Medicaid expansion argue that it would insure more people, that it takes advantage of “free” federal money and that it will create jobs and pump up local economies. But the fact that barely half the states are taking action to expand Medicaid indicates that this federal giveaway may come with unacceptable risks and costs, including:

  • Expansion will dump more people into a system that provides poorer access to care and poorer health outcomes than private insurance.
  • Federal matching funds are neither free nor guaranteed, potentially leaving the state with an unsustainable funding requirement.
  • Expanding Medicaid without fundamentally reforming it perpetuates its shortcomings and will crowd out other public spending priorities.


There is no cost to delaying, but expansion is forever. This decision should wait until we can learn more.

There are alternatives to Medicaid expansion that will actually provide quality care at lower costs, and without creating an entirely new dependent class of young, able Montanan adults. Our policy note gives you all the information you need to see why and how we should take a pass on expansion and concentrate on true reforms.

Medicaid Expansion Policy Note

Rob Natelson: The Modern University: Giving Honors to the Dishonorable

If you want an illustration of what is wrong with higher education today, a good one is what I had to sit through when my daughter Deborah graduated a few months ago.

Deborah is a native Montanan, born when my wife and I lived in Missoula. She recently received her masters degree from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. (There’s no period after “St”—in keeping with British writing style.) The school is widely considered the best university in that country and one of the best in Britain. St Andrews also was the principal alma mater of the American Founder James Wilson, who was second only to James Madison in his imprint on the U.S. Constitution.

I was proud that Deborah was at St Andrews, and as a constitutional scholar I’m grateful to the university library for making James Wilson’s library records available to me.

But my view of St Andrews soured when I attended Deborah’s graduation ceremony: It was there that the school granted an honorary degree to Noam Chomsky, of all people.

Chomsky is an ultra-left, anti-American, anti-Israel crank. But his political views matter less than the fact that he’s a smear monger whose political statements bear tenuous, if any, connection to the truth. In case you think I say that only because I’m a conservative and he’s a leftist, then read how respected left-leaning scholars have assessed Chomsky.

For example, here is what Alan Dershowitz, the celebrated Harvard law professor, has to say. And the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a committed liberal—and one of America’s most respected historians—was so disgusted with Chomsky’s misrepresentations that Schlesinger pegged him as an “intellectual crook.” Illustrative of Chomsky’s style is this attempt to smear George W. Bush with Nazism.

“Okay,” you might respond: “Was there anything Chomsky did that might justify the degree?”  Yes—long ago, he did distinguished work in linguistics. But the St Andrews faculty member who introduced him made it clear that he was being honored primarily for his politics.

“Okay,” you might add: “That’s only single example, and not even from an American school—so what?” Here’s so what: As Chomsky’s introducer pointed out, this was the 28th time a college or university gave Chomsky an honorary degree! (Chomsky’s Wikipedia biography lists more.) By comparison, the late Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, one of the greatest economists of the 20th century, received 19. (And Chomsky is still alive, and probably will get more.) Among the American schools granting him their highest honors are such mainstream American institutions as the University of Maine, Georgetown, Amherst, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania.

You might well ask: “Why is a political figure whose tactics are so corrupt receiving any honorary degrees?” The answer lies in another kind of corruption: The political corruption that has deeply compromised our system of higher education, and renders it imperative that state legislatures couple any further appropriations with fundamental reforms.

Let Other States Experiment with Medicaid Expansion – Part II

Medicaid expansion is supposedly a no-brainer. It’ll provide insurance for a lot low income people. It’s free federal money. And it’ll create jobs and pump up local economies. So why are the 50 states almost evenly divided on whether to take this gift horse or send it out to pasture?

It’s because a lot of governors and legislatures have decided that at best the jury’s still out on whether expansion is a good idea; and more likely it’s a bad idea that will hurt many of the people it’s supposed to help and turn into an albatross around taxpayers’ necks.

I’m open to being proven wrong, but I agree with those who say that Medicaid expansion as laid out in Obamacare is both bad welfare policy and bad economic policy. It’s bad welfare policy because it shifts primarily young, able and to a large extent childless adults into a system with demonstrably inferior access to care, and then traps them there. Forty four percent of the newly eligible would be adults under the age of 34, and seventy five percent would be childless.[i] In addition, a fourth of all new enrollees would be dumped into Medicaid from private insurance plans that almost always provide better access to care than Medicaid.[ii] The difference is in having health insurance versus getting health care.

I have a fishing license. That gives me the right to stand in a river waving my fly rod around, but it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll catch any fish. Same goes for health insurance versus health care. Medicaid recipients encounter barriers to primary care at nearly twice the rate of those with private insurance.[iii] Because of this lack of access to primary care, they then show up in emergency rooms at rates nearly twice those of the privately insured, but sicker and much more expensive to treat.[iv] Shoveling well over 70,000 new Montanans into this system[v] while also decreasing provider reimbursements under Obamacare won’t make access to quality care any easier for these folks or for anyone else in the state.

Medicaid expansion is also bad economic policy. In fact, it’s pure crony capitalism. You can’t swing a dead cat in Helena right now without hitting a hospital or pharmaceutical lobbyist trying to get their surgical gloves into taxpayers’ wallets. Yes, there’s good evidence that the “free” money coming from Washington may create around twelve thousand jobs in Montana; but will those jobs create health benefits that are commensurate with their costs? If not, the money is better left in the private economy where it can be spent more productively. A recent New England Journal of Medicine article said that “Treating the health care system like a (wildly inefficient) jobs program conflicts directly with the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to care at an affordable price.”[vi] And anyway, it’d be much cheaper for Montana taxpayers to just put those who are eligible for federal subsidies into the new exchanges and let Washington pay their entire bill. It’s free money, right?

Except that it’s not. It’s taxpayer money whether you write the check to Helena or to Washington. The net cost to Montana taxpayers of Medicaid expansion through 2021 is over $50 million according to one estimate,[vii] and closer to $100 million according to another.[viii] That’s after the “free” money and jobs and tax revenues, and assumes the federal government will keep its promise to cover 100% of expansion costs in the early years and 90% later on, despite the fact that even the President’s own past two budgets included reductions in those commitments.[ix]

In reality nobody knows what it will cost, but there’s precious little precedent for entitlement spending coming in below or even near initial estimates. In 1965 Medicare was estimated to cost $9 billion annually by 1990. The actual cost in 1990 was $67 billion.[x] There’s no reason to think Medicaid expansion estimates will fare any better, and Montana taxpayers would be on the hook for the difference since it’s politically unlikely that these entitlements would be reversed once they’re put in place.

So why not wait a couple of years? Let’s see how things go in California and Illinois and other bastions of state fiscal responsibility, and then take a look at what’s working and what’s not so we can make an informed decision. Or, we could try true reform and turn Medicaid into a system that really does provide quality access to quality care for more people who need it. We’d do that by reconnecting the patient to the provider and the cost to create responsible consumers rather than filtering both the funding and the care through a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. But that’s a topic for another day.

 


[i] The Urban Institute, “Opting in to the Medicaid Expansion under the ACA: Who Are the Uninsured Adults Who Could gain Health Insurance Coverage,” August 2012,  pp. 8-9.

[ii] University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, “An Estimate of the Economic Ramifications Attributable to the Potential Medicaid Expansion on the Montana Economy,” January 2013, p. 6.

[iii] 16.3% of Medicaid patients encountered barriers versus 8.9% of those with private insurance. Annals of Emergency Medicine, “National Study of Barriers to Timely Primary Care and Emergency Department Utilization Among Medicaid Beneficiaries,” 2012, p. 4.

[iv] Ibid

[v] Urban Institute, op. cit., p. 18 and BBER, op. cit., p. 7.

[vi] Katherine Baicker, Ph.D. and Amitabh Chandra, Ph.D, The New England Journal of Medicine, “The Health Care Jobs Fallacy, June 28 2012, p. 2435.

[vii] BBER, op. cit., p. 29.

[viii] The Heritage Foundation, “Obamacare and the Medicaid Expansion: How Does Your State Fare?” March 5th 2013, http://blog.heritage.org/2013/03/05/obamacare-medicaid-expansion-state-by-state-charts/.

[ix] Charles Blahous, Mercatus Center, “The Affordable Care Act’s Optional Medicaid Expansion: Considerations Facing State Governments,” 2013, p. 32.

[x] Conn Carroll, The Foundry, “Health Care Reform Cost Estimates: What is the Track Record?” August 4th 2009, http://blog.heritage.org/2009/08/04/health-care-reform-cost-estimates-what-is-the-track-record/.

Rob Natelson: On the Medicaid Expansion—Yes, Montana Should Say No

When the Supreme Court’s Obamacare case was pending, I noticed that while there was a lot of attention given to the individual insurance mandate, there was little discussion of the Medicaid expansion.

The Medicaid extension was the part of the law that sought to force states into signing up for an expensive new program by threatening to cut off all Medicaid funds if they did not.

Whether the individual mandate was constitutional was an arguable question under the Supreme Court’s modern jurisprudence.  (As you probably know, the court’s modern law on federal regulation and spending is largely disconnected from the Constitution’s actual meaning.)

But the Medicaid mandate was different. However, I looked at it—under modern law or the Constitution’s actual meaning—that mandate seemed flagrantly unconstitutional to me. But almost no one was addressing it.

As a result, I authored one of the very few Supreme Court briefs to address the issue in detail. The brief was edited and filed by Dave Kopel at the Independence Institute, where I am also a senior fellow.

Against all popular expectations, we won: By a 7-2 margin, the Supreme Court struck down the coercive portion off the Medicaid expansion. This left the states free to make their own decisions.

A recent MPI post explains why Montana should not sign up for the budget-busting, dependency-creating Medicaid expansion. As if any additional reasons were necessary, health care expert Linda Gorman adds this compelling argument. It’s written for Colorado, but applies to Montana as well.

What’s Fair About Equal Outcomes?

If you’ve been using the MPI website for any length of time you’ve probably come across the phrase “Equal people are not free and free people are not equal.” The point of that saying is that no society can guarantee equal outcomes for its members, and trying comes at the cost of freedom.

The reason is that people bring different attributes, talents, aspirations and even luck to the table. Equalizing those things means artificially holding some of them back and propping some of them up; in other words, taking away their freedom to succeed or fail or even to dream.

Enforced equality of outcomes would mean forcing beautiful people to wear masks, holding down stronger people with weights, depriving athletes or actors of the ability to use their talents and more. I think we can all agree that wouldn’t be fair, so why is it fair to deprive risk-takers, hard workers, and innovators of what they produce to make them equal with those who have worked less, taken fewer risks, or just aren’t blessed with the same skills and talents? Clearly it isn’t.

Attempts to equalize outcomes are the inevitable results of envy or of seeing the world as zero-sum. The envy argument speaks for itself. If you believe your failures are the fault of others, it’s not much of a leap to wish  punishment on them. That’s hardly a fair or moral argument.

But those who believe in a zero-sum world think that winners must equal losers, and so the losers must be made whole. That’s not the way our world works. Nobody is worse off because Bill Gates is a billionaire. In fact, millions of people’s lives are much better because he had the incentive to bring PCs to the masses; and those who followed him and got rich building apps and hardware and businesses made even more people better off. They didn’t take slices of the pie away from others, they created their own slices and grew the pie for everyone else in the process. We should encourage that, not punish it.

There’s a myth out there that so-called progressives are more compassionate than free marketers and care more for those who can’t or won’t take care of themselves. It’s a myth because free markets are what raise everybody’s standard of living. Rather than trying to equalize outcomes by bringing down the rich, those who believe in the power of free enterprise want to raise up the poor. That includes the freedom to succeed, but also taking responsibility for failure. A reasonably regulated free market with a safety net befitting a civil, prosperous society has proven again and again to bring about the best outcomes for the most people. That’s the moral high ground.

Freedom and free markets bring prosperity, which makes civil society and safety nets possible. Poor people and poor countries don’t take care of those who can’t afford to take care of themselves. They don’t take care of the environment. And they don’t respect the rights of their citizens. They can’t. They’re trying to feed and shelter themselves and their families. Civility and charity require prosperity, and the most prosperous nations in the world embrace free enterprise. That’s why free markets are not just effective, they’re moral and fair.

If you want to read up on these and other arguments favoring freedom and free enterprise with both moral and economic arguments, here are a few places to go, all of them free and at websites you should explore at any rate:

  • For the basics from the greats, Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” is still the classic. You can read it in an evening.
  • To learn why central planning doesn’t work and politics turns basic economics on its head read Friedrich Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom. It’s a slog, though, so a nice weekend book that covers it all would be Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.
  • Again a bit of a slog, but John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty is one of the best treatments around of the tradeoffs required in a republican or democratic (notice the small ‘r’ and ‘d’ there) society to maintain freedom while exercising the responsibilities of citizenship. I don’t agree with everything he came up with, but he makes his points well and takes a realistic look at at an idealistic concept.

And finally, Arthur Brookes The Battle and Stephen Moore’s Who’s the Fairest of Them All are concise contemporary reads with both arguments and lots of data to support their basic points that freedom to succeed is both fair and moral. They’re not free, but I’ll loan you a copy if you want.

Happy reading!