Wednesday, December 30, 2009

For fear of the guilty

Some decades ago I remember reading a story or set of stories in Analog magazine that had as its basis a very interesting question: if becoming a criminal had a genetic basis what would we do as a society?

The set-up was that every individual convicted of a pre-meditated, violent or crime of passion had a few genes in common, without exception. No one that did not have those genes was convicted for those crimes, although crimes of oversight and accident did include them. The overall population that had this set of genes in society was of a given percent, approximately 25 to 30%, but that only indicated a genetic predisposition to committing crimes, not a certainty of it.

Legally this has ramifications for criminal suspects: if a violent crime has happened you can cross off those without the predisposition and you are left with those who have it. But that does not help if an accident or other mishap that has no intention behind it and is purely by chance or lack of skill yields a violent seeming crime. Thus examining crimes means exhausting all the ways that non-intentional circumstances could yield the crime as well as looking at all the intentional ways, and while the intentional would have a limited number of people to check off, the non-intentional still has the entire population of those with and without the predisposition that need checking out.

Taken a step further what would this mean for employment? Would you want individuals with such a predisposition in National Security positions? As police officers? Would you vote for someone with that predisposition? Would there be changes to, say, life insurance or health insurance coverage rates due to this? What would finding out that you had this predisposition or not do to your outlook on life?

Always we would need to remember that, like a disease, a predisposition towards something does not mean that the individual will manifest that disease. Indeed the percentage of society with the predisposition indicates that the majority of those with it do not ever manifest criminal behavior and that there is a component of criminality beyond mere genetics. If any steps were taken to limit the rights and freedoms of this minority, that crosses all races, classes and social strata, then those restrictions would only be upon those who WERE able to control their genetic predisposition and would have no effect upon those in which the entire condition is already in sway.

That would be punishing the innocent in fear of the guilty.

Of course we would never do that... would we?

In the wake of individuals attempting to bring down aircraft, we have come upon a situation in which our TSA has both 'succeeded' in failing to stop individuals with a predisposition and full indications of willingness to kill themselves to kill others from boarding a civilian aircraft. Later it is admitted that the system 'failed' and measures will be taken to 'correct' that failure. From that we can step to Christopher Hitchens at Slate on 28 DEC 2009 (h/t: Instapundit) talking about what will be done to try and stop such 'failures' again (boldface is mine):

So that's now more or less the routine for the guilty. (I am not making any presumption of innocence concerning Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.) But flick your eye across the page, or down it, and you will instantly see a different imperative for the innocent. "New Restrictions Quickly Added for Travelers," reads the inevitable headline just below the report on the notoriety of Abdulmutallab, whose own father had been sufficiently alarmed to report his son to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, some time ago. (By the way, I make a safe prediction: Nobody in that embassy or anywhere else in our national security system will lose his or her job as a consequence of this most recent disgrace.)


Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe." The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

Those who abide by the law, indeed who are NOT a threat to any flight, are required for the 'safety' of air travel to no longer carry with them the things that would allow a plane to be brought down. And those who DO abide by that are the innocent, not the guilty who will find other and more ingenious ways WITHIN a set of restrictions to do as they will. Which will, of course, bring more restrictions on the innocent because the guilty have no need to follow any law or rule or restriction. Nothing we do will stop those seeking to bring down aircraft, merely require them to be smart enough to outwit a delimited set of rules, procedures, techniques or otherwise use human engineering to get around them. When a commenter at another site tried to make light of a 'firecracker' (the first report of the incident) and that it wasn't dangerous, I knew I was dealing with a fool: with a bit of ingenuity, a few allowed carry-on items, and decent placement using the materials that are perfectly allowable and 'safe', I could readily identify a few places where a 'firecracker' could damage an aircraft enough to disable it in-flight. Anyone with an ounce of sense can figure that out, and yet the concept of the regulations making us 'safer' is an illusion that some will cleave to unto death due to over-regulation. Human ingenuity trumps technology and regulations time and time again.

Instead of doing the smart thing, the right thing, and the proper thing, which is to restrict air travel of those suspected of having an inclination to be lawless and suicidal aboard flights due to a delimited religious outlook we, instead, punish the entire traveling public. Those who scoff at the loss of liberty due to regulation are the first to use this famous quote encouraging their fellow citizens to give up yet more of their liberty for the security of the officious Mother State:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)

Of our essential liberties is also the expectation that we will be considered innocent until proven guilty of a crime as CITIZENS of the Nation. Those who are not citizens, who give reason for us to suspect them of harboring hatred unto killing against our Nation and our citizens are not afforded that liberty for our own security so that we CAN be afforded that liberty. All men are created equal, and yet that is an acknowledgement by our background as a society and we can and must recognize that not all societies are willing to see the self-evident truths when presented with them. As a Nation and a people we must have the right to differentiate between those in humanity that recognize and abide by the self-evident truths and those who do not do so. Yet, when those who do not do so have made it abundantly clear that they will not, that they will threaten us, that they will do anything to harm our Nation and citizens, the first people we turn to for restrictions are the law abiding citizens who have done no wrong.

That is because a 'Politically Correct' view of the world is one that fears, deeply so, those who are guilty and will do anything to try and appease those men who manifest none of the civilized understandings of liberty and rights with kind words and punish those that actually call those people as they are. For fear of the guilty, even to the point of not wanting to restrict the guilty or keep the convicted in JAILS, the PC view attempts to appease them and restrict any thoughts that might be had about wanting to protect ourselves by actually naming and identifying those who are guilty. That does not bring greater harmony between cultures, but disdain upon those who will not uphold their own culture because they are afraid to do so for offending those who can and will resort to repression and violence to get their way in the world. As we have seen no law or regulation will stop those intent on killing us and when seconds count the police are just minutes away. The system only 'works' when individuals not PART of the system save THEMSELVES from the systemic failure of not wanting to name and restrict those who seek to do us harm.

Remember: you can only punish the law abiding innocent as they are both law abiding and innocent, and when you complain about the system you become one of the guilty.

Next up in the annals of punishing the innocent comes this from SayUncle and Knoxnews on 29 DEC 2009 (h/t: Instapundit):

The gun control group headed by Michael Bloomberg presented to President Obama a Blueprint for Federal Action on Illegal Guns. Some folks sent a FOIA request and received a copy of the document. And it's pretty telling. The focus doesn't seem to target illegal guns but all guns and gun owners, including banning the importation of ammo and "non-sporting" firearms. The plan consists of items that are administrative and regulatory in nature and, therefore, don't require legislative action.

There are individuals in the US that actually utilize 'non-sporting' firearms, and these are firearms used for self-defense. What is even more interesting is that said firearms range across many decades, through World Wars and have both military and civilian counter-parts that are extremely difficult to check out. If you are a collector of military surplus rifles or handguns, then you become a target of such regulations, and yet it is perfectly legal and lawful to do so both as a registered collector and as a private citizen who just enjoys collecting said firearms. These firearms range across the last century and include a multitude of manufacturers, variations, and types of weapons. It is with difficulty that an individual can find out if a handgun purchased with, say, Waffen marks was utilized in the German military or civilian market after 1939. Even more interesting is that such a handgun used a round fully available to modern self-defense pistols. Indeed, collecting old cartridges, like stamp collecting, is a fascinating hobby and past-time that harms no one and actually USING those cartridges destroys the value of them. Going one step further to highly available military surplus rounds that WERE made for military weapons, how do you distinguish between them and 'civilian' rounds? Yes you need an 'expert'.

Joy, oh, rapture!

Military surplus guns, especially those that have come out of storage packed in cosmoline from the old USSR and its satellite countries are often cheap. Cleaning out the cosmoline is a non-trivial task. The largest supplies are of the old bolt-action Mosin-Nagants with wooden stocks and a bayonet, typified by a long barrel and are quite heavy. Of even more interest is the ammunition leaves behind a corrosive salt when you get the old military surplus ammo, thus requiring constant care and attention from the owner so that the weapon is not degraded by using it. These are not weapons that any criminal will want: heavy, bulky, hard to hide, slow rate of fire. If you want something lethal, easy to hide and with rapid fire or high lethality you get a handgun or you illegally saw off a shotgun.

Now bump that up to modern weapons that are semi-automatic, like the M-1 Garand... wait, that's still WWII, but an accredited rifle for the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Thus it is both collectible and teaches skills of accuracy, even though it was a military weapon of WWII. If you move to the modern semi-auto equivalent of the M-16, which is the AR-15, you have yet another weapon that can get good accuracy, have decent stopping power and have widely available civilian cartridges for it. Just as you can purchase civilian made cartridges for the Mosin-Nagant you can also do that for the M-1 Garand and the AR-15 as they are popular cartridge types for both civilian and military uses. Indeed you cannot define the difference between a 'military' bolt action or semi-automatic rifle and a 'sporting' version of the exact, same rifle. Why? An individual can change stocks to re-purpose the firearm for different uses, so that a Mosin-Nagant may be in its original wooden stock for display and then put into a fiberglass modern stock for use at the range. The same goes for the M-1 Garand and AR-15: you cannot distinguish between a 'sporterized' version of one and its non-sporting version.

Yes 'sporterized' is a recognized term for firearms because people have been doing that with military weapons throughout the 20th century, dating back before WWI, and a 'sporterized' version of a military weapon is part of its own, unique class of that weapon. Amazing, no? A few modifications and you go from 'military' or non-sporting firearm to 'sporting' firearm. And there is no functional difference in the nature of the firearm, itself, just in the outer housing. Prohibited one moment, allowed the next.

That brings us to handgun hunting, a sport that is gaining in wide popularity these days. One of the heaviest calibers that can be used for this in a semi-automatic pistol is the 50 Action Express, which is a 50 caliber pistol round. That is a sporting weapon, for all of it being a handgun. Any law or regulation that tries to stop the use of the 50 AE round, which is civilian and sporting in nature, then makes one of the most powerful handguns on the planet available while stopping older, lighter and less lethal firearms from history. In one go everyone is made 'safer' by permitting 'sporting' firearms for handgun hunting while stopping the use of lighter caliber self-defense pistols that can date back to 1897 that have a military origin. And the moment you try to change the regulations to 'make things safer' you end up creating more loopholes, more problems and all to the end of not doing a damned thing about those who are obtaining illegal weapons for their own use.

And just how many criminals actually USE older military surplus weapons and ammo? How about civilian self-defense handguns? There is no functional way to tell between a self-defense handgun in the hands of a law abiding citizen and one in the hands of a criminal. And heaven forbid you attempt to distinguish based ON THE USER! Can't do that! It might require 'profiling'.

Yes I am taking such thinking to extremes, but it has a point: how will this in any way, shape or form stop those willing to break the law from getting their hands on such weapons and utilizing them? This has not worked in Great Britain and in Mumbai one of the most pertinent statements from an eyewitness is wishing that they could have been armed so as to stop the attackers. By restricting or attempting to outlaw handguns the innocent are made less safe and the criminals have nothing to fear, and can safely intimidate the unarmed. Since the banning of handguns in the UK the police there have had to up-arm and armor themselves against criminals willing and able to deploy fully automatic weapons as they know no civilian will STOP THEM. That is how you get an officious, lethal and over-armed police for a Police State: you make civilians easy targets for criminals.

Yet your essential liberty of self-defense, the positive liberty of war that we do not give to the State, is threatened by the State that does not trust its own people to behave in a civil manner towards each other, fears criminals and then sees fit to disarm the people. When you are threatened in such a State your life is determined in seconds, and the police will spend some hours writing up the report of your death due to criminals who have no problem violating civil society and civil law to work their ends.

The State could, of course, seek the illegal venues that provide such weapons to criminals... but, really, it is much easier to repress the law abiding than go after the criminals.

It is easier to punish and make weak the law abiding and strengthen those who will not abide by the law by punishing the innocent.

That is what you get when you feel the regulations make you 'safe' and you trade away your liberty for that temporary feeling of safety. Mind you the safety isn't even temporary, just an illusion of safety given by self-deception.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Other roads

From 07 DEC 2009 Rasmussen Reports:

Running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.

Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

For this survey, the respondents were asked to assume that the Tea Party movement organized as a new political party. In practical terms, it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process—written by Republicans and Democrats--provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties. The more conventional route in the United States is for a potential third-party force to overtake one of the existing parties.

From The Jacksonian Party : The Third Party Outlines

In either of these, a successful inclusion of disaffected Republican and Democratic individuals would yield a Republican Party below its current standings (now 32-33% dropping to 26-27%) and a Democratic Party changed either slightly or greatly depending on disaffection levels (now 35% approx. dropping to 32% to 23%)

Thus in a Robust Scenario of 50% disaffected the new political atmosphere would be:

3rd Party - 34-44%

Democratic Party - 23-32%

Republican Party - 26-27%

On the Lean Scenario of 10% disaffected for a new political party, the atmosphere would be:

Democratic Party - 23-32%

Republican Party - 26-27%

3rd Party - 14-24%

That last is telling as it is almost EXACTLY what Ross Perot did: peel off parts from the existing two parties and have almost NO outreach to the politically disaffected.  His Reform Party didn't last because of party brand loyalty and lack of vigor inside the party, due to it having a hierarchical structure with Ross Perotism as its nebulous basis.

Both of these scenarios place 'independents' in their role of following overall voting proportions, as is currently the case.  Independents don't vote as a group, currently, and more closely follow overall party affiliation on a proportional basis, so that would continue to be the case with a 3rd Party.  Independents would be attracted just as equally in that direction as the overall percentage of the population is.  No one can craft an 'independent' based platform without trying to address the already existing 'leanings' of independents.

In my previous analysis the idea is to move to those who don't vote as the beginning of a new party.  If you are to have a party you must bring in voters from that non-voting plurality (nearly 49%) and get them to vote not only during Presidential election years, but the Congressional elections every two years.  Depending on the percentage of people that can be brought in the voting dynamics change.  The two scenarios I gave are the Robust one (getting 50% of non-voters to vote) and the Lean one (only 10% of non-voters come in to vote).   Also noted is that 'Independents' tend to break out along party lines as there are only two parties, and that when a third party is introduced 'Independents' will then break in a tripartite fashion.  What comes out of this is that when non-voters or 'Independents' move to a new standard, they have the effect of changing the 'Independent' voting ratio.  Thus two factors are at play when Tea Parties are considered:

First - Changing the voting proportion.  With the current set-up the voter pool is roughly three parts of equal size: Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  That means a minor change between the two parties changes the Independent's affiliation, so that a mere 35 to 34 margin of D:R can lead to the 51:49 era or the 'Red/Blue' divide of States along party lines.  When affiliation with three parties is considered (D:R:T) and you go to 35:34:20 you are at 89% of voting leaving just 11% to be split so you get 39:38:23, which would mean that 'Red/Blue' America vanishes.  With a third choice and Independents falling out proportionately, an era of 'bi-partisanship' ends: a third party that kept to a small government platform and did NOT compromise, while a minority, would demonstrate that the other two parties were either in collusion (i.e. 'bi-partisanship' against the third party) or unwilling to compromise THEIR power structure so as to reduce government (via the number of agencies, regulations, personnel, legal coverage, etc.).  A small, hard-line party that is able to garner 20% of the vote becomes a palpable threat to the 'two party system'.  At just above Ross Perot's best showing, 15%, a distributed third party WITHOUT a party structure but WITH shared goals and ideals has an impact on the two party system even if they never form an actual party but can whittle away at districts that tend to get progressive representatives when the district is not progressive.  The lesson of NY-23 is clear: you can go from nowhere to 45% of the vote in one month by doing this and forcing the two parties to show their actual affiliation against the plurality principles of the district.  The trendline had been set and the deadline beat it.

Second - Changing the voting pool size.  This also changes proportion but in a subtler way: by bringing in those who have been disenchanted with their franchise as they can't get people who represent them.  An influx of the disenchanted by any degree changes the proportions along the Robust/Lean options I presented earlier.  House districts that are 'safe' with a 53:46 margin see that leading trend drop with even a 15% influx to 46:40:14.  When you go from a straight percent to having to renormalize to a higher amount, in this case moving from 100 to 115, the previous percentages shift to accommodate the new normal.  In this case there needs to be NO adjustment to the prior incumbent parties, just new people walking in forming a third party and contesting the previous staid elections.  By increasing the pool of voters and having them committed to a third party or alternative voting arrangement, what had once been 'safe' seats become, at an instant, plurality seats only.  Mentally this is so because a majority win (53:46) seems much more robust than the plurality case (46:40).  Yet that very change is a POSITIVE feedback to the third party members in that THEY did this, they entered into the fray and changed the cozy arrangement that had been set up between the two parties for 'safe' districts.  While 46% is still a 'win' it is not a 'safe' win and indicates weakness in the two larger pluralities that can be exploited by a lean and hungry third party.  By entering the system you change its behavior, a well known fact of quantum mechanics but also true of any other system that has a new independent variable added.  This is one of the most powerful of messages that can be sent to a voter: you do have an impact on things.

After Rasmussen Reports examines the break-outs of how existing party members view Tea Parties, there is a striking paragraph that bears examination:

Forty-one percent (41%) of all voters nationwide say Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that a new party is needed to represent the American people. Republicans are evenly divided on this question, while Democrats overwhelmingly disagree. However, among those not affiliated with either major party, 60% agree that a new party is needed, and only 25% disagree. Men are far more likely than women to believe a new party is needed.

That 60% Independents is an astounding figure as it would have to encompass all of those who split for the current two parties in elections, and yet when given this question on the need for a new party, 2/3 of Independents agree with the proposition.  If broken down into equal thirds for the voting population between D:R:I (and they are not but it is a rough approximation), then 60% of 1/3 is nearly 20% of the entire voting population that favors a third party.  The remaining 21% must come from the other 2/3 and as the D is indicated as substantially lower a proposed breakout of 5:16:20 then looks proportionately right.  This is via first route analysis of changing proportions within a set sized voting population, which is not the case in America as it has been a declining turnout by proportion, even with adding on 8 million citizens of voting age every 4 years.

Continuing on first route analysis, the 5% that derives from the Democratic party, which is given an equal third, becomes 15-16% of the entire party voting base.  This falls a bit above my projected faction of 'Blue Dogs' and PUMAs, but not unreasonably so given ANY moderate disaffection within the Democratic Party.  These were the hard to convince Democrats during the Presidential election that either held their noses and voted or did not vote.  This segment is populated by Fiscally Conservative 'Blue Dogs' (Midwestern States south of the Great Lakes) and the followers of Hillary Clinton who had a strong showing throughout the old party base zones in Appalachia, and even such places as Texas.  This level of dissatisfaction points to problems in the Democratic Party that can properly be characterized as Big City vs Small Town and Rural.  This represents the Old Jacksonians who are still staying with the party up to 2008, and are the final stalwarts of that traditional power base for the Democratic Party.  I agree with Walter Russell Mead's analysis that the majority of Jacksonians (the New Jacksonians or Crab Grass Jacksonians) have generally drifted from the Democratic Party between the mid-1960's to present.  This old line of government not endangering the common working man, leaving him be and not interfering with his life may be the last of their kind and they have stayed by their beliefs even as all the 'good' programs by the Democratic Party (Federal Reserve, SSN, Medicare, FHA, Fannie, Freddie, CRA, etc.) have turned out to put the picnic far too close to the outhouse so that now the picnic gets ants and flies.  A move to support a third party would be an attempt to fumigate the outhouse and move the picnic a good, far way away from it while the toxins die down.  When the corruption of our government services puts the common working man at risk from political cronies, the time to do something may well be coming, leaving the Progressives and others Social Liberals to have the party which will no longer be able to claim any conservative basis.

For the Republican party that 16% they contribute is worrying as it is nearly 48-49% of the entire party which jibes with the 70% favorability for Tea Parties seen intra-party.  My previous analysis of the Republican Party examined its main breakouts via internals and that amount of favorability is also shocking when you consider that the 70% of the party members are favorable to a Tea Party and 48-49% would support the formation of a third party, that is over 70% of the disaffected willing to support a Third Party formation.  Within the factions inside the Republican Party one would suspect the LEAST favorable are the MilCons/NeoCons as a third party would disrupt the Nation's ability to get a consensus via majority on the stance of the Nation for self-defense.  With that said, if there is Jacksonian support for a Tea Party system arrangement (formal or informal) then that flips as Jacksonians are anything BUT anti-military or anti-defense.  Yet even with that this would not be a huge draw for MilCons.  FiCons or Fiscal Conservatives make up a large section of the party and, thusly, are the most dissatisfied with the free-spending going on by Republicans during the 1990's and up to 2004.  The overwhelming bulk of support is probably from this section within the Republican Party as they have had the most promises to them since 1980 and the least amount delivered.  Being fiscally conservative does NOT mean running progressive budgets with huge outlays, but actually cutting spending and the size of the government for that to happen.  Third in the mix are the SoCons or Social Conservatives.  Within SoCons there is a strong break between the Religious and the Traditionalists, and that is the break between Social Progressivism residing with the Religious SoCons and the older system of Traditional government hewing to the Founders and their emplacement of a Westphalian system.  Here a break between the SoCons would seem to be the breaking point of the party: is this a Religiously Conservative party willing to put forward government in a nurturing role or a Traditionally Conservative Westphalian party that understands the deep reasons we recognize the ability of individuals to do good without the interference of government?

That is a stark view of what the existing two parties could look like if a third party or Tea Party stands up, formally or informally.  As this is the Lean Scenario, it leaves a huge aftermath behind it, even with being just that.

The Democratic Party, cut off from any conservative base (social or fiscal) becomes isolated and more progressive, liberal and trenchant trying to hang on to old popularity but seeing its voting base become almost entirely urban.  That is the party of Big City Machines and Machine Politics writ large: it is a party that makes the current level of corruption and political pay-offs seem minor in comparison.  Because of that the party becomes more insular, less able to handle outside concepts and less competitive outside of those urban enclaves.  The party that started with the Gentleman Farmer and Rural Jeffersonian will have transformed itself completely into Big City Machines unable to support the ventures of the common man or farmer for anything.  Yet for all of that it can STILL garner between 23-32% of the vote Nation-wide, although its support in rural and even some suburban areas will fall to barely discernable.

The Republican Party becomes a Religiously Conservative but Governmentally Progressive party with many MilCons left due to the National nature of the party.  Fiscal Conservatives would only be a voice where Traditionalists and FiCons can work together to support the proposition that the most religiously accommodating government is one that has NO SAY in religion and does not dictate morals to the country.  Even governing from the old idea of fiscal conservatism, that of managing the growth of government, would wither inside the party.  Still that base of Christian Conservatives, MilCons/NeoCons and FiCon remainder places the party at a firm 26-27% core that will only see decline if the morality of the party suffers ANY.  If members feel they have to leave due to current marital or sexual problems, that becomes the 'litmus test' for candidates so that the party can retain its hold on the electorate.  This will get some rural and suburban backing, but shows an overall retreat of the party from Urban settings save for social works.  Government would be an expansive affair looking towards some common defense but be willing to replace the Church and individual good works with the power of the State.  The party of Free Soil becomes the party of Societal Statism dictating to the people from the State.

A formal or informal Tea Party is a different beast, although it hews to the old 'No Taxation Without Representation', small government, fiscal conservatism and both New and Old Jacksonians.  This is a party of liberty, freedom from government, defending the Nation, and allowing the individual the greatest free play of rights possible while ensuring that government does not destroy the economy.  It is a party of trenchant anti-Statism backed up by the personal liberty to say 'NO'.  At 14-24% it does NOT have to present great new things for government to do, in fact it need only keep on saying that the government does far too much, costs too much, creates too many divisions in society, taxes the hell out of us, and can't even chase down a bunch of overseas terrorists with the greatest military machine on the planet.  This is not a party of 2-year olds, but a measured and reasoned response to the excesses of the 20th century and the unwillingness to continue them.  Because it has Traditionalists and 'Blue Dogs' affiliated with it, there is a much stronger showing in the margins of Cities than Republicans have.  It is a party that contests against the Republicans in Small Towns and rural settings, and against the Democrats in the Suburbs.  Core concepts of less government, lower taxation, more liberty for the common man and railing against the stench of crony politics in both parties means this is not a 'reform' party to either of the two existing parties and is, indeed, a response to them.  It is a party where 'affirmative action' is budget cuts and repealing of government power so that individuals can act affirmatively without running afoul of overgrown regulations and taxation.  It is a party of devout Federalism and returning usurped power at the Federal level back to the States and local governments and getting the National government the hell out of the way.  There is no social program that is so good it can't be cut, no support for big business that can't be sheared and no support for the poor that is not better done locally via giving full tax breaks for charitable donations and letting the people decide how best to tend the poor, sick and elderly.  It is not the party of 'No' although it would end up saying that a lot.  It is a party of sound fundamentals that run contrary to Statism at all levels, just as its followers support it at all levels to do that.

And if a third party can bring IN any of the current disaffected, their power is magnified by doing so.  The existing two parties have had four decades to stem that tide and have not succeeded.  Getting the current voting disaffected is not enough: any third party must reach out to the self-disenfranchised and give them a positive reason TO vote.  Republicans and Democrats have failed miserably at that, and any third party that can get any success will crack the two party system wide open.  Unlike Ross Perot and John Anderson the current social movement of Tea Parties is not fixated on a star figure, but on getting things done.  That is so vexing to the current media and political elites that they cannot deal with that fact.  The political elites, as seen in Rasmussen Reports, are in denial as their salad days would come to a harsh end if there is a third party:

Among the Political Class, not a single respondent picked the Tea Party candidate.

It is they who lose if there is a third party as it is a repudiation of their elite status.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Monday, December 07, 2009

If you could make a science of society

What would a science of society look like?

This may seem a rather odd question, but it is one that has been knocking around with me for awhile. We talk of liberty, freedom and equality as subjects, things we do, and as objects, things we desire, and yet they must have a positive value to us for us to value them so highly in both regards. What are these things and how does our society allow us to manifest them in the way we do? And just how strong are they? What are their limits?

We have many works that examine these things from the theoretical or hypothetical side, that is as descriptive works, but very few of the empirical sort, that is placing actual numbers and definitions to these things to allow for measurements to be derived. If you do hand-waving and theory then you are working out definitions, but definitions that measure nothing or are relative in nature only, leave little to work with when trying to find out the magnitude of interactions. With that said, measurements and their attached meanings derive from definitions, and so that is the place to start.

From, the Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) definition of liberty:


n 1: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence [syn: autonomy]

2: freedom of choice: "liberty of opinion"; "liberty of worship"; "liberty--perfect liberty--to think or feel or do just as one pleases"; "at liberty to choose whatever occupation one wishes"

3: personal freedom from servitude or confinement or oppression

4: leave granted to a sailor or naval officer [syn: shore leave]

5: an act of undue intimacy [syn: familiarity, impropriety, indecorum]

When we think of liberty we most commonly think of 1-3, that concept of being free from servitude or the arbitrary exercise of authority over us, and the ability to use freedom to make choices. Having liberty, then, is the free will exercise of one's ability to choose to do certain activities or think without restraint.

Again from, same source, this on freedom:


n 1: the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints

2: immunity from an obligation or duty [syn: exemption]

When we have liberty available to us, we are free. When we are not permitted liberty we are not free and are not in a state of freedom.

Once again, same source and to help, this time equality:


n 1: the quality of being the same in quantity or measure or value or status [ant: inequality]

2: a state of being essentially equal or equivalent: "on a par with the best" [syn: equivalence, par]

For us this is the concept of equality within society, of no man having more or less privilege than any other man. Thus our concept of being treated equally under the law is one that we enshrine and when we move from equal treatment we no longer treat individuals as equals.

The base state of man is to have perfect liberty, perfect freedom and perfect equality.

That is the state of man without any restraint upon him, with perfect ability to do anything with impunity save for the direct repercussions of the act itself. In that state all men are equal, save for differences in size, strength and cunning. There are no bonds upon man in this state of being, no holds upon him, no accountability save the direct and immediate sort. In its purest form this is man in the State of Nature and answering only to Natural Law.

Here I will use Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England at the Harvard Law School Library (attributed to Henry of Bratton) as the basic guide for our understanding of Natural Law:

What natural law is.

[019] 21Natural law is defined in many ways. It may first be said to denote a certain
[020] instinctive impulse arising out of animate nature by which individual living things
[021] are led to act in certain ways. Hence it is thus defined: Natural law is that which
[022] nature, that is, God himself, taught all living things. The word ‘quod’ is then in
[023] the accusative case and the word ‘natura’ in the nominative. On the other hand,
[024] it may be said that the word ‘quod’ is in the nominative case, so that the definition
[025] will be this: Natural law is that taught all living things by nature, that is, by
[026] natural instinct. The word ‘natura’ will then be in the ablative case.
22 This is what
[027] is meant when we say that our first instinctive impulses are not under our control,
[028] but our second impulses are. That is why, if a matter proceeds only as far as simple
[029] sensual pleasure, not beyond, only a venial sin is committed. But if it proceeds
[030] farther, to the contriving of something, as where one puts into practice what he
[031] has shamefully thought, it will then be called a third impulse and a mortal sin is
[032] committed.
23 And note that for the reason that justice is will, taking into account
[033] rational beings only, natural law is impulse, regard being had to

[001] all creatures, rational and irrational. There are some who say that neither will nor
[002] impulse may be called jus, jus naturale or jus gentium, for they exist in [the realm of]
[003] fact; will or impulse are the means by which natural law or justice disclose or manifest
[004] their effect, for virtues and jura exist in the soul.
24 This perhaps is said more clearly,
[005] that natural law is a certain due which nature allows to each man. Natural law is also
[006] said to be the most equitable law, since it is said that erring minors are to be restored
[007] in accordance with [natural] equity.

Mathematically this is the Ground State of Man, although there will be some provisos in that and a few things granted us by the Law of Nature and our inheritance as a species. Those changes, however, are 'built-in' and instinctual, just as the desire for perfect liberty is part of all animals so we, too, have that desire. Thus these things we get from our background and history as a species are part of the Ground State of Man (GSM). A Ground State can have many values, depending on what is measured, but for simplicity's sake we can set that at Zero.

GSM = 0

With the package of being human we get an affinity to form personal bonds and family groups, and yet many animals also have this as instinct, so we cannot say we are special from Nature due to this trait. What we do have is conscious control over the exercise of it, and in that we can say that this adapted behavior (personal bonds) can be exploited as an aptation to other things. A shellfish may not have control over the colors that its shell gains (and many don't) but when a predisposition towards coloration also gains a benefit, that trait is then one that is used as an aptation: it is not there due to survival characteristics, but may help to enhance survival just the same.

To us this personal bond capability that we get via instinct can be used to further our survival beyond what Nature has provided for. That aptation is part of the GSM. Our ability to consciously use it, and as members of homo sapiens sapiens that comes part and parcel of our heritage, is also part of the GSM, although a distinction with a difference that sets us apart from other species. That distinction is neither a plus nor a minus in moving from the GSM, but has been bestowed upon us by Providence from Nature.

When we consciously choose who is our mate, and then when we choose by that decision to restrict our activities towards that mate, we then start doing something different than Nature has provided. While we may have instincts to stop us from doing harm to that mate, that does not stop such things in a sovereign way in Nature: Natural Law over-rides even that bond if the need for survival precludes it. Thus if threatened with death or injury, a being may offer up its mate to fate to survive and while it would instinctually feel loss that is only due to the absence of the mate, not the decision itself. Once we move to actually self-sacrificing for that mate, to preclude not only other pleasures but to withstand pain and even death for that mate to survive, we create something wholly new. This is Bracton on that topic:

What the jus gentium is.

[017] 33The jus gentium is the law which men of all nations use, which falls short of
[018] natural law since that is common to all animate things born on the earth in the
[019] sea or in the air. From it comes the union of man and woman, entered into by the
[020] mutual consent of both, which is called marriage. Mere physical union is [in the
[021] realm] of fact and cannot properly be called jus since it is corporeal and may be
[022] seen;
34 all jura are incorporeal and cannot be seen. From that same law there
[023] also
35 comes the procreation and rearing of children. The jus gentium is common
[024] to men alone, as religion observed toward God, the duty of submission to parents
[025] and country, or the right to repel violence and injuria. For it is by virtue of this
[026] law that whatever a man does in defence of his own person he is held to do lawfully;
[027] since nature makes us all in a sense akin to one another it follows that for one to
[028] attack another is forbidden.

What manumission is.

[030] 37Manumissions also come from the jus gentium. Manumission is the giving of
[031] liberty, that is, the revelation of liberty, according to some, for liberty, which
[032] proceeds from the law of

[001] nature, cannot be taken away by the jus gentium but only obscured by it,38 for
[002] natural rights are immutable. But say that he who manumits does properly give
[003] liberty, though he does not give his own but another's, for one may give what he
[004] does not have, as is apparent in the case of a creditor, who [may alienate a pledge
though the thing is not his,39 and in that of one who] constitutes a usufruct in his
[006] property.
40 For natural rights are said to be immutable because they cannot be
[007] abrogated or taken away completely, though they may be restricted or diminished
[008] in kind
41 or in part. 42It was by virtue of this jus gentium that wars were introduced
[009] (that is, when declared
43 by the prince for the defence of his country44 or to repel
[010] an attack) and nations separated, kingdoms established and rights of ownership
[011] distinguished. Individual ownership was not effected de novo by the jus gentium but
[012] existed of old, for in the Old Testament things were already mine and thine, theft
[013] was prohibited
45 and it was decreed that one not retain his servant's wages.46 By
[014] the jus gentium boundaries were set to holdings, buildings erected next to one
[015] another, from which cities, boroughs and vills were formed.
47 And generally, the
[016] jus gentium is the source of all contracts
48 and of many other things. What long
[017] custom is will be explained below.

This thing we create is the law of nations and the first and greatest hallmark of it is that protection of others and NOT starting a war on one's own. Self-defense of that most basic bond we decide to form is immutable and a positive liberty. To wage war that endangers it on one's own is a negative liberty. Thus we get the next two parts of how we measure things:

  1. Positive Liberty of War - Self-Defense which we keep to ourselves as an inborn liberty and right. Thus PL(W) = +1.
  2. Negative Liberty of War - The offensive war against others is something that is still within us, but we vest it into society. Thus NL(W) = -1.

We get both of these from the GSM. Each value is your entire liberty in each sub-area.

Thus GSM = PL(W) + NL(W) = 0

This changes our Liberty Index (LIB), that measure of our Liberty with regards to the GSM, which has a neutral value. LIB is therefore the measure of Liberty with respect to the GSM. Each individual will experience Liberty differently, that is part of our nature, yet we each have a maximal amount of Liberty available to us and that maximal amount is absolute: no one gains more than what Nature provides. We may create different venues for expression, but those venues are, themselves, expression of our Liberty available under Natural Law. Thus we may not be able to conceive of ourselves utilizing full Liberty or experiencing it, which is subjective, but that we have it is self-evident with all men being born equal in potential.

Our Individual Liberty: LIB(I) = PL(W) = +1

Our Society's Liberty which is vested in the organ of society we call Government: LIB(G) = NL(W) = -1

For us to be safe from NL(W) we must have society and its organs to govern it, and that allows us the ability to defend ourselves freely using our positive liberty to do so. For this to be done there must be an agreement by ALL individuals in the society to do this, or else we are all put at peril to the individual's whim. Thus we grant freedom to each other to not be fearful of war of man upon man and we, through that vestment of it in society with that negative liberty, increase our positive liberty.

Another division is seen with restraint of actions, and this is also one that divides into a positive and negative liberty.

  1. Positive Liberty of Restraint - Self-restraint, the ability to check one's own actions with regards to our fellow man. PL(R) = +1.
  2. Negative Liberty of Restraint - Restraining others for our own wishes or to enact our own desires, which harms society. NL(R) = -1

The Negative Liberty of Restraint is handed to society and its organ called government so as to allow it to restrain others that would endanger society. Thus we now have more positive liberty, even if we no longer have perfect freedom:

LIB(I) = PL(W) + PL(R) = +2

LIB(G) = NL(W) + NL(R) = -2

This formulation, while not done with math, is described in a way that we can understand it:

Some writers have so confounded society with government,
as to leave little or no distinction between them;
whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
The first a patron, the last a punisher.

That from Thomas Paine's Common Sense, and it makes perfect sense when seen as a form of mathematics. In this case the organ of society that holds the LIB(G) is called government, while the rest of society is formed by our cooperative use of LIB(I). When we utilize government to restrain those activities that would cause harm to society, we exercise a positive value of control via our LIB(I) via our civil liberty. Thus the Liberty Index gains a Control Value (CV) that is necessary to keep our negative liberties lent to government via society in check. From that the CV must be strong enough to ensure that we are not put in danger by government that holds our negative liberties. In a perfect world that must be equal:

CV(G) = -1 x LIB(G)

At this point we get this replacement:

CV(G) = -1 x -2 = +2

That is, happily, the LIB(I) and thus we would feel secure.

Now I will step through a thought experiment and apply values as I go.

Our PL(W) is for all forms of self-defense, everything from a spit in the eye to a thermonuclear device. Now let us say that we are uncomfortable with the very high end of that scale and say that such things as war making aircraft, ships, and WMDs are to be restricted from our society as they are just too dangerous for the individual to use. Happily they are so expensive that they are out of the reach of most individuals, even the 'super rich' and thus this is a minor fractional impingement upon our LIB(I). Let us say that this Restriction on War (RS(W)) is a mere tiny fraction of PL(W).

R(W) = 0.01 x PL(W) = 0.01

To do this requires that we must increase the magnitude of NL(R), that is put more Restraint(the (R) value) into the system that is held by government and remove it from PL(R). This must be reflected in the Control Value of Government (CV(G)).


PL(W1) = PL(W) - RS(W) = +0.99

NL(R1) = NL(R) - RS(W) = -1.01

CV(G) = -1 x ( NL(W) + NL(R1)) = +2.01

LIB(I) = +1.99

LIB(G) = -2.01

When we want government to do more to restrain our positive liberties, we lose liberty and government gains control power over us. This does not of necessity make society safer as this is a function of control by government on our liberty and freedom and as it is taken away from all individuals society is lessened by that loss. Also, on this scale of liberty measurement, we are now lacking in an amount of personal control commensurate to the differences needed between CV(G) and LIB(I). That is worrying as the restrictions we have coming from government are based on an unsupported control factor from our personal liberty. In short we begin to lack the essential back-up to the control of government which is our positive liberty: there is a liberty deficit equal to that difference or Delta (LIB(DEL)).

LIB(DEL) = CV(G) - LIB(I) = +0.02

That Delta between the necessary control of government and your personal liberty is a meaningful one, as when government restricts your liberty it needs greater control and you are feeling controlled by government. This is also called oppression by authority and such a government is authoritarian. Now for our social good all governments are at least mildly authoritarian so as to help keep order of society within society.

Another area of liberty is economic liberty and it, too, has positive and negative aspects.

  1. Positive Liberty of Economy - Your ability to gain by your own hand from your own work through the utilization of freedom to work. PL(E) = +1
  2. Negative Liberty of Economy - Your ability to take from others and steal their work or otherwise gain by their work by doing none yourself, the act of taking is not considered positive. NL(E) = -1

The sum of your economic liberty is: GSM = PL(E) + NL(E).

As with the previous forms of liberty, we put the negative form into that organ of society of government to control it.

LIB(I) = PL(W) + PL(R) + PL(E) = +3

LIB(G) = NL(W) + NL(R) + NL(E) = -3

CV(G) = -1 x (NL(W) + NL(R) + NL(E)) = +3

Government utilizes the NL(E) in various ways: tariffs, taxation, duties, imposts, and eminent domain.

If we postulate a case where all government taxation via all means and all governments is 30%, then that is the amount your PL(E) is impacted by government. This is the amount of burdening or restraint upon your personal liberty of economy to run the government. This is, of course, an imperfect postulate, but is useful for demonstration purposes.

R(E) = 0.3 x PL(E) = +0.3

PL(E1) = PL(E) - RS(E) = +0.7

NL(E1) = NL(E) - RS(E) = -1.30


LIB(I) = +2.7

LIB(G) = -3.3

CV(G) = +3.3

LIB(DEL) = +0.6

When there is a positive LIB(DEL) > +20% LIB(I) then government is thought of as having more power than the people of society.

When there is a +/- 20% LIB(I) difference a government and its people are in balance.

When there is a negative LIB(DEL) < -20% LIB(I) then government is considered to be subservient to the people in regards to Liberty.

Our CV(G) in the US has, as part of its arrangement, being from the 'consent of the governed'. With that said, the IRS acts as a mandatory agency with its own courts to decide tax issues quite separate from our civil courts, and those courts are rarely reviewed, rarely overturned and act as an arm of government collections. With 'consent of the governed' that LIB(DEL) on the imposition against personal economic liberty is supposed to be moderated, and yet the collections are most coercive and the one place hardest to get an acquittal is tax court. If tax problems were accountable to standard civil courts, then an argument could be made for civil justice, but as it is not that moderating influence vanishes and 'consent of the governed' goes with it. The ability to tax has become a true law unto itself, answerable to no civil justice. That is for the federal side of things, which is a percentage of the RS(E) but a large percent of it, nonetheless.

That RS(E) would be an average across all individuals in society. When we leverage disproportionate taxation, that is change the amount being taxed due to things like income, those who pay less or no taxes do not notice the RS(E) or the LIB(DEL) due to it: the poor don't care much about the full taxation of those who pay taxes.

Inversely those who have great wealth and can shield it via an incremental use of tax gimmicks, hiding income and tax lawyers feel less of a bite than if they had their full share levied upon them. Every exemption that is useful to only the upper portion of those with income lessens their appreciation of the RS(E) and LIB(DEL) via the amount they can shield minus the cost of the shielding. So long as that shielding yields a positive net result, the amount of taxation felt is lessened thus lessening concerns about those who cannot use such techniques to a net positive.

Thus the middle income individuals feel the full brunt of taxation, get only a few 'tax breaks' to mollify them, and have to pick up the load for the poor AND the amount the rich shield from tax collections.  This concept is being used for demonstration purposes, only.

The felt LIB(DEL) is thus changed for those paying taxes. If, say, 30% pay no taxes or no discernable taxes (this is not just income tax but things like sales tax, duties, etc. and is a net 30% as many of the poor do pay taxes, but they are not discernable beyond a modicum, so 30% is an overall net loss from this income bracket) then their LIB(DEL) effectively drops to zero and for those rich who can shield their money, they may only feel, say 80% of the remaining LIB(DEL), thus forcing the remainder LIB(DEL)(REM) to pay the share of the poor:

LIB(DEL)(P) = 0

LIB(DEL)(REM) = LIB(DEL) + 0.3 x LIB(DEL) = 0.78

LIB(DEL)(R) = LIB(DEL)(REM) x 0.8 = 0.624

LIB(DEL)(M) = LIB(DEL)(REM) + (LIB(DEL)(R)-LIB(DEL)(REM)) = 0.78 + (0.624 - 0.78) = 0.936

From this a nominal amount of overall economic liberty delta is not felt by the poor, only just a bit above the nominal average for the rich and predominantly upon the middle class. The rich, by being rich, can get in loopholes into the law via lobbying so as to bring their nominal rate down to near average (and some do pay no income tax but cannot escape other taxes) and the middle class gets the squeeze. In truth the LIB(DEL)(P) is rarely 0 but never reaches an effectively half-average until you get to be un-poor and join the middle class. Even then the lowest part of the middle class has some effects moderated thus shifting burden to the center and upper income earners.

This system works so-so to explain the effects of taxation, but the effects of those who get taxed and feel that they have less control over taxation is for them a much higher amount than average as the tax code favors the poor and the rich, simultaneously although in different ways. Until this point in time all individuals have been considered to share the burden equally, but due to tax policy we can no longer consider that as the case: by favoring some over others government creates inequality in participation and control over the government itself. This is the Equality Quotient (EQQ) which is a measure of the differences in burden from LIB(DEL).


EQQ(P) = LIB(DEL) - LIB(DEL)(P) = +0.6 - 0 = +0.6

EQQ(R) = LIB(DEL) - LIB(DEL)(R) = 0.6 - 0.624 = -0.024

EQQ(M) = LIB(DEL) - LIB(DEL)(M) = 0.6 - 0.936 = -0.336

When one has a positive EQQ they are said to be Favored by government (>= 10% LIB(DEL)).

When one has a near zero EQQ they are said to be Neutral with respect to government (+/- 10% of LIB(DEL)).

When one has a negative EQQ they are said to be Disfavored by government (<= -10% of LIB(DEL)) .

As I have pointed out I am exaggerating with respect to the Poor which will change the position of both the Rich and Middle Class in regards to LIB(DEL). That may actually move the EQQ(R) into slightly positive territory and bring the EQQ(M) downwards, but perhaps not into the 10% range of Neutrality. As this is a difference from the Average a smaller variation in a system professing equality has a larger impact than the absolute comparison between LIB(I) and LIB(DEL) used for the absolute case. Still a government can have a rough correlation of power in balance with its society and still have EQQs that demonstrate unequal dispensation of the use of that power.

This examination is of a government that is given only our negative liberties to safeguard so that we may maximize our positive ones. When we put together a government that doesn't do that, we can start to see some major problems in the reduced liberty of the individual.

Examining a society that hands positive liberties to government changes that balance of Liberty, Control and Equality. To postulate, lets start with a position in which all handguns are prohibited, save for those made at home (along with ammunition), and rifles and shotguns are heavily restricted to the general population, and all other firearms are prohibited. With that we would see only a 20% available positive liberty of warfare for self-defense, and probably closer to 10%.

PL(W) = 1 x 0.2 = +0.2

NL(W) = -1 - (1 - PL(W)) = -1.8


LIB(I) = +0.2

LIB(G) = -1.8

CV(G) = +1.8

LIB(DEL) = +1.6

To achieve this requires a highly authoritarian government. Compare this with a LIB(DEL) for the simple restriction of WMDs to the individual LIB(DEL) = 0.02, and we see a government that must be 8 times as authoritarian compared to that extremely mild government. In this all individuals are considered to be equal, although if the government preferentially allows one group to be armed, say a ruling group, then the EQQ would be very high between those that govern and those they govern.

To examine a society in which government is not only entrusted with the negative economic liberty, but also the lion's share of the positive, say 90% of the positive liberty, we get the following:

LIB(I) = +0.1

LIB(G) = -1.9

CV(G) = +1.9

LIB(DEL) = +1.8

When postulating a government run economy, one is said to have very little control over government nor personal liberty with respect to government with LIB(I) being a mere 1/18th the canceling amount to feel some security from government for one's liberty. This is very close the minimal case of slavery:

LIB(I) = 0

While having 10% control of one's economic future is better than none, it can in no way said that one control's one's own destiny in that realm. If this case were added to the previous case we would see the following:

LIB(I) = +0.3

LIB(G) = -3.7

CV(G) = +3.7

LIB(DEL) = +3.4

That is beyond authoritarian and what we would call a totalitarian state that dictates your life to you and then ensures that you can in no way defend yourself FROM government.

This has been an interesting thought experiment!

The drawbacks of this system:

1) It deals with the absolute realm of liberty in multiple areas, and then sums them, thus making any fast and easy analysis of a government or society difficult. Each area must be dealt with separately.

2) There are no hard definitions on restraint of positive liberty imposed by government. The cases I give are ones in which I just used numbers to represent approximations of restraints, and I used no hard and fast rules on them. Still that could be done given more time.

3) Subjectively each of us deals with our emotional and mental attitude towards our use of liberty differently. With that said it is very easy to assume that one's subjective approach is universal, which, thusly, puts one at odds with even a slight variation of one's outlook. If a large scale outlook is different, then valuations on restraint and even what positive and negative liberties ARE will change valuations. That is why I went the route of the ENTIRE of each, so that the most expansive view of positive and negative to their furthest limits are the full value of them.

4) Each society, beyond just individuals, will approach the magnitude of restraint of liberty by government differently. In trying to use a common, absolute, evaluation, the concept is to give a level staring point and then allow different societies to state their valuations of each restraint so that a cross-society system could be developed. My analysis is 'rough and ready' used to demonstrate some of the basics of how a system like this works.

5) As a society and individuals we have ignored wanting to put such valuations on our liberty, freedom and even such things as our personality. Yet these are not sacrosanct areas, forbidden to thought and analysis. By sequestering a comparative, objective system that encompasses human liberty from our scope of learning, we still wander in a region where the hypothetical rules and the objective, hard and fast definitions are left outside in the cold. While such analysis may seem cold at first blush, it actually helps to examine differences in societies and puts some order of magnitude understanding on the hypothetical works and allows us to review just what various authors are saying and cross-compare how they approach topics. If you want to get to a science of society and governments, then something like this will be necessary and hand waving and hypothetical cases will need to be made into rigorous postulations with numbers put against them that are clearly explained.

The pluses of this system:

1) Personally I was surprised at how some of the things we talk about in comparing governments and personal liberty immediately stand out. Simply putting numbers on these things we talk about helps to regularize understanding and create a cross-comparative review of not only politics but societal attitudes.

2) The interim numbers generated, like the CV(G) turn out to be interesting indicators of the relative power between society and government. While LIB(I) is for all individuals and collective, so is LIB(G). The examination of that Delta between LIB(I) and the positive control necessary for government to function with its negative liberties (or positive ones taken from individuals) is a highly powerful tool.

3) Even without extreme rigor on definitions there are clear indicators of liberty, freedom and equality quickly stand out. When we talk of government taking part in a large section of our economic lives, not only in the Health Care area but in all other areas that we get regulations put in by government, we can see how even small and incremental changes in the balance of Liberty have extreme impacts in our feeling of enfranchisement and if the government is going authoritarian. Thus an intervention on 16% of the economy would be a huge change in our personal Liberty and the necessary control by government is that we would characterize for authoritarian regimes. Under that view most of Europe is under authoritarian regimes.

4) Being nice to the poor and letting the rich get tax breaks means the middle class gets hit and hard by the authority of government. If we were to add to taxation the other regulations controlling our daily lives, we have probably reached a tipping point between a modicum of balance between the people and government and are now in a realm where authoritarianism is possible. While we know that as an intellectual exercise, when one begins to put numbers to it the actual reality of it sinks in much, much faster.

5) I do not deal with Liberties wholly retained by the people, such as religion. Still, as that is wholly retained by the people, and we are restricted on our negative liberties, that leaves us with talking about it, social exclusion and other means to express ourselves that preclude warfare and repression. ANY action taken by government in that realm is a negative... which is a lesson we have already seen in history. That does INCLUDE stopping historical and societal use of religious terms within government and on such things as our currency: as established they are perfectly allowable and trying to get government to CHANGE that basis is actually asking for favoritism. Yet we still have those that will not let sleeping dogs rest without poking them with a sharp stick.

In no way is this review an actual analytical tool.

It is an examination of what a good analytical tool would do if we had one for this purpose... which we don't.

I've been putting this together in bits and pieces over a few days, so the math may not be rigorous.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decades of horror

Andy Serwer at Time has a strange take on the decade of 2000-2009, calling it A Decade From Hell.  The gloom and doom and self-inflicted wounds that he propounds and expounds upon does not have the taste of Hell to them, however, only somewhat of the hinterlands of Purgatory and self-inflated idealism come to rest on rocky shores of reality.  To my mind there are at least four ten-year time spans that are worse, far worse, than 2000-2009, and yet no real mention of them.  Without history for perspective we can easily become self-obsessed with the present, as individuals and a Nation, and the bemoaning of those ills we created for ourselves that were highly predictable and took decades of neglect and outright deceit to perpetrate does no one any good without that larger lens of the American Experience.

Assuredly those self-inflicted wounds, like the Community Reinvestment Act and its follow-ons starting during the Carter Administration, point to a deep and abiding misunderstanding of markets, money and human nature.  If we bemoan the end of the free ride of the Housing Bubble, then let us not forget its origin decades before this most recent.  The problem with banking was not an outgrowth of just Glass-Steagall being repealed, and the previous S&L crisis of the '80s should have pointed to this being something of the nature of the banking beast.  What spurred both on were regulations passed by Congress via the instrument of most unwise attribution of authority created just a little under a century before the present: the Federal Reserve.  That institution has gotten multiple banking problems, the housing bubble, and two recessions exactly WRONG in its prescriptions, and yet we hear not a peep of its role that it played in influencing regulators year on year, decade upon decade.  Similarly FHA, Fannie and Freddie get bare mention with regards to how Congress wanted more money to pour out of them and into the housing market, and even to the 'under privileged' without an income, a job or assets.  Those, of course, are actual regulations put in place that made things worse, not better, and so get glossed over.

Even the 'we have not kept up our infrastructure' is misplaced, as multiple decades of neglect took to get here with NO setting aside of funds for repair and maintenance that matched the bills coming due, year on year.  We bear fault for that, too, as we do for housing and banking, as our culture was extremely inward looking and willing to procrastinate, putting of necessary expenditures to retain what we had and now find we are losing what we have not retained.  Poor us!  And yet that, too, points back to the 1950's through to the 1990's as a problem point that structural and civil engineers told us about in budget meetings each and every year.  Since there was no big, bad wolf, we, as a culture, decided that we didn't need to maintain ourselves and our equipment against the creep of decay.  That is a bill for willful ignorance and suppression of reality by belief, not of single decade's making.  Of course before that America was used to building and revamping infrastructure, not just mere maintenance, but that, too, gets to go under the bridge.  Perhaps, just perhaps, when America is vibrant and outward looking, we take in stride the cost of maintenance as we build afresh... only when we turn inwards can we easily forget the cost of maintaining what we have.

Terrorism!  Ah, how quickly Mr. Serwer forgets the Barbary Pirates and the need to upbraid them as done by President Jefferson, or the Islamic Pirates of President Jackson's day who threatened our Far East commercial shipping and got a warship in response.  We had taken World Wars and Public War to be All War and forgot, by willful design and neglect, that the worst wars of all in mankind's history are Private Wars that signal the decay of Nations, Empires and simple States.  Terrorism in the modern mode started in the 1960's with 'State Sponsored' but 'hands clean' terrorism performed by Communists.  Che Guevara was a brutal, torturing killer who met a harsh end for practicing his killing and torture upon the poor to beat them into submission in a foreign land, and yet is he reviled by one and all as a beast, a monster?  Heavens no!  A segment of our population holds him up as an ICON!  The first hijacking of note happened when the PLO joined up with one of these Central American Red groups to hijack a plane in Panama, I believe it was, in the late 1960's and yet little was done about it.  Similarly Shining Path, FARC, various Red Factions/Armies/Groups, and then radical Islam like Islamic Jihad groups sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood and 'State Sponsored' Hezbollah with its Iranian sugar daddy would wage more and more violent private war year on year, extracting a civilian death toll that, while small, was becoming global.  Soon would come 'Eco-Terrorists' and even rogue fashion designers set to wage their war upon all mankind to Get Their Way.  One would think the US Marines killed in Beirut would have woken us up, if the betrayal of the Law of Nations by Iran just a couple of years previously had not done so.  Even once the USSR went defunct, some groups it spawned would continue and do continue to this day, waging their war upon us although not in the numbers like al Qaeda, the presence of them bespeaks our lax attitude towards our own civilization:  we don't care about it enough to keep it.

So if this is not THE WORST DECADE in US history, what tops it?

To my mind the next up the list, but by no means the worst is:


The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, The Rise of Fascism and the rise of the capitalized first letter of important words as a means of reinforcing things.

Coming in under Progressive President Hoover and going out under Progressive President Roosevelt, this decade witnessed men in the stock market plunging out of windows to their deaths in 1929-30, and continued through to 1939.  The over-inflated 'Roaring 20s' went pop on a big scale, and misguided monetary and banking policy set the stage for the worst decline in America in over 50 years.  This decade, too, had decades to build up to it and the mistaken belief that the active role of government is 'good' with respect to the common man was greatly espoused even while the 'recovery' policies steadily entrenched the Huge Recession into a Great Depression.  All the lovely things put in place to 'help' included huge business taxes that came about to 'help' the elderly and give retirement 'benefits' at the expense of government and the working class.  Just as the recovery of 1937 got started, those taxes hit and caused the recession of 1938-39, and employment would require a World War for the Nation to get back to anything like 'normal'.

The catastrophe of the Great Plains had been decades in brewing, and easy lending policy for farmers to break up the soil of the mid-west and western States during a time of relative plenty in rainfall, would cause a disaster when the rains didn't come.  Single storms with thousands of tons of dust that was once soil would shift that soil permanently from where it was and head eastward, and even darken the skies in NY City, Boston and Washington DC.  Any comparison between that and the decades of government encouragement for those in dry land areas to use up underground aquifers that take centuries to recharge is intentional.  Perhaps this time Big Agribusiness will suffer what the small farmer of the 1930's suffered during the Dustbowl, but don't bet on it with the way politics and money flows these days.

And while we bemoan modern terrorists, we forget the militant Statists of the post-WWI era that became exemplified by the Fascist and Nazi movements in Europe.  America had its off-shoots directly in Fascist groups and even the American Bund which suffered warm/cold relations with their cousins in Germany.  The prospect of mass rallies and beatings in a few places does pale in comparison to terrorist killers, although when one examines the end of the Great States of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, we come to realize that the death toll from organized State killers really does dwarf what terrorists can normally aspire to.  It is very strange that some of the killers of the 1930's get lauded today, others castigated and some given a 'free pass' by their modern counterparts.  Also we forget that Mein Kampf translated into Arabic is Jihad.  But pointing that out would be rubbing those trying to appease terrorists into the folly of what they do, and just like the 1930's we 'can't have that, now, can we?' is the order of the day.

Can we really forget the run on the banks and then the crooks coming in to give the banks a run for their money?  Yet the FDIC was supposed to fix that for our modern time, but it is going insolvent unable to cover deposits and now requiring banks pay, months in advance, for deposits not yet made.  We exchange the Tommy Gun for the Tyrannical Might of Government to steal from our banks for 'our own good'.  Such a sweet protection racket would not pass muster during normal times, but was a welcome alternative during the 1930's.  How little did we expect that all protection rackets must come back to bite us, and this one was started as a 'good idea' in the 1930's and now begins to fail us for the exact, same thing it was supposed to stop.  Broken banks by crime or government are still broken banks, and our trust in the institutions and in the 'regulators' supposed to 'protect us' was supposed to be an unalloyed good from the 1930's.  So, too, was the FHA which, in its ability to get regulations to be lax and spread its market power around, was supposed to ease the housing problems of the poor, not give expensive homes to those who could not afford them.  Apparently there is no 'good thing' that government can't ruin when it allows that federal beast that runs the regulations to write the regulations and influence the regulations and decide upon the regulations.  Are we sure this isn't a form of the Mafia?

What is even grander is that those lovely federal devices set up in the 1930's didn't help the people THEN, either.  Social Security, FDIC, FHA, and SEC all failed to 'turn things around' and even caused a deepening of the Great Depression by taking needed cash out of the economy and funneling it into that non-productive thing we call government.

Lest we forget, World War II started not in Poland but in Manchuria during the earlier part of the 1930's.  The US Navy drafted up a Plan Orange that looked at exactly how Japan could attack the US in Hawaii and Philippines in an attempt to cripple our Pacific Fleet and keep it stifled via submarine attacks.  That was long years before 1941, and while it was just one casebook, it is the most prescient that would tell of what an economically moribund Nation would signal to the Imperial Japanese military machine, a machine we supplied with much steel that was then used against us in the Second World War.  If the decade came in with the Great Stumble it went out with the Great Gasp in Poland and the world fully expected to have a repeat of World War I.  The world would not be so lucky, and yet that wouldn't have happened if appeasement was not the order of the day in the mid-1930's, and if America had a sane economic policy that would have just allowed the recovery to happen as it had in all previous downturns.  Instead we were too wise to be smart and too smart to be wise.

Horrible, no?

Yet that is only the next worse up the scale, making our decade pale in comparison.  There is worse than that?  Oh, my, yes!


I have written about this before in The 10 years that change the path of America, and it is an unexpected decade that most of us don't understand or discount far too easily.  Yet the roots of much of the 1930's happens right in this ten year, or so, time span, where the woes of our modern times can find its deep roots in the Progressive Era of politics and the belief that we really can change the Nature of Man via government fiat.

Of course many of the bad farming practices were already ongoing by now, but the continuation of them and the easy land and money policies that were started previously were continued.  Even worse the Federal Reserve was created to help 'stabilize' the currency and now we have seen, since its creation, that our currency has lost 95% of its value since that time.  If you think a 'strong dollar' of a decade or so ago was something, imagine it having 8x the buying power as it did in the era before the Federal Reserve and its ever so unwise policies.  That was a strong dollar!  Nothing government couldn't change, of course, in order to 'spread the wealth around'.

To that end the Progressives sought and got disproportional taxation, which is to say that each citizen was not charged a set price to run the government, which the States gathered, but could be taxed DIRECTLY from the US government in any proportion the government chose.  A simple Constitutional Amendment change the absolute equality of all taxpayers to a graduated deal, where some would be valued and taxed more than others.  The the Federal Reserve could be made flush with funds from 'the rich'!  Luckily those very same 'rich' also got the windfalls of having government support unwise lending policies via the Federal Reserve, and crony capitalism in its modern form gained a US face.  If you hate the payouts of government to Big Business, then look for disproportional taxation and crony capitalist politics as its cause.  While it was assuredly there before, the money amounts involved were generally small and that only grew when government could grow.

On the personal liberty front, the US government decided that it could start using parts of the Constitution to dictate our lives to us, and started with the Harrison Stamp Act on marijuana.  The government could, indeed, mandate tax stamps for a product, in which you had to have the product to get them... but if you had the product without the stamp you were committing a federal crime.  And Congress never had any of the stamps issued.  That proved to be a perfectly acceptable power-grab by the US Congress and we have lived with the expansion of Congressional powers since that era.  Yet that era was ushered in with the weakening of control over Congress when the lovely Progressives allowed for the direct election of Senators from States, instead of them being appointed by the State Governments.  That little restriction was getting in the way of expanding government as some States didn't send Senators to DC, which meant that government bills would get waylaid until the States could be convinced to send someone to vote on them.  That is how the system is SUPPOSED to work, but because 'fast and efficient' government is not the hallmark of a representative democracy, it is what the Progressives and their supporters wanted and got from the gullible public.  The expansive power of Congress begins in this era and we live with its ramifications to this day in more taxes, more regulations and more power concentrated into fewer hands than ever before in the US.  If you bemoan the problems of officious government on drugs, the point is not lost that before the Progressive Era there were NO federal drug laws on the books and you had the absolute freedom to decide what you took and when.  The only change happened for the Food & Drug Purity Act which mandated ingredient labels and for the few short years before making them illegal, consumption went DOWN as people realized how drugged up they were.  Government would soon decide that for you, however, so that those with horrifically painful fatal illnesses couldn't get addictive painkillers for their short span left on Earth.

This was made no better by the US Congress deciding to fix its own size and no longer have a floating proportional representation system.  'Gerrymandering' had happened before, to a certain extent, but this single chain made it a permanent landscape feature of the US political scene.  Just before that took place the Progressive Era marked a sea change in US politics from one where the electorate went from throwing the bums out of DC to the extent that it was rare that 30% ever got BACK per session, to one in which it was rare that 30% ever got tossed out at all.  The creation of the fixed size Congress to 'streamline' and 'make Congress manageable' ignored the salient feature that Congress in the House of Representatives was supposed to be unmanageable, volatile and see a high turn-over rate.  By demographics alone, small districts would see change-outs of Representatives frequently and yet the number of Representatives expanded via population expansion, thus allowing deep rooted representative democracy to take hold.  That got uprooted in 1911 and has remain unchallenged until a recent court case now working its way through the system.  It is amazing to think that the House can set its own size, pay rate, goodies, perks, dividends and never have any of that called into question for nearly a century.  If we bemoan Incumbistan, then the roots of it must be brought to light and the corruption that comes with a fixed size Congress also brought to light.  Not that those wanting more power for the State ever want you to hear that.

On the grounds of wartime spending, do ponder that the last million man army in Europe at the end of World War I was that of the United States.  And that as a part of our GDP, that military machine dwarfs our modern contingents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere on bases around the globe.  World War One would leave the industrial powers in Europe dwarfed by the US, and yet the US did not fight in any but a restricted fashion just against Germany and not against the corrupt Austro-Hungarian allies of Germany nor the rump of the Ottoman Empire which Britain had to fight on its lonesome and which had been committing genocide just prior to the war.  A genocide reported to President Woodrow Wilson.  President Wilson didn't want to interfere with Turkey because we had such good trade relationships with it, and that we might be able to reform Turkey via that trade.  What that meant is that the US did not fully participate in the War and that at the end of the war we were not at the 'Adult Table' to help determine the aftermath of the war.  France and Britain had already decided the landscape of Europe, the Middle East and Africa to a large extent by the end of 1918, and President Wilson's grand vision of a 'League of Nations' was something he couldn't even get the US Senate to buy into.  That dream, along with the post-war accords, would seed the world with divisions, Germany would fester for over a decade and the secular Turkish State would divide up Kurdistan so that the Kurds would never have a Nation that was guaranteed them by the post-war US agreements that they had signed on to.  By not realizing that to be considered a 'Major Power' one must act like it and go after all the allies of an enemy, President Wilson's idea of fighting a limited war would plant and water the seeds for the next World War.  Talk about ill-spent funds!

During that war was something that can only be accounted as the most draconian curtailment of free speech ever seen in the US, even granted what happened in the next worst up from this.  The delusion that is propagated about President Wilson being such a great-hearted fellow belies the fact that he deployed tens of thousands... of agents in America as part of the 'Blue Eagle' campaign to buy goods that were certified as ok by the US government and report ANYONE speaking against the war, the President, Congress, the government.... many of the Progressive allies of President Wilson found themselves in jail when they attempted to use their free speech rights to speak up against what was going on.  At the same time the government was distributing officially sanctioned songs, reading material, eating schedules and even lullabyes for infants.  Without a sense of any perspective, our modern critics don't realize that what is being done to find al Qaeda personnel is within the traditional war powers of a President, while those exercised by President Wilson were not and are not.  If things were as bad as they were then, most of dKos and DU and other Leftists would be in jail, not walking around freely to criticize everyone and everything to their heart's content.  Imprisonment for free speech is not an answer then or now, but bemoaning communications intercepts with foreign individuals is something that is NOT protected under the US Constitution.  That power was exercised by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and over-stepped by President Wilson to a large degree.  Thus on this front the awfulness of the last decade comes up very, very short of any mark by any rational person.

You would think that these things, the massive spending by the US on WWI, the change of Congress to radically alter and remove its checks and increase its powers, the increased powers and how they were used, the restriction of civil liberties by President Wilson, the Armenian Genocide that President Wilson did nothing to address, the horrible state of affairs left after WWI... that this decade just might have gotten a bit of recognition as being a bit on the bad side.  Apparently not, and that is to our detriment that we forget these things and take them as 'business as usual' when, in fact, they are not usual to the Republic and caused a serious of changes that resulted in most of our modern woes in banking and the unrestricted power Congress would come to wield over our daily lives.  Instead we get dead silence save for a very few that dare talk about just how bad this era was, particularly the war years.

Next up is a decade that really does rate much, much higher in everyone's books if you but take a moment to think about it.


The US Civil War and period of Reconstruction.

Apparently Mr. Serwer forgot about the millions dead in the Civil War and the problems of Reconstruction.

Remember that little thing?  At least 618,000 dead due to battle and the diseases that followed it?  This was not a good decade for the US no matter which way you cut it.  You would think that just on that basis, alone, that we might get just a teensy bit of perspective on our modern era, but apparently, not.

It also had the emancipation of the slaves, and allowed for a large shift of populations in the post-war era.  The devastation of the South, however, left the economies there in dire straights for decades.  Additionally the general feeling was that the post-war governments were imposed on the population, which would lead to hard feelings that still last up to the present day in some areas of the South.

Really no single article can cover the devastation and human suffering the US went through over the decade that contained the Civil War.  Our last decade is no 'Hell' in comparison to that decade: we fall far, far short of it no matter which direction you take.  In pure cash it was horrific and while the North would have a relatively intact industrial base, the South would be impoverished.  Civil Rights were largely suspended by President Lincoln in many areas due to having a war fought within the Nation, itself, but that gets scant mention these days.  War time profiteers on both sides make Halliburton into a piker for charging a couple of bucks to deliver a cold can of soda to our troops in the middle of nowhere in Iraq or Afghanistan.  We don't have companies sending shoes made for undertakers to our troops, only to find them made of cardboard and falling apart nearly instantly.

The blood spilled for the freedom of all men in society, no matter their race, has been forgotten by our modern era, and we pay no homage to the dead who fought on both sides in this gargantuan struggle to determine that all men really ARE created equal and endowed with certain, inalienable rights.  Purposely forgetting the struggle and its outcome, and remembering its scale does a grave disservice to our honored dead who fought for what they believed in.

What is even more humorous is that those on the Left and Socialists forget that Karl Marx supported the NORTH in this effort as Capitalism was far superior to any slave based agrarian economy and that Capitalism must do its good work of getting the best efficiency so as to emancipate man from abject slavery of the old agrarian sort.  Relative wage slavery is far, far preferable to true slavery and leaves the individual with many choices for their wages and a chance for betterment leading towards a better society.  For all the embrace of the modern Left for some socialist ideals, they forget that basic principle: that Capitalism of the free market sort is far better than State Capitalism, State slavery or agrarian slave based systems of any sort.  This should have been driven home during the US Civil War, but somehow has been missed by the over-educated, under-learned Left of our modern era.

The years 2000-2009 a 'Hell'?

The next decade is highly telling and ranks as the worst in America for my taste.


The American Revolution.

Ten percent of Americans left dead at the end of it.

Fifteen percent of our population fled to other Crown colonies.

The economy devastated.

The first government created in 1776 coming undone and the Shaysites, as a larger movement, nearly overturning the Articles of Confederation as the State governments had impoverished the rural folk to the point of confiscating farms for back taxes and throwing farmers in jail.  All that due to war debt owed to France.

America failed at its very first government, and we are born of that failure.

If it had succeeded we would have no US Constitution but the Articles of Confederation, to this day.

Our government failed us.

Our political class failed us and were forced to rethink their positions which were destroying the lives and economy of the Nation.

The great civility that lasted through the Revolutionary War nearly came undone at the seams between urban and rural America.

2000-2009 as 'Hell'?

If our civility between urban and rural unravels, if the political class of urban America thinks they can 'organize' rural and suburban America, then we may get to revisit this 1776-1786 era.

And the political class forced to rethink their positions.

Or else we may find ourselves one, fine Shays away from finding out what true 'Hell' really is.