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Friday, September 30, 2011


A "Thrilling" Analysis of Conrad Murray's Trial

Dr. Conrad Murray, charged with involuntary manslaughter and gross negligence, is on trial for the death of famed pop star Michael Jackson (basic information available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15058723). Dr. Murray, who was Jackson’s personal attending physician at the time of his death, is implicated in having given Jackson an overdose of a sedative, similar to that used during surgeries, to help the singer sleep. This took place during the stressful rehearsal for his widely anticipated return to the stage in “This is It,” a tour that would cross Western Europe and North America. In a world where mere implications are enough to put a man under the banner of “guilty”, what would this doctor’s fellow Murray (Murray Rothbard) have to say about the whole ordeal? Would he believe that what Dr. Murray did can be constituted as a form of murder? Perhaps in not so few words, I believe Rothbard might say what we would recognize as “bogus!” In Rothbard’s Zion of pure liberty, there is no legally technical combination such as involuntary manslaughter; there is only that which is voluntary, that which is involuntary (which will produce no action), and murder.

The question of Dr. Murray’s innocence (or otherwise) can be asked by considering the notion of contracts. There are two kinds of contracts; enforceable contracts, and non-enforceable contracts. A contract is enforceable (protected through the use of violence, or the threat thereof in the violation of that contract) if it represents a transfer of property from one person to another. An example would be the contract between the debtor, who agrees to lend capital for an agreed-upon amount of time, and the borrower, who agrees to repay that money and an interest payment by an agreed-upon date. In short, an enforceable contract is nothing more than a mutually-decided statement of voluntary exchange. A contract that is not enforceable, therefore, is one that is merely promissory, and does not state a transfer of ownership rights. A contract made by one person who agrees to spend the duration of his or her life in the servitude of another cannot be enforceable, for a man cannot willingly (or even absolutely) transfer the ownership of his or her choices.

The exchange between Dr. Murray by Jackson could only have been arranged as a contract of employment, whereby Dr. Murray agreed to sell his services as a physician to Jackson in exchange for a reasonable payment, a wage (the reasonable wage, in this case, equaling $150,000 per month). The legitimacy of Dr. Murray’s prosecution depends upon whether this contract was enforceable, depending furthermore upon the terms of that contract. Jackson may have agreed to the terms of: “I will pay you $150,000 per month to keep me alive.” Such a contract would clearly be unenforceable, as it is based on a promise that not even the most reputable physician could keep. However, had the contract been arranged under the premise of: “I will pay you $150,000 per month to treat me as necessary,” then the entirety of the law could be used to enforce it. If, at any point during the agreement, Murray had failed to provide treatment, Jackson could righteously withhold future payments (or seek legal action to compensate for payments already made), as could Murray refuse service to Jackson for late or absent payments. Not once during Murray’s prosecution, nor existent in the multitude of charges being levied against him, has the question of his continued provision of medical treatment to Jackson been brought up. Not one attorney, nor judge, nor witness denies that Dr. Murray was at the constant attention of Jackson at the time of the latter’s death. Furthermore, none of the parties involved could accuse Murray of intentionally attempting to murder Jackson (such an accusation would be ridiculous: all other things equal, why would Murray attempt, by way of murder, to end the contract he voluntarily agreed upon, thereby consequently terminating his source of income?). So, in what sense was he in violation of their contract, against which legal action may be used?

Some may object that Murray should have known better: the combination of treatment was obviously unhealthy and not good for Jackson, and therefore he, in a sense, violated his agreement to treat the singer properly. I partially agree; if, in fact, any treatment concocted by Murray was a sub-optimal course of treatment that, even in part, contributed to Jackson’s death, then the poor quality of his physician-ship cannot be doubted, and his reputation must be rendered necessarily questionable. However, the question of choice cannot be brought up in the legal enforcement of contracts. Jackson willingly hired Murray to provide services, and in no way was this agreement made against his will. Although selecting Dr. Murray as his primary physician instead of someone else may have been a poor choice, it was undoubtedly Jackson’s choice. The burden is not upon the seller to provide the best quality of a particular service or product (though, in regards to the web of exchange, it is in his best interest to do so), but rather it is upon the buyer to properly consider as many of the alternatives that are available to him as possible, and to make the most appropriate decision.

Although opinion takes no place in this analysis, I will conclude that the nature of Dr. Conrad Murray’s prosecution is, at the very least, misleading. From a liberty standpoint, it seems that there is no legitimate accusation with which Murray may be charged. He could not have violated a contract established with Jackson acting how he did, and he most certainly had no intention to murder. Motivated by the sadness surrounding the death of the cross-generationally popular entertainer, many people are eager to blame. However, blame purely for the sake of blame cannot be the reason for implicating an otherwise innocent man for a crime that he did not commit.


Proposition 103: Temporary Tax Increase for Public Education

This morning I found a blue book for Proposition 103 on my dining room table. I don't know how it got there, but I'm glad it did. Proposition 103 asks Colorado voters to take on a small increase in both state income and sales taxes for a five year period. For a single person with an annual income of $35,000 dollars a year, in other words, me after I graduate (hopefully) this comes to about $110 extra state revenue each year.

It is important to bear in mind that Prop. 103 is specifically designed to fund public education (k-12 & higher), in addition to the 4.3 billion annually spent by the state already. Prop. 3 does not specify how the additional funds will be split among the different educational levels.

There is one primary issue that I take with Proposition 103, and I will note that this issue applies to most tax initiatives in Colorado under Tabor (the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights). My issue is that the proponents of this tax increase want to use the force of the government to maintain it's monopoly control of education by making me pay for it. I feel like the only thing stopping them is Tabor, and even then I am reduced to what Rothbard described as "one man using his vote for tyranny in avoidance of being himself enslaved (paraphrase)."

$550 is a lot of money to me ($110 times 5 years). That's enough for me to go on this awesome cruise coming up in March with most of my friends. That's more than my current rent, utilities, and gas consumption right now for one month. These people, not the State, not the Government, people! are telling me that I should give them my home for a month, and it's impolite for me to express myself fully about it in this forum.

I understand the good that can be gained from public funding for education. I also understand its inadequacy. I have been both home schooled and charter schooled during my education, so I feel I have a good understanding of the effectiveness of these alternatives to public education. Mainly, they're competitive, they're flexible, they met me where I was as a student because they were able to respond to my intellectual needs and wants. Organizations that must ask for my money will listen to my questions. Organizations that can take my money will tell me what to think.

And yet I will be reviled by many of my peers because I refuse to be swayed by emotional appeals to my humanity and my deafness to cries that both beg and demand me to "think about the children!"

My response is "I am." I will not willingly support a system of education that is the result of a government instituted monopoly. Are they thinking about what is best for the children, or about what is easiest for the government?


The Advantages of Inequality

The Goodwill is a nonprofit organization that provides rehabilitation for and hires disabled people. They have created a very unique niche in the nonprofit sector by creating a sustainable way to help the disabled. They collect used items and sell them, which not only creates jobs, but raises funds for rehabilitation costs.

Disabled people are a very unique, but valuable workforce. They are a good investment in the workforce because many people can be rehabilitated when joining the workforce, they have higher retention rates, there are tax breaks (which the libertarians don’t favor, but businesses appreciate) and the hiring of disabled people portrays companies with an image of social responsibility.

This example illustrates the statement that people are not created equal. While it seems like most inequalities create major life challenges, they can also be used as an advantage. An extremely successful organization like The Goodwill wouldn’t exist without inequality. People that value social responsibility shop at The Goodwill to support their cause. The Goodwill also has very low prices that frugal people can afford. Poor families can buy their children winter coats at an affordable price because the Goodwill exists. College kids can furnish their apartments.

I once volunteered at The ARC, a similar organization, on a Saturday as a school project and learned a lot about these organizations. They are there to reach out to people who desperately need it. Mentally ill people are often left to fend for themselves, but the ARC finds them and helps them. They provide jobs, food, clothing, and most importantly rehabilitation. They are able to refresh and renew people that have not been productive members of society and turn them into a valuable part of the workforce. Every person has something valuable to contribute to the economy. It’s important to highlight that uniqueness and use those advantages to increase production. Inequality makes life unique, exciting, and dynamic. It creates new challenges and spurs innovation.

“Even between brothers there exist the most marked differences in physical and mental attributes. Nature never repeats itself in its creations; it produces nothing by the dozens, nor are its products standardized. Each man who leaves her workshop bears the imprint of the individual, the unique, the never-to-recur” (Mises 28).

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