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Front Page

IN THIS ISSUE

-What Romney has and will face in larger scale

-What about Health Care?

-Our Constitution and the Health Care Law

-Laizez Faire in the Verbal Arena (a republish)

            WHAT ROMNEY HAS FACED, AND MAY FACE IN LARGER SCALE

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

In Massachusetts, Governor Romney faced a much smaller, but more intense, example of    what nearly all Republican Presidents have faced since 1956.  MA is the only state that did not go for Nixon in 1972.  An especially prominent Democrat U.S.Senator from Massachusetts was the chief architect of our sell-out in Vietnam.  And that, I believe, will eventually, be recognized as an invitation for all who wish to challenge, not America’s might, but our patience.

 

Only one Republican has won the Presidency recently, and gotten with it a Republican Congress.  That, of course, was George W. Bush, who benefited from Newt Gingrich’s earlier successes in the House of Representatives.  During Gingrich’s reign as Speaker, Congress voted to allow the President (Clinton at that time) to exercise an item veto.  The Supreme Court, on no very clear constitutional or worldly experience ground, declared that to be invalid.

 

In Massachusetts and many other states, plus foreign democracies, the Chief Executive has ample authority to control the financial content of legislation.  MA has an item veto, and Governor Romney vetoed eight sections of the Health Care Bill there.  But, the largely Democrat and lopsided legislature invalidated six of his vetoes.  Slightly later, after the ‘06 elections, with only 5 Republican Senators among the 40 (in Romney’s time there had been 6) invalidated the other two.

 

It is very difficult to judge the performance of a Chief Executive when his legislature has been dominated by an opposition, and highly partisan, majority.  The United States had relatively little of that through most of its early history. Those President’s who won the office without popular majorities, or who lost in the midterm elections, sometimes did suffer hostile partisan Congresses.  Since 1956, however, Republican Presidents, even landslide winners, have frequently faced hostile Democrat Congresses. Indeed, only George W. Bush has done slightly better.  And, I contend that that change back toward the traditional balance has been due mainly to the recent rise of strong alternatives to “old mainstream media.” Fortunately, we may have such media in the future, unless President Obama’s FCC or Supreme Court can destroy them.

OUR

CONSTITUTION AND THE HEALTH CARE LAW

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Early constitutions, with which James Madison and others among our Constitution’s founders were familiar, often failed when a new majority took control and imposed laws that sacrificed the liberties of others.

 

The Constitution of the United States was designed to avoid that.  In Article V. it provides for its own amendment, but only by processes that require approvals by extraordinary majorities and the participation of the states.

 

The Obama Administration’s Health Care Act is an almost classic example of what our Constitution is intended to prevent. It imposes unprecedented requirements upon both individuals and states, and it was created in semi-secret by a highly partisan cabal within Congress; it has also been discredited by the election following.

WHAT ABOUT HEALTH CARE?

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     If health care is to be a constitutional “entitlement” it, and other social entitlements, should be limited, as the “safety net” simile implies.  The circus performers’ safety nets are simple devices to preserve bodies and lives.  They make it possible for individuals to continue.  Comfort, dignity, and more advanced achievements will vary with the individual’s own efforts; there should be no public effort to guarantee them.

 

     One simple and modest tax credit or grant, available to all Americans, and adequate to purchase insurance covering most common emergencies and illnesses, is needed.  Several practical administrative hurdles stand in its way.  One is the lack of a single reliable identification device for all individuals.  Another is a plethora of state laws specifying what health insurance must include.  Congress has adequate authority to resolve both of those impediments.

 

      Regarding rarer health problems and those resulting from the individual’s own indulgences, any single centralized authority is at a disadvantage where cases vary widely from one to another.  The nation may provide for health and medical research, and for controls of poisons and epidemics.  It may also aid lesser governments and private agencies that are dealing successfully with unique problems. The nation should avoid highly varied services, where needs and expectations vary greatly.

 

     Most urgently, and relating to health care costs, the distortion of tort proceedings into “jackpot justice” should b crushed, and made costly for those who participate in it.  Real injuries should be compensated on an actual loss basis, if specific negligence is demonstrated. We can appropriately refer to ourselves as “individuals” because we do not all respond alike, even to advanced medical science.  The legal process should not be a game of chance for predatory and dishonest persons, who exploit our individual differences.

 LAISSEZ FAIRE IN

THE VERBAL ARENA

This is a republish of a Column, 6/1/81

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

The prevailing view of free speech and free press is one that I like to call verbal laissez faire.  It prevails in the sense that most intellectual and legal authorities, including the United States Supreme Court, accept it.  It is laissez faire not only because it requires that government keep its hands off, but also because it contends that free competition will produce the best results.

 

In the literature and cases dealing with free speech and press the term laissez faire is rarely applied.  Frequently, however, John Milton is quoted from AREOPAGITICA.  “Let truth and error struggle. Who ever knew truth to be gotten the better of in a fair fight?”  Much quoted also is Justice Holmes’s statement. “...the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market…”  Freedom from government and competition as the way to obtain good results are the predominant themes of free expression theory.  They are the heart of laissez faire doctrine in economics; why are they not call laissez faire in verbal endeavors?

 

Actually, our intellectual and legal authorities have, most of them, rejected economic laissez faire at the same time they have adopted the parallel verbal theory.  The Supreme Court, which early in this century gave constitutional priority to freedom of contract and related ideas of economic laissez faire, has, especially since World War II, given preference to liberties associated with speech and press.  At the same time, the Court has stated, with very little qualification, that legislatures may regulate economic activities in any manner that a majority of legislators believe to be necessary.  Thus, verbal freedoms and economic freedoms are treated as unrelated in nature and essentially different in priority as legal rights.

 

H.R.COASE of the University of Chicago Law School has written, provocatively, on one aspect of the problem.  Why, asks Coase, if freedom and competition for popular acceptance are the best means of selecting other ideas, should not laissez faire apply to commercial advertising?  In fact, at the same time that most speech and publication were gaining almost absolute freedom in America, the Federal Trade Commission gained increased authority over advertising.  Recently, under Chief Justice Burger, the Supreme Court has shown some sensitivity to the anomaly, but most of our intellectual and legal authorities ignore it.

 

One especially influential book of the past generation has been J.K. Galbraith’s AFFLUENT SOCIETY.  Galbraith contends that traditional values of American society were shaped by economic scarcity, and emphasized freedom and hard work as aids to production.  Now, however, we can produce more goods than we need, and Galbraith thinks that our values should be directed to how that product is distributed.  Perhaps the most interesting implication of Galbraith’s reasoning is one of which he takes no notice.  Galbraith’s theory can be applied to verbal endeavors as well as to economics.

 

Certainly when Milton wrote (17th century), and probably even as late the time of Holmes (early 20th century), information and ideas were often scarce.  Freedom to produce and distribute more information and ideas was vital to achieving a better informed public.  Since WWII, however, the amount and variety of information and ideas available has exceeded what any individual could sort through and understand.  May we not have reached the point where problems of selecting for mass distribution are more important than increasing our production of information and ideas?  Is verbal laissez faire really relevant to the age of television?

 

We regulate economic competition partly because inequalities of wealth seem to make that competition unfair.  Is access to the mass media of verbal expression distributed more equitably than access to the commercial and banking resources of the nation?  Most of us have less to do with interest rates than David Rockefeller does; we also have less influence upon the news than Walter Cronkite.

 

My main point is that there are many significant similarities between both the theories and the practical problems involved in economic and verbal laissez faire. One can make a strong case that both theories are essentially sound and have on the whole served well.  One can criticize both for the monopolies, dishonest behavior, and inequalities among competitors which sometimes corrupt them in practice.  It may seem less evident, but it is not unreasonable to contend that both forms of laissez faire suffer from flaws that make it desirable that alternatives be adopted.

 

Regarding economic and verbal laissez faire: the one position that is most difficult to support, least consistent and least reasonable, is that one form is grossly inadequate and the other incomparably superior to any alternative.  That is precisely the view taken by America’s intellectual and legal establishments.  It is reason enough for the rest of us to doubt the capacity of those establishments to lead us.

The following series of articles are on Romney,  Health Care and the Media.

Joe Biden’s recent outburst on murders and rapes,

corresponds with the greater "progressive surge from the 1960s and since”  See chart below.