Jay and Melissa along the AT

The author and his daughter hiking along the Appalachian Trail in NJ.

[originally printed for Earth Day 2009]

As a Scoutmaster and backpacker I care deeply for our natural environment. As a libertarian I realize that achieving a healthy environment requires policies that are rational and based on science and economics. This Earth Day I wanted to write about some examples of effective and ineffective polices and practices.

The Industrial Revolution

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the world experienced a seismic shift in economies from a mostly agrarian economy to an economy based on manufacturing. Prior to the industrial revolution, farmers suffered long working hours for very little pay. Life in the cities was even worse. Our cities were overcrowded, sanitation barely existed, and garbage was piled outside. The cities were breeding grounds for cholera and yellow fever. Peoples diets were very limited. Smog and pollution from the limited heating choices of coal or wood filled the air above our cities.

A few years ago, I was watching a story of how the terrorist group Hamas acquired power in the Palestinian territory. While the Fatah faction was busy "governing," it was Hamas and its leaders that were providing social services, health care, social programs, food and money to the poverty stricken Palestinian people. When the call for direct elections came, the Palestinian people elected Hamas to run their territories. It was the classic tale of "you scratch my back and I'll starch yours. "

For many years, the Democratic Party in the United States, in the inner cities, and in Washington, have maintained power by using the Treasury to provide entitlements, regulations, social programs and more to the American people. It started in the 1930s when Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress of that era, raided the Treasury to provide relief funds to the down and out, social security, welfare and more. This caused the Democrats to maintain power in the 1930s and early 40s and afterwards for 40 years. This practice continues today.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, African-Americans stood up and demanded their equality in American society. Thus, the Civil Rights Movement was born. They cried and shouted that the belief of 'separate by equal," and businesses catering to whites only was an abomination, a tyranny and an unjust policy. In the 1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, African-Americans achieved their goal of equality. The United States stood proud.

If I were to ask people where do the rights of Americans come from, what would the reader think that the answer would be? Would the reader say from the Constitution? Would the reader say that it comes from statutes and other laws? Most likely they may answer “yes,” but they are wrong.

For many years, the United States has always involved itself in the affairs between Israel and the Palestinians. Both sides have literally been dragged to many a peace process by the U.S. only to see that peace has never materialized. Decades after decades, the Israelis have attempted to seek peace and have offered many proposals in that effort, only to see the Palestinians shoot them all down. Yet, time and time again, the United States continues to drag both sides, offering foreign aid to both, all for the purpose of getting an elusive peace plan to the satisfaction of all.

Most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. Let's ask ourselves a few questions about this vision.

Say a person, let's call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab's and Dr. Jones' services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?

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In 1995, Libertarian Presidential Candidate, Harry Browne wrote a book called Why Government Does Not Work. In it, he wrote his take on issues and offered his proposals on how to solve this nation's challenges. What caught my eye at the time was his proposal in reforming Health Care. I was thinking about his solutions recently when Barack Obama had his Health Care summit at the Blair House.

Today, I was watching and hearing the Barack Obama Health Care Summit. Republicans and Democrats sat down and discussed the present Health Care bill supported by the President and what they liked and disliked about it all. What caught my eye and ears, was when some members of Congress used sob stories and emotionalism to convince that those who were opposed were "ugly," "insensitive" and "mean-spirited." Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) used a sob story of a farmer who wrote to his office stating that the farmer had difficulty paying for his insurance and for those who work under him (it was later discovered that the farmer in question was a relative of one of the Senator's political aides). Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) used a story of a woman in her district that wrote to her stating that because she cannot afford health insurance, she had to use her dead sister's false teeth instead of getting her own pair. There were other sob stories that were presented at the summit and after a while, I felt nauseous.