2009-05-31 Why do people persist in voting Republican/woozle/2009

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Round 1

Midian

As a liberty-minded individual, I vote Republican only because I cannot come around to the Democrat mindset.

  • The premise that an unborn child's life is worth less than a convicted murderer; murder is murder, all life is sacrosanct, I am against capital punishment AND free (gov. funded) abortion, but if I had to choose, as I do in politics, my choice is clear, I side with the innocent.
  • That a criminal should have more rights than a true victim. For those who have shown they hold no regard for others, that they do not value life itself, I have no pity. Over 60% of violent offenses are by repeat offenders (DOJ). Incarcerate them and keep them incarcerated, you stop over 60% of violent crimes. 60%!
  • The government knows better how to spend the money I earned by the sweat of my brow than I do. I give to the charities that I choose to promote. I don't want the government subsidizing/promoting things I find detrimental to society as a whole, and if they have less of my money, they can't spend it.
  • That weapons of self defense should be kept out of the hands of the only people who are capable of defending themselves. The police are not required to protect you (Supreme Court: Castle Rock v. Gonzales) and even if they are so inclined, they cannot act until a crime has already been committed. Only you can keep yourself safe from harm. The more gun control laws we pass, the easier it becomes to obtain firearms illegally. Why should we be unarmed in the face of an armed aggressor?
  • Free enterprise in a competitive society, while far from perfect, is far superior than government run industry. The health care industry, as profit-driven and heartless as it is, spends $1 of every 3 it earns on health care for sick people. The government run medicare spends $1 of every 50 it earns on health care for sick people. (Ideally a non-profit co-op health insurance company would be best, but that's another topic altogether).

I have similar issues with the Republicans (legalize marijuana already), however, when weighing one against the other, these are more important to me than those. Without the 2nd amendment, who will stand up for the others? "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -Thomas Jefferson

Woozle responds

  • [M] "The premise that an unborn child's life is worth less than a convicted murderer..."
    • Framing it as a matter of "worth" is oversimplifying the issue. First off, a convicted murderer may in fact be innocent (and states with a death penalty tend to have a higher error rate, from what I can tell). Second, is it really in a child's best interests to be born to parents who don't want a child, and who may be inadequately prepared to take care of it? More generally, "pro-life" people seem to be under the illusion that it is always better to be alive than not to be, but this is not always the case, and we can only use our best judgment as to when life is preferable and when it is not.
  • [M] "That a criminal should have more rights than a true victim."
    • That is certainly not a liberal premise, and seems much closer to views expressed by the Republicans. (If you're going to turn around and define "victims" as "unborn children" and "criminals" as "abortion doctors", then (a) I refer you to my previous comment, and (b) you can't go calling someone a criminal when they aren't doing anything illegal.)
  • [M] "The government knows better how to spend the money I earned by the sweat of my brow than I do."
    • So you, voluntarily, will send money to help ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity? How many others will join you? Where do we send the money to?
  • [M] "That weapons of self defense should be kept out of the hands of the only people who are capable of defending themselves."
    • Liberals are not against gun ownership; we just want to minimize the number of gun owners who are criminals, crazy, unstable, or otherwise should be kept away from heavy machinery. Would you disagree with this? If you disagree with existing gun control laws and proposals, how do you propose keeping guns out of the hands of such people?
  • [M] "The more gun control laws we pass, the easier it becomes to obtain firearms illegally."
    • Is this true? Sources, please.
  • [M] "The health care industry, as profit-driven and heartless as it is, spends $1 of every 3 it earns on health care for sick people. The government run medicare spends $1 of every 50 it earns on health care for sick people."
    • This is completely opposite the figures I have heard, which were something like 30% of private healthcare premiums go towards administrative overhead, while only 2% of government healthcare expenditures go towards overhead. Sources, please?

Yes, the government should fear -- or at least be answerable and accountable to -- the people. We seem to be losing that. (...with help from Republican arguments against "populism", thanks. The Republicans are not your friends on this issue.)

Round 2

Midian responds

  • You have the chance to save an innocent baby from drowning or a convicted murderer. Who do you dive in and save?
  • 1 innocent executed is far too many. This is why I am against capital punishment. Our system is broken. A justice system where liberal judges release violent offenders far too often, where there is only a 1 in 10 chance of a conviction for capital crimes, and where the average time spent for murder 1 is 5 days. Also, corrupt cops, judges, and lawyers all convicting the innocent and releasing the guilty by keeping evidence hidden, fabricating evidence, fabricating and hiding testimony, doing deals, etc. Until the system is fixed, there should not be executions because you can't undo that once someone is found innocent after the fact, which happens far too often.
  • Education, focus on the children before they make the wrong choices. And don't give them a free ride out of responsibility after they made bad choices.
  • Handgun Control Inc. has stated repeatedly that their goal is the repeal of the 2nd amendment. "The right of the people" repeated many times in the constitution is quite clear in every amendment, yet liberals want to change it only for the 2nd to mean the national guard or some form of militia.
  • I buy guns, through retailers and other shadier venues, and as the laws become more restrictive I know which becomes easier to obtain through. Washington DC had a long time outright ban on guns (declared unconstitutional finally), yet, it had the highest firearm murder rate in the world per capita.
  • How much of our federal budget does not go to the explicit stated purpose of the federal government? How much is wasted on pork projects to pay off people who got politicians elected? I'm willing to bet far more than 50%. How much do we pay for the health care and retirement plan of our elected officials? Want to see true reform? Make them use the same Social Security and Health Care system they are trying to foist on us.
  • It appears my previous numbers were off, though waste (like the billions spent in Medicare fraud every year) isn't taken into account, the numbers reported here [1] are 12% vs 5% for overhead. It appears most of the waste is due not to insurers but providers, and no matter who the insurer is, the AMA won't let that change, that's why they have a tight rein on how many doctors are allowed into school every year. To see how a government run industry will work we just need to look at current industries: USPS (always in the red, now cutting back on service) vs. UPS (profitable company) Government inefficiency won't help us solve this problem, only people working for the greater good of all (which definitely does not describe our representatives, on either side of the fence) will find a true solution.

How I see it is the Republicans and Democrats are different rails of the same track, both heading us in the wrong direction. However, typically (but not always, especially locally) the Republicans allow me more freedom to make my own choices with my money, my health, my defense, my freedoms.

Woozle responds at length

preface one

I will respond in more detail later (gotta go pick up kids from school in 20 minutes), but I need to make something clear.

Abortion is not execution. Also, whether you support it or not, in our society it is not murder. It may be wrongful killing, but to be "murder" it would also have to be illegal, and it isn't. George Tiller was not a murderer; the animal terrorist who killed him is.

Second... as morally correct as you seem to feel about defending innocent children from heartless abortion doctors, I feel just as strongly about defending those doctors and the right of those would-rather-not-be mothers to perform those abortions -- and I do not agree that you are doing those unborn children any great service by "defending" their right to be born. I've explained why this is so, and you haven't offered any arguments to counter my position, so that is where it remains.

I will get to the rest of your post as soon as I can.

--Woozle 19:51, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

preface two

People who call themselves "pro-life" often tend to take the view that morality is more important than cold logic and rationality. So far, I have been arguing on a purely logical/rational basis; perhaps it's time to put this in moral terms.

People own their bodies. Anything less would be slavery.

This means that everything inside a person's body belongs to them (unless it previously belonged to someone else and was taken without their consent, e.g. someone stealing a diamond and swallowing it). You can't go up to someone and say "You know, you have two kidneys, and I need yours." You can't even say "people are dying right now because we're running low on blood supplies, so we need some of yours". You can ask, but you may not demand.

This includes fetuses. The fetus comes from the woman's body, and belongs to her. She has the power of life and death over it because, until it is born and the umbilical is cut, it is part of her.

And that, for me, is the end of the story as far as the need to keep abortion completely legal.

Further: Supposedly one of the pillars of the US Republican Party, which you apparently support, is the belief that government should not interfere with private lives and business. How is reaching into a woman's womb and telling her what she may and may not do with its contents not the very worst and most intimate kind of government interference? (Not that this ever stopped republicans; they're perfectly happy to go into people's private bedrooms and tell them what acts are okay between consenting adults, what kinds of images or films they should be allowed to watch, etc. The GOP doesn't seem to be big on consistency, and I don't see how anyone can support them anymore -- even if you happen to agree with a few of their positions.)

full response

  • [M] "You have the chance to save an innocent baby from drowning or a convicted murderer. Who do you dive in and save?"
    • Probably the baby, unless I happen to know that the murderer is innocent, in which case I play it by ear. (Is the supposed murderer someone I care about? Is the baby the offspring of someone I care about? Is there perhaps some way I could save both of them?) What does this have to do with abortion?
  • [M] "And don't give them a free ride out of responsibility after they made bad choices."
    • What if the bad choice was bad luck -- she used contraception properly, but the wrigglers (as they often do) found a way to get around it? Why punish someone for that? Why punish someone for having sex? What if she was married and didn't want kids?
    • You think paying for an abortion is a "free ride"? Like, all a teenage girl has to do is get pregnant then go get an abortion and she's set for life? Like going to an abortion clinic isn't taking responsibility? (There's a disturbing trend, which I've both heard of and witnessed myself, of teenage girls deliberately having children out of wedlock as a kind of status badge -- is that better than repeatedly having unprotected sex and then getting abortions? Not in my book.)
    • You would rather, perhaps, pay for welfare and childcare for the teen mother and her unwanted child? (What was that about free rides, again?) Or were you planning to just let them starve? (Gee, it's heartening that you care so much about unborn babies that you'd rather see them grow up malnourished, unwanted, and uneducated than prevent them from being born in the first place.) Is there a third option?
  • [M] "Handgun Control Inc. has stated repeatedly that their goal is the repeal of the 2nd amendment."
    • I had never heard of that organization, but Wikipedia says they are now called the Brady Campaign, and I do receive emails from them under that name -- although I have never sent them any money. They probably got my email address when I signed a petition against the "shoot-first" law in Florida.
    • I am not a fan of personal weaponry. As our land fills up and fewer people live in rural or wild areas, they become less and less necessary and useful and more likely to be misused... and I do object to some of the more ridiculous positions taken by the NRA (no background checks? concealed weapons in national parks? WTF??).
      • 2009-11-19 update: An email arrived today from The Brady Campaign which included this: "Did you know, in most states, people can walk into gun shows and purchase firearms -- from Glocks to AK-47s -- from unlicensed sellers without a Brady criminal background check? This is legal and a currently glaring loophole within America's background check system." Is this true?
    • However, I concede: (1) that in some parts of the country they may be necessary; (2) making something illegal does not get rid of it, and sometimes makes it worse (e.g. the war on drugs); (3) I dislike the principle of banning personal ownership of any class of goods. This is something where it makes much more sense to defer to states' rights, rather than making a one-size-fits-all law for the whole country.
    • I don't personally know of any liberals who are out to repeal the second amendment. I think this would be a mistake, a movement in the wrong direction (towards less personal freedom) -- or at least a major waste of time and effort.
    • That said, I'm kind of neutral on the value of the 2nd amendment as written, as I don't think personal firearms can protect us from either corrupt government or an invasion anymore. Although Posse Comitatus supposedly prevents the military from being used against US civilians, even well-armed militia groups* have not been able to hold out when they went up against the federal government, and what good would any kind of personal weaponry (from handguns to assault weapons) have been at Pearl Harbor, or on 9/11?
      • *Note: I am totally not a supporter of any such groups that I am currently aware of; my point is that if it comes down to a battle of force, the federal government will always prevail if there is sufficient support for its aims -- and if there isn't sufficient support, there are other ways to defeat it, as long as we maintain even the bare pretense of a democracy.
      • Also related: Republicans seem to think it is more important to keep their guns than to keep their rights (often being disdainful of the very idea of "rights" because "rights" are a "liberal" idea, eww yuck cooties), and fail to understand that if your rights are taken away, they (government, corporate rulers -- whoever has the power and wants to keep it) will come for your guns -- but as long as you have your rights, you can fight to keep your guns.
    • The Brady Campaign itself has apparently changed its mind on the idea of repealing it; their mission statement now includes this: "The Brady Campaign, the Million Mom March and the Brady Center believe that a safer America can be achieved without banning all guns."
  • [M] "Washington DC had a long time outright ban on guns (declared unconstitutional finally), yet, it had the highest firearm murder rate in the world per capita."
    • We're in agreement on your larger conclusion: making something illegal is not the way to fight it. The same goes for drugs, alcoholism, and abortion. Unfortunately, outlawing problems seems to be the GOP's primary approach to solving them.
    • It should be noted, however, that striking down DC's ban is arguably in violation of states' rights, unless you're going to argue that DC should never be thought of as a state. It is certainly allowing the federal government to override local rule, which is something I understood that Republicans were strongly against. Why not in this case?
    • Further: It's not at all clear that the gun ban was at all responsible for the crime rate. The ban was enacted in 1975, the crime rate in DC went up through the 1980s along with the rest of the country, but by 2007 (when the ban was declared unconstitutional) DC's crime rate had fallen significantly, along with that of the rest of the country. A more meaningful examination would be to compare DC's crime rate with that of the US overall on a year-by-year basis, and to include years after 2007 (which I don't quickly see any data for).
    • Also, as much as I don't think a ban is the way to fight the problem on a national level, I do think that overruling the DC ban was a mistake as far as legal precedent goes. It was not in violation of the 2nd amendment as it had been understood up to that time, and now we are interpreting it as being the right for every individual to own weaponry for their own private use rather than for the common good (i.e. maintaining a militia for common defense); I side with the liberal minority opinion on that one.
  • [M] Want to see true reform? Make them use the same Social Security and Health Care system they are trying to foist on us.
    • I'd sign that petition. We agree.
    • You imply, though, that the current healthcare reform initiative is being "foisted" by the government on an unwilling citizenry; this is false in at least two ways:
      • First, it is overwhelmingly popular, despite strong minority opposition from easily-manipulated Fox News viewers. The only "foisting" is that we are not getting a single-payer system, and instead have to make do with this "hybrid" system where a public option will hopefully be adequate as an alternative and/or force the commercial insurers to lower their prices in order to remain competitive, because the Obama administration has refused to discuss single-payer. If we get at least a public option, though, then we are setting up the infrastructure for single payer -- it is a move in the right direction, however hesitant.
      • Second, how can something be "foisted" if it's only being presented as an option?
  • [M] "It appears my previous numbers were off, though waste (like the billions spent in Medicare fraud every year) isn't taken into account, the numbers reported here [1] are 12% vs 5% for overhead..."
    • The point is, government-run healthcare programs are significantly less wasteful. The TPM numbers are basically saying that private insurance wastes almost 2.5 times as much as Medicare -- and if we were to focus more energy on improving Medicare rather than trying to dismiss it because of its flaws, we could probably trim that down even further.
    • And if we require insurers to cover everyone at the same rate (i.e. universal healthcare), we can also trim out the wasted time insurers spend screening their clients' histories for any risk factors which might justify a rate hike or coverage refusal -- not to mention a great deal of the time spent on both ends arguing about whether care for various services should be covered or not.
  • [M] "It appears most of the waste is due not to insurers but providers, and no matter who the insurer is, the AMA won't let that change, that's why they have a tight rein on how many doctors are allowed into school every year."
    • If that's true, then that's what you need to be fighting -- not the reform. You want more reform, not less.
  • [M] "To see how a government run industry will work we just need to look at current industries: USPS (always in the red, now cutting back on service) vs. UPS (profitable company)..."
    • ...and overpriced, in a lot of ways. I have an online store where I do a lot of shipping of items weighing between 5 ounces and 2 pounds, and I would have to raise my shipping rates by 2 or 3 times if the USPS's services weren't available. The USPS was heavily dependent on revenue from letter-delivery (indeed, that was originally their core business), and the rise of the Internet (email) has cut heavily into that. To some extent it serves them right for trying to prevent the UPS from getting into that business (UPS was not allowed to deliver letters in the early 1980s; I'm not sure when this changed), but the point remains: USPS delivers a good service at a far lower price than the private competition, and they have continued to improve it (spurred on, I'm sure, by said competition). This is the kind of situation we are hoping will be created by the "public option".
  • [M] "Government inefficiency won't help us solve this problem..."
    • "Government inefficiency" is one of those phony arguments-by-word-association that Republicans love to toss around, like "tax-and-spend liberal" (taxes, federal budgets, and deficits tend to go up under Republican regimes). No, government inefficiency won't help us, but government efficiency might. If Republicans hate the federal government so much, why are they always arguing for more federal spending on roads and highways?
  • [M] "...typically (but not always, especially locally) the Republicans allow me more freedom to make my own choices with my money, my health, my defense, my freedoms."
    • ...because they take away more of it through subtle means that you don't always notice, so of course they are happier to let you control what's left.
      • Examples: huge tax breaks for large corporations and the über-rich, giving the rest of us less government bang for our buck; huge, inefficient, costly wars that give us absolutely nothing but a phony half-promise of safety; selectively destroying the government agencies that do the most to help people who lose their place in the economic wagon train, leaving many people helpless and a drain on the economy

As much as liberals may sometimes fall too much for the idea that "all men are created equal" means that everyone is equal in competence, skill, talent, etc., conservatives seem to fall for the similar idea that everyone is perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and that anyone who isn't doing so is just lazy. They also seem to have this idea that if someone is having difficulty with one particular area of their lives (e.g. managing money, or substance abuse) that this renders them worthless as a person.

That whole attitude totally stinks. I could still respect it somewhat (while disagreeing with it) if the GOP was still showing any signs of integrity, but in the past few years they have repeatedly demonstrated that they have no interest in reality; to them, it is more important to be certain in your righteousness than it is to be right, it is more important to be in agreement than to actually solve problems. Trust in God, follow God's will -- and they'll helpfully tell you what God wants, just in case you had any ideas of your own.

The idiocy of trying to use Stephen Hawking as a poster-boy for private medical care is surpassed only by the hypocrisy of Republicans trying to use a handicapped individual to support their cause in any way: if it were up to them, people in wheelchairs would have to climb the stairs like everyone else, blind people would need to read properly, and deaf people would have to learn how to speak properly or shut up. If it were up to them, anyone who was in any way dysfunctional would be on the street corner selling newspapers or holding up a cardboard sign containing the words "homeless" and "god bless".

That's not the America I grew up in, and it's not a direction I want to see us going in. --Woozle 20:10, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

Round 3

Midian's Response

"The top companies at which members of Congress are investing, many of them are TARP recipients that have received billions and billions of dollars from you and me," [2]

Money is power, and the more tax dollars the government takes, the more power our government has to infringe its will on upon us.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship."

While the attribution of the above quote is under dispute, the contents are not. This has been observed throughout history, which we are typically negligent to learn anything from.

-


In my opinion, one of the keys of a weak central government (observe, all 10 amendments to the constitution guarantee the rights of the people, not the government, limiting the power of the government, not the people, especially the 10th) is that each state has the right to govern its populace as it sees fit.

Should a state decide gay marriage should be allowed, it should be able to do that. Should a state decide to legalize marijuana, it should be able to do that too. Or to rule in the opposite as well. This allows the people of each state the control to enact laws directly influencing them, as well as for each state to observe the effects those laws have on the populace and decide if they want to follow suit or not. It should not be up to the majority of the populations in California or Texas that the people in Rhode Island have to do what they want them to do.

The only things the federal government should be doing is providing for the common defense (the military), insure domestic tranquility (interstate commerce, FBI), and promote the general welfare (serious gray area here, covered later).

Abortion

The left: pro-abortion, anti-capital offense, and the right: pro-capital offense, anti-abortion, are both hypocrites. The killing of anyone, abortion doctor or otherwise, by an individual or the state, is just as wrong. However, it is logically understood that in some instances (self-defense, health of the mother, etc.) it is necessary.


With only 1% of abortions being due to the health of the mother, rape, or incest, and birth control measures (condoms or pills) being only 98-

Agreed, an unwanted child is a bad thing. Yet, that child has the potential to be the next Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Einstein, Mozart, etc. Killing that potential is the worst option.

Solutions:

  1. Education: Proper, complete, education on sexuality, provided (not forced) by educators at an age appropriate level. This should cover STDs, efficiency of birth control, pregnancy, abortion, and abstinence.


Gun Control

  1. Self defense: If someone breaks into your home with a firearm, how can you defend yourself without a firearm?
  2. Recreation: Skeet shooting and many other sports are about the skill of using a firearm.



If crime is your issue, observe the country with the least crime and utilize their solution. Switzerland has the lowest violent crime rate in the world. Every able-bodied man is required to maintain an army-

Diane Feinstein is one example off the top of my head that is insistent on the repeal of the second amendment. "Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe."





Solutions:


Criminals

Soft liberal judges allow criminals to get off with no or short prison terms for serious offenses (rape, b&e, robbery) yet are tough on victimless crimes (possession, prostitution, etc.). And the politicians, instead of focusing on the actual crimes (beating someone to death, drug use) they want to spend time and effort passing additional legislation about intent (hate crimes, paraphernalia restrictions) because they can read minds now.

Our justice system is a farce; with enough money and a good lawyer you can get away with murder, literally. Our penitentiary system is designed only to hold people, not rehabilitate them, so it is only to be expected that they offend again. We give our criminals better treatment (internet, television, weights so they can become stronger) than our veterans. And when someone (Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Mesa, AZ) wants to treat criminals like criminals (No TV, no weights, chain gangs) to try to reduce recidivism, the left (La Raza, ACLU, et al.) cries foul.

Solutions:

  1. Enforce the existing laws, keep the violent offenders in jail, and stop 60% of all violent crime overnight.
  2. Decriminalize victimless crimes
  3. Treat criminals as criminals instead of making them better, stronger criminals
  4. Make prisons rehabilitation centers

Health Care

Solutions: I actually believe a government run health care plan has the potential be more beneficial than the profit driven one we have now, but only with certain conditions:

  1. All members of the federal government (politicians explicitly) must be on that plan to ensure that it is properly controlled and run


  1. Private companies should still be allowed to operate. If they can compete price-wise, let them stay in business.


Common Welfare

-sighted. Where to draw the line is one of the biggest points of contention. Some examples:

Do we take care of those who are hurt and unable to work? (Workers compensation)


Do we provide for a general education? (Public schools)

The problem with all the above, and many other government programs, is whenever money is being handed out from anywhere but your own pocket, people are less likely to be accountable. As a welfare worker, what does it hurt me if I allow the man who can work but chooses not to stay on welfare? As a principal of a school, what do I care if the 50% of the kids who are graduating high school read at a 6th grade level, so long as I make six figures?



Solutions:

  1. Enforce the 10th amendment. Anything not mandated in the constitution should be controlled locally by the state.
  1. Provide incentives to save money, as the military does. If an idea works better and saves money, 10% of the savings of the first year goes to the person who provided the idea.
  2. Implement what works elsewhere. If NH does better with a 75/25% classroom/administration spending split, implement the same.

Woozle Responds

Left vs. Right

I think we agree on this overall; see political ideological axis for an overview, and political ideological axes for other ways of mapping political ideologies.

I would add the caveat that there are a few politicians who are honest and are genuinely working for the public good, and from what I can tell there are substantially more of them on the Dem side than the GOP side. Both parties, however, tend to marginalize such people, yes.

I would also add that if there is any real culture war going on, it's between authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism. The red/Republican/conservative/right camp tends to be energized by people wearing or bearing the appropriate symbols of authority, while the blue/Democrat/liberal/left camp is energized in the exact opposite direction by the outrageously stupid and harmful things those same people do and say; thus they keep us at one another's throats.

[M] "I don't support either party, but vote with the politician more willing to cut back central control and return control to the states."

Can you give some examples? Abortion rights are the obvious one where we would disagree, but I assume the principle extends beyond that.

[M] "Typically, it has been the republicans who are more willing to cut taxes and special projects..."

They like to promote themselves as doing this, but as far as I can tell they are the worst about pork projects and irresponsible spending. They howl about the horrors of pork and special interests, then vote themselves more of it and sponsor legislation written by their biggest donors. Got any counterexamples? (Well, okay, Ron Paul... who has been hugely marginalized by his own party. I might have voted for him, myself -- maybe even over Obama, depending on what I found when I researched him more thoroughly.)

Right-sizing of Government

[M] "Money is power, and the more tax dollars the government takes, the more power our government has to infringe its will on upon us."

So you would rather do away with it? What do you see as the proper role of government? How do you propose to protect average individuals from abuse by the powerful? How do you propose that basic non-profit infrastructure (like roads, and safety rules) should be maintained? How do you propose that basic rights will be protected?

[M] (referring to the Tytler quote, "...From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury...") "While the attribution of the above quote is under dispute, the contents are not."

Actually, they are -- it is demonstrably untrue. I maintain that, as David Brin puts it,

...this spurious "quotation" has also been repeatedly proved to be utter and complete drivel. It has taken an unprecedented propaganda campaign to drive wedges into and between components of the middle class, in America. And even so, it is still the bourgeoisie that not only puts up most of the taxes but also relentlessly proves to be the caste the least interested in "largesse" and the most willing to pay for the civilization that they live in.

...

The "people" after all, have repeatedly been polled as much more willing to invest in new energy than our aristocracy ever was.

Moreover, there are plenty of counter-examples that suggest the opposite. For example, recall the era of the "Clinton Surplus?" Members of Congress salivated over spending it all on favored programs. Others promoted giant tax cuts, especially for the wealthy classes. Amid all of this, only two groups spoke up for using the surplus instead to retire the national debt. Those two groups were economists and ... the general public.

It was the middle class "populace" who wanted to pay off the debt before getting a tax cut! Their forward-looking citizenship was far greater than the "gimme!" attitude of most of the aristocracy.

One example I recently came across is the popular demand for welfare cuts, which Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. This was ostensibly the population of the US demanding that they be given fewer benefits. Perhaps it was selfish and greedy: the middle class didn't want to see poor people benefiting from "our money... our paychecks, from the sweat of our brow", and were quite willing to see those people painted as lazy and undeserving in order to justify that greed. Consequently, they voted to take money away from their own neighbors, communities, and towns, ultimately leading to a wealth gap which is now worse than at any time prior to 1917. Greedy and selfish it may have been, but you can hardly call it "voting largesse"... unless you mean for the wealthy who pocketed the lion's share of the savings.

I put it to you that you need to demonstrate a consistent pattern of the citizens putting pressure on their legislators to vote for bread and circuses -- rather than the elite corrupt or confused legislators, in the pockets of economically elite interests, selling such spending to their constituents as being "for the common good".

I also put it to you that it is not "the majority" voting themselves "largesse" (Tytler) or "more money and more power" (as you put it), but that aristocratic elite -- a group which has been singularly well-defended by your favorite party. (True, they have not been without help from the Dems too, but most of the Dems do at least pay lip-service to the idea that money shouldn't be able to buy votes; the GOP, however, seems to think that this is somehow representative of the proper functioning of capitalism, and therefore the American Way.)

[M] "Second, everything the government does that costs anything is being foisted on society because it comes from OUR money."

And you vote for how it is spent, too. Can you say the same for the money you give to, say, insurance companies?

I think your real beef comes from the fact that the federal government has become corrupted by special interests that do not represent your wishes -- or perhaps the corruption is just more obvious now, given that we have access to much more information than we did a few years ago, and also that it seems to be getting worse -- and thus you aren't seeing the economic benefits of a properly-functioning government.

I don't see that making government "smaller" will solve the problem; that just gives the special interests more power to either corrupt the system further and control you directly (if the government's power to intervene is reduced).

Republicans have made it clear that they support taking away the power of the government to intervene on your behalf, and support giving more power to those special interests which can afford to buy it. Republicans seem to see this as a sound investment with a good return, and that makes it ok.

I ask again: how would you provide the services government is supposed to provide?

Are we agreed that the following government services are necessary for someone to provide?:

  • defense against foreign invasion
  • regulation of business, to prevent abuse of workers and investors and to prevent cheating (allowing unproductive businesses to get ahead via unethical means)
  • maintenance of infrastructure such as highways, ports (air and sea)
  • protection of basic human rights (overruling cultural isolationism which might hold sway in a given state)

I'll agree that there might be better ways -- more competition-driven ways, even -- to handle some of these things, but the point is that you need to propose and implement a new solution before you do away with the old one. As flawed as it may be, having nothing at all would be disastrous.

[

Again: we're not a frontier anymore, where a man can protect his family with a shotgun and a gritty look in his eye; how do you propose protecting the lay citizenry against the powerful? Or, for that matter, against disasters (personal or large-scale)?

I put it to you that we are a sufficiently wealthy society that even the poorest and least capable of us should be able to have a comfortable and safe place to sleep, enough to eat, and basic medical care. I'm tired of seeing homeless people begging on the corner -- and I don't care if it turns out they are absolutely useless as people; they should be taken care of. We have the resources, even now. How do you propose ensuring that this happens?

Over the past 15 years or so, more than half of the growth in our economy has gone to the wealthiest 1% of our population. Shouldn't you be agitating that those folks should be paying more, to contribute their fair share back to the society that has done so well by them, rather than arguing that we all need to tighten our belts a bit?

I put it to you that your opinions are being manipulated by that extraordinarily well-off 1% -- playing on your sense of virtue -- so that they can "vote themselves largesse" in the form of undeserved tax cuts, making it necessary for you and me to pay more to get the same services we all need.

Gay Marriage

[M] "Should a state decide gay marriage should be allowed, it should be able to do that."

When a state outlaws a basic human activity for certain people, isn't that government interference?

That said, as far as I know there is no initiative to make gay marriage a federal law. There are initiatives to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell", which is a military law and clearly under federal jurisdiction, and federal laws to ensure that gay (and bi, and trans) people are given the same protections as everyone else, which is pretty clearly a power granted by the Bill of Rights. I would argue that if marriage is a right, gay marriage is also a right, and states should not be allowed to ban it any more than they should be allowed to ban a particular religious custom.

Furthermore, the forces of anti-gay seem to have no qualms about interfering across state lines on this issue (e.g. the huge support from various outside interests to deny gay marriage in California and Maine) -- which makes this a matter of interstate commerce, which means that the federal government has the power to regulate it.

[M] "The only things the federal government should be doing is providing for the common defense (the military), insure domestic tranquility (interstate commerce, FBI), and promote the general welfare (serious gray area here, covered later)."

As I said, ensuring human rights is also something pretty clearly under the federal government's jurisdiction; if you think it shouldn't be, then you should be calling for a repeal of the Bill of Rights.

Abortion

[M] "At what point is a human being a human being? From an evolutionary and scientific standpoint, as soon as the fertilized egg cell starts dividing, it is a unique life."

So is a sperm, or an egg. This is essentially an arbitrary dividing point. Some other dividing points one might use:

  • At what point is it capable of surviving without support from the mother?
  • At what point does its heart begin to beat?
  • At what point can it feel pain?
  • At what point does it have the capability for thought?
  • At what point do the newer brain structures (those unique to homo sapiens) begin to develop? At what point are they functional?
  • At what point does it become sufficiently unique that it could actually be distinguished from other embryos/infants at the same stage of development?

It's not clear to me that any of these questions are directly relevant in deciding whether or not it would be better to abort or not, though they could certainly figure prominently in the decision.

[M] "Parasitic to a point, reliant on its host for nourishment, however, still a separate and unique life nonetheless. As a unique life, does it not also deserve "life, liberty, pursuit of happiness"?"

Again, the same argument could be made of criminals. (I'll assume there's an implicit "human" qualifier in there, otherwise the argument also applies to mosquitoes and bacteria.)

But sure, I'll bite: yes, every human fetus deserves life. We all deserve a lot of things, and sometimes we don't get them because of circumstances. Life sucks that way. Giving birth, I would argue, implies an obligation; if you know in advance you can't meet that obligation, it's better to break the contract sooner rather than later.

If you mean is a fetus entitled to live, then I would have to ask: why?

[
  • This is a common assumption, but I don't think it is correct -- at least, not in this context. Also, it's not as if the women gain anything from the deal. I think your assumption may only apply when taking the subsidized action provides a clear benefit to the individual (e.g. tax incentives). Do you have any data on abortion rates vs. presence or absence of government funding?
  • Even if it turns out to be true, it is probably better than the alternative (i.e. poor women not being able to get abortions when they need them).
[

...which of course I maintain it does.

[M] "With only 1% of abortions being due to the health of the mother, rape, or incest, and birth control measures (condoms or pills) being only 98-

You assume once again that abortion is always due to negligence on the part of the mother. What about coercion, changing circumstances (prospective parents decide they want children -- then someone loses their job, and they can't afford to), bad luck (pregnancy in spite of proper contraception usage)?

And why do you want the government to be the one who decides what's best for the parents and the child?

[M] "If I go base jumping, have an accident, and am a vegetable for the rest of my life, should the government (i.e. taxpayers of America) have to foot the bill for my medical treatment?"

If you don't have insurance or a family who can afford to foot the bill, isn't this what currently happens?

[M] "Agreed, an unwanted child is a bad thing. Yet, that child has the potential to be the next Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Einstein, Mozart, etc. Killing that potential is the worst option."
  • S/he also has the potential to be the next Hitler, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Tim McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Dick Cheney.

What do you think the odds are? For every shining example of humanity, how many horrible killers are there?

  • By this argument, every woman should have as many babies as she possibly can, from menarche to menopause... which often seems to be the pro-life point of view; no egg or ejaculation must be wasted, no copulation must be prevented from allowing "God's will" to manifest as a pregnancy. Is this what you are arguing?
  • I'll give up Einstein if the alternative is slavery, and that's what you're arguing for. The fetus is part of the woman's body until it is born, and you are arguing that the government or society owns it.

I agree with your solutions overall, though I don't see why you would remove the right of gay/mixed-race/etc. couples to adopt regardless of state. What happens if such a couple adopts in one state and then moves (for reasons of employment, say) to a state where their adoption isn't recognized. Will they be treated fairly in that state? I doubt it.

Gun Ownership

related: wikipedia:Gun politics in the United States

[M] "When the police are not obligated to protect anyone (Castle Rock v. Gonzales)..."

If this is the case, then what is the point of having police?

That decision was evil, reinforcing my opinion of Scalia as a religious hypocrite:

  • If the police cannot enforce a restraining order, then legislators need to provide some protection which can be enforced -- not just say "oh well, you're on your own, sorry about your murdered kids".
  • Why are you not more upset about this decision than about aborted fetuses? Those kids actually were murdered, and a (conservative) Federal judge said it was okay. It hardly seems very "pro-life".

I also have to ask: why couldn't the police enforce a restraining order? If it was lack of funds, then the police need to be better funded. If it was that enforcement puts officers in too much danger, then perhaps the abuser should be restrained some other way. It is supposed to be their job to protect the innocent from the violent.

If a court takes away their obligation to do this and then the gun lobby argues that we all need more guns as a consequence, this is morally equivalent to saying that a city doesn't need to maintain its roads, and we should all just buy tanks to get around in.

This is not a direction I want to see America go in; it is a movement away from civil society and towards lawlessness.

[
  • I have never owned one, and never felt the need to own one. I do not know anyone who owns one (that I know of). My closest experience with firearms growing up was an air-powered pellet gun my father used to scare away stray dogs.
  • Note that I did not say it was always unnecessary, just largely unnecessary -- as in "most people will never need or want one". I did, if you will recall, concede "that in some parts of the country they may be necessary", and also "I dislike the principle of banning personal ownership of any class of goods", so I do favor retaining the basic right to own them.

I just (a) think the NRA goes overboard when it demands the right to own things like assault weapons, tries to reduce or eliminate waiting periods and background checks, and other measures which seem more aimed at demonstrating their political power than at helping people to legitimately protect themselves, and (b) see other protections as being far more vital, and (c) the same people who are pro-gun seem to be among those who ignore (at best) or actively stomp on those other protections.

To answer the specific cases in which you deem firearm ownership necessary:

[M] "1. Self defense: If someone breaks into your home with a firearm, how can you defend yourself without a firearm?"
  • Thinking back on the various break-in incidents I am familiar with personally, in no case was I or anyone else present when the break-in took place; they got in, got what they wanted, and got out again. If I had had a gun, they might have gotten that too.
  • Statistics (which I'm sure you are aware of) show that a gun kept in the home is much more likely to be misused than to be used to repel an attacker.
[M] "2. Recreation: Skeet shooting and many other sports are about the skill of using a firearm."
  • Any particular form of recreation is by definition not a necessity. (Recreation in general is necessary, but it isn't necessary for any particular person to indulge in the specific recreational activity of hunting.) I'm not against recreational hunting, just pointing out that it's not something which should enjoy specific protections any more than owning a boat or a pair of skis should be. Car drivers have to have licenses, and cars are arguably much more of a necessity in many parts of the country than are guns. Guns are intended to wound or kill a living creature (not necessarily human) -- that is, they wound or kill when used properly, whereas cars are only dangerous as a side-effect of their proper usage; used properly, and in the absence of bad luck, a car does not hurt anyone. The case for gun licensing seems pretty damn clear-cut to me -- but you also said you agree that background checks are "worth it if it prevents one criminal from obtaining a firearm"... so are there any points of disagreement in what I just said?
[
  • Did I ever say this? Does any liberal organization argue that guns should be prohibited for hunting purposes? See my concessions, above.
[M] "While the population is growing, and the number of firearm owners, the number of accidental shootings is staying the same."

This is good news, if true. Do you have any sources I can put on the reference page I will eventually create for this issue?

From what I hear, though, right-wing violence is up sharply, so I'd like to have more data on this.

[

You're shooting yourself in the foot, here. I think keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals -- if it were possible -- would be a tremendous boon to society. Sure, they would use knives and garrotes and all kinds of ugly weapons I probably don't know about -- but there's still nothing quite as intimidating and dangerous as a gun.

However, we both agree that banning guns is not going to prevent criminals from getting them, and might even make the problem worse. We have to look at all the different ideas which have been tried, and see which ones work best. From what I understand, waiting periods help reduce impulse crimes, and background checks make it harder for criminals to get guns in the first place and easier for police to take them away from criminals. These rules are an inconvenience for legitimate, law-abiding gun owners, but I don't see how they are an infringement of the right to own.

Gun owners who are truly concerned for the public welfare would embrace these laws, knowing that the results will be fewer guns involved or implicated in crimes and deaths. (Again, are we disagreeing on this point? It doesn't look like it, but I don't want to assume too much from what you said briefly about background checks.)

[M] "If crime is your issue, observe the country with the least crime and utilize their solution. Switzerland has the lowest violent crime rate in the world. Every able-bodied man is required to maintain an army-

That's an interesting example. I propose that part of why it works well in Switzerland is that every male gun owner is required to go through extensive training on the proper use of such weaponry, as such training is surely part of the mandatory military service. I would be in favor of such a requirement for gun-owners in the US. I think it would be highly appropriate if all the money the NRA currently spends on lobbying and advertising were used to defray the personal cost of such training.

It also should be noted that although Switzerland does seem to support your case, it is just one data point. I would like to see a graph of gun ownership versus violent crime rate across at least a dozen or so developed countries, to see if the trend holds true or if there are perhaps other factors involved. Drawing a firm conclusion from one example is a bad idea, especially when the conclusion has to do with cause-and-effect.

[M] "Repeated studies of inmates have shown the top two deterrents to home invasion are armed home owners and dogs."

...which does not change the fact that a gun kept in the home is more likely to be the cause of an accidental shooting than it is to be used in repelling a criminal.

[M] "Dianne Feinstein is one example off the top of my head that is insistent on the repeal of the second amendment."

As far as I can tell, she was talking about assault weapons. If the 2nd amendment stands in the way of banning assault weapons for personal use (which I don't think it does), then I do have a problem with it. If she really wants to take away all handguns... that would worry me.

Either way, I'm already no fan of Feinstein's; she was on the side of the media giants in the battle over intellectual property rights, and that is something that actually matters to me. She may call herself liberal, but I am skeptical... and apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way: Wikipedia says "In 2007, activists from within the California Democratic Party made a push to censure Feinstein. The resolution, which cited Feinstein for "ignoring Democratic principles and falling so far below the standard of what we expect of our elected officials" ultimately failed."

[M] "How effective is gun ownership on the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan?"

Some points of clarification, just so you don't mistake what I am saying:

  • In order for this to apply, we would have to be talking about an invasion of the US by some outside force. (The US invasion of other countries involves armed soldiers, and nobody is proposing that they shouldn't have weapons.)
  • Although I do think such an invasion is extremely unlikely given the US's place in world politics and the ever-deadlier level of weaponry which could be brought to bear by any serious invader, I would never use that as a reason to justify universal disarmament -- because you should always be prepared for the unexpected.

That said... if we were hoping that an armed US citizenry could be of any real use against invaders, I think we would need a great deal more weaponry -- and I don't think handguns would be much use. We would need the sorts of weapons commonly associated with terrorism, because that is the kind of warfare you have when an armed civilian population attempts to repel military invaders.

Perhaps you weren't aware of this, but that sort of equipment and supplies -- including many with legitimate peacetime uses, such as lye -- has increasingly been banned or restricted by the federal government due only to their association with terrorism and drug manufacture.

If you're going to make noise about the government taking away your weapons, I'd start with those -- and I'll join you.

But hanguns? Feh. If that were all we had to face in Iraq, we would have had peace years ago.

Actually, I'm not sure that weaponry should be the focus, if we want to be serious about US citizens helping to repel invasion. Weapons would be nearly useless. We would need a citizen-controlled, non-central defense infrastructure. If you want to argue for that, I'll support that as well.

A well-armed and empowered citizenry, though, is exactly what the powers-that-be don't want -- which is why they keep us arguing about useless things like handguns, drawing attention away from the real destruction of citizen rights posed by legislation such as the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act.

[M] "And if the pilots of any of the flights involved in 9/11 were armed with firearms, the box cutter armed terrorists would have been cut off right quick, saving the lives of thousands."

I absolutely support the right of commercial pilots to carry firearms (we are already trusting them with a far more deadly weapon, and with all the lives on board). I find it damned peculiar that the rule allowing this was rescinded just 2 months before 9/11. If anyone is arguing against this, I would like to have a few words with them.

[

That's a reasonable argument. (A question, though: aren't cities and counties allowed to ban private firearms? Is it against the Constitution to ban private firearms on public property?)

The actual text is "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." What I get from this is that the citizenry must be allowed to keep and bear whatever sort of arms would be necessary in order to participate in a well-regulated militia -- without actually requiring membership in such militia in order to own arms.

Unfortunately, there's so much vagueness there that it seems to me we need to stop treating the Constitution as scripture and figure out what we think is best.

I'd say people should have the right to own guns in general. The less dense the area you live in, the fewer restrictions should be imposed on what kind of weapons you can have, and no class of goods should be completely prohibited. The only constraints on what should be based on where and how soon.

I think most of our disagreement may come from the fact that I have no emotional attachment to firearms, while you do seem to have some. I'm not sure that we actually disagree about what laws are appropriate and inappropriate.

So... what types of weapons do you think private citizens should be allowed to own? Should we have citizen militia groups which are allowed to own more powerful weaponry? If so, should those groups be governmentally regulated (to ensure quality of teaching about firearm safety etc.)?

Common Welfare

[

How do you know? Explain, then, the popularity of political donations, charity donations, volunteerism? (And religious tithing, if you see religion as a good thing.) What kind of "majority" are we talking about, here -- 51%, 75%, 99.9%?

I haven't even got to whatever point you're using this claim as an argument for, but I couldn't let it stand unchallenged because I do not think it is true in principle. Civilization only emerged because of, and depends upon, people cooperating and working for the common good.

[M] "The problem with all the above, and many other government programs, is whenever money is being handed out from anywhere but your own pocket, people are less likely to be accountable."

So what? I'd rather have 10 people "mooching" off the system (receiving a minimal living salary -- say $10-15k annually), who could work but would rather not, than see one guy out on the street corner begging for food for his family because he somehow doesn't "qualify" for aid.

If someone would rather not work, given access to employment opportunities, why would I want to hire them? Why would I want anyone to hire them? They would probably do a lousy job and cost the business money, if that's their attitude. Let's feed, clothe, house, and educate them, and write off the loss. Maybe through education they will acquire a work ethic, but it's not something you can force.

[M] "As a welfare worker, what does it hurt me if I allow the man who can work but chooses not to stay on welfare?"

And how does it hurt us as citizens?

Let me put it this way. Do you know of anyone gainfully employed who would quit their job if they could get $10-15k a year for doing basically nothing? And let's say that, instead of stupidly cutting off this assistance abruptly if the person goes out and gets a part-time job at McDonald's, the welfare payments are ramped down gradually, so that earning money outside of welfare is encouraged rather than penalized.

Would this person still quit working?

If they would quit working, even under those extremely favorable circumstances, then is this really someone we should be hiring in the first place?

We are an extremely wealthy society. We pay people large amounts of money to do things which really do not contribute to the common good in any way. I'd much rather give everyone a basic living -- whether they "earn" it or not -- than force people to invent useless jobs in the cause of maintaining the purity of our largely capitalistic wealth-redistribution system.

[M] "As a principal of a school, what do I care if the 50% of the kids who are graduating high school read at a 6th grade level, so long as I make six figures?"

This is an argument against concentration of power, not human goodness (or social welfare). 99% of the employees in that hypothetical school are probably not happy with this situation. Why is it allowed to continue? Accountability might be the problem -- but aren't principals supposed to be accountable to the school board? Why is the board letting this continue? Why aren't the parents up in arms to replace the school board for not taking action? Are there any actual cases of principals pulling down 6-figure salaries while still graduating sub-literates in significant quantities?

In this (hypothetical) case, there is a clear incentive to cheat because the benefit goes to a small number of people and is thereby multiplied (lots of small budget cuts add up to a hefty annual bonus). With social welfare, the situation is reversed -- many people receive a relatively small amount of money, doled out in small amounts; they don't have much incentive to cheat, because the most they can receive in cash is a barely-living wage.

Also, social welfare is supposed to be accountable -- all government is. If it's not, then the problem is the implementation, not the idea.

[M] "All these government programs have no accountability, and no way to fix them."

What do you mean "no way"? The laws were made by people, and they can be changed by people. (Much of the rest of your paragraph presumes this claim, so you need to defend that point.)

Your points about comparisons with working models in other states are well-taken, however, and further investigation seems like a good idea. I'm not sure where to start. But there certainly is -- or should be -- accountability. "The Government" wasn't handed down to us from the mountain, fully-formed and immutable; it belongs to us, and if we can't change it to be more sensible, then that is a problem we need to look at very closely.

Your solutions:

I can partly agree with #1 (congressional salaries should be set by popular vote). I'm not sure making it a part-time job would be a good idea, because then congresscritters would have even less time to study the complex issues before them, and they are already much too happy to vote on things they don't understand.

Also, reducing the salary might have some positive effects, but I suspect they would be outweighed by the negative.

Consider: A working-level wage would mean that nobody would take the job for the money. However, I doubt very much that anyone's main motivation in running for Congress is because of the great salary. People who are motivated that way would still be motivated by the power.

Further, it would mean that the job would only be appealing to those who already had enough money that they didn't need a real job. These are not the people we want to be selecting for.

What might work better is to require lawmakers to put all their assets (other than basic needs -- one house, one car, $2k in cash, etc. -- the kind of assets they allow when you are applying for things like Medicaid) into a blind trust for the duration of office. This would make politics considerably less attractive to the well-off, and would be no hardship at all for those with few assets to begin with.

(I would even suggest that they should have to live in public housing, but I'm not sure how this would fit in with the practicalities of attending Congress when it is in session. If you ask me, Congress meeting in person is a huge anachronism; the whole thing could be done much better if conducted via computer. Society has yet to work out reliable and trustworthy methodologies for this, so it's still a bit pie-in-the-sky at the moment, but this is something they could at least be working on intensively -- and as far as I can tell there has been zero interest in it, besides casual adoption of lightweight tools like Twitter and Facebook.)

On your #2 suggestion: You show me where this is clearly being violated now, and we'll talk. It seems to me that the power to regulate interstate commerce, for example, provides quite a large umbrella for many things conservatives would rather see preserved as "states' rights".

Suggestion #3: Yes, I have heard that this is a problem in government, especially at the state level. I'd like to know what the arguments were for making the system the way it is now before I support any particular remedy -- what problems was it intended to fix, and how can we avoid causing those problems again by changing it? (Please note that the position I am taking here is technically conservative, not liberal: if something complex is working at all, be cautious about how you propose to "fix" it.)

Suggestion #4: Again, I think you have to be careful of unintended consequences. You are setting up an incentive for an individual to benefit by doing away with something which may have been cost-effectively benefiting many people. There needs to be some third-party check on each "accomplishment" to make sure it really was in the best interests of those the organization is intended to serve; otherwise you get things like a corporate executive at a straw-manufacturer shaving half an inch off the length of the straws they make, thus saving the company $5,000,000/year in materials expenses -- but producing an inferior product. (And if the organization in question is a government, people can't just take their business elsewhere.)

Suggestion #5: Yes, though I'd like to hear what the objections are to doing this. (If there are no objections, then why aren't we?)

Round 4

Midian

Ron Paul is who I voted for due to many of the reasons stated above. I even wrote him in for the general election because I knew he was the only one who would get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.



-strings. They decide where the money goes, without us having any say. What can I, in Arizona, do, against the senators and representatives from the other states? Nothing. Yet, if the offending politician is a state senator, I can vote a replacement in, petition for a recall, etc.

Provide the services that can be provided locally (streets, unemployment, welfare, etc.) by the state, without the federal government taking their cut of the money. For the ones that cannot be done locally (FBI, CIA, military, medicare, social security) provide for that out of the taxes other than income tax. Income tax provides less than 1/3 the federal budget, that much pork can easily be cut by cutting kickbacks, subsidies, etc. and returning local services back to the states.

The less money wasted on corruption and cronyism, the more we have available to do things like end poverty and hunger, starting at home, and expanding around the world. The longer we allow the pigs in Washington to make our decisions for us, the more they will siphon the money into their own pockets.



Sperm and eggs are not complete nor unique. Until the sperm fertilizes an egg, they are just individual cells with limited utility, like skin cells. Once the egg is fertilized and starts splitting, the potential human is created. This is the point where a unique life begins. It isn't arbitrary, it is well defined, documented, and proven. As a pharmacist, would I provide the plan B pill, yes. Would I allow abortions? Up until the 2nd trimester, barring health of the mother issues. But I would do everything in my power to try to ensure that choice doesn't need to be made, for the health of the baby and the mother. And I wouldn't fund abortions making them free to allow their use as an irresponsible form of birth control.


Why a fetus is entitled to live is the same reason any unique life is entitled to live.

I feel like I am clarifying points more than presenting new ideas or defending them. What are YOUR suggestions?

Woozle

[M] "Ron Paul is who I voted for due to many of the reasons stated above. I even wrote him in for the general election because I knew he was the only one who would get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

If the GOP had fielded Paul instead of McCain, my choice would have been much tougher; in light of Obama's non-action towards getting out of Afghanistan, stopping torture, etc. -- and also his lack of movement forward on other issues he claimed to support, such as gay rights -- I might well be regretting voting for Obama now, if Paul had been the alternative.

Given that McCain-Palin was the alternative -- with Palin being an unabridged horror of Biblical proportions, and McCain quickly trashing the significant respect I had for him by reversing his position on torture and repeatedly making it clear that his official views as a candidate were not his own -- this was just another step in the GOP's ongoing quest for complete insanity.

There are some things I have heard about Paul that worry me a little, but since he was never a serious candidate I have not taken the time to investigate him very thoroughly.

[M] "Why does the federal government need that much money? To pay for special projects and kickbacks to lobbyists."

This is a severe misrepresentation.

The corrosive effects of such kickbacks are undeniable -- and they are undeniably a severe problem, even though in many cases intentions are good (see e.g. Lessig) -- but I don't think they are more than a fraction of the federal budget. A much larger portion of the budget is misspent through misguided but otherwise legitimate allocations, and that is a problem which also needs tackling.

[

I think this is almost completely backwards.

To paraphrase the gun lobby: Take away the legitimate power and money, and only the illegitimate will remain enriched and powerful.

The government is supposed to be the instrument for promoting the common good and making sure everyone else plays fair. Take away the power to enforce this, take away the money for the enforcers (and the studies to determine what will work and what won't), and what do you think will happen?

It's like arguing that because one team has a habit of bribing referees, we should have fewer referees or pay them less. (The fact that this corrupt team is using their ill-gotten gains to promote the idea of referee-reduction does not add any legitimacy to the idea.)

[M] "How did the government function until 1913, prior to income tax?"

That is very much a legitimate question. Some possible answers are obvious, but I'm leery of "obvious" answers; I'd like to know what the actual reasoning and facts were that led to this decision.

Wikipedia gives the following history:

  • 1861: First US personal income tax ever, to help pay for the Civil War -- 3% of all incomes over $800 (~$20k in 2009)
  • 1862: The above tax is repealed and replaced by another one.
  • 1894: the Wilson-Gorman tariff imposes the first US peacetime income tax -- 2% on income over $4000 (~$101k in 2009), fewer than 10% of households had to pay anything. Purpose was "to make up for revenue that would be lost by tariff reductions." (Whose tariffs were being reduced, and why? Suspicious.)
  • 1895: Supreme Court rules that taxes on property rents are unconstitutional; however, the "Court affirmed that the Constitution did not deny Congress the power to impose a tax on real and personal property."
  • 1913: States ratify the 16th Amendment, allowing "Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the states or basing it on Census results" and overruling Pollock re taxing property rents.

Some obvious questions:

  • How much did it cost to run the government (annually, in 2009 dollars) prior to 1913?
  • How much does it cost to run the government now?
  • What expenses have we added to make it cost more now?
  • What portion of tax revenue is now income tax? (Historical data going back to 1913 would be useful, too, so we can watch the evolution over time.)

A tidbit I remember reading somewhere: income tax does not pay for government operations; it basically pays the interest on the Federal Debt. (This obviously needs to be verified, but clearly has some implications if true.)

I think inquiry into income tax -- or more generally, how the government funds itself -- is a completely legitimate thing to be looking into. For one thing, the income tax code is orders of magnitude beyond being too complicated. A family member is a tax accountant by profession, and he says that every year they get this huge, unreadable manual delivered -- and he never bothers to read it until he has a specific question to answer. I suspect very strongly that it is written to favor those who are wealthy enough to afford private accountants who can spend hours and hours looking for and setting up ways of shaving off percentages. How this benefits American society is beyond me.

Two proposals to throw into the hat:

  • Start taxing at a level of income that is high enough that nobody has any legitimate need for "exemptions", and base the tax rate on a simple mathematical formula. We will need some pretty serious income data to work out how high we can set the "maximum tax-free income level" and still pay for whatever needs to be paid for. We will also need to figure out exactly what income tax is paying for (see note below), and what other revenues are being used to pay for everything else.
  • Abandon income tax altogether, and replace the lost revenue by printing however much money is needed. This inflates the currency to some degree, and the question is how much inflation this would cause. It has been argued that this would essentially be a "flat tax", which is bad for poor people -- but unlike most flat taxes, it really only penalizes people who hold onto their money for any length of time, which poor people generally do not.

Ok, I think we have a lot of common ground on this issue, but onward...

[

That isn't because people actually want more pork, but because those politicians can (by virtue of having more pork to spread around the their circle of insiders) afford to buy more advertising... and favors.

The rest of what you said in that paragraph sounds like you may be agreeing with me here... it is that the process is corrupt, not that the voters are greedy or selfish.

[

Obviously we vote for the senators and representatives...but I take your point: we are too isolated from the decisions made at that level.

Your solution is to make the federal government smaller. This might be a reasonable goal, but there's a small problem: if, somehow, Congress gathers the necessary momentum to start making this happen, who do you think will be making the decisions as to which programs to cut and which to keep?

Yeah. Those same people we don't have enough influence over. And the ones with the most influence -- and the most to lose from a reduced government -- will make damn sure that their sources of income will continue.

Note also that the size of government has more often decreased under Democratic presidencies than Republican ones, and I believe this is because Republicans are largely just using "small government" as an excuse to get away with whatever they want -- while Democrats more often genuinely want government to run well and serve the people it is supposed to serve.

Republicans are not your friends on this issue either, as much as they pretend to be.

[M] "Provide the services that can be provided locally (streets, unemployment, welfare, etc.) by the state, without the federal government taking their cut of the money."

I agree with you in principle; the problem is that many of the individual states have a horrible record on some things (e.g. civil rights -- integration was opposed by many states, just as gay rights are now being opposed by an ever-decreasing number Perhaps if the integration issue had not been enforced at the federal level, they all would have come around on this issue -- but I tend to think it would have been a very, very long time and a great waste of human capital.)

I need to look into this more, though, to see if my feeling about it is substantiated by facts.

One question: under your plan, would we ever have a space program? Uniform laws from state to state? The Internet? Which parts of the FedGov would you actually cut?

[M] "The less money wasted on corruption and cronyism, the more we have available to do things like end poverty and hunger, starting at home, and expanding around the world."

This is certainly true... how much of our national resources are being squandered this way? And which groups are doing most of the squandering? (Do we agree that the Iraq War was not only a wasteful activity to begin with, but that it was also conducted in the most amazingly wasteful way?)

[M] "The longer we allow the pigs in Washington to make our decisions for us, the more they will siphon the money into their own pockets."

They're not all pigs, but again I take your point. (My impression is that far more GOP members qualify as "pigs" than Dems; the Dems are better described as "spineless worms"... mainly when they're not standing up to the "pigs", but again I have to wonder how much of this is just political theatre to keep us distracted from who is really pulling the strings.)

[

We agree on these. Yay.

[M] "Sperm and eggs are not complete nor unique."

Neither is a fetus, without very specific tailor-made definitions of "complete" and "unique".

[M] "It isn't arbitrary, it is well defined, documented, and proven."

Hmm, I'd like to see that proof...

[M] "But I would do everything in my power to try to ensure that choice doesn't need to be made, for the health of the baby and the mother."

Check. I think we agree on a lot in this area.

[M] "And I wouldn't fund abortions making them free to allow their use as an irresponsible form of birth control."

Well, I've already explained my views and the reasons for them... but I could see a working compromise being reached on this. A big goal of mine at this point would be to get pro-life-leaning people to start working against abortion clinic violence and intimidation; towards that end, I would be willing to advocate a compromise position like this and backing down from supporting third-trimester abortions except under extraordinary circumstances (perhaps there should be some kind of review board, possibly even with a jury composed of 50% pro-lifers and 50% pro-choicers, to decide if a 3rd-tri abortion is reasonable or not).

[M] "Why a fetus is entitled to live is the same reason any unique life is entitled to live."

Nobody is arguing that an aborted fetus was aborted because it didn't deserve to live. Sometimes the circumstances just aren't right -- and as long as the fetus is part of the mother, in my view the mother has the right to decide what is best for both of them.

[M] "What are YOUR suggestions?"

I've given a few above -- in the areas of income taxation, popular control of the FedGov, and abortion (compromise treaty).

I'll also add that I'd like to see the mainstream media completely deconsolidated. Given the abuses that happen when multiple print publications and broadcasters fall into just a few hands, I think we need to go the other way: nobody should be allowed to own more than one newspaper or broadcast station, and they should all be non-profit and community-owned. (I realize this is a bit of an extreme position, but I think it would be a very good experiment to try for about 20 years and then re-evaluate.)

I also think the FedGov should be documenting itself much better than it currently does; I could go into an extensive lecture on this, but I'll spare you for now.

What do you see as the biggest, most urgent problems America currently faces?

Round 4

Midian: Tabula Rasa

A new beginning. Here's where I would start:

Return to the Constitution

The founding fathers were far more intelligent, prescient, and concerned with our nation as a whole than any of our politicians today. I disagree entirely with your protestations that the left is any less worse than the right in any manner whatsoever. [3] [4]











Taxes

If income tax is used solely to pay interest on the debt, instead of printing more money, wipe the debt and require non-

Woozle: Tabula Response

The Constitution

  • [M] "The founding fathers were far more intelligent, prescient, and concerned with our nation as a whole than any of our politicians today."

I don't know that this is universally true, but one would have to do a lot of research to figure out which of today's politicians come anywhere near to the standard set by the founding fathers -- and the FFs weren't deeply entangled in a centuries-old political establishment, either, so they were much more free to act on their consciences.

So, yeah, I'll agree with your basic assertion here: the Constitution is an honest document, and the vast majority of recent legislation far less so.

  • [M] "I disagree entirely with your protestations that the left is any less worse than the right in any manner whatsoever."

On what grounds? Obama's big betrayal is his failure to reverse many of Bush's worst policies and actions. To my knowledge, he has not initiated anything evil on his own, and he has done considerable reversal of some of Bush's lesser crimes.

Yes, Obama has a lot to answer for -- but how can you possibly say that his spinelessness in declining to reverse every bit the neocon agenda is even comparable to the evil and malice of those who conceived and initiated that agenda in the first place?

You speak of "tabula rasa" -- but let's not forget who got us into this mess, if you're going to blame Obama for not getting us out of it fast enough.

  • [

"We" didn't do that; a few (relatively speaking) power-mongers did. My observation is that people only act foolishly en masse when persuaded by others -- as many are now being persuaded to act foolishly by the corporate-owned media. Otherwise how could we possibly have gotten as far as we did? It's not as if the Founding Fathers came down from on high and imposed freedom on the masses; people wanted freedom, and were rationally persuaded as to the best means of accomplishing that when presented with one.

But sure, let's go back to the founding document and see what we should have.

  • [M] "Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion."

It means the freedom to be personally free of religion if one chooses -- the right not to have a religion, the right to not take anything seriously if it cannot be defended on rational grounds. "Freedom" as in "not enslaved or owned by another".

You are correct that it doesn't imply a freedom from exposure to religion. I don't think anyone is making that claim.

  • [M] "kids want to pray in school, they should be allowed the free exercise thereof."

Nobody is stopping them. I believe the ACLU (often accused of being a bastion of liberal anti-religious oppressiveness) has defended the right of individual students to pray in school on at least one or two occasions. [5] What is not okay is for the school -- or officials acting on behalf of the school -- to endorse religious activities; the reasons why religious people should see this as a good thing were explained by Thomas Jefferson.

This includes things like courtroom displays of the Ten Commandments, which really have absolutely nothing to do with our legal system other than a chance overlap on a few obvious items (like not murdering or stealing). Even a broken clock is right twice a day...

  • [M] "If you feel your view is not included, make your own display."

Then why is it that someone always seems to get upset if a Muslim wants to put up a display celebrating one of their holidays -- or an atheist wants to put up a non-religious seasonal display?

  • [M] "You cannot have the right to not be offended without removing the right of free speech."

I think we're agreeing here -- there is no right to freedom from being offended.

2nd amendment: the problem is that the horrendous array of portable personal weapons currently available is nothing the founding fathers could reasonably have foreseen, and clearly they did not anticipate the social problems caused by such weaponry. We can't depend on the original language here; we have to decide how to handle this ourselves -- gleaning what wisdom we can from anything else the Founding Fathers may have had to say on the subject, but focusing more heavily on what effects have been accomplished by various levels of gun control in other countries.

If you just want to look at the Constitution, it seems to me that the federal law can only be kept out of gun control if it can be shown that guns are not having a substantial effect on interstate trade. Once something becomes significant in that field, then the Constitution specifically grants the power to regulate it.

4th amendment: I think we're in agreement here.

5th amendment and eminent domain: I think we're in agreement here too. I've never been a fan of eminent domain.

6th amendment "Judges allowing the suppression of evidence does not allow the jury to be impartial." Again, we agree -- and I am heartened to see you taking anti-Bush-doctrine positions here and on the 4th amendment.


I'm willing to concede that criminals are, in many cases, being treated too luxuriously -- though I have to wonder how many of the oft-quoted examples are real. Do you have any sources?

The prison system is a huge mess, and needs reform. For-profit prison management companies have far too much power to set the agenda -- I believe they are at least partially responsible for the unprecedented percentage of our population which is in prison as well as many of the excesses in both good or bad treatment. This field needs to be much more accountable than it is -- and I doubt very much that private enterprise is a good way to handle it.

Addendum: I see no need for prisons to be primarily an instrument of punishment, unless there is data to show that this is an effective method of reducing crime. Prisons should serve one purpose: minimizing the amount of crime committed. This can be done by both (1) physically restraining convicted criminals from committing more crimes, and (2) finding ways to engage convicted criminals in something more productive so that when/if they return to society they will not also return to crime.

10th amendment: We would probably agree about a lot of specifics and disagree about a lot of others. We agree about the war on drugs, at least. I think we're agreeing that what one state legalizes for itself should not be binding on any other.

14th amendment: Here's what I have to say about hate crimes.

Taxes

I think we agree that the income tax system needs to be overhauled and possibly eliminated; see the questions I asked in round 4. I do not think it can be replaced without first understanding what benefits it is considered essential in providing, however (and why). I suspect that, at the very least, we could do much better taxing only the rich, and using a very simple formula with no loopholes.

On the subject of deficit spending, you might want to read this.

Round 5

Midian responds

[W] "but let's not forget who got us into this mess, if you're going to blame Obama for not getting us out of it fast enough."

You mean Clinton? [6] [7] [8]

-

[W] "the problem is that the horrendous array of portable personal weapons currently available is nothing the founding fathers could reasonably have foreseen, and clearly they did not anticipate the social problems caused by such weaponry."

I disagree. They knew the history of the advent of firearms, and the drastic changes from arrows to flintlocks. I believe they did foresee a future where technological advances would create even more advanced weaponry, and felt the best protection from usurpation would be total freedom for personal defense.

[W] "The prison system is a huge mess, and needs reform."

First, reform the laws. No victim-less crime should be punishable. Prostitution, drug possession, etc.

Second, reform the courts. Any lawyer or judge who attempts to suppress evidence, either for or against a defendant should be disbarred on the spot. The law should rule, not whoever has the most money.

[W] "I see no need for prisons to be primarily an instrument of punishment"

What do you consider punishment? To reduce crime we need to reduce recidivism. If over 60% of criminals come back to jail after already spending time there, the current system is not a big enough deterrent.


And every time someone tries to reform the system, the ACLU, ADL, etc. come in and sues them. Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County has been sued by liberal groups worried about criminal rights over and over again (over 2000 lawsuits 2004-

Taxes

Constitutional amendment: Income tax imposed on no one with income less than the national average income.

From that point up, a progressive tax starting at the 0% from the national average. No exemptions, no breaks, no loopholes. If the rich want to cut their taxes, they can get into politics and start by cutting the out-of-control spending in the government.

Deficit

-party system. It needs to be stopped.

Implementation

As to all the things we agree on, how do we get them implemented? :)

Woozle responds

The Financial Mess

[W] "but let's not forget who got us into this mess, if you're going to blame Obama for not getting us out of it fast enough."
[M] "You mean Clinton?"

No, I don't mean Clinton. Clinton left office with record surpluses, which Bush pissed away in tax breaks for the rich and two endless wars against countries which did not attack us -- leading to record deficits which would have caused serious problems in the economy without any help at all, sooner or later.

Even if you can argue successfully that deregulation under Clinton was a contributor to the crisis -- which certainly could be true -- there is a world of difference between (a) making a bad decision after listening to all the available advice, and (b) doing something really obviously stupid (or, to put it more diplomatically: carefully limiting the advice you allow yourself to hear so you can feel justified in doing what you had already decided on beforehand)... and then doing more of it. And more after that.

But thanks for the CBS and MSN links (already had the NYT); I've filed them.

[-Steagall Act?"

From what I can tell, they are. To the extent that they are not, it looks like this is largely because of Republican obstructionism. The Republicans have said, time and time again, that they don't care if what Obama does is any good -- they just want him to fail so they don't look bad. They have openly put their own party's fortunes ahead of the good of America.

When Democrats go wrong, it's in giving in to Republican demands. Here's what happens:

  • Democrats offer legislation. Republicans don't like it; they suggest an amendment, threatening a filibuster if the amendment isn't inserted. Democrats, wanting to be fair and represent everyone, compromise and allow the amendment. (This kind of implies a "gentleman's agreement" to vote for the amended legislation, or at least not to filibuster it, wouldn't you think?)
  • Republicans then filibuster the resulting legislation, and demand more amendments (repeating earlier claims that the Dems are trying to steamroller over the will of the people, etc.)
  • Dems then make further concessions; Reps ask for more. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually enough Republican "defectors" (who are then accused of being "traitors to America", in outraged tones) switch their votes so we can make some progress.
  • In the event that the bastardized legislation is then passed, Democrats are then accused of being responsible for the horrid monstrosity it has become. Republicans go back to their home districts and hold up the legislation like it was a soiled diaper (not too far from the truth) and beg for money to go defeat what those horrible Democrats over there in Washington DC are doing to our country.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall -- and your subsequent use of this as a club to bash Clinton -- is a prime example. Republicans are against regulation, they have always been against regulation, and repealing GS was (as I understand it) a longtime Republican agenda item. (Is this untrue? I can look for sources if you think this is incorrect.)

On top of that, I'd be surprised to hear that there were many GOP voices pushing to do what Clinton is supposedly so horrible for having failed to do in 1999 (i.e. regulate the new derivatives market).

So no, don't give me that "Clinton did it" BS. Bush II destroyed our prosperity. Before him, Bush I and Reagan started taking it apart.

Addendum: more on this theme from Paul Krugman.

Guns

[W] "the problem is that the horrendous array of portable personal weapons currently available is nothing the founding fathers could reasonably have foreseen, and clearly they did not anticipate the social problems caused by such weaponry."
[M] "I disagree. They knew the history of the advent of firearms, and the drastic changes from arrows to flintlocks. I believe they did foresee a future where technological advances would create even more advanced weaponry, and felt the best protection from usurpation would be total freedom for personal defense."

While I'm willing to believe that they might have been capable of such foresight, I've not seen any evidence that they actually did (the fact that the Constitution touches so lightly on this issue, which is now a huge problem, seems to me pretty conclusive). Do you have such evidence? Does the Constitution offer any clues as to how we were expected to deal with these advances?

Prisons

[W] "The prison system is a huge mess, and needs reform."
[M] "First, reform the laws. No victim-less crime should be punishable. Prostitution, drug possession, etc."

Agreed, strongly.

[M] "Second, reform the courts. Any lawyer or judge who attempts to suppress evidence, either for or against a defendant should be disbarred on the spot. The law should rule, not whoever has the most money."

Agreed, strongly.

I would also add that we need to abolish the horrid "State Secrets Privilege" often used to prevent suspects from presenting evidence in their defense. (If it's any consolation, Obama seems to be in favor of keeping it -- one of our big disappointments in him.)

[W] "I see no need for prisons to be primarily an instrument of punishment"
[M] "What do you consider punishment? To reduce crime we need to reduce recidivism. If over 60% of criminals come back to jail after already spending time there, the current system is not a big enough deterrent."

As I said, it needs to be shown that "stronger punishment" actually acts as a deterrent. If over 60% of criminals return to jail, does this mean we didn't beat them hard enough? -- or does it mean that, after being treated like property for several years, treating other people like objects is all they know how to do? I'm not suggesting that they need more hugs or something stupid like that, but I think we need to look at what works for reducing recidivism.

I don't know what that is, but if over 60% are repeat offenders, then I don't think we're doing it. (How does this compare with recidivism worldwide? What countries have the lowest recidivism rates, and how do they treat their inmates?)

[

Who is making this claim? I would say it depends on the conditions. Workers on chain gangs should be adequately fed and (especially) watered, and have access to proper medical care. Beyond that -- make them do whatever work they're capable of that nobody else wants to do. (Tentatively, I'd say that hard, purposeful work can be very redeeming, both from the prisoner's point of view and from society's... but it does need to be purposeful.)

[

Agreed; this is what I meant by "preventing them from being able to commit more crimes, at least for awhile."

[M] "And every time someone tries to reform the system, the ACLU, ADL, etc. come in and sues them."

Examples?

[M] "Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County has been sued by liberal groups worried about criminal rights over and over again."

Joe Arpaio is an asshole person of questionable integrity who should be strung up firmly removed from office and never allowed to have power over another individual ever again: [9] [10] [11] ...shall I go on?

But feel free to present his side of the story, if you feel he is worthy of defense.

Taxes

[M] "Constitutional amendment: Income tax imposed on no one with income less than the national average income."

Hey, I think I like that! It's easy to understand, and it favors those with lower incomes without decimating the income received by the government. (For reference: in 2007, median US household income was just over $50k. I'd prefer to use the mean, though, because the median doesn't care if your top earners make 10 times as much as everyone else or 10,000 times -- and I think that should make a difference.)

[M] "From that point up, a progressive tax starting at the 0% from the national average. No exemptions, no breaks, no loopholes. If the rich want to cut their taxes, they can get into politics and start by cutting the out-of-control spending in the government."

Seconded...

Deficit

[-party system. It needs to be stopped."

I'll agree that arguing about whether we like the "good cop" or the "bad cop" better is kind of pointless; both of them, overall, are manipulating us to get what we want. (There has been some considerable discussion on this topic [-talk-about-vui-voting-under-the-influence/ here].)

Implementation

[M] "As to all the things we agree on, how do we get them implemented? :)"

An excellent question. I think the internet holds the key; it's a new tool, offering us the opportunity to change the game in ways that the old players haven't (yet) anticipated.

Discussion over at Boiling Frogs (see above link) has been focusing on the idea of fielding a candidate who is neither Republican nor Democrat. That is certainly one angle of attack, but I don't know enough about the election biz to say whether it has any chance of succeeding -- even if (as I suggest) we all agree to support whatever candidate is chosen by an internal "election" we hold amongst ourselves.

I have some other specific ideas which are just starting to come together; I will try to post them later as an addendum (right now I have to go pick up kids...) In the meantime, you can read about this, which is my idea for web-based software to make it easier for large groups of people (as in thousands or millions) to reach sensible decisions.

Round 6

Midian: Back on Topic

We've digressed to many specific issues, some of which we've even come to agreements on, but back to the original topic: Why do people persist in voting Republican?

After this semesters Gen Bio II, I had the beginnings of an idea. It isn't fully fleshed out, my knowledge on the subject is not as full as I'd like, but what I have learned appears to apply and seems to fit the question.

Altruism: the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. The idea that given the opportunity, a person will be selfless instead of selfish.

Not biologically selectable for, because it has no direct benefit (other than kin selection, which is highly debatable still), highly likely selectable against due to the detriment to the original life form. Yet it still persists in a small percentage of the population.

Liberals don't believe in the idea of altruism, except maybe in themselves. They believe that the average person, given the chance to be selfless (with money, power, food, whatever) will choose to be selfish unless forced otherwise by the government. They push laws forcing us to do things they think we would not do on our own. They are "realists" who believe if left to their own devices, most people will do the wrong thing with their money, firearms, etc. Most Democrats I speak to truly believe that everything would be fine if the government forced everyone to do what they wanted them to do.

Libertarians believe in the possibility of altruism, and feel everyone should be unshackled by all laws and given the chance to do the "right thing", whether the end results are beneficial to everyone or not. Many espouse anarchy because they don't care how society as a whole does, as long as they are left to their own devices.

Conservatives believe in altrusim and believe if left alone, most people will do the right thing most of the time, and government interference prevents them from the full possibility of that by its misguidance and corruption. They are idealists who want the freedom to do the right thing.

Now that isn't to say that the current Republican party is like this at all. In fact I believe of our current federally elected officials, only a few are (Ron Paul being an example). But being the idealists most conservatives are, we continue to vote for our party in the hopes they will return to where they should be, and the only other party is the antithesis of that ideal. Misguided? Probably, because if politicians are anything, they are corrupt by their power, on both sides. The Athenian idea of drawing lots to prevent oligarchy was something I believe our founding fathers either missed, or were too idealistic about.

I believe Robert Heinlen had a good idea, as expressed in Starship Troopers, only those who have willing signed up for military service were allowed to run for public office and vote. They demonstrated altruism by putting the needs of the many over the needs of individual, willing sacrificing much, up to and including their life, for the freedoms of the society as a whole. Now that level of devotion isn't necessary to demonstrate the altruism necessary to be a public official, and that doesn't prevent corruption once given the power of office, but at least it is a start in the right direction, and something that could be greatly expanded on.

Anyway, like I said, it was just the beginnings of an idea.

Woozle: Topical Response

[M] "Not biologically selectable for, because it has no direct benefit (other than kin selection, which is highly debatable still), highly likely selectable against due to the detriment to the original life form. Yet it still persists in a small percentage of the population."

Actually, from what I understand, (relatively) recent advances in areas like gaming theory have shown that altruism can be adaptive, depending on the circumstances. It certainly isn't a huge mystery that it exists; the trick is figuring out the exact mechanisms which lead to it.

[M] "Liberals don't believe in the idea of altruism, except maybe in themselves. They believe that the average person, given the chance to be selfless (with money, power, food, whatever) will choose to be selfish unless forced otherwise by the government. They push laws forcing us to do things they think we would not do on our own. They are "realists" who believe if left to their own devices, most people will do the wrong thing with their money, firearms, etc. Most Democrats I speak to truly believe that everything would be fine if the government forced everyone to do what they wanted them to do."

Wow, you must have a completely different strain of liberal/Democrat over there. What you're describing sounds to me more like a "libertarian", with a bit of an elitist streak...

Among the people I know, most of whom consider themselves "liberals" to the best of my knowledge, seem to agree with me on the following points:

  • some people are selfish, but most are at least neutral or sometimes altruistic
  • people act for the common good out of a sense of empathy -- not wanting to see other people suffer, and also liking to see other people happy; seeing other people happy (or unhappy) induces a sense of happiness (or unhappiness) in one's self, so it's debatable whether this is true "altruism" or not, but it has that effect: if a friend wins the lottery, we are happy for them whether or not we ever receive any largess as a result, and we will work towards someone else's happiness if it seems feasible in terms of our own resources (time, energy)

Also, I saw somewhere that Democratic leaders who leave office tend to go into work that is arguably for the common good, while Republicans are much more likely to join a corporation's board of directors or go into lobbying or some other field with clear personal benefits and not-so-clear benefits to humanity. (There are exceptions on both sides, of course.) I suppose they could be doing this out of a sense that "If *I* don't work to save the world, nobody else will because they're all selfish idiots" -- but that's not the sense I get from it, generally speaking. (People who believe that sort of thing tend to believe that the world isn't worth saving anyway, don't they?)

I don't want the government to force anyone to do anything, but I recognize that a small percentage of the population are psychopathic and that these people cannot be trusted to act honestly. This is why we need police, government regulation of industry, and the separation of powers: to limit the damage such people can do, regardless of where they may turn up.

For what it's worth, I tend to think that our personal taxation system could be far less coercive and still work.

Modern conservatism comes across, to me, as far more interested in controlling people than does modern liberalism -- far more based on suspicion and mistrust

[M] "Conservatives believe in altruism and believe if left alone, most people will do the right thing most of the time, and government interference prevents them from the full possibility of that by its misguidance and corruption."

Then why are conservatives so heavily into legislating morality? -- what consenting adults should be allowed to do with each other, the "war on drugs", pornography, gambling? Why do they feel that gay marriage is a threat to civilization, if the overwhelming majority of people support it?

Why do they support torture? Why do they support war? Why are they against fair trials for people illegally detained by the government (which they now claim to fear)?

Why are conservatives seemingly obsessed with demonizing Hispanics and shooting president Obama?

I'm sorry, but I don't see how you can start with a belief that "most people will do the right thing most of the time" and end up supporting the things that conservatives support.

[M] "But being the idealists most conservatives are, we continue to vote for our party in the hopes they will return to where they should be, and the only other party is the antithesis of that ideal."

If you can show me how the ideals you have given here are better supported by Republicans than Democrats, then I won't have to say that this is totally nuts.

And I'm all in favor of idealism.

[M] "...if politicians are anything, they are corrupt by their power, on both sides."

But not equally. The GOP is far more corrupt, far more inclined to brazenly lie about the facts, even when repeatedly confronted with proof that they are wrong. They don't care about the truth, they just care about convincing people to follow their pre-set agenda -- which is not in the best interests of either you or me.

[M] "I believe Robert Heinlein had a good idea, as expressed in Starship Troopers, only those who have willing signed up for military service were allowed to run for public office and vote."

I'm a Heinlein fan, actually; I agree with a lot of what he had to say. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one of my favorite books. I've seen him described as a "crypto-fascist", and I strongly disagree.

I'm not sure I agree with his idea about military service as a requirement for office. I understand the thinking, and it seems like a sincere attempt to solve a problem: there should be some personal cost to achieving office, to help screen out power-mongers. People who enter military service generally don't do it for selfish reasons, and have to pass what amounts to a rigorous test of competency, so if we only allowed those people to enter office, we'd have a lot fewer selfish people in office and a lot more competence.

There are problems with this idea, however.

First, once you set up military service as a requirement for something desirable, you've set up a selfish motive for entering it. (I'm not sure the military would appreciate all the privileged brats who would suddenly be desperate to serve their country... and the long phone-calls from Powerful People demanding their heads on a platter if they didn't make this or that exception for certain individuals.)

Second, not everyone who would make a good (non-corrupt and competent) politician would make a good soldier... just as not every good soldier would make a good politician.

Third -- more to do with principle than pragmatism -- in order for democracy to work, it must be representative. If you allow only certain people into office, then some will not be properly represented: those who are not suited for military service, for example... and how do we know that political pressure will not be brought to bear on the military to dishonorably discharge anyone deemed politically "unsuitable", thus barring them from politics forever?

I'm not automatically against the idea of requiring service (or some kind of test/trial) for public office, and I'm not against the military -- but I suspect that the costs would be greater than the benefits. If nothing else, this could easily destroy the integrity of the military (which is already under enough stress these days).

But yes, as you say, it's a good starting idea.

I'd like to see some kind of penalties when a politician is caught lying. I propose that lying while in office should be considered a crime, and handled similarly (jury trial). Perhaps a warning on first offense for any given issue -- people do make mistakes -- but repeating a particular piece of incorrect information after having been corrected should carry a penalty. Second offense should be more severe; perhaps suspension of duties for 30 days -- and offer the election runner-up the opportunity to take the offending politician's place during that time. Third offense -- impeachment or recall.

There are problems with this idea too... but I can imagine ways around them.

Round 7

Midian Clarifying again

One can always pick and choose specific issues to debate about, and as I said, the current GOP is about as far from Conservatism as the Democrat party is. My ideal of Conservatism runs more along the lines of Berry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan (before he was corrupted by the necessities of Congress). Primarily states rights over strong central government.

I had written out 2 pages of issues where Democrats and/or Republicans are doing things to the detriment of our freedoms, demonstrating their elitist views, but that's half the problem. The focus shouldn't be about who is doing what wrong, it should be about what is "right" and how to get there.

It appears to me the current goal of both parties is to fear-monger: get people to focus purely on what the other side is doing wrong instead of focusing on what they will do right. Much of the electorate has become apathetic; they think their vote doesn't matter, they hate the negative campaigning, they're sick of the he said/she said, etc., and it takes someone like Ron Paul, saying what he will do to help instead of what his opponent is doing to hurt, to get them interested in politics again.