March 31, 2005

Depressing Democrats and Social "Insurance"

Life must be really dark, cold, harsh, nasty, brutish and short to Democrats. After all, they believe old people are at quadrennial risk of being forced to eat dog food (funnily enough, this belief comes around every four years only a months before an election and a few weeks after a losing one), they think that the stock market is just waiting to crash, the economy will tank at any moment and plunge us all into another depression if not monitored by hyper-ethical, super-intelligent bureaucrats, and that without social security there are no other welfare options for low-income old people.

They must be really depressed to forget about all their other programs they've passed for the poor and the old. After all, with both Medicare (for the elderly) and Medicaid (for the poor) old people without Social Security still have two back-up supports for themselves – and that’s excluding the extensive system of private charity in the US. This horribly depressing worldview prevents them from seeing the possibility and the opportunity to stop fighting poverty and instead embrace wealth.

Democrats are so tied up trying to protect old people from the ravages of everything that they don't realize the opportunities to make leaps and strides away from poverty. Private account systems could make sure that old people of the future no longer fear poverty; instead, they could have big, fat retirement accounts literally making the average retiree a millionaire. If somehow people floundered under this system, Medicare, Medicaid and general welfare would all still be available. Why do Democrats think old people are so weak and the economy so fragile that we need multiple, redundant hand-out programs?

We don't need Social Security, even if you love welfare. We have a welfare program already and it can cover the poor. We already give old people Medicare and now they have a big, fat prescription drug entitlement to go along with it. If they're poor, they can draw on other welfare programs to supplement their incomes.

Rather than wasting billions on a redundant layer of welfare, we can turn coupon-cutting retirees into millionaires. It sounds like a pie-in-the-sky promise, but it's actually very reasonable. See Kudlow here for a conservative estimate of the benefits of private accounts. I’ll spoil it for you: the cautious estimate is that you could get $101k from Social Security or $939k from even the worst-performing stock market.

But even better - if you die at 30 or 90 or anywhere in between, you personal account is YOURS. It goes to your wife and kids, it goes to your parents or friends or cousins. It's your money and you get to control it.

What's amazing is how Democrats view the economy as an unwieldy, unpredictable force that could cause upheaval at any moment. Somehow, though, Social Security is supposed to weather massive unemployment and funds scarcity better than the premier engine of wealth creation in the world. If there's a major depression then we still have all sorts of welfare programs to help the poor. But any reasonable person knows that another great depression is just plain unlikely; given that knowledge, it's a lot better management of an a negligible risk to bring the average person into the stock market.

Shouldn't Democrats be pushing to get the average person involved in the stock market? After all, that would let the average person tap into a major wealth-creator and become an investor-capitalist in his own right.

Unfortunately, yet again, the Democrats want to bet against the economy, against human nature, and against private wealth. Why? Because to them, the world is a zero-sum game. There's no way the poor can get better unless the rich get worse, and there's no need to use the stock market when they can just tax the bejeezus out of rich people to achieve the redistributive effect desired.

If they had an ounce of optimism in the world maybe they could see the possibilities and opportunities that the stock market offers even the poorest investor - just imagine! You could have a plumber and a thoracic surgeon going to the same investor. It's like allowing every worker, from richest to poorest, their very own investment house to work with. This OUGHT to be the best thing ever for Democrats and advocates of the poor. Unfortunately, they can't see past outmoded 19th-century views of the economy.

We have two very different views here. We have the advocates of personal accounts - those who want a prosperous and free future where any worker can take advantage of premium investment advice to become successful and independently wealthy. Then we have the opponents of personal accounts - those who refuse to see anything better in the economy than a twisted view of the early 20th century where every worker only avoids grim, torturous death through their crusading efforts and are willing to screw over millions of workers to reinforce this social role for themselves.

Let me say it plain and simple: you can risk paying higher taxes for fewer benefits under the current system or you can embrace a sensible reform and see at least 9 or 10 times the return on your money. Fiscal leftists right now are laughing or cursing and spitting on their screens. Fiscal libertarians are pulling up real estate and automobile websites to decide how to spend their money.

But this will always be the division between the economic left and economic right. The left can’t stop thinking that the world could always get worse and the right won’t stop thinking that the world could always be better. Put me down for the sensible idealism of the economic right.
How Does The Supreme Court Work?
#5 Jurisdiction, Appeal and Article III

The fifth installment in my SCOTUS series is available on my website here along with the others. ( #1 - #2 - #3 - #4 - #5 )

No court can rightly proceed where it lacks jurisdiction. This fundamental burden is often taken for granted today, when the courts have broad jurisdictions and are rarely ignored or stripped of authority by the other branches of government. Congress does possess the constitutional power to limit the Supreme Court, however. Article III of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction “with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.” In other words, Congress controls, by simple majority, the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

If Congress disagreed with the Supreme Court on prayer, abortion or affirmative action it could simply remove its appellate jurisdiction. In this case, depending on how they worded it, the highest court probably becomes the state Supreme Courts. This would mean that Mississippi and Rhode Island could have drastically different interpretations of the Constitution but it would never go to the Supreme Court because of jurisdiction.

Obviously this is an unlikely move; Americans like our checks and balances and it seems awkwardly Parliamentarian for the Congress to start declaring whole subjects out of judicial contention. However, that they have this power in the Constitution is uncontestable.

During Reconstruction, the Supreme Court heard the case Ex parte McCardle. Argued and decided in 1868, Congress passed a law after argument but before the decision was rendered that removed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction on this matter of habeas corpus. As such, Chief Justice Chase and the unanimous court agreed that they had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. They conceded that the Congress had a constitutional power to limit their appellate jurisdiction. Without jurisdiction, they had no power to affect the case.

Congress’ power to change the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court isn’t unlimited. For “all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party,” original jurisdiction falls to the Supreme Court. This is not open to interpretation by Congress. Appellate jurisdiction is fair game though. Technically the Constitution never says that Congress can remove the appellate jurisdiction of the federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court. However, since Congress can create and destroy these courts by legislative, and since it holds jurisdictional control over their superior, it is highly likely that such a power is assumed in the Constitution. After all, Congress could simply eliminate a federal court and after that fiddling with jurisdiction isn’t such a big thing.

This is the strange part of constitutional checks and balances. The Constitution seems to have wanted the Congress to be stronger than the President (who seems at times almost like a figurehead with a few administrative and a couple political duties) and superior to the Supreme Court (which didn’t even explicitly have judicial review over Congress). Students of history will know why; the legacy of Parliamentary supremacy in England was our political heritage at the time. Although they correctly tried to separate the executive and legislative powers (at the time, a joint executive-legislative power was considered tyrannical) the founders did not give an appropriate balance between them and the judiciary.

When it comes to Congress and the judiciary, the founders seemed to want more checks and less balance. Americans do not subscribe to the idea of Parliamentary supremacy because we wholeheartedly ascribe to the idea of judicial independence and to separation of powers. Congress is not a Parliament, and it’s become even less like one than the founders envisioned because of our reluctance to see the legislative constantly run roughshod over the Supreme Court. As a result, even when a majority of Congress disapproves of a judicial decision, few members discuss the idea of removing judicial jurisdiction on the issue. But what if they did? How much recourse would the Supreme Court have to review such a law?

Some people have suggested that the Court could simply overturn this jurisdictional change if it violated the Constitutional rights of the citizenry. Why? There is no constitutional right to appeal to the Supreme Court, as strange as that sounds. There are a variety of processes and statutes the Supreme Court promulgates and follows that protect your ability to appeal to that body, but there’s no constitutional right to appeal to them. Certainly there’s no right to be heard in the Supreme Court, as countless rejected petitioners will agree.

So if your rights are being trampled but the Congress has removed the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction, what happens? What can you do? Well, more than likely somebody would petition the Supreme Court anyway and say that the Congressional act violates civil liberties and due process because it doesn’t allow for appeal to the Supreme Court. The problem is that just because you have the right doesn’t mean the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the decision. Perhaps unfortunately, nothing in the Constitution gives you the right to appeal to the Supreme Court when your rights are lost. All it says it that you have those liberties; it doesn’t say you have the right to redress.

A lot of people, most of the more paleo-conservative or paleo-libertarian variety and others who simply dislike the Supreme Court’s decisions, will think this is a great development. After all, it means the Supreme Court is fallible and that it can be struck down by a simple majority. Rather than taking a whole amendment to the Constitution, they could cut out unpopular or incorrect Supreme Court methodology with a simple vote in Congress.

I think it’s a rather dangerous design, because it means our rights have no more force than Congress – the people who brought you the IRS, the DEA, the ATF, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Espionage and Sedition Acts and the USAPATRIOT Act – chooses to give them. In other words, there is no enforcement mechanism to the Constitution. Of course, the Supreme Court is a pretty fair-weather enforcer of the Constitution anyway, but I’d rather have the Supreme Court and Congress blocking each other somewhat than free Congress from what oversight the Court gives it.

The Constitution does not have a great self-enforcement mechanism. Of course ultimately laws require people to enforce them, but the Constitution does not state who is to be in charge of enforcing our rights. It’s an important development, one done during the time most of the founders were still alive, that the Supreme Court holds the power to invalidate acts of Congress and government. This means there are some teeth to our rights, so long as the Court hears our complaints and rules on them appropriately (two dubious propositions in many cases). It’s hardly perfect, since the Supreme Court could be too busy to hear our plea or could disagree with the liberty in question or could be unwilling to push it against public opinion, but it’s a lot better than expecting Congress or the President to handle all the burden alone. No matter how weak in the face of public opinion or political influence the Court seems, the politicians are always more susceptible to it – and less educated on the nuances of the law.

Perhaps there ought to be a right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Not a right to be heard or a right to get your way, but a right to at least file the appeal. For this to mean anything, the jurisdictional power of Congress would have to be modified or even eliminated, but Congress barely uses it anyway. We shouldn’t expect the current divisive climate of controversial judges and judicial decisions to spawn any greater judicial rights, but it would make sense if checks and balances were the law and not just the tradition. After all, we’re not British.
Terri Schiavo is dead.

To the parents and siblings of Theresa Marie Schiavo: I am deeply sorry for your loss; you have my most heartfelt sympathies and condolences.
Life and Personhood

Your grandmother isn't a person. At least, that's what a lot of bioethicists are saying. If you know someone with Alzheimer's (presumably then, somebody at least 40 but more likely 70 or 80) then that someone isn't a person.

The main doctor for Michael Schiavo is a widely-known advocate of precisely that sort of thing. He believes that Alzheimer's patients are not persons and that the cost of keeping them alive is prohibitive. Of course, he once declared a police Sergeant in a permanent vegetative state and said he would never wake up or regain cognitive ability. Less than two years later the Sergeant woke up and did, in fact, regain most of his mental abilities.

The problem with a lot of bioethicists is that they exist to push the line against existing ethics, rather than chide us for breaking any ethical lines. If anything we do is unethical, it's not killing people with mental illnesses.

As a person who had a grandmother with Alzheimer's I admit I have a personal take on the issue, but if bioethicists want to wip out a million or two old people, how far do you think they are from justifying Eugenics-like programs to resume sterilizing the mentally and physically retarded? It did happen before in the West - and a number of US states started Eugenics programs. As Governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson (in the spirit of the times and in the spirit of the Progressives) appointed a Chief Eugenicist for the state. It was not restricted to Germany - a lot of the German early experiences with Eugenics were based off of US programs for sterilizing "mental defectives." Sweden continued sterilizing them until 1976 and had special schools and instiututions dedicated to the task of spiriting away the "defectives" (though ironically they had a somewhat defective screening process and sometimes confused the shy and near-sighted with the retarded).

I'm not saying it WILL happen any time soon, though I can't say they won't advocate it. Hopefully we've learned too much from the Holocaust to get so explicitly back on the Nazi path (I hope I didn't just jinx us by saying that). But I AM asking a question: Even if we never do sterilize retarded people, is it any different or any better to knock off old people without their permission?

Imagine the scenario...

Grandpa: Hey little Jimmy, let's go fishing!
Jimmy: Sure Grandpa!
Grandpa: Okay, let me just... hmmm, I can't find my keys! Consarnit!
Jimmy: Uh-oh Grandpa, I guess it's time to take you to the Bioethical Recycling Center for organ reassignment and end-of-life treatment.
Grandpa: What? No! I'm still a person! I can think and feel! Please love me, Jim!
Jimmy: It's JimMY, you non-person, you. Let's go, you unthinking bag of flesh.
Grandpa: Nooo!

Okay, that was in bad taste and probably inaccurate, but do we really think it's okay to just kill people for having weaker brains? If anything we're supposed to be protecting the weak, not throwing them to the bioethicist wolves.

March 30, 2005

CodeBlueBlog $100,000 Challenge

CodeBlueBlog, run by a radiologist, explains the difference between a neurologist and a radiologist when it comes to interpreting CT scans (for the record, Terri never had an MRI or a PET, even though MRI is around ten times more detailed than a CT).

    I've watched a steady stream of neurologists, bioethicists, and neurologist/bioethicists from Columbia, Cornell, and NYU interviewed all week on Fox and CNN and MSNBC. They all said about the same thing, that Terri's CT scan was "the worst they'd ever seen"or "as bad as they've ever seen."

    Here's the problem with these experts: THEY DON'T INTERPRET CT SCANS OF THE BRAIN. RADIOLOGISTS DO.

    *Oh*

    You see, a neurologist will look at the CT of the brain of one of his patients, but this is entirely different from interpreting CT's of the brain de novo, for a living, every day, without knowing the diagnosis and most times without a good history. In addition, whereas I heard Dr. Crandon say he's "seen" a thousand brain CT's... well I've interpreted over 10,000 brain CT's. There's a big difference.
Which of course your typical journalist doesn't know and assumes that a neurologist is the foremost expert on neurology. The problem is like calling in Dr. Ruth to interpret a grainy sex video - you need an expert on the medium, not the thing being studied. The CT scan is a highly specialized field and requires a lot of experience to master. Neurologists know about brains but it doesn't mean they know much about a specific way of viewing the brain.

With this in mind, CodeBlueBlog has a challenge:

    To prove my point I am offering $100,000 on a $25,000 wager for ANY neurologist (and $125,000 for any neurologist/bioethicist) involved in Terri Schiavo's case--including all the neurologists reviewed on television and in the newspapers who can accurately single out PVS patients from functioning patients with better than 60% accuracy on CT scans.

    I will provide 100 single cuts from 100 different patient's brain CT's. All the neurologist has to do is say which ones represent patients with PVS and which do not.

    If the neurologist can be right 6 out of 10 times he wins the $100,000.
If I had to make a bet, it would be that none of them will risk their reputations on this, because they know they can't do it.
Quick Review

Freeing murderers, rapists and child molesters from the evil scourge of the death penalty: morally righteous, progressive, good

Giving an incapacitated but mentally active woman, that isn't even accused of any crime at all, the mere chance to have her day in federal court: morally hypocritical, reactionary, evil
_______________________________________________

Due process and a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for people that drown their children, rape little girls and cut people into little pieces: absolutely integral to any civilized society

Limited due process and the low-ball "clear and convincing" standard for an innocent woman that happens to be bed-ridden: a token for the right-wing Christians
_______________________________________________

Republicans who say we need to save Terri and shouldn't rush to kill her: theocratic, war-mongering bigots

Jesse Jackson, Nat Hentoff and the near-half of voting House Democrats that say we need to save Terri and shouldn't rush to kill her: misguided but genuinely good people
_______________________________________________

Convicting Terri Schiavo to die based on heavily disputed, directly contradicted and suspiciously uncorroborated testimony from an estranged, adulterous husband: just determination of the rule of law

Convicting Mumia and Peltier through jury trials and repeated appeals, but allowing both to avoid the death penalty: racist effects of a white jury system
_______________________________________________

Saving murderers and rapists from the death penalty while killing incapacitated and helpless women and children: enlightened

Killing murderers and rapists while protecting and rehabilitating incapacitated and helpless women and children: barbaric

_______________________________________________

This has been a reality check brought to you by the same people who think you can make something cost LESS by putting it through both a union-heavy bureaucracy and a sluggish Congressional budget cycle.
Damning Indictment

David Welker at Ex Parte thinks that the GOP should change the rules so that an indictment can't force the leader step down - but that Delay probably isn't the best leader anyway.

It's probably a good change to replace 'indictment' with 'conviction.' Of course, the Republicans originally criticized the Democrats on the same point. The Republicans definitely played up the ethics violations of Democrats and were a major catalyst to many financing- and committee-related reform measures. So there's a little reluctance to do something like reverse the indictment rule some of them previously agitated for.

It would make sense, though, since prosecutors are widely credited with the ability to get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

But for Delay, I definitely agree. I have to admit that I never really liked the guy and I think he looks weird and unlikable. I don't pretend to know what's going on in Texas or whether Delay did any of it, but if he's genuinely concerned about the GOP and its policies then I hope he's preparing to step down - especially if he knows he's guilty. It would really help to not have to go through this stuff with the leader.

Of course, maybe the lack of activity on changing the rule is an attempt by some to let Delay die quietly and quickly. I don't know the machinations, but that's possible. When Trent Lott was kicked out for his Thurmond comments it was greatly pushed by Republicans who never really liked him anyway. That's what got Frist, a much more modern-style (Bush-like) Republican into office.

March 29, 2005

Just Absurd

You have to listen to this. Club For Growth has the link and directions. It's hilarious and maddening.
Unregulated Success

Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek is talking (very intelligently and optimistically) about how he has an implicit trust in FedEx to deliver his package on time and confidentially, even though the process involves a lot of people he doesn't know and will never see.

I'd like to hit on a related point: regulation. If we had known nothing but the US Postal Service and some Senator suggesting opening the market up to competition, we'd no doubt hear most Democrats and at least a few Republicans saying it's unreliable and unpredictable; "we need government involved for the oversight and the privacy." In other words, we can't trust the market to provide affordable, fast, reliable, confidential parcel service.

Since we don't live in that alternate US, we all know that FedEx and UPS are tremendously successful services that are affordable and quite fast. But what if we'd never had them and then we were asked about a market alternative? No doubt most people would be at least more skeptical then than they are now of a market package carrier. Yet we know that any such fears are completed unfounded.

The lesson is clear: we need to stop shaping our view of the economy and businesses based on what is. Experience is a wonderful thing that ought to be examined for all it can teach us. But we shouldn't tie ourselves to past experience and then pass it off as science or reason. Tradition is not reason.

There's no great reason why a private market function for railways, retirement or other aspects of life couldn't work. But since we've had Social Security for seven decades and Amtrak for more than three, people feel accustomed to them.

Fear of change and lack of vision are horrible reasons to maintain an inefficient, rigid status quo.
Democrats, Republicans and Class Interest

From Kudlow's blog:

    But color me happy that U.S. business is fighting back and standing up for its interests, which, by the way, I believe, is consistent with all our economic interests.
An interesting issue that's fallen into the background the last century of politics or so is the question of class interest. Do labor and capital have different interests? Do rich and poor have a fundamentally different - and irreconcilable - interest in government policy?

The basic answer from the left and the Democrats is yes. Don't believe me? Just ask John Edwards: "Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet." Of course, he immediately wimps out of the Marxist rhetoric and lapses back into what is essentially a liberal-capitalist belief: "We can build one America."

But this attempt to divide us into labor-capital, proletariat-bourgeoisie, or rich-poor is hardly new. Actually, it's old that it's been widely discredited for many decades. The fact is, labor and capital, rich and poor, they all have the same basic interests. They both have an interest in property, in liberty, in freedom, in mutually voluntary contracts, and in capitalism itself.

It's a fundamental question of economics. Democrats tend to believe that it's more or less impossible for the poor to improve while the rich are rich - they have irreoncilable interests, to Democrats. Therefore, the salvation of the poor comes at the loss and pain of the rich. The Republicans tend to believe - and I should stress, believed this in the 1850s and in the tumultuous Gilded Age and Progressive Era - that labor and capital have the same interests. That doesn't mean that they act the same or have the same assets, but it means they need the same economic system and that it ultimately works to the benefit of everyone.

That's the basic question of political economy: is capitalism basically in everyone's interest or is capitalism predicated on a portion of society exploiting the other?

The socialists giving the latter answer do so today only in softened tones or on the fringe of politics. Although Democrats regularly suggest that corporations are predatory or that the rich are parasitic, they do not often explicitly indict capitalism as an economic system. They criticizie capitalism and its process, but they don't call for an end to capitalism itself. They essentially want a managed capitalism to fix their complaints.

Republicans, and moreso libertarians, believe that the free market system increases efficiency to benefit all of us and that a rising tide lifts all boats. This belief that the market can best provide for the needs and desires of both rich and poor is increasingly accepted in a moderate form. Even the center-left in Europe accepts the basic utility of market economics, and have been shedding their burdensome regulatory schemes. Of course, they're still held back by feudalistic and socialistic policies - not the least of which is labor unions in Europe that act as a huge roadblock to dynamic labor and to economic progress.

Of course, it's still popular to bash businesses and rich people. Why is that so? 1) Because we're Americans, and we tend to be skeptical of perceived closed-group behavior. In history, Americans didn't like the Royal Charter Companies, the Masonic lodges, the Catholic Church, and of course government bureaucracies. There were reasons for all of these, but in every case the idea of a closed group, immune to change or reason, played a major role in the stereotype. This is a healthy skepticism, but it hardly explains the bashing and demagoguery that seems to follow leftist critiques of business.

2) People always like to blame someone who has more, but who doesn't have a special exemption. In feudal times, this meant the uber-rich nobles and clerics were exempt from criticism (because they were "divinely" selected) but the middle-class merchants and financiers were open game. The reason was simple: they weren't somehow special; they were just like the rest of us. If these average people could succeed, it showed how the unsuccessful people were losing. Rather than accept their own faults and resolve to try harder, they bashed the successful people. They accused them of being liars, cheats or thieves - anything but successful businessmen.

This translates today, as well. The left loves to bash the rich and the business world, but somehow the fabulous wealth of athletes, actors and musicians rarely draws more than a peep. What's funny is that the oil executive, auto manufacturer and the fast food magnate all provide us with products that we want and/or need and they do so (usually) at a profit to themselves. They add to the economy when they are efficient, and they increase our satisfaction and standard of living by giving us durable, affordable, useful goods. For this, they get criticized and mocked as the merchants and financiers did in the feudal times - called thieves and liars, crooks and cheats, and the scandals of a few are insinuated to represent all of the community. If only Martha Stewart had been a braindead actress instead of a competent, ambitious businesswoman, then some people wouldn't have perversely enjoyed her imprisonment.

Now, yes, I am exaggerating of course. I am also leaving out something important: practically everyone is a capitalist today, in ideology if not in economics. Moreover, unlike the feudal ages when merchants and financiers could be stripped of all assets (especially if Jewish) for no more reason than the King's desire to find a scapegoat or a red herring, today they actually do need charges to prosecute you and take away your assets. Overall, I'd say we've made wonderful leaps and bounds in economic progress and free market values.

But I use hyperbole to illustrate the core of the left's view on economics. Ultimately, they think that a rich person being rich makes someone else poor. This relates back to the idea of a zero-sum game (economics is a positive-sum game). But it also goes back to the pre-Industrialization peasant mentality that a successful middle class person reflects poorly on those less successful. Overall, it's really the divergent interests, though; they can't see how businesses doing well is a boon to employees, so they think the only just economic policy is one that tilts the scale against producers.

A complex, interesting and almost totally irrelevant part of political economy.
Anonymous Schiavo Memo

I don't feel like getting into this one (Rathergate meets Terri Schiavo) but John Hinderaker has a very nice piece in the Weekly Standard on the developments here. Maybe many bloggers don't have an opinion on Terri, but they will have an opinion on sloppy reporting and potential subterfuge. Here's how he summarizes it:

    To sum up, then: (1) The memo itself conveys no information about its source. (2) It is very poorly done, containing a number of typographical errors, failing to get the number of the Senate bill correct, and using points cribbed word-for-word from an advocacy group's website. (3) The politically controversial statements are out of place in a talking points memo, and seem, on the contrary, ideally framed to create talking points for the Democrats. (4) Somewhat bizarrely, after the contents of the memo had been reported, someone corrected those typographical errors--but only those errors that had been pointed out by ABC. (5) No one has reported seeing any Republican distributing the suspect memo; the only people confirmed to have passed out the memo were Democratic staffers.
Lawrence v. Texas as Revolutionary Caselaw?

The 2003 case on sodomy, Lawrence v. Texas, was a critical case for Constitutional jurisprudence. It's been mentioned before on this blog (I believe) but the media greatly misreported this case. Media outlets reported that it was based on privacy - this is because the legal community itself didn't realize the distinction between the right to privacy (from Griswold and Roe) and Kennedy's decision.

Justice Kennedy actually based the decision on "liberty." He didn't mention a fundamental liberty, like speech or assembly, but just a general right to liberty. This is quite innovative because in the decades since the New Deal the Court has not been sympathetic to the idea of general liberty. General liberty was used to strike down burdensome economic regulations, the type that FDR and others claimed were needed to get us out of the Depression (though at the time they just made unemployment and poverty worse).

In bending to the will of FDR (perhaps influenced by FDR's ominous threat to stack the Court with Justices that would vote his way) the Court threw the idea of general liberty out the window. They continued to protect the enumerated rights, but the idea of a general liberty from the 14th Amendment or the 9th Amendment was right out. The 1960s and 1970s saw abortion-related cases that first created and then expanded the idea of a right to privacy. This partially resurrected a narrow form of liberty, that generally affected marital, and subsequently also non-marital, decisions like birth control and abortion.

So everyone thought the sodomy law was overturned on the right to privacy. It was not. In Kennedy's majority opinion, he cited the nature of sodomy as private conduct, but the reason it was overturned was simple liberty. Of course, if the Court were to repeat this type of decision outside the area of sexual intimacy, it ould be both surprising and meaningful to constitutional jurisprudence. As of now, it may just be a fluke.

Randy Barnett noticed the distinction between privacy and liberty and has spoken of it since the decision came down. He uses a wonderful anaology to explain to a colleague why Justice Kennedy's decision is a departure from prior caselaw. The essay is a good read, fairly concise, and is only somewhat jargon-laden (though no more than necessary). Click on through to read it.
The New Libertarian, from QandO

QandO has a publication coming out called The New Libertarian. The first issue is free to all and I highly recommend it.

Obviously I guess I fall somewhere in this new group of "neo-libertarians" if only by virtue of this blog's name. Of the 5 determinants of neo-libertarian policy preferences, I agree with four. I have to disagree, or at least qualify, the final one on foreign policy. That one is about using US military force solely at the discretion of the US (something I have no problem with and think is probably mandated by the intent of the Constitution) and only in circumstances where American interests are directly affected.

I must object if this means something close to the Buchananite view. I'm sure the author agrees with the war in Iraq, unlike Buchanan, but it sounds to me like a rejection of the Somalia and Kosovo missions. I do not believe it makes sense to ignore massive crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing simply because the victims don't offer us anything. I also think it horribly undermines our image as saviors and guardians of freedom that we would try to cultivate under the other foriegn policy point (about the pre-eminence of democracy in foreign policy).

I'm not sure exactly what is outside our interests if our interests are expanded to include support for stopping genocide even in oil-free countries like Kosovo or Rwanda, but that's not my direct concern. I do think we ought to leave most of the humanitarian stuff to the charities and churches, except the most pressing instances, and that we don't NEED to intervene militarily to stop genocide unless others refuse to do so.

I think it really lends credibility to us as a guarantor of liberty if we were to step in and stop another Rwanda or another Holocaust before it got into high gear - there are still Europeans grateful to us for saving them in World War II. I also think that, with the changes in technology and economy, it's both affordable and possible for us to learn of genocide and then stop it in a short period of time. I won't make a big tiff about what others think, though. Discussions are good; constant condemnations and vilifications are not.

TNL seems like a very decent publication. It has a very professional appearance and intelligent articles.
How Does The Supreme Court Work?
#4 The Justices Smoke Some Crack

I'm resurrecting, at least once more, my amatuerish and juvenile "How Does The Supreme Court Work?" series. Unlike the last ones, which I tried to make more professional and intelligent, this one is more of an expose of sorts. I still provide you with facts, but unlike the rah-rah educational feel of the predecessors, this one is a little darker. (Previous episodes: #1 #2 #3)

Why is it that most of the people who think abortion is an absolute constitutional right of individuals to control their bodies and make their own health decisions would be absolutely aghast at any attempt to get rid of the FDA (allowing us each to choose, with our doctors, the right medication for us) or to substantially loosen arcane medical licensing laws (that force us to pay for doctors when often a basic nurse is more than sufficient)? Is it intentional? No, they just adopt the rhetoric of health and liberty because it makes them sound committed on abortion. On anything else they revert to statist mode.

Of course, if we really accepted (as I do) that individuals have a right to control their bodies (but not the bodies of tiny people growing inside them) then we'd see marijuana, cocaine and heroin legal, too. After all, why is it I can get paid $500 (or whatever) to kill a baby or would-be baby, but I can't get paid $50 to sell a little marijuana to a friend? Hypocrisy. If controlling your body means anything, it ought to mean consensual use and purchase of recreational drugs - or at least of potentially-helpful-but-unlicensed pharmaceuticals. Some teen in Worcester popping an X doesn't affect me at all.

By the way, this is a good time for a disclaimer to this entry and to this entire blog (after all, Tommy Chong got arrested for selling "tobacco water pipes" online). If you do anything, say anything or think anything and then try to blame it on this blog in any way, shape or form, then I'm not liable. Don't do things; things can be dangerous or illegal. Follow the law, meinen Kinder.

This hypocrisy, though, is why the people who exalt the courts to god-like status are usually doing so because they agree with the decision in question. Make no mistake; courts and judges are politicians. They aren't nearly as crass and idiotic as the elected boneheads, but judges can be quite boneheaded themselves. Of course, it's usually just that the lower-court boneheads are following the dictates of the Supreme boneheads, but that's another issue.

I love our court system, don't get me wrong. It's just sort of like Churchill on democracy - the worst system, except for all the others (or however he said it). It's a wonderful idea; it's just that for various reasons, many of them understandable, others completely hypocritical, the courts have a horrible record with internal consistency.

For example, one my favorite court decisions, Lochner v. New York (1905) found that it was an unconstitutional violation of economic freedom in the 14th Amendment for a state to impose most economic regulations on voluntary business transactions. The case was over a bakery where an employee broke the law by working over 60 hours a week. The Court found that since the employee and employer agreed voluntarily, it was within their liberty to do so. The thing is, they allowed for various regulations in professions like mining, on the argument that miners (not minors) were essentially dumber or less educated, and therefore needed the protection. In other words, they were so dumb they didn't have full use of their liberty. I love the overall decision, but what stinking, idiotic hypocrisy is that?

The caselaw on affirmative action, especially the recent business with the University of Michigan, is pretty silly in its own right. Besides the section of the US Code explicitly forbidding racial discrimination for those getting federal money, the 14th Amendment bans racial discrimination by states (which would include the public UM). How, then, is affirmative action legal? Simple: because it's popular. That's right; it's nothing more than the popularity of the program. It's undisputedly illegal, and anyone who thinks this is ambiguous is kidding himself:
    No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. - Title 42, Chapter 21, § 2000d of US Code
Of course, more mind-boggling than its legality is the way O'Connor's decision came out; specifically, she suggested that affirmative action has a shelf-life of another 25 years or so. Just where is that in the Constitution? Either it's okay to have positive discrimination on the grounds of race or it isn't. The law and Constitution are clear that it's not okay, yet we get this garbled, balancing act that SOME affirmative action is okay, but only for another couple decades. Total hogwash. Any lawyer who starts insinuating the infallibility of court decisions (which the careless ones do easily and the smart ones do rarely) deserves to be laughed in his face until he shuts up. It's a ludicrous assertion.

Yes, the law is supreme - but don't pretend like the supremacy of the law necessitates the infallibility of jurists.

Of course, what I really love is hearing a lawyer (a profession I respect more than most people do) talk about the importance of precedence. Blah blah blah he'll start, then follow up with a yadda yadda yadda, and throw in the phrase stare decisis by the end. And he'll be right, as long as he's only being predictive; the Court tends to stick with what it said before. But that's not what they really do as a matter of law, not all the time. They modify and overrule things all the time. Why? No more reason than they disagree with what came before.

The big lie behind judicial precedence and stare decisis is that the Court can and does ignore it for no other reason than the Justices disagree with the earlier decision in question. Stare decisis is no more (probably even less) as powerful as the status quo is an influence on politicians.

After all, Lochner v. New York was turned over by West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (in 1934, in a fit of cowardice). Hepburn v. Griswold (1870) saw the Court striking down a Civil War law on paper money, but two judicial appointments saw the Court reversing its decision the very next year. Plessy v. Ferguson found that the 14th Amendment's demand of equal protection was satisfied as long as the separate facilities were equal, but then the Court reversed itself (fortunately) in the fifties with the Brown v. Board of Ed cases.

Less substantially and much irrationally, the Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) decision took the strict scrutiny from Roe v. Wade (1973) and turned the right to abortion into an "undue burden" standard. Why? Because it allowed politically popular regulation of abortion (waiting periods, for example) without really threatening abortion in general. Undue burden was randomly thrown in, not based on the law or the COnstitution but on the need to allow limited regulations on abortion - a political solution by the judicial branch. Abortion is either a right (a constitutional liberty for all to behold and none to abuse), a privilege, or a crime. "Undue burden" straddles the line between right and privilege, calling it a right but treating it somewhat like a privilege.

Of course, it also has a strange connection to viability - somehow the state has a more compelling interest in obstructing this right/privilege after viability, yet the fetus is not considered a person (otherwise abortion would be admitted murder). That makes no sense outside of a political view. Either abortion takes no life or it takes a life - if it takes no life then the right of the woman trumps any interest of the non-person fetus (though of course in reality a fetus IS a person). Taking a "potential" life would probably make birth control illegal, if interpreted consistently. The Constitution doesn't grant any rights to "potential" persons, only to real persons.

I think that it's fundamentally a good thing that abortion was mildly restricted in both these minute ways, and I'm glad it at least theoretically opens the door for post-viability restriction of abortion. I'm not thrilled, though, by people who think that our constitutional liberties ought to be treated this way. Abortion isn't a real right, so I'm not angry when it's limited (since it ought to be banned anyway) but what if the First or Second Amendment were subjected to such illogical balancing schemes? ... Oh yeah - the Second Amendment IS subject to illogical decisions, with little balance at all.

The Second Amendment caselaw is just silly. The way they fail to incorporate the Second Amendment and apply it to the states makes no sense to me, but the way US v. Miller (1939) banned shotguns because they had no military purpose was flat out wrong. After all, sawed-off shotguns were of wonderful use in World War I and saw use in World War II and in Vietnam (great for bunkers). Who on Earth thinks that a Supreme Court Justice is qualified to make military considerations like this, though? Especially ones that are so obviously incorrect, yet so easy to determine. It's just ludicrous. And yet courts continue to refer to cases on this issue and others to support their bizarre interpretations of law and the Constitution.

I'm no fan of stare decisis personally; I prefer the principle of lex mala, lex nulla (a bad law is a null law). I find that the previous interpretations on many court cases tend to be wrong, and more to the point internally inconsistent. But it is funny that the Court and its fair-weather friends clamor for stare decisis when it suits them and then flock to progressivism and "changing values" when they want to change the law. Bah. The US courts are just as politically influenced and biased as the rest of us.

The Court system is important, vital, historic, and one of the things that makes America great. Just don't take away from the sum of those qualities that it's also somehow perfect and unerring.
Democrats, Republicans and Class Interest

From Kudlow's blog:

    But color me happy that U.S. business is fighting back and standing up for its interests, which, by the way, I believe, is consistent with all our economic interests.
An interesting issue that's fallen into the background the last century of politics or so is the question of class interest. Do labor and capital have different interests? Do rich and poor have a fundamentally different - and irreconcilable - interest in government policy?

The basic answer from the left and the Democrats is yes. Don't believe me? Just ask John Edwards: "Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet." Of course, he immediately wimps out of the Marxist rhetoric and lapses back into what is essentially a liberal-capitalist belief: "We can build one America."

But this attempt to divide us into labor-capital, proletariat-bourgeoisie, or rich-poor is hardly new. Actually, it's old that it's been widely discredited for many decades. The fact is, labor and capital, rich and poor, they all have the same basic interests. They both have an interest in property, in liberty, in freedom, in mutually voluntary contracts, and in capitalism itself.

It's a fundamental question of economics. Democrats tend to believe that it's more or less impossible for the poor to improve while the rich are rich - they have irreoncilable interests, to Democrats. Therefore, the salvation of the poor comes at the loss and pain of the rich. The Republicans tend to believe - and I should stress, believed this in the 1850s and in the tumultuous Gilded Age and Progressive Era - that labor and capital have the same interests. That doesn't mean that they act the same or have the same assets, but it means they need the same economic system and that it ultimately works to the benefit of everyone.

That's the basic question of political economy: is capitalism basically in everyone's interest or is capitalism predicated on a portion of society exploiting the other?

The socialists giving the latter answer do so today only in softened tones or on the fringe of politics. Although Democrats regularly suggest that corporations are predatory or that the rich are parasitic, they do not often explicitly indict capitalism as an economic system. They criticizie capitalism and its process, but they don't call for an end to capitalism itself. They essentially want a managed capitalism to fix their complaints.

Republicans, and moreso libertarians, believe that the free market system increases efficiency to benefit all of us and that a rising tide lifts all boats. This belief that the market can best provide for the needs and desires of both rich and poor is increasingly accepted in a moderate form. Even the center-left in Europe accepts the basic utility of market economics, and have been shedding their burdensome regulatory schemes. Of course, they're still held back by feudalistic and socialistic policies - not the least of which is labor unions in Europe that act as a huge roadblock to dynamic labor and to economic progress.

Of course, it's still popular to bash businesses and rich people. Why is that so? 1) Because we're Americans, and we tend to be skeptical of perceived closed-group behavior. In history, Americans didn't like the Royal Charter Companies, the Masonic lodges, the Catholic Church, and of course government bureaucracies. There were reasons for all of these, but in every case the idea of a closed group, immune to change or reason, played a major role in the stereotype. This is a healthy skepticism, but it hardly explains the bashing and demagoguery that seems to follow leftist critiques of business.

2) People always like to blame someone who has more, but who doesn't have a special exemption. In feudal times, this meant the uber-rich nobles and clerics were exempt from criticism (because they were "divinely" selected) but the middle-class merchants and financiers were open game. The reason was simple: they weren't somehow special; they were just like the rest of us. If these average people could succeed, it showed how the unsuccessful people were losing. Rather than accept their own faults and resolve to try harder, they bashed the successful people. They accused them of being liars, cheats or thieves - anything but successful businessmen.

This translates today, as well. The left loves to bash the rich and the business world, but somehow the fabulous wealth of athletes, actors and musicians rarely draws more than a peep. What's funny is that the oil executive, auto manufacturer and the fast food magnate all provide us with products that we want and/or need and they do so (usually) at a profit to themselves. They add to the economy when they are efficient, and they increase our satisfaction and standard of living by giving us durable, affordable, useful goods. For this, they get criticized and mocked as the merchants and financiers did in the feudal times - called thieves and liars, crooks and cheats, and the scandals of a few are insinuated to represent all of the community. If only Martha Stewart had been a braindead actress instead of a competent, ambitious businesswoman, then some people wouldn't have perversely enjoyed her imprisonment.

Now, yes, I am exaggerating of course. I am also leaving out something important: practically everyone is a capitalist today, in ideology if not in economics. Moreover, unlike the feudal ages when merchants and financiers could be stripped of all assets (especially if Jewish) for no more reason than the King's desire to find a scapegoat or a red herring, today they actually do need charges to prosecute you and take away your assets. Overall, I'd say we've made wonderful leaps and bounds in economic progress and free market values.

But I use hyperbole to illustrate the core of the left's view on economics. Ultimately, they think that a rich person being rich makes someone else poor. This relates back to the idea of a zero-sum game (economics is a positive-sum game). But it also goes back to the pre-Industrialization peasant mentality that a successful middle class person reflects poorly on those less successful. Overall, it's really the divergent interests, though; they can't see how businesses doing well is a boon to employees, so they think the only just economic policy is one that tilts the scale against producers.

A complex, interesting and almost totally irrelevant part of political economy.

March 28, 2005

Schiavo, Abortion, and the Death Penalty

A lot of people are drawing comparisons and insinuations of hypocrisy for those who support Terri Schiavo and oppose abortion: namely, they have to oppose using the death penalty against potentially innocent people.

Personally, I'm never very interested in getting into a death penalty argument. I'm of the opinion that taking the life of a murder, rapist or child molester is in fact a human right, borne of all human beings - even other criminals. Whether you're the victim, related to the victim, or have never met the victim, it's justified (morally, at least) to kill one of these despicable criminals. Of course, this is not an accepted legal remedy, and it removes the ability of oversight and protections in case the individual is innocent - and naturally it's often difficult to know just who's guilty. So there are practical obstacles, but in the abstracted moral sense, it's a natural right to execute the worst offenders against rights.

    That, he who has suffered the damage has a right to demand in his own name, and he alone can remit: the damnified person has this power of appropriating to himself the goods or service of the offender, by right of self-preservation, as every man has a power to punish the crime, to prevent its being committed again, by the right he has of preserving all mankind, and doing all reasonable things he can in order to that end: and thus it is, that every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury, which no reparation can compensate, by the example of the punishment that attends it from every body, and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tyger, one of those wild savage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: and upon this is grounded that great law of nature, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. (emphases his) - Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, s.11
That's basically my opinion. But I don't find much motivation to argue the death penalty outside the abstract realm, because it's full of people who have opinions ten times stronger than they have information. It mostly devolves into an indictment of the justice system itself.

But what I find silly is this idea that if only we stopped the death penalty, then we'd stop potentially killing innocent people. Umm. Was I the only one paying attention in history class? Current events?

When the allies bombed Japan, many thousands of innocent people died. When the British bombed Dresden, many thousands of innocent died. When soldiers accidentally run over people or bomb people, innocents can die. When police accidentally shoot people that appear to be armed, innocents can die. When someones drives a car almost anywhere, innocents can die both inside and outside the car.

If anything, the death penalty - with all its oversights and protections, and despite its flaws - is probably one of the safest places for innocent people to find themselves. Certainly I'd rather have a half-dozen courts reviewing my case and the protections of prosecutorial discretion, legal representation, and the 5th and 6th Amendment on my side than accidentally trip off the sidewalk and get run over by a dump truck. What's my protection there, anti-lock brakes?

Unless we're going to eliminate the army, police departments and other dangerous occupations and devices - like say, nearly every car in America - we're going to run the risk of people dying. The standard is not whether innocent people might be killed, but whether we're respecting the rights of innocent people to life and liberty.

So stow your moral righteousness until you're a pacifistic bicyclist. Of course, then you'll probably be bombed, shot or run over and we won't have to hear it.

UPDATE: Orson Scott Card has a much more thoughtful and better-written piece on Schiavo and the death penalty at RealClearPolitics here. Excerpt:

    Yet because life is so precious, decent people are loath to use the death penalty, because it’s possible for the prosecutors to be wrong. Better to keep a thousand perpetrators of evil alive than to suffer one to be executed innocently.

    But those who have harmed no one, whose only offense is to remain alive while being helpless, we can kill them.
Federalism Hypocrites (tip to Kudlow)

Many anti-Terri people have been trying to say that it's none of our business and the family ought to decide the issue. The fact that the issue is already in the Court system, meaning the government already intervened and that the family is incapable of deciding the issue alone, doesn't seem to occur to them.

But what's interesting is that many (though certainly not all) of the anti-Terri people were in favor of Reno's illegal grabbing of Elian. Janet Reno defied an 11th Circuit court order placing Elian with the Miami family and defied the INS determination that Elian stay with that family pending a decision, and simply grabbed him.

Three big differences:
1) Unlike the intervention for Terri, Reno's grabbing of Elian worsened his condition by sending him to Cuba, which is both much poorer than the US and almost totally unfree
2) With the Congressional intervention for Terri the legislature simply extended her right of habeas corpus in the federal court system; Reno directly disobeyed a court ordered and circumvented the court system and the rule of law
3) The Congress is SUPPOSED to make laws, so it was constitutionally justified, but Reno's only supposed to enforce the laws as written (by Congress) and interpreted (by the courts), so Reno's move was unconstitutional and violated the balance of powers

Again, a lot of people apathetic or hostile to Terri's plight had little or no sympathy for the kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez, but it's a special kind of hypocrisy for those who wanted to thwart both Elian and Terri - not least since they now seem to relish in trying to find examples of Republican hypocrisy on this issue.

Apparently some Democrats are willing to cheer the Justice Department conducting a nighttime raid to kindnap a boy in utter defiance of courts and law if it sends him back to a Communist prison, but unwilling to let Congress exercise its constitutional duty to grant an incapacitated woman access to federal courts to have just one of the many judicial appeal rights we afford to convicted murderers.
Daily Kos Wants a Tax Cut?

Yes, but only because the tax in question disproportionately affects Kerry-voting states. Of course, it would still be the richest people (income-wise) in those states, but maybe the Democrats are finally acknowledging that rich Democrats are a major force on the left and that they're not all proletarian, working-class leaders. More than likely this isn't the case, even though Democratic billionaires like Soros, Lewis and others are probably the only thing that kept the 2004 election as close as it was for Kerry.

It's more a case of "our side versus your side" and trying to cut taxes on the states that went for them. But if it gets Democrats to agree to cut the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax, which is an attempt to force rich people to pay a minimum, thereby limiting deductions) then I suppose it's a good development.

This is such fair-weather friendliness to both tax-cutting and the middle class that it's laughable. One wonders what might have been the opinion if the AMT adversely affected Bush-voting states instead.

Of course, the discussion/comments section gets some things wrong, but mostly it's funny to watch them squabble over what constitutes the middle class. Democrats are trying to be gung ho about "defending the middle class" but I think that's just rhetoric for national politicians. Your average Democrat doesn't have a whole lot of sympathy for people paying taxes - they just think more program spending is the solution.

If a Democrat ever did anything for the middle class, it's probably because he was being unlike his fellow Democrats - voting for tax cuts, voting against the estate tax, against the capital gains tax, against small business taxes, voting for trade and NAFTA, etc.

March 27, 2005

Cities and Roads

I've added a new issue article, covering the controversy over transportation, city planning, "sprawl" and discount stores. I suppose my take is fairly obvious as a libertarian, but I like to write my opinion in one place so I don't make the same argument eighty billion times. I started this one forever ago and just finished it today.
On Libertarians

There are a lot of misconceptions, intentional and unintentional, going around about libertarians. Quite a while ago I wrote a comprehensive issue article for my site on libertarianism and how it's defensible and reasonable - at least moreso than many people give it credit for. I tried to clear up misconceptions both on policy and on the people themselves.

I'd be surprised if many people came to a site called "neo-libertarian" while vociferously hating libertarians, but I'd like to put it out there and see if maybe it could make libertarians seem at least slightly more reasonable. I don't expect people to buy into all the arguments, but I do hope that it makes libertarians look marginally less crazy.
Conservative-Libertarian Fusion

The blogosphere in general has been mulling over the connections and divisions between Republicans, conservatives and libertarians. Getting libertarians to stay comfortably in the GOP requires sifting through some key issues.

I'm not going to bother talking about moving hardcore Libertarians into a coalition with the GOP, because they wouldn't want to do it. The question is finding a place for the issues that wedge the GOP coalition internally in a substantive way, specifically between libertarians and conservatives.

The timeliest one is also a non-issue because it won't happen, but the federal marriage amendment is a pretty emotional issue. The easiest political solution for gay marriage is to kick it to the states, removing it as a national issue dividing libertarians and conservatives.

Libertarians, alternately, ought to refocus our drug-related rhetoric onto more achievable goals. Namely, we ought to focus on medicinal marijuana instead of blanket legalization, and we ought to emphasize making it a state or county issue, like alcohol or cigarettes. This makes it less divisive and keeps it at a much more achievable pace. It's also better for our cause in the end, since people will realize that drugs are pretty unremarkable and common parts of human life.

The real stumbling stone could be abortion. There's a pretty strong case for banning partial-birth abortion, even among devout Libertarians, but getting into the general abortion issue is more controversial. I'm biased here, but frankly I'm not at all interested in making the GOP less pro-life, even though that runs counter to the compromise theme. I don't think we need to start expelling those who think differently, but I'm not interesting in making the GOP coalition less pro-life on abortion, less Wilsonian in foreign policy, or less market-oriented on economics. I'm all for making the GOP use libertarian methods and legislation to achieve pro-life ends, but I don't think libertarian has to mean support for abortion.

Personally, I think opposition to abortion ought to be a central tenet of the GOP, just as opposition to slavery was a central tenet in the 19th century. The other central tenet of the 1850s GOP? Free labor, which essentially means working hard and being rich - a close cousin of the way we say "laissez-faire" today, only free labor is even more involved and ideological. So I think economic freedom dovetails very well with a moral crusade, because that's how it was with slavery.

Straightforward cheerleading for the pro-life view is bound to cause problems among the factions and we ought to discuss it. If this issue is big enough to rip up a coalition then it ought to be discussed.

The real problem, as I see it, is that abortion is framed as a cultural issue. A lot of people support abortion out of an intent to seem more cosmopolitan and educated. They like to clump pro-lifers together as rednecks and misogynists. I've known more than my share of sleazy womanizers who can bring more shame to the pro-choice side than every dull-red pickup in America could bring to the pro-life side. Argument by association is pathetic and immature.

Approach the issue objectively. The question has nothing to do with being redneck or cosmopolitan, nor with being a nice versus mean person (and certainly is NOT an inherently religious view). It's an answer to a single question: when does a person begin? Whenever a person begins, the taking of a life after that point is murder. So this needn't be so deathly emotional, as long as we're dealing with people who genuinely disagree on the answer (as opposed to people who smear, deceive, stereotype or aren't even interested in the basic question).

I need to harp on this point, because I fear good minds want to leave it behind. It should NOT be kicked to the background. This is a critical issue. If healthy infants up to six months old were being euthanized in the name of the Constitution I think most people would quickly line up against the barbaric practice. It's my duty, therefore, to point out a critical, widespread issue of deprived liberty in America today. Don't leave abortion out of the GOP agenda, because it screams out to be rectified.

I'm sure most pro-choice people remain unconvinced. Fair enough. Please read my issue article on abortion here. It's long but I think I've answered most of the pro-choice opinions I've heard. For those uninterested in an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view, I have one comment: technology has been saving fetuses at earlier points in their development, and eventually it's very possible we'll be able to have incubators that allow fetuses (maybe even embryos) to develop outside the mother. There have already been babies that survive at 20 and 21 weeks, and one child that survived at 19 weeks. How can the right to abortion make sense if babies that would be living persons if outside the mother are killed and trashed if they stay inside the mother? That makes no sense.

Maybe eventually we'll have fetuses sitting in incubators at 10 weeks or embryos in at 5 weeks. I'm not sure how it would work, but then I'm not a scientist. At one point heart transplants seemed absurd, but science did that eventually. I honestly believe that, given the pace of progress, one day it will be possible to incubate an embryo or fetus outside the mother. Would they then potentially be killed, even outside the mother?

If science could make it possible for women to end a pregnancy while keeping the baby alive, would we still allow abortionists to kill the baby? If in twenty or fifty years a 15-week fetus could somehow be saved and incubated outside the mother, how can we justify calling them non-persons today?

That really highlights this issue, at least in my eyes. The pro-choice side is not defending the right of the mother to protect her body; it defends the right of the mother to own the baby and let it live or die at her whim. That's chattel slavery. If the pro-choice argument were truly about the women's body then it wouldn't abort fetuses, it would eject them (to let them then live or die outside her body) and certainly all post-20 or 21 week abortions, as well as partial-birth abortion (always performed on at least potentially-viable fetuses), would be fully illegal.

This is an important issue of basic natural rights for libertarians to consider. I have a much fuller examination of the issue in the issue article, and I delve further into the idea of personhood and why it starts at conception. Please consider reading it, for the sake of rigorous intellectual honesty.

March 26, 2005

The Right and Immigration

What is the obsession of some people with immigration? It's weird, because people who otherwise seem at least somewhat clear-headed and focused on reasonable goals, achievable objectives and long-term solvency are incapable of seeing the irrelevance, futility and counter-productivity of focusing on Hispanic immigration. It goes beyond reasonable objections and extends into basic fear - fear of the uncontrolled and the dissimilar.

Your basic Hispanic immigrant isn't a terrorist. Is anyone making the argument that Hispanics represent a heightened terrorist threat than, say, Germans or Spanish? The truth is, though, this has nothing to do with terrorism. The campaign to keep out Mexicans predates 9/11 by leaps and bounds. It's just that the uncertainty and anger over 9/11 are being manipulated to turn anger at Islamists into hatred or rejection of millions of other foreigners. It's not working, however.

This isn't about security; it's about culture, religion, race, language and change in general. If you are concerned about the impact of immigration policy on security, then there's on obvious reform: legalize almost all of it, so that practically every Mexican crossing the border illegally will go through the checkpoints - to be processed, licensed and screened. Although it would take a lot of administrative funding to process them all, this policy would let us know who has a criminal record and let us screen people for being on various watchlists. The result would be that the remaining border agents could patrol for criminals and terrorists trying to cross illegally - and there would be a much improved ratio of agents to crossers.

Instead of the sane approach of regulation over prohibition, you've got various groups, such as Project Minuteman, that are essentially immigration vigilantes. This is nothing new, but it's the idea of a private citizen reporting an illegal alien to the INS for pick-up and deportation. President Bush called them vigilantes, but I think I'd demote them to something more like "tattle-tales." Sure, maybe it's legal, but we have to ask a few questions - is it helpful and productive for the rest of us (as they will no doubt claim, martyrs' crosses hoisted on their backs).

I believe they do it for cultural reasons. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and believe they're not racists. But is this really helping our security? Not really. If they want to stop street crime then they could join and organize a neighborhood watch. If they want to make sure English is the primary language of America then they could volunteer to teach English as a second language at community centers and junior colleges. If they are just trying to point out law-breakers, as they often claim, why don't they sit on lawn chairs at a busy stoplight and write down all the license plates of speeders?

Maybe some of them genuinely think they're doing something about terrorism. Any honest assessment of the question will show this is not a expeditious way to stop terrorism, or to help your community. More likely, they're keeping America safe from would-be janitors, maids and day workers - simply for speaking a different Indo-European language and believing in Jesus in a slightly different way. It just strikes me as incredibly petty and misguided.

Want to stop terrorists from crossing the borders? Get rid of thousands of Mexicans that are acting as cover. A few terrorists could hide in a border full of illegal crossers, because the agents are busy. A few terrorists have a lot more trouble hiding when all the peaceful immigrants are going through the checkpoints, and the agents have a lot fewer people taking their attention.

Want to help the country or your community? Don't waste time following the border or staring at immigrants' houses through binoculars. Volunteer for a hospital or a civic center or a neighborhood watch. There are plenty of ways to provide real help to others. This is, I would suggest, not one of them.

America, meanwhile, is better served letting peaceful immigrants work instead of hiding in the shadows and letting border agents focus on terrorists instead of migrant workers.
Euthanasia Consent Law

I'm kicking around a way to write a law controlling euthanasia. It would have to allow for people to consent to being taken off life support (like a living will) but disallow euthanasia in the absence of consent. The centerpiece, the only part that matters, is safeguarding the right to life on the the individual - including the right to end that life. The status quo is sloppy and unwritten.

Moreover, I want to make sure the standard is not "clear and convincing" or "preponderance of evidence" but rather "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Here's what I have so far. It would go under the linked section of the US Code - Civil Rights - and would be numbered § 249. I think the name of the section would be "Deprivation of the right to life by euthanasia," or maybe just "Euthanasia." I want to emphasize that assisted suicide and consensual euthanasia would remain perfectly legal.

    a) No person may be deprived of life by euthanasia without consenting to such a procedure. The consent of the person to be euthanized must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Consent is shown through i) express notarized consent to such a procedure by the person to be euthanized; or ii) express oral consent by the person to be euthanized attested to by at least two competent witnesses, who shall have attained the age of 18 and who shall not substantially gain from the death.

    b) Criminal euthanasia is the intentional killing of a human being, who has a seemingly incurable health condition or terminal illness, through suspension of medical treatment, or deprivation of oxygen or of food or of water, or injection of some life-threatening agent, without the proven consent of that human being.

    Whoever is guilty of criminal euthanasia shall be imprisoned not less than one year and not more than five years.

    c) Facilitation of criminal euthanasia is any direct, knowing assistance given to aid in the commission of criminal euthanasia, whether material assistance or a false statement given to falsify consent to euthanasia on the part of the victim.

    Whoever is guilty of facilitation of criminal euthanasia shall be imprisoned not less than one year and not more than five years.

    d) Euthanasia is defined as the intentional killing of a human being, who has a seemingly incurable health condition or terminal illness, through suspension of medical treatment, or deprivation of oxygen or of food or of water, or injection of some life-threatening agent.

March 24, 2005

Trade Deficits

Based on the recent exchange at Cafe Hayek on the trade deficit (see string on trade here) I'd like to throw in my own take.

1) The trade deficit is simply recognizing a basic fact - the poorer parts of the world are getting richer. Since most of the money has been concentrated in the developed countries, that's where most money is located. Simple, right? Wealthy countries have wealth. What happens when poorer countries start getting more money, though? Naturally some of the wealth of the richer countries tends to level out. This is a natural process. If anything, it's a positive-good, not simply a value-neutral process or a necessary-evil sacrifice.

We should be happy that other countries are getting more wealth because it means they can have more luxuries, choices, medical treatment, and in general better access to the limited resources of the world. It's just a part of globalization.

As people in Chile, Costa Rica, Taiwan, India, and elsewhere have more money and industrial capacity they start producing more things that Americans and Westerners want to buy. So developed-country money goes to somewhat-developed and recently-developed countries - thereby encouraging further development.

2) Economics is a positive-sum game, not a zero-sum game. If you were to buy a product or service from a guy in India, as Don Boudreaux did in his example, it means that you got at least even value for your money; you got at least as much product as you were willing to give for it. If it cost more than you were willing to buy then you wouldn't have bought it. So simply put, the widget (an economic term for a non-specific product) you bought from India was worth at least as much as you were willing to pay. More likely, Don Boudreaux would've paid more than he did pay, since he could've shopped around on prices and bought one of the lower ones.

Let's say he saved $10 buying the Indian's widget instead of a widget from a woman in Thailand, which he would've bought had the Indian widget not been available. In that case, he added $10 of value to the overall US economy, because the widget was worth more than he spent. Don Boudreaux won in this exchange because he saved money and fulfilled his need. Even if he saved no money, he at least fulfilled his need, which is a positive outcome.

But the Indian also won. He agreed to sell the widget for the price Don Boudreaux paid. If the overall deal was unacceptable he would've done it. Even if he spent more acquiring the widget than what Don paid, the Indian at least minimized his loss. Let's assume a more common scenario, that the Indian made at least a minor profit on the sale compared to the cost of the widget; we'll say he made it for $10 less than the price Don paid for it. If this is so, then the Indian definitely won. In either case, he improved his lot - whether he turned a profit or minimized a loss.

We'll stick with the idea that Don saved $10 buying the cheaper widget and that the Indian made $10 over what he paid to make it. Both men won, because economics is a positive-sum game.

The only ‘loser’ is the Thai woman. She’ll either have to lower her price or wait for someone willing to purchase at her price. This is the same pressure that keeps retailers from selling at high prices; even though she’s only one person, her position might as well be an outlet store or a corporation. If she doesn’t find a more buyer-friendly price, then she might have trouble selling. The lack of a sale discourages her from selling unpopular models of the widget, or from using overly-expensive or inefficient methods of producing widgets. This is the self-regulatory nature of the market, which is of course imperfect as are nearly all things human, but certainly works well to find a price acceptable to BOTH parties in a transaction, not just the producer/seller.

How can a trade deficit be bad as long as it's based on substantively voluntary associations? Did the US economy lose here? Don introduced an additional $10 worth of value, even though he sent actual dollars away. The US economy - the collection of resources held and controlled by Americans - improved $10-worth because of his decision. At the same time, the Indian economy improved $10, despite the loss of the widget, because of the Indian's sale to Don. Everybody in it won.

If this is the trade deficit then what's the problem?

3) Now it gets a lot more complex if you introduce debt, which I believe was Warren Buffett's complaint on the trade deficit. The critique usually is, "what if foreigners call in the debt in a short period of time?" or something to that effect. Well, what if? The debt is a pretty complex mechanism, and a lot of US debt is underwritten by foreigners (why not? we're a good investment).

As long as the various debts called in are paid off, then the US economy probably benefited from delaying payment? It only makes some real negative difference if the economic actors that made the debt promises don't follow through. Most likely the debts would be paid off. As long as the US debtors were able to break even or benefit from taking the debt compared to if they had bought their products outright at the start, then the US economy wins the transaction. Assuming the creditors charged enough interest to justify taking debt notes instead of full payments from the outset, they win as well. So what's the issue? Again, everybody won – given these caveats. Yes, maybe we’d win even more if we had even longer to pay off the debts, but considering we still benefited, that’s ancillary in my view.

I think this is mostly emotional and territorial. Foreigners aren't going to simply call in all the debt at once because they will make their money back anyway. US money going abroad is a good thing for foreigners and a sign that Americans got at least even-value for their dollars. So it's a good thing, as good as any other voluntary economic transaction.

4) Americans and Westerners have a lot of money. Many foreigners don't. This means that foreigners often don't have the money to buy our large TVs, cars, iPods, DVDs and the like. We, however, have the money to buy the things they produce - whether they're cheap or expensive. We have the money to buy most anything they make; developing-country locals don't have the money to buy many of the things we make. Is it any surprise, then, that most of our transactions with the developing world involve us buying and them selling?

Americans are a great market - we're rich and affluent, and we like good stuff made cheaply. We buy a lot. So American companies and foreign companies tailor a lot of their industrial capacity toward selling something Americans and Westerners will buy. People in poorer countries, however, are much worse as a market. They don't have the money (and the laws) or the stores that encourage consumption like America does. They're not as good at consuming, so American companies and foreigner companies don't spend equal time tailoring their goods to sell to developing countries.

The trade deficit is a sign that we're a much better consumer market than other countries. Everyone sells to us, because we're great consumers. There's a lot more money selling cars and electronics to Nebraska than selling cheap shirts and baby formula to Nigeria. The trade deficit just reflects an obvious fact: the US is the best consumer-nation.

At the same time, the trade deficit reflects US money moving to the developing world. Eventually these other countries will be better consumers than they once were. This is already true of the four Asian Tigers; the per capita GDP of Singapore and Taiwan are now both in the $23,000 range - greater than Spain, New Zealand, Greece, Israel, Portugal or the Czech Republic. They are now in a condition where the low-wage factory jobs tend to go to China and Thailand, where it's cheaper, while Taiwan and Singapore become essentially developed countries that are consumer-countries in their own right.

So let's just remember these four things:

1a) Economics is a positive-sum game; all participants in a transaction can improve their position at once.

1b) The importance is not just actual dollars, but the relative value of both money and goods/services put in the economy.

2a) The trade deficit reflects the natural order of the US as the top consumer-nation, which is good.

2b) The trade deficit reflects the natural process of wealth spreading to the rising developed world, which is good.

The next time somebody starts fear-mongering about the trade deficit, just remind them that every dollars sent abroad was replaced by at least one dollar of goods and services coming into the US economy.

(I’ve added most of this blog entry to my website as an issue article, except for the part on the debt, and it can be found here.)

March 22, 2005

Terri Schiavo: Murder Victim

Victim of the US justice system and her estranged, adulterous husband, Terri Schiavo will starve to death in the next three to ten days. Make no mistake, this is illegal - it is murder. Just because judges conspire to allow or make it happen does not change the fact that it is fundamentally illegal - under both Florida statute and the US Constitution.

Let's be clear on some misconceptions:

1) This is not "an issue for the family to settle." That's cowardly. The family is fighting in court, and whenever the justice system is involved every US citizen is automatically entitled - legally and socially - to hold and express an opinion. The question is HOW the justice system ought to handle the dispute. If you don't care if they kill Terri, then say so. Don't cop out by saying it's not your business. US law is every American's business.

2) Terri has NOT had the best medical care possible. She has not been rehabilitated, and attempts to do so have been foiled by Judge Greer and attorney George Felos.

3) Terri NEVER had an MRI. Terri NEVER had a PET scan. Michael Schiavo refused to consent to getting them. What has she had? A CT scan. For those who aren't familiar, a CT scan is a very rough replacement of MRI - useful in ERs or when damage is so major that detail isn't required. The problem is that a CT scan, as neurologists will tell you, is only about a tenth the detail of an MRI - and even legitimately PVS patients can have normal-looking or nearly normal-looking MRIs. So when George Felos says Terri's cerebral cortex has been liquified, he's giving you his opinion as a layman, not any evidence medical science has provided. How could he possibly have evidence when he and Michael Schiavo have refused to investigate Terri's condition? Read more here.

4) A persistent vegetative state means you cannot interact purposefully with your environment - that stimuli elicit no response. This video from the Schindler website obviously shows Terri interacting with her environment. A few tests could no doubt confirm that Terri is not PVS - after all, seventeen doctors and nurses have said she is not in a PVS. She's reacting to a cotton swab placed in her mouth and on her lips by blinking, pursing her lips and moving her head. If she were PVS, she wouldn't be able to respond to these things and any motions she made would be random or unrelated. According a British Medical Journal study done by the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability there was a 43-percent rate of error in diagnosing PVS - mostly because PVS and PVS-like patients are erratic and it can take months to diagnose them properly. Of course, Terri has not even had an MRI or PET, so diagnosing her as PVS is horribly immature - and as it happens, almost certainly false.

5) Double conflict of interest - in any matter of law over $500 at dispute, there needs to be a written contract confirming the affair. Michael Schiavo stood to inherit a great deal of money - way over $500 - if Terri Schiavo died. In fact, it's well beyond the point where, if Terri were murdered, Michael Schiavo would be suspect number one. Yet he's allowed to kill her in the open and inherit the money anyway - even without a written statement from Terri confirming her wishes. The other conflict of interest is that he's not truly her spouse any longer. He has a whole other family - a fiance of eight years and their two children. There's no clean mechanism for recognizing this bias but surely he cannot exercise his spousal duties in objective good faith with both $1.7 million to inherit and a whole other family to care for. Either one of those conflicts of interest would make him a huge suspect if Terri were shot and killed.

6) The presumption of liberty is the premier sign of a free and rational society. We recognize this critical right in courts with the gold-standard of presumption of innocence; no matter what you stand accused of doing, you are innocent until they prove otherwise. Your liberty is yours until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an act to deprive yourself of it. In criminal law, this means a crime. But in order to deprive yourself of the liberty to life, apparently all you need is somebody willing to cheat on you and exploit your illness for his personal profit. It ought to be the same as criminal court; unless they can prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt that you wanted to be let off respirators or feeding tubes, they shouldn't be able to do it. Simple, eh? More importantly, Terri didn't commit a crime, so her right (to life) cannot be infringed without her say-so. We don't know what she wanted, therefore we must default to liberty - and to life.

There are so many reasons to let her live, and no compelling reason to rush to kill her. We can always kill her later if we're wrong to keep her alive; we can never ressurect her if we're wrong to kill her. Let's err on the side of life and liberty.

UPDATE: I have added this blog entry, mostly unchanged, to my website as an issue article. It can be found here.

March 20, 2005

Annan's UN Reforms

Secretary General Annan has a list of reforms for a major overhaul of the UN. Most of them are actually pretty good ideas --
- comprehensive anti-terror convention by September 2006
- anti-nuclear proliferation rules
- agreement on rules for preemptive action and use of force
- creation of peace-building body to help countries recover from war
- set-asides of 0.7% of GDP from developed countries
- better oversight for contracts and sanctions
- one-time staff buyout to promote younger employees rise up
- new human rights council, directly elected by GA

Canceled proposals (too unpopular) --
- specific definition of terrorism
- requirements to sit on human rights panel

Unfortunately, these last two are pretty key to international relations today.

I think the fundamental problems of the UN relate to its structure, purpose and culture - basically the most important parts of every organization.

The UN's structure is bureaucratic and tangled - there's a lot of red tape to follow for every organization. How's it supposed to function when it's all caught up in the usual bureaucratic hassles?

The UN's purpose is unclear because it's so horribly broad. It does not exist to stop criminal aggression or protect borders or defend the defenseless; it exists to do whatever the member states feel like doing, which mostly involves funding abortion and making fun of Israel.

The UN's culture promotoes political radicalism - a bizarre obsession with funding abortions for homeless, starving refugees; a penchant for rather virulent anti-Americanism; a desire to be taken seriously as the premier world quasi-government yet a near-total unwillingness to do any of the policing work that comes with world government; a thriving and persistent desire to blame Israel for nothing yet blame tyrants and murderers for nothing until they're almost deposed - and being so radical makes it hard to work in the real world.

The UN does not work. I think these are pretty good reform ideas, but ultimately the purpose is still awfully underdefined, the structure is still going to be cumbersome and the culture is going to lend itself to radicalism, socialism and anti-Semitism instread of something useful like charity or security.

I have a rough proposal for a new system. I've blogged on this new international body before (here) but I'm making it an issue article in my website now. I would strongly prefer that it not be composed of UN staffers, culture or pre-conceived notions. I do not propose it as a new UN, but rather as a new way to fulfill Kant's idea - a body of constitutional republics.

All members would be liberal democracies. The organization (working title: International Defense Coalition) would be dedicated to one goal, instead of the horribly under-defined, overbroad purpose of the UN. It would exist for collective security of the members and putting a stop to mass murder and crimes against humanity. That's it. The collective security (a system wherein all members pledge to come to the mutual aid of any individual member, if attacked) is almost an afterthought. It must exist, because the member-states would be fighting for the freedom of others; how can they fight together if they don't pledge to fight FOR each other? Clearly, they could not.

Ultimately it exists to put strength behind the words "Never Again." It exists because there's absolutely no reason why a rich, prosperous world full of military prowess and technological capabilities should allow another Holocaust, another Tutsi genocide, another Armenian genocide, another mass murder of any people. We have the ability and the know-how to stop these things - we lack only the will and the instrument to organize it. The US could already do it on our own, if we were willing to spend the money (and maybe lives) to do so. But it's better to make it an orgnization of democracies dedicated to sharing the burden and speaking together against tyranny and mass murder.

I must stress again that all members MUST be liberal democracies. I'm trying to figure out some way to enforce that besides the members voting to suspend non-democracies but that's my only thought so far.

They would contribute special forces (I have a list of examples of liberal-democratic countries' special forces) and the organization would have an independent force. The troops would be paid by the organization and would train year-round. Since they're only special forces (Green Berets or Delta Force, for example) they would have higher technology requirements but lower headcount requirements.

I haven't worked out the mechanism for funding. I'm considering an annual bill of some sort, augmented by contributions from philanthropists and regular people. I'll figure it out eventually, but ultimately I want to preserve a strong power of the member-states through the funding mechanism. Maybe contributing troops and hardware could be grounds for reduced payment from the donor country. Intelligence offers, as well, could be grounds for paying less at the end of the year.

Intelligence services would be at the good will (and mercy) of the member states. This way they know that the organization won't be spying on them. The incentive to give is simple: if your troops are going into a country, you damned well want them to have the best intel available. You will give good intel even if none of your countrymen are in the operation so that later on other countries will do the same for you.

I've roughly budgeted the time from the first alert that genocide is happening to the enagegement. My schedule is three weeks. Twenty-one days after the organization issues an alert that, in its opinion, genocide is occuring the troops will be in-country to destroy elite units, disrupt communications and arrest or assassinate the leaders.

Why so short? Simple. In Rwanda, they had elite units (the Interahamwe) trained as militia with machetes. They wrote down lists of all the local Tutsis. When given the order, the Interahamwe was trained to kill 1,000 Tutsis in 20 minutes. In the Rwandan genocide 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days. At a constant rate (it was not constant in real life; it was front-loaded) that would mean 21 days could see nearly 170,000 human beings extinguished. Of course, add on top of that the necessary preliminary parts - investigation, review and voting to make sure it's not overdone - and even the most energetic and gung-ho organization would probably take at least few days at the front end.

Therefore, in trying to stop a Rwanda situation, as many as 200,000 people (assuming constant rate) could die before intervention - even with the heightened deployment schedule of 21 days. If anything, three weeks is too long to wait. I made it so long to allow for the local force to demilitarize and surrender. I am considering toning it down, though - maybe to as little as a week. I want to maintain the possibility of voluntary demilitarization, so that every observer knows they had a chance to stop but refused.

There'd also be annual reports of every country on three areas: life, dissent and democracy. Economic freedoms like property and reasonable tax and interest rates would be subsumed into democracy (but would otherwise mostly be an issue for some othe group).

Here's the visualized part of it:
Duties Chart
Intervention Process

I'll be condensing it into a web page form so that it's easier to reference and find (like my ANWR and Terri Schiavo issue articles, for example).

I'm really interested in comments here, if anybody has an idea. I'm more than willing to accept the usual naysaying, if you are so compelled.