Category Archives: Political Science/Specific Issues

Limitations of Science

[The below consists of a comment by the writer on The Volokh Conspiracy blog on a posting about today’s “March for Science”.]

While I have no essential difficulty with the concept of “evidence-based policy” — ignoring for the moment the intractable problem of capacity limits on apprehension of evidence, the accurate measurement thereof, and the interpretation of this data — it seems to me the real questions consist of:

One, what policies ought to be addressed, and,

Two, if it is decided that a particular policy ought to be addressed, how is it to be implemented; a subsidiary question to the latter is who is to implement it.

A wide swath of issues and problems are a constant feature of existence. However, does this mean that a uniform policy ought to be formulated to address any specific one? Ought not some be deferred or avoided simply because they are beyond the capacity of mortal minds, or as they involve such conflicting values or considerations that any policy is unfeasible?

Even if there is sufficient concord that a specific problem ought to be addressed by a particular community, there remains the question of which facet of the community ought to address it. Climate Change might be a good example. While I fully concur that excessive human activity necessarily has a deleterious effect, might not the best solution be individual, rather than concerted, behavior to restrict one’s unnecessary activities? A perception that the existence of a problem automatically necessitates the formulation of a policy to solve it is the threshold for oppressive centripetal interference in all areas of life.

Finally, there always remains the issue of the hubris of certain science advocates. It appears to me that many may be excellent technicians but are unaware of the very nature of science, perceiving it as some vehicle for identifying Reality or even Truth. (While announced in a different context, with a different meaning and for a different purpose, Pilates’ famous question of “What is Truth?” is a thought of continuing relevance.) Even Reality is a chimera subject to constant metamorphosis.

It seems that many of these proponents have forgotten that the scientific process is to constantly search for and identify new data and to formulate an hypothesis that comprehensively and accurately explains this data. It is a process, and for a purpose, that is much more humble and modest than to Discover Reality — unless one adopts a definition of Reality that is itself modest.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
22 April 2017

A Well-Armed and Well-Regulated Militia as a Mechanism for Gauging the Presence of Tyranny

Certain semiautomatic rifles, particularly the AR-15 and similar configurations, have been characterized by some as “weapons of war”. Since there are significant differences between the AR-15 and M16, particularly in the modes and rate of fire, it is well-known the characterization is inaccurate.

However, given the similarity in general design, including its ability to accept a high-capacity magazine, let us for the moment accept the designation as a “weapon of war”.  Does this then disqualify it for civilian ownership?

Preceding posts have sufficiently demonstrated, it is believed, that a large block of civilians in this country are compelled, in certain exigent circumstances, to provide military-type services to the country or their State in their capacity as members of the unorganized militia — or at least be available and prepared to do so.  By definition, then, would they not be engaged in war-type activities?  And, if so, should they not then be experienced in and have available a “weapon of war”?  How then can they be proscribed from ownership of and familiarity with such a weapon?

Moreover, the statutory prescription of potential militia service is parallel to the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment.  While historically and contemporaneously there have been continued conflicting interpretations of the purpose and scope of the amendment, there can be no dispute it includes two (2) clauses and that at a minimum the right to keep and bear arms was to enable the people to perform militia service.  Now, by both historical and legal definition, the performance of militia service was engagement, as the circumstances might require, in paramilitary and military service.  How then is the keeping and bearing of a “weapon of war” incompatible with this capacity?  Rather, does not this capacity instead require it?

One might also analyze the question from the perspective of the purpose of a militia.  It is beyond cavil that a militia was considered more harmonious with liberty, in contrast with the greater threat to liberty that was posed by a standing army.  While not as universally accepted, there was also an understanding that a militia could potentially act as a bulwark against a standing army controlled by persons with objectives in conflict with those of the larger — or, at least, a sufficiently substantial — body of the people.

Certain critics have cast scorn on the continued viability of this function, given the geometrically-superior firepower of the country’s military forces. How can, they say, a militia equipped with AR-15s and sidearms realistically oppose a standing army with, inter alia, M16s, tanks, fighter aircraft and bombers?  This however overlooks a singularly perceptive observation (or, at least, its corollary) from our Declaration of Independence.  It is tendered that this provides the mechanism which preserves and proves the viability of such a resistance — albeit one that hopefully will never be required.

Mr. Jefferson noted that “[p]rudence … dictate[d] that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  Thus, even if evils are being perpetrated, they are likely to be borne by the greater body of the populace if they are not excessive and egregious.  Any rebellion by an insignificant body of the populace then allows, if not compels, a conclusion that the causes of the outrage are sufferable.

What then is the conclusion that is allowed, if not compelled, when a significant body of the populace engages in some form of insurrection?  It is tendered that it should be deemed then that these evils have now become magnified into ones which are excessive and egregious.  And it seems Mr. Jefferson concurs, as he further states that in such an instance of “… a long train of abuses and usurpations … evinc[ing] a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Let us then suppose that just Five percent (5%) of the population between 15 and 54 years of age deemed themselves outraged by a “long train of abuses and usurpations”.  Nay, instead of more than 8,500,000 citizens, let us suppose that but One percent (1%) resolved to resist what they deemed despotism.  What is conceived to be the likely reaction of the U.S. military forces to a civilian force of more than 1,700,000 citizens?  Would they likely view with equanimity the slaughtering of such a large body of their fellow citizens, deeming it to be consistent with morals and the law?  Wouldn’t they instead be likely to conclude that the perceived grievances of their fellow citizens had become, consistent with Mr. Jefferson’s formula, “insufferable” and due to excessive and egregious “abuses and usurpations”?

It is tendered that out of natural and innate morality — much less and regardless of any concern for their potential jeopardy as a consequence of possible commission of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity — these military forces would conclude that the actions inspiring such resistance, as well as any orders to overcome such resistance, were patently illegal, and therefore would themselves resist.

It would be impossible of course to reduce to mathematical certainty what proportion of the citizenry would be required for an observer to conclude that resistance was legal rather than illegal.  Suffice it to say that there would be sufficient parameters, when viewed in the context also of any surrounding relevant circumstances, to allow a resistance by a substantial body of the citizenry to be cause for concluding the resistance was justified.  And upon a determination of such justification would instead eliminate the despotism that caused the resistance.

Consequently, a citizenry keeping and bearing arms sufficient to cause a suspension of exertion of force against them, in order to allow an assessment whether their actions were rather justified, demonstrates that the existence and interposition of a militia remains a viable mechanism for resistance to potential despotism.  And the keeping and bearing of arms compatible and consistent with their function as a militia continues to be an essential right.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
04 July 2016

Duty of Every Citizen as Militia Member to Defend State as Nullification of Restrictions upon Means of Defense


As suggested by my three (3) postings this past February 26, I commenced work upon and intended to post the below shortly thereafter; however, other circumstances and obligations interfered with my completion hereof. Those three (3) postings provide context and reference for this posting and, in some respects, elaborate on this subject.)


The massacres over the past seven (7) months have, as is well-known, resulted in more calls for “gun control”. Unfortunately, these have to a great extent focused on the type of weapon used rather than the type of person who used the weapon or, perhaps more precisely, the deficiencies in the person who used the weapon.

In my opinion, the controversy and ill to be eradicated can be better addressed by attention to the well-regulation of persons who acquire what are deemed to be certain kinds of weapons that justify further regulation. This is further addressed at length in my ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN Memorandum, one of those postings published at this site on February 26. For prolonging exhausting and futile discussions about types of weapons, with certain exceptions of course, ignores and repudiates the reality of the right to keep, and justification for keeping, arms, the obligation to do so, and the necessary circumstances incident to the exercise of this right and obligation.

It is indisputable that there is a natural, and long-recognized common law, right to self-defense.  Nay, the writer tenders that there is not merely a right but further a duty of self-defense. The fact of birth of each living person is a given. If a person was born, then there is a reason for his or her life, be it, among possibly others, the choice of God, or the decision of his or her parents, or a role or purpose for him or her to perform, or an objective for him or her to realize or status to attain. In any event, the very fact of the person having life necessarily implies that it ought not be terminated but ought be allowed to endure, for fulfillment of whatever might have been its reason; for each person had no control over and was not the cause of his or her birth. If then he or she as it were was “impressed into duty”, he or she has no right to shirk this duty but rather a further duty to defend himself or herself from anyone who might endeavor to terminate their life and thereby prevent him or her from performing this duty or realizing their destiny.

The right to keep arms is but a corollary of that right and duty. While the circumstances under which one might have to defend oneself have not it seems been explicated, nevertheless the scope of this right of self-defense is intrinsically wide. For it must encompass at least each of the situations where a person is called upon to defend oneself against a:

  • savage animal,
  • solitary criminal aggressor,
  • band of criminal aggressors,
  • foreign or rogue domestic paramilitary force, or
  • foreign or rogue domestic military force.

All of these situations indicate that there can not be a severely-circumscribed scope of arms to which one is entitled. For an individual weapon that might be sufficient to protect oneself from a small savage animal would not be sufficient to protect oneself from a military force. Consequently, the conclusion must be that a person is entitled by right to keep arms that are sufficient to protect oneself against each of those exigencies.  [The writer of course recognizes that there are certain legal limitations to a broad rule — limitations though which are not incident to or inherent in the natural right of self-defense — as historical usage has, first, extended the entitlement to weapon types which an individual would commonly keep and personally bear, and, two, carved out weapon types that are specialized or might be usually stored in a facility such as an armory. Still, the burden should be upon the one arguing for a restriction that the type is one that should fall into the latter, rather than the former, category.]

 Buttressing this line of reasoning is the insufficiently-examined significance and description of what a militia consists. The coupling of the militia phrase in the Second Amendment is frequently used as an argument that the right in the succeeding phrase should be limited.  However, this ignores what was the understanding of the composition of the militia at the time of its adoption. In addition, even the present meaning of the term “unorganized militia” — assuming that the term’s existence is even recognized, much less the significance thereof appreciated — encompasses a broader range of persons than is frequently acknowledged.  (For the succeeding citations the reader is referred to the writer’s Statutory Definitions of U.S. Militia posting this past February 26.) As a perusal of 10 USC 311 indicates, all able-bodied citizens of the United States, between the ages of 17 and 44, inclusive, are automatic and mandatory members of the militia. It would seem that the States have authority to expand the composition thereof since, for example, Michigan has expanded, by 16 years, the age group of persons who compose its unorganized militia, they likewise being under compulsion to be members of the State militia. MCL 32.509.

And what duties and in which circumstances may the unorganized militia be called upon to perform? Among them are to:

  • “… suppress Insurrections and repel invasions” US Const, art I, § 8, cl 15.
  • serve in the defense force “… in case of riot, tumult, breach of the peace, resistance of process, or for service in aid of civil authority, whether state or federal, or in time of actual or imminent public danger, disaster, crisis, catastrophe or other public emergency within this state.” MCL 32.555.

At a minimum certain of these duties, and the circumstances in which they would be performed, clearly are paramilitary or military in character. And is not some of the material with which they must be equipped well known?

If these persons are then part of a contingent military force and thus would be bearing arms in this service, is it not then incumbent upon them to have available and be trained in the use of the weapons which they might be required to employ in a hostile action? And it would seen that such a possible scenario is not simply academic, since, for example, both the U.S. Constitution and the statutes of Michigan allow the President and the Governor, respectively, to call forth the unorganized militia in exigent circumstances. US Const, art I, § 8, cl 15; MCL 32.555. If a person then is a potential military conscript, is not familiarity and training in the use of the arms necessary for them to competently perform their function essential?

Now it is perceived that an argument might be presented that the arms need not be kept by these members of the unorganized militia, but could be stored in some type of armory facility. However, in addition to this being inconsistent with the terminology of the Second Amendment, viz, a right not only to bear but also to keep, there could be a gross impracticability in the administration thereof. For in the event of some type of untoward and unanticipated emergency, might not the members of the unorganized militia require immediate resort to those arms? In addition, having the arms constantly available allows these members to frequently practice and train and perfect themselves in the use of the weapon, something that would not be as conveniently, if at all, possible if they were not always readily available.

In sum, undue restrictions upon the types of weapons available to the populace would not only be inconsistent with but would conflict with and vitiate both the rights granted to them and the duties imposed upon them. For these reasons, any effort to restrict or prohibit certain types of weapons appropriate to these potential functions would negate and interdict this right and this duty.

The writer shortly will further address a related issue in a succeeding posting.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
03 July 2016

“Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill Commentary

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as further background to a later post to be published, the below though not being issues to be directly addressed therein.  This constitutes the body of an additional letter, this being disseminated during April, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

I provide this in my capacity as one of your constituents for consideration in your deliberation on the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill.

While I may have overlooked some material improprieties in Title II or Title III of the bill, it would appear to me that, other than the reference in Sections 203 and 205 to “ammunition”, that these provisions are within the jurisdiction of Congress, do not offend any rights secured to the States or the people, and appear to be reasonable policy.  I however exclude from this sanction the above reference to “ammunition” since it is not mentioned in the preceding sections and therefore is beyond the scope thereof.

I do though have significant problems with Title I of the bill. In fact my difficulties with it are so many — a conclusion that surprised me as I thought many of the opponents of broader background checks were being too extreme — that I am uncertain that I can set forth these objections in as complete or organized a fashion as I would prefer.  Initially I would note that the prohibition set forth in Section 122(a), especially when taken in conjunction with the definition of transfer set forth on pages 13 and 14 of the bill, is far too broad.  In addition to it being so intrusive, as affecting almost every conceivable action constituting a “transfer”, and therefore being in violation of Amendment X of the Constitution, its prohibition on transfer, except by means of the conduit through a federally-licensed person, is a deprivation of a property right that renders it in conflict with Amendment V of the Constitution.

The very narrow and minimal exceptions set forth on pages 11 through 13 of the bill prove the excessive inclusiveness of this prohibition.  Reviewing and reflecting upon them it is an easy matter to conceive of a whole panoply of normal and innocent activities involving a firearm that would be criminalized by such a prohibition.  For example, a person who visited another friend (in a rural area where there was no ordinance prohibition on firearm discharge) and who, while engaged in target practice on his friend’s property, handed his firearm to the friend standing next to him, so as to allow him to practice with it, would apparently be guilty of a felony.  Can it be imagined that it was anticipated that the federal government was permitted to regulate such an extensive range of otherwise permissible and innocent private activities?

The obnoxiousness of the proposed regime, it seems to me, is further proved by Section 123 of the bill. Now a person who has his firearm stolen and fails to at all realize he has to report the theft to the U.S. Attorney General, or is too busy for, say, a day-and-a-half to so report it to the federal government, is also guilt of a felony?  Is it really conceived the U.S. Congress has the constitutional authority to prescribe such conduct ordinarily within local purview only?

I could focus on other provisions and set forth the basis for why these are defects, but I trust the foregoing adequately indicates the core deficiency of Title I as currently drafted.

I understand that Senators Manchin and Toomey are engaged in endeavoring to fashion a compromise substitute for Title I.  I believe the effort is directed at regulating only arms-length transactions, such as gun show sales and online transactions and to not include temporary transfers or those between people who the owner knows or with whom he has the opportunity to familiarize himself. This seems consistent with the catalytic purpose of the bill, viz, preventing firearms from coming into the possession of prohibited persons; for under the latter circumstances the owner knows or would have the opportunity to know whether the recipient appears to be a prohibited person. And if the owner nevertheless delivers it to a prohibited person can be penalized under existing law or perhaps Title II (or a variation of Title II).

Thus I would urge support for such a substitute for Title I.  Failing an adequate substitute, then I would urge a Nay vote on the current version of Title I.

WAYNE A. SMITH

STATUTORY DEFINITIONS OF U.S. MILITIA

[This is being provided both as an independent memorandum and as an introduction to a later post to be published.]

UNITED STATES

10 USC 311 Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are-

(1)  the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2)  the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

(Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 14; Pub. L. 85?861, §1(7), Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1439 ; Pub. L. 103?160, div. A, title V, §524(a), Nov. 30, 1993, 107 Stat. 1656 .)

MICHIGAN

MCL 32.509 State military establishment; composition; organized and unorganized militia.

The organized militia of this state taken collectively shall be known as the state military establishment and constitutes the armed forces of this state. The organized militia consists of the army national guard, the air national guard, and the defense force when actually in existence as provided in this act. The unorganized militia consists of all other able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied citizens who are residents of this state who have or shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who shall be age 17 or over and not more than age 60, and shall be subject to state military duty as provided in this act.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967

MCL 32.555 Unorganized militia; power of the governor.

The governor may order into the defense force any members of the unorganized militia in case of riot, tumult, breach of the peace, resistance of process, or for service in aid of civil authority, whether state or federal, or in time of actual or imminent public danger, disaster, crisis, catastrophe or other public emergency within this state.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967 ;– Am. 2013, Act 99, Imd. Eff. July 2, 2013

 

ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN Memorandum

 

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as an introduction to a later post to be published.  This was drafted originally as an enclosure to a letter disseminated during February, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

This is provided as a brief commentary in connection with the consideration of the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013” Bill, introduced in the United States Senate, and any similar bills that might be or have been introduced in either house.

Certain enhancements of the current regime may be appropriate, but I would tender that a ban of either so-called “assault weapons” or so-called “high capacity magazines” — being terms of art and having no meaning independent of arbitrary statutory definition — would be patently unconstitutional.  In addressing the question one should first give attention of course to Amendment II of the Constitution of the United States of America, viz,

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. [Emphasis supplied]

By the use of the terms Militia and Arms, it is clear that certain weapons arguably of a military character are not prohibited to the people but rather protected from infringement.  Thus, the use of the term “weapons of war” as characterizing implements that can be restricted is plainly a canard.

Now, by the terms of the amendment, the right is not unrestricted, for there are also present, one, the terms keep and bear.  The latter term protects only those arms that could be borne by an individual and whose primary capacity and use is to incapacitate or disable a single individual with each discharge, and the former term further identifies arms as those that both can be and historically are of a type that would have been kept by the people in their individual capacities, viz, arms that by the nature of the function they were designed to perform would not have been stored, in preparation for use, in a community armory.

However, more signal as a criterion is, two, the adjective well regulated.  The right to bear military (or quasi-military) arms is within the context of their disciplined use.  The concept of discipline reminds me of the analogous context of the CPL structure in Michigan.  Any person can, unless within certain defined categories, purchase and maintain a handgun.  However, they are not permitted to carry it concealed without certain training by an authorized person or persons.  By this they are both enhanced in the practical use of the weapon and also subjected to the observance of the instructor, as well as the other participants, in the process.

Thus, might not a tiered system of training, relative to the type of weapon to be used or the context of its use, thereby resulting in a better regulated citizenry, pass constitutional muster?  It would seem it might if the various additional levels of training required were not so arbitrary and capricious as apparently designed simply to be obstacles to the right to bear. In addition to imposition of a greater sense of responsibility upon the person, the additional training required should provide significant opportunities for observation by the other trainees as well as the instructor of any possible psychological or personality aberrations exhibited by any of the participants; if unacceptable or abnormal attributes were observed, then the observer could report this behavior, a determination that the offending person failed in his training might perhaps be issued, and the right to bear such a weapon possibly obstructed.  This it would seem would offer the most efficacious and practicable solution to problems ineffectually attempted to be addressed by misguided “gun control” restrictions.

Would institution of such a regime be consistent with the powers of Congress?  In addressing this question it would now seem appropriate to give attention to the following provision of the Constitution of the United States of America:

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power

[Clause 16]

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; [Emphasis supplied]

The Congress then has the explicit power to prescribe the training discipline to which the citizen-soldier is subject.  This would include it would seem the reasonable level of knowledge, skill and mental acclimation to use an “assault weapon” equipped with a “high capacity magazine”, or other implements of war that can be kept and borne, as a condition to the purchase and keeping of it.  And depending upon the implement there could be gradually expanding levels of training for each, as appropriate.

To my mind, such a regime would provide the necessary amelioration to certain problems conceived to exist in the abuse of these types of weapons, while avoiding the constitutional defects incident to an effort to ban them.

While other proposals in the aforesaid Bill might be consistent with the Constitution, and also be amenable to a sufficiently broad range of the populace, and thus appropriate, I have focused here simply on the provisions endeavoring to ban “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines”.  For the above reasons I consider these provisions constitutionally defective, in addition to being misguided as the objectives thereof ought to be attained by alternative and more acceptable mechanics.

WAYNE A. SMITH

Voter “Suppression” Revisited

[This is in supplementation of my previous post regarding this issue.]

One primary motivating factor behind expanding the electorate — or the ease of exercising the franchise — is the apprehension that “Democracy” is somehow the highest form of government. This type of conception seems unfortunately too much akin to the usual superficial analysis by present society of most questions and subjects.

As we know, classical political theory, first discussed by Aristotle, conceived of three (3) types of government forms — government by the one, by the few and by the many — none of which were considered intrinsically superior to the other; rather they were respectively considered better than the others for a particular community depending upon the type and development thereof.

These classical types were denominated as: Monarchy (or Kingship); Aristocracy; and Democracy. It was conceived however that the proper functioning of these forms could deteriorate and become corrupt. The corrupt forms thereof, respectively were denominated as: Tyranny; Oligarchy; and Ochlocracy (or Mob Rule). Polybius later conceived of these forms as a cycle, with one leading to the other, viz, Kingship -> Tyranny -> Aristocracy -> Oligarchy -> Democracy -> Mob Rule -> Kingship, and ad infinitum.

We no longer of course talk in these terms. We talk in the terms of Bad Government, on one side, and Democracy, on the other. This is unfortunate, for two reasons.

First, a lack of precision yields superficial, and therefore inaccurate, analysis. Vague definitions result in vague thinking. Yet present practice is to subsume too much under the rubric of “Democracy”. It hence has little meaning and less utility as a tool to measure competing policies. If we then want to avoid muddled thinking, we must avoid this muddled definition of Democracy and instead revert to a narrower and delimited sense that is more in keeping with its original meaning. This will yield benefits not only in this specific context but, by training a more rigorous habit of mind and thinking, by replication of this type of analysis in related contexts.

But even more importantly, by failing to recognize the boundaries of legitimate democracy, we stray into a rampant wilderness that our forbears rejected. Studied observation over millennia resulted in a normative conclusion that Democracy is capable of degeneration into a mutated monstrosity. Vigilance in scrutiny, to enable discovery of any aberration from its accepted limits, was as important here as it was for detection of corruption in any of the other forms of government.

Such a perspective then would sanction any form that would partake of the characteristics of or otherwise resemble classical direct democracy. Critical elements of this of course would be presentation of arguments and evidence directly to the citizens of the community and personal approval or rejection by them of the proposed legislation or policy; similar systems are known by us in the original New England Town Meetings setting. Mechanics that would tend to stray beyond such norms would be suspected of likely tending toward or at least laying a foundation for what they characterized as Mob Rule.

Presently though we do not seem to be concerned about such propensities. We seem to think that expansion of what we deem Democracy by ever greater indirect participation tends toward a favorable outcome. [However, this, among other things, confuses the franchise  — and its exercise in elections  — with Democracy; it is not the sine qua non of Democracy much less the definition of it but just a device for the selection of magistrates for a variety of forms of government, since both Kings and Aristocrats occasionally were chosen by election (in one form or another)].

Further, if we are prepared to accede in the “wisdom of the ages”, then we have to be concerned about and seek to avoid departures that might tend toward what could be characterized as extreme democracy. For if we accept these premises of classical theory, then it would seem only those elements that have historical frequency predominance would be deemed appropriate components of Democracy — since they would have developed during the Early and Middle stages of each community and therefore not in the fringe stage most contiguous to Mob Rule; all communities that had the experience of Democracy would have passed through an Early and Middle Stage but not necessarily a Late Stage, and thus measurement of frequency would yield identification of elements more common to the former — and therefore before deterioration and corruption.

I would tender that devices which make it too easy for too many people to indiscriminately elect various partisans are subject to such a characterization. As such, then, they likely would be viewed by the ancients as indicia of entry into the Mob Rule phase and, hence, would be rejected. I then would suggest that we should very critically view:

  • early voting,
  • extended voting periods, and
  • expanded absentee voting,

presuming they are generally dangerous and destructive of the interest of the society. Such a conclusion would proceed from the recognition of these devices as novel, and therefore not inherent in core Democracy. (Again, we must remember that the weight of authority and wisdom rejected erection of any hierarchy of particular governmental forms, which would treat one as usually superior to another, but deemed each as possibly more appropriate for a particular time, conditions and circumstances. Thus, unless experience demonstrated that certain devices or modes were commonly practiced, they would be considered a corruption, being arbitrary and subjective.)

Unfortunately, our present age seems to be afflicted with unparalleled arrogance. Rather than accepting the societal application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics principle, it views change as “progress”, i.e. transformation that is good and positive, rather than of what it most often partakes, viz, deterioration into corruption. Thus study of the old is repudiated and “new ideas” are what are honored; somehow an absence of the “burden” of history is beneficial, enabling the constant pursuit and introduction of new forms.

This rejection of historical restrictions on election procedures in favor of adoption of untried and untrue procedures is but one example. But it is the example, in the writer’s repudiation of the demagogic “voter suppression” diatribe and characterization, that is castigated here.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
26 Oct 2014

Voter “Suppression”

Procedures to purportedly enlarge or restrict access to the ballot, as well as also enlarge or obstruct convenience in voting, are of course a matter of current controversy. Much can be said supporting, and significant educated thought does support, procedures that are restrictive; yet, on reflection, it would even appear that such mechanics ought to be viewed and accepted as reasonable by most observers almost without cavil.

Historically, of course, the franchise was limited to persons who were deemed to have a sufficient “stake in the society”. During Colonial times in the American colonies, and extending to the early years of the Republic, this consisted of a requirement of, and was measured by, the ownership of a certain minimum amount of land; unless one met this minimum property qualification, the franchise was not extended to them. The majority of the populace — at least voting populace — as well as Founding Fathers deemed this kind of a requirement to be a reasonable method to assure a virtuous government and citizenry.

Opinion has of course turned. Such a perspective seems “no longer in style”. Much of this is due of course to the abuse that occurred when the States of the former Confederacy instituted certain procedures in connection with and built certain roadblocks to the exercise of the franchise for ulterior and illegitimate reasons; therefore, caution has to be exercised in approving adoption of any such procedures and roadblocks as they likely might be tainted by malignancy. But this alone does not mean the objective of a virtuous government and citizenry is thereby also tainted.

For everyone should be able to agree that all to whom the franchise is extended should be capable of being educated as to the issues to be decided. Further, it seems likely to be without dispute by virtually all that a voter, to properly exercise the franchise, ought to be first informed about the competing considerations and qualifications upon the issues or candidates being submitted to a vote. Unless they are sufficiently informed, how can a vote be made intelligently and with a salutary result? But how would one measure whether a person who is casting a vote is qualified and the vote itself is well-considered? Many mechanics have been used, frequently with discriminatory and unjustifiable effects, if not intent. So these generally should be considered beyond the pale.

However, in what seems a swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme, there now are new artificial devices being suggested to be employed, and these for the purpose instead of expanding or promoting greater access. But do not these seem just as objectionable? It would seem the following ought to clarify, address and constitute a rejoinder to these concerns.

Ideally, both the capacity and the degree of investigation should be of a sufficiently-high level. The rub of course is the problem of quantifying both (or perhaps either) capacity and issue/qualification education.

Optimal capacity to assess and knowledge of the issues is of course but theoretical, as all have intellectual limitations and comprehensive knowledge is but a phantasm; therefore we can dispense with any serious attempt to utilize either measure. The objective to secure then is the best possible approximation of optimal capacity and knowledge while also avoiding the abuse that (even if not intrinsic) frequently becomes attached.

It would appear that this objective can be legitimately attained not by erecting it as a filter but rather allowing it to develop naturally, in the ordinary course of events, simply as a normal and unobjectionable byproduct. This proceeds from the normal relationship between the relevant factors.

It should be conceded that one of the axioms in society is the direct relationship between an interest in exercising the franchise and the willingness to educate oneself on the issues. Thus, if one is not motivated to or has a low interest in voting, it is equally likely they will have expended an equally low level of effort to educate themselves as to the competing factors on the issues. Cannot all agree that electors should vote wisely and on a rational basis? Thus, it would seem most should agree that procedures ought not to be adopted that circumvent and fail to take into account the degree of interest. Making it easier to vote then circumvents the effect of the level of interest in voting. Therefore, most should agree that procedures to make it easier to vote are imprudent as they enhance the proportion of uneducated voters likely to vote.

Now, from a different facet and interjecting an additional contrary rationale, efforts to abnormally elevate interest in or willingness to exercise a franchise should be deemed inconsistent with the purported objective and therefore objectionable. If a person has a lower than average interest or willingness, then, if a motivator or facilitator is able to overcome their resistance, it should be presumed the rationale employed reflects the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator; for if the elector was uninclined to exercise the franchise, the overcoming of the resistance had to be the result of some argument of the motivator/facilitator and any argument by such a person must necessarily be the product of and reflect those preferences. However the argument in favor of enlarging participation is that it will avoid the interests of an otherwise unrepresented segment from being so unrepresented and will enable the interests of more of society to be represented; but if the above analysis is sound, then the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator will be unduly represented by having his or her choice magnified. Would this not then be inconsistent with and rather a repudiation of “equal protection” of those with a contrary viewpoint and result in the dilution of their choice and selection?

The mantra in opposition to measures that might discourage exercise of a franchise constantly echoes that these constitute voter suppression. But haven’t we always had “voter suppression” since we have requirements of, among others, citizenship, age and residence duration. Do these not restrict and in a sense suppress? And aren’t these type of requirements beneficial since they are designed to be inclusive of those persons who are more familiar with the relevant factors bearing upon the respective choice, and thus better likely to make an educated and rational selection? For, as an example, allowing those persons who only have a new and temporary relationship to a community the right of the franchise are clearly more likely to result in superficial, uneducated choices, ones more imbued with and the product of irrational, emotional influences.

True, various persons not infrequently have malicious motives in the procedures and mechanics they propose. And rational dispute can exist as to which is most propitious of various targets. But one objective seems unassailable, and this, not so much as an educated electorate — the standards for and attainment of which might be problematic — but an educated vote. For attainment of this objective, any policy that has as its goal the elimination of reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the franchise ought to be subject to the most rigorous and critical review and critique.

 

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
6 Aug 2014

Gun Control

Do we need Gun Control? Looking at our world and the obscenities and tragedies rampant throughout it, it seems the answer has to be a resounding YES!

However, I would suggest a direction and focus that might be a bit different from what is likely the common answer. I would suggest that the direction and focus should be on controlling access to and use by our Political Leaders rather than, the usual suspects, the Private Citizen.

We have tragedies in Israel/Gaza, the Ukraine and all over the Middle East and Central Asia, to name just a few. After stepping back and taking a look, do we really want access and control in the hands of the likes of, for example, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Khaled Meshaal, or Barack Obama?

I would suggest that just about, say, any N.R.A. Member is more trustworthy than any of those people. So, Yes, let’s start a move toward Gun Control, by exerting more overview of and placing more limitations on the use of Military Force by all Political Leaders. (In the meantime, why not just move on from some of the concerns about our Private Citizens and allow them to continue to retain and exercise their rights in this arena.)

Sound reasonable?

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
18 July 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials? Revisited

Since posting of my earlier message, I had occasion to reflect further on the appropriateness of bonus awarding. This resulted in a reinforcement of the hypothesis that they generally are unjustified.

A person agrees to render services for a specified compensation. He then performs his obligation and a benefit, theoretically at least, is realized by the person with whom he contracted. If the benefit is greater than might have been anticipated, and if this might be due to the ingenuity and perspicacity of the service renderer, is not the result and is not the nature and extent of the services but the scope to which these parties earlier agreed? If so, why is the one due anything more than what he agreed to accept? (Though the dynamic and principle is different, one could look to Matthew 20:1-16 to see a parallel scenario.)

But, for argument, let us accept that a bonus might be able to be justified in an activity performed in the For Profit Arena. While it should be carefully structured because of the great possibility of abuse if loosely granted and administered it might be permissible under limited situations where a significantly greater-than-expected result is produced. But is this what is expected in the Governmental Arena?

Here, the dynamic and principle is to unilaterally provide benefit to the citizens, without a corresponding benefit to the government; a government exists only to do what the citizens cannot easily and efficiently do themselves, and thus it is to serve, not to itself benefit.

Further, because it is the agent of many, it has been delegated extraordinary power, that must be carefully controlled and exercised. Authorizing bonuses for its personnel, because a personal benefit would be received by them as a consequence of the performance of their duties, only encourages potential excessive and onerous exercise of this power, even though the dominant principle is to confine and restrict exercises of power, as being fatal to liberty.

Hence, for both these reasons also, allowance of bonuses to government officials is even more obviously wrong and impermissible.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 May 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials?

Only recently has it come to my attention that certain government agencies provide bonuses to certain of their employees. To say the least, I was astounded and shocked!

On what basis could a public agency justify providing bonuses? Now, the answer may be given that private enterprises not infrequently do provide such extra compensation. But those private enterprises (or most of them) are, by definition, profit-making ventures; their purpose, in addition to providing a valuable product or service, is to make money.

The only reason for the existence of a government agency is to perform functions that its citizens are unable to, or at least can only inadequately, perform for themselves. Thus, its purpose is but to minister in the interest of and upon behalf of its citizens. Consequently, private enterprises and government agencies have different characters and postures, and thus must need be organized on different principles.

Perhaps most saliently the private enterprise is paying bonuses from its own monies; and its shareholders have the capability to directly control awarding, or not awarding, such compensation. The government agency though would be paying these bonuses from someone else’s money, that is, from the pockets of its citizens. And who could possibly say the citizens have the de jure, much less de facto, power to countermand such awards?

Yet someone may say: But certain of our officials perform long, arduous service and thus are entitled to this extra compensation. If so, might not the answer be to appoint additional personnel and divide the work between them?  so that the volume of work is now more in proportion to the compensation? Not only would this seem to resolve the putative objection, but would have the further salutary benefit of allocation of authority between numerous officials and, thus, division of power.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
27 April 2014

Income Inequality / MINIMUM WAGE

Various discussion has recently been generated over the issue of “income inequality”. Ancillary to this has been controversy over the practical repercussions and moral posture of an increase in the Minimum Wage. It is possible that in the noise some perspectives have been ignored. (One which the writer believes can be ignored is the effect or lack thereof on income equality from such an increase, since to this individual it seems clear that any effect would be de minimis.)

In analyzing the questions we should first consider: Who is the Minimum Wage intended to benefit? It would seem a fair conclusion that it is those who are only marginally skilled, either by being new to the work force or by not having had the opportunity or inclination to develop any skills other than the rudimentary. Thus, it would seem that most persons would or ought to be relegated to this category only for a relatively-brief duration. (For those who do not have the capability to develop these skills, due to various physical, mental or psychological deficiencies, there should be provided some type of permanent financial support; since this, hopefully, will only be a small segment, its effect on diminishing overall resources should not be controversial.)

Now, would an increase in the Minimum Wage have the intended effect and the desired efficacy? It may well be doubtful since, by definition, it would only benefit those with marginal skills. The basic and introductory premise, it would seem, is that those with these marginal skills have the least job security since they would most easily be able to be eliminated and replaced, and would only be supplying a limited benefit to the employer. Can we now, from this perspective, further analyze these questions?

This limited benefit to their employer necessitates a conclusion that these employees are of marginal value to the employer. As the differential between the value and the cost to the employer is thus narrow, any magnification of the cost will be material. And if the cost is increased too much so that the cost exceeds the value, the employer may decide termination of these employees, and the investigation of alternatives, is required.

Even if the differential is only narrowed — with the value of the employee still exceeding the cost it is likely the same result will be yielded. For marginally-skilled employees, because of their minimal level of abilities and consequent similarity between equivalent employees, are relatively fungible. Now, even if the differential in value is somewhat diminished, the employer may still continue the relationship out of convenience, habit or tradition. But if the differential between value and cost narrows too much, an exchange for an employee who may be more compatible with the position and of more value may be more easily justified. Thus, the inherent dubious tenure of these employees will be threatened even more under such a regime, viz, where the Minimum Wage is significantly increased.

The above examination of course has proceeded from the position and perspective of the absolute and relative attributes of the employees. It should be at least equally pertinent to consider the position and perspective of the financial status and considerations of the employers.

To this writer it would seem the type of employer who might most often utilize the marginally skilled are also those who experience only marginal profitability. For more skilled employees are of course capable of performing more efficiently and at a higher level of quality. If a person is operating at sufficient profitability, it would normally then be expected they might seek the more qualified (as long as they are not overqualified) employees. If the employer utilizes instead the marginally skilled, it is likely due to it being unable to afford higher-value employees due to their own marginal profitability. Now, if the cost to them of these employees increases, they may be faced with the prospect of becoming unprofitable, resulting in either elimination of some of their current employees or termination of their operations. In either event, the already-questionable tenure of this class of employees becomes even more tenuous.

Thus, it is doubtful that an increase in Minimum Wage levels would in fact attain its objective. Nevertheless, I perceive there being a sound policy that would support and induce such a change. And this would be the pressure it might exert to eliminate or at least reduce so-called Economic Stimulus programs.

A switch of activities or programs to attain this objective from the governmental sector to the structures within society already would be salutary indeed. If this were to result in private, rather than public, organizations being the ones to help others up by their bootstraps, then such a change in policy certainly would be most beneficial.

Now, one could attempt to condition a Minimum Wage increase on an offsetting reduction in appropriations for Economic Stimulus programs. However, it may be sufficient simply to induce a change in the mentality of recourse to resources looking first to and relying upon the private sector by resort to employers rather than government agencies for magnification of disposable income. Thus, even if their is no immediate reduction in governmental expenditures, adoption of such a change in attitude ought to justify obstruction of or even reduction in later expenditures for, much less enhancement of, these programs since the objective thereof ought already to have been attained by the greater disposable income flowing from the private sector. I consequently would think such a Minimum Wage increase should be supported for the above reasons; the conclusion that the purported income inequality reduction argument is merely a phantasmal exercise without weight or logic should not be deemed a reason to refrain from pursuing a policy that has its own good and sufficient rationale.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 March 2014