Jordan Peterson and Curtailed Speech

Jordan Peterson is fucking based.

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The video I’ve linked above is really the launching point for this blog post. There’s a lot of good stuff in it. I find Dr. Peterson to be incredibly articulate in his points and he seems to use a lot of what you and I might call “common sense”. I recommend you watch the video; it’s not long, only about 13 minutes. I think he makes an important distinction at the end and for those of you unwilling to watch I’ll put the quote here

There’s a difference. I’m talking about compelled speech. There’s a difference between saying that there’s something you can’t say and saying that there are things that you have to say. – Jordan Peterson

He is responding to a question he was asked about the difference between being forced to use pronouns (which he views as an attack on freedom of speech) and not being allowed to use slurs. He was asked could a professor not defend being able to use racial slurs towards students on the same basis of freedom of speech. He doesn’t answer the question because he thinks you’re comparing apples and oranges, per the quote I’ve posted above.

First, a brief background on Jordan Peterson. He is a maplelicker Canadian professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. He has risen in popularity recently, but he has actually been ‘active’ for quite some time. He has posted a series of (frankly, quite fascinating) lectures on YouTube and has been doing so for years. His popularity increase is due to a controversy regarding mandated pronoun use. He did a few videos on the topic but I think the video that made him known to most of us Fredomkin Americans is this video in which a series of students corner him after a rally. Or at the very least, that’s when I became aware of him because it blew up on Facebook or something. I’m actually surprised I managed to find the video again, took a while. Anyway his objection is to legislating that one must refer to another by their ‘preferred pronouns’ under penalty of law.

First, I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century. – Jordan Peterson

Kind of like what’s going on in New York (if this has been repealed, I am not aware of it).

For example, refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment.  Comments, unwanted touching, gestures, jokes, or pictures that target an individual based on gender constitute gender-based harassment. – (Source)

Jordan Peterson has opposed this kind of legislation on the grounds of freedom of speech. (Insert Newspeak joke here). He also (as a clinical psychologist) doesn’t believe that it’s a tenable solution. Which invokes the ire of every left-wing activist and their grandmother, it would seem.

Again, he’s Canadian, and I know very little about Canadian politics. I will be discussing this topic in the realm of American politics which I am far more familiar with. Now, I do think that question he was posed was actually a very good one and I would defend the professor’s right use the word ‘nigger’ and I would also defend the university’s right to fire him. But you and I both know that censorship is more of a government thing, so what if a government official used the word ‘nigger’ to refer to colleagues… oh that… that actually happened… Should they be fired? I don’t think so. But they are more than resign of their own accord.

When it comes to this debate of free speech in the United States, two cases seem to be cited. The first is R.A.V. vs. The City of St. Paul which protected a person’s right to burn a cross (a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan) in front of a black family as a message. He was prosecuted on the grounds of law stating that it’s illegal to post hate symbols (like a burning cross or swastika) on public or private property. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, so you may display as many “symbols of hate” that you like. The second is Wisconsin vs. Mitchell which ruled that the extra-penalty Mitchell received due to a discriminatory basis could be upheld. They did this on the grounds that laws against “fighting words” (I think we often say “incitement to violence” instead) are not unconstitutional.

While there are no doubt a ton of cases like regarding free speech and the first amendment, I do not have the legal background to analyze all of them (or even these, I suppose) so take my interpretations with a grain of salt. Regarding the two cases I’ve cited above, I’ve only read the opinion tab. That is my basis for the following argument.

I believe the video of Jordan Peterson being cornered at a rally exposes the key problem with the left on this issue.

Inability to Converse

The tendency to not listen. In the video, Dr. Peterson points out that a speaker is just spouting rhetoric. This is an issue I find with people in general but particularly on the left in regards to abortion, health care (insurance, really), wage inequality between men and women, wealth inequality (good or bad?), and this pronoun issue. What they do is they state their conclusion and if you disagree with the conclusion, they very rarely try to convince you of why their conclusion is correct or why yours is wrong. On the abortion issue, they say “It a woman’s body, it’s their right” and if you dare to mention the unborn child they (may) just continue to repeat their prior point. “My body, my right”. So they don’t always seem terribly interested in a dialogue. They start with a conclusion and refuse to concede their conclusion or even compromise on it.

AND DO NOTE THAT I’M NOT SAYING THAT THE LEFT IS THE ONLY ONE DOING THIS. I’M JUST SAYING THAT IN MY EXPERIENCE, THE LEFT TENDS TO AVOID DIALOGUE ON THESE ISSUES. IT OCCURS ON ALL SIDES. FOR THIS PARTICULAR TOPIC, I FIND THE ISSUE ON THE LEFT.

Respectful Speech

At one point in the video, Dr. Peterson is asked if, out of respect for another individual, would he use their pronouns. He gives a few answers on the issue. First he says no, because he doesn’t want it legislated, then he says no because he doesn’t see it as a solution, and then he says “maybe, depends on how you ask”. So let’s unpack them statement by statement.

The first is answer is that he wouldn’t do it if it were legislated. This is because he views it as a violation of free speech and he also sees it as dangerous Marxism (again, Newspeak).

The second answer is that he wouldn’t do it because he doesn’t see it as a solution. I believe that he is considering the issue as a kind of mental illness similar to schizophrenia. Schizophrenics are known for seeing hallucinations. When you are treating a schizophrenic and they tell you that they see snakes on the floor, do you avoid stepping on the snakes? My guess, no. You don’t feed into the hallucinations because it’s not healthy. It doesn’t solve the problem. So (and I’m presupposing here) in Dr. Peterson’s mind, using the pronouns is like trying to avoid stepping on the snakes. It is an acceptance of delusion, which is ultimately unhealthy.

The third answer is the only answer where “respect” might be directly included in the answer. He answers “it depends on how they ask”. So if you ask nicely and Dr. Peterson is in the mood or he recognizes your cause as sufficient, then he might use your pronoun. I think respect might play a factor here, because only by respecting the individual and their reasons might Dr. Peterson use their pronouns. He maintains that you do not get to demand his respect. A point that I wholly agree with. This is why the “I identify as an apache attack helicopter” argument is actually valid under the system that these individuals support. It’s also impossible to enforce due to the sheer magnitude of people to disrespect and the way to disrespect them. Not to mention what qualifies as “disrespect” varies wildly depending on the person. Talking about women’s breasts in front of my friend makes him uncomfortable, should I be prevented under penalty of law from talking about breasts in front of my friend when I know it bothers him? I would say no. Sure, doing it might make me an asshole, but are we going to make being an asshole illegal? Good luck with that.

What gets me is the response. It is presupposed by the students surrounding him that by refusing to use their pronouns that he is contributing to a suicide epidemic among trans individuals. The logic behind is that the psychological impact of not being called your preferred pronoun could cause trans people the commit suicide. I don’t think this is incorrect, but I do think that it’s a very small part of a larger problem that cannot be solved by legislation.

To my knowledge, the suicide problem is caused by an inability to “pass” or be perceived as that which you are trying to be perceived as (among other things). Not using the pronoun reminds the trans person that they are unable to pass, which may reinforce thoughts of suicide. But let’s suppose we did require by law that we refer to all people by their preferred pronouns, what then? Well, then we need to recognize that people have other ways to signal failure to pass. This is done through body language and behavior. And this should be terribly obvious to Americans because this is literally identity-based humour which plays on stereotypes and behaviors. This type of humour would not be funny if we didn’t recognize such behavior in others. So what do we do? Do we legislate against behavior like “looking at a trans woman’s chest a little too long” which could be interpreted either positively as “Oh, I pass!” or negatively or “Oh no, they’re thinking a little too long, am I not passing?” Such an act would be a little overboard, no? What about sexual preferences? If a straight cisgendered man doesn’t want to have sex or even a relationship with a male-to-female transexual, are we going to legislate against that too? That would open the floodgates for legislating other preferences like my very own sexual preference for asians. Dr. Peterson describes this as “Tyranny, one tiny step at a time“. You give an inch and they will take a mile.

And that is only the male-female dichotomy issue. If you believe, as Bill Nye so astutely points out gender is a spectrum then if you refuse to recognize me as Unkindled-sexual then you would be in violation of such laws. Even if we ceded the male-female issue, how do we address a world in which you can feasibly make up any identity you wish and force others to recognize you as such? I believe the point that the left is missing on this issue is that even if gender were a social construct, trans-tigers have not built up the social capital to be recognized as trans-tiger immediately. Nor have they built up the social capital to demand that they be recognized as trans-tiger by law. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to accept you as something that they don’t see you as. You can’t legislate all of your problems away. You have to convince others through interaction.

LEGISLATING WHAT YOU MUST SAY OR CANNOT SAY UNDER THE PRETEXT OF “RESPECT” WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOU WANT IT TO SOLVE. IT ONLY CREATES AVENUES FOR TYRANNY AND ABUSE.

That said, it’s not particularly constructive to go around seeking to offend and disrespect every person you know. I don’t see Dr. Peterson as that kind of person, and he says he often receives letters of thanks from trans individuals saying that they agree with him. Can we trust Dr. Peterson or the individuals that write these letters? I don’t know, but I generally trust people until given a reason to not trust them.

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is a supposition that something is X xor Y. Unless by definition X and Y can have an xor operation between them you should avoid doing this. One example – 9.11 is either an integer xor a real number. This is a false dichotomy, even though 9.11 is a real number and not an integer. So what’s wrong with it? Well, what if we had said that 911 is either an integer xor a real number? 911 is both an integer and a real number, so a false dichotomy isn’t necessarily true, even if it may sometimes be true. The problem is that integers and real numbers do not have a valid xor operation between them. All integers are real numbers but not all real numbers are integers. We could say that a number is either rational xor irrational, which would be true! Because the comparison is more along the lines of a definition.

So why do I bring this up? Well, it ties into the two prior points: inability to converse and respectful speech. So while the students say that not using the pronouns contributes to trans suicide rates, which I am willing to entertain the idea of, the  main thrust of their proposal is the false dichotomy. It is “Either we legislate away these perceived discriminations xor trans people will continue to be discriminated against in medicine, in housing, in employment, etc.”.

I think what’s happening here is that Dr. Peterson and these individuals are talking past each other. Dr. Peterson is saying that he, as a private citizen should not be forced to use language that he doesn’t consent to using. His opponents are arguing that it is a necessary evil towards the acceptance of trans individuals. While they disagree on quite a few points, the important point that they seem to disagree on is whether or not it is acceptable to curtail free speech in order to achieve the same goal: reduction in suicide rates of trans people.

Big Government

The solution the left always seems to propose is bigger government. Minorities aren’t being hired, make it illegal to discriminate hiring based on race instead of letting social stigma and free market pressures destroy those businesses. Minorities aren’t being paid on par with their majority counterparts, make it illegal to discriminate pay based on race instead of… letting social stigma and free market pressures destroy those businesses. Minorities are getting lower SAT scores and universities aren’t accepting them. Better lower the standards to be fair to them. The climate is changing for the worse, better use the government to shut that down.

Sometimes the answer isn’t bigger government, and I don’t think the American left sees smaller government solutions or even that some things may not even be problems.

Ironic Conclusion

The ironic conclusion that I’ve come to based on this gender debate is that the left doesn’t believe that gender exists on a spectrum. It’s like comparing wave and particle theories of light. I truly believe that the left thinks of gender as being discretized, to the point where there’s no such thing as a boy that acts effeminately, rather a separate femboy gender that the boy conforms to. Taking such logic to its inevitable conclusion, we run up against a bunch of genders that eventually divide to the level of the individual. Which makes the concept of gender itself useless. The irony is that the very people saying that gender-expression is a spectrum do not believe so, but there’s also irony in that the people saying that gender-expression is not a spectrum believe that it is. The difference is, even if you are a highly effeminate man, the right will still call you he. The left will insist that you be called some pronoun or another.

At the end of the day, I’m with Dr. Peterson on this. I don’t think it’s helpful. I don’t think it’s practical. I don’t think that the justification is strong enough. And I think it would be a serious mistake to begin giving up our freedom of speech for this. Anyway, this was a long post and I probably have more to say on it, but I will have to save it for another post. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

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Jordan Peterson and Curtailed Speech

What is a “Fair Share”?

This topic has been brewing for quite a while ever since the days of the primaries where Bernie Sanders campaigned on making the wealthy pay “their fair share” and then proceeded to spout “speculation tax” nonsense (that had been tried and failed in Sweden before) and a carbon tax while at the same time saying that we should expand health services. In the Sanders vs. Cruz Heatlchare Debate, Senator Cruz said this

Let me put it in perspective. All of the federal income taxes we pay today are about $1.5 trillion a year. $2.5 trillion means every one of us paying income taxes would have to about triple what you pay in income taxes to get an additional $2.5 trillion.

Now, Bernie no doubt is going to come back and say, no, no, no, none of you are going to pay. Just the rich. Well, how about if we took every person that makes over $1 million a year and confiscated 100 percent of their income, took every penny that they make. That would raise only enough money to fund Bernie’s plan for five months. – [Source Transcript]

Cursory Argument

I don’t know where Cruz is getting his numbers for this claim and frankly I don’t care. I bring it up because it seems that the implication is that Sanders believes the poor are paying either their “fair share” or more than their “fair share”. Granted, the quote doesn’t mention the poor at all (outside of the phrase “you”, possibly) so how do I reason this implication? Based on context at the time of writing (that line is for the future historians reading this blog after I become President of the galaxy) the implication is that the wealthy pay too little. And you can reason this out as well even without context. Why would someone complain that the wealthy pay too much and then advocate for higher taxes on them? It doesn’t make sense. In addition, I feel that if everyone else were not paying their fair share, the argument would be “get everyone to pay their fair share” rather than “make the wealthy pay their fair share”. And I don’t believe Senator Cruz is incorrect in his assumption because I followed the Sanders Presidential campaign and Sanders was all about taxing the wealthy and expanding benefits for the poor.

The Numbers

First, let’s look at some sources. The first is some Pew Research data and the other is the wikipedia page on U.S. Income Tax. I use the income tax example because that’s what the Pew Research data focuses on, while mentioning the increase in payroll taxes over time.

On the surface, I’d probably say that the wealthy pay more than their “fair share”. Why? Because the United States (income) tax system is progressive in nature. The more you make, the more you get taxed on that extra you make. I’ll demonstrate this with an example with easy numbers. You are taxed 10% on income up to $100 and then at 20% for amounts over that. If you make $100, you pay $10, a tax rate of 10%. If you make $200, you pay $30, $10 from $0-$100 and then 20 from $101-$200. So your tax rate for making double goes from 10% to 15%. You might be tempted to say that the percentage increase isn’t much considering you now make double, but you’re forgetting the raw numbers. You make double the money, but you pay triple the money.

And look, while I am a bit of a free market libertarian, I’m not saying that there’s anything excessively wrong with such a tax system. And yeah, the example was vastly simplified, but it has the core tenets of a progressive tax system in place. The more you make, the more you get taxed on that money over these breakpoints.

So what we get – is that as you make more money, your tax rate will go up. It always goes up because there is no bracket with a lower tax rate than one above it. You will never see 10%, 20%, 15%, 30%. It will always be 10%, 15%, 20%, 30%. So no matter how wealthy the top 1% is, they will always have a higher income tax than you because they have more taxable income than you.

But sure, let’s just plod along and see what we get in the way of an income tax argument with actual numbers.

“All told, individual income taxes accounted for a little less than half (47.4%) of government revenue, a share that’s been roughly constant since World War II.” – Pew Research

According to the Pew Data, the people making $100k and above pay are estimated to pay for about 75% of our taxes, despite making up about 20% of our households (in 2007) (source). I would be highly skeptical of this number jumping to 75% in 10 years but you can try to prove me wrong.

Why Do We Care?

So what’s this all about? Why do we even care whether or not the wealthy are “paying their fair share”? While there are probably some talking points by the left that I could quote, I’m going to propose what I think this is all about – social programs and the deficit. United States Federal Debt seems to be around 20 trillion dollars. Let me just put down all of the zeroes for you so you can get an idea of how deep in the red we are.

$20,000,000,000,000

The largest problem with the debt is (I would guess) the deficit. Which all of us should understand as the money that you’ve agreed to pay but do not have. You can have debt without a deficit and you can have a deficit without debt. I think the simple way to think of debt is as the accumulation of deficit. So what are we looking at in terms of deficit? By the same source, the estimated deficit for FY 2017 is $504 billion dollars.

We care because it’s difficult to justify spending more money without generating more revenue. And it’s difficult to expand current programs without either cutting other programs or collecting more revenue.

I’ve taken the liberty of generating a graph of deficit as a percentage of GDP. It makes more sense to have a higher deficit with a lower GDP.

Untitled

And as we see, my prediction was correct. When President Obama took office, we were coming out of a recession and the GDP was some 4 trillion dollars lower than it was in 2016. But in having these deficits, our national debt has skyrocketed, nearly doubling over Obama’s two terms.

I feel it would be remiss of me to neglect mentioning that President Obama may have ‘almost’ doubled the national debt, but so did President Bush II. President Reagan tripled it. In fact, the trend among the past few presidents seems to be that the republican presidents contribute more to the debt (percentage-wise) than the democratic ones, but that’s just me playing politics I guess.

 Even the deficit for President Trump’s first year in office is estimated to be higher than the lowest deficit during the Obama years. But as a side note… if we have the same GDP that we had in 2016, (it will probably go up) then we STILL see a lower deficit as a percentage of GDP over every single Obama year, coming in at 2.1% compared to Obama’s lowest at 2.8% (it’s still higher than the last Bush year of around 1.1%). It’s unfair to give President Trump any credit for that though, as his first fiscal year will be in 2018, not 2017. So we’re still under Obama as far as budget is concerned.

This analysis means nothing by itself, really. Because it’s one thing to point fingers and say President Obama’s spending money that we don’t have, and another thing to question what he’s spending it on. The stimulus package, unemployment benefits, more military spending, etc. are all nice things to have. So I guess the question at the end of the day is if you could take away the spending and the benefits, would you do so?

Deficit Source
GDP Source

$200k Tax

But let’s take that estimated deficit for this year and say it’s about 500 billion dollars. Let’s look at the number of tax returns in the 33%+ tax bracket (dollar total varies based on status, but it’s around $200k). If we tax all of these individuals for $200k regardless of total income, how much money do we get?

Using the chart for taxable income (why would we calculate based on non-taxable income?) from the IRS for 2014, we see that we get around 1 trillion dollars. Which would pay for double the deficit, at the cost of 3 million returns, 2.4 million of which are married couples (so, 2.4 million families) lying at the border of $200k.

Let’s dig a bit deeper though. We’re most concerned about the people lying at the border, right? How much tax do they really pay? Well, if you take the revenue generated by taxing the 33% and higher brackets, you get about $400 million, of which the 33% bracket pays about 25% of ($111 million). The 39.6% bracket pays the bulk of that, at around 60%.

My guess is that if you’re wealthy enough to be in the 39.6% bracket, you’re so obscenely wealthy that you wind up paying more tax. Who knows. 

Most of that money comes from couples filing jointly, about 90%. I’m not quite sure where I’d like to go with this analysis, it’s just something I wanted to point out. It’s possible, but it’s not going to pay the debt any time soon (it would take 40 years with current spending).

50/50 Analysis

I’d like to go one step further before I come to my conclusion. I’d like to evaluate what I’m going to call a 50-50 analysis since I don’t know if it has an official name. I’m going to evaluate the number of tax returns such that the revenue generated by these returns (by bracket) equals that of the other bracket. I will neglect capital gains for this analysis (as I did the one before) because of what (my understanding of) capital gains taxes are.

So let’s take the poorest and compare them to the wealthiest. The 10% bracket generated $75,927,732 compared to the 39.6% bracket which generated $227,474,052. The 10% bracket is heavily outweighed by the 39.6% bracket, so let’s tack on the 15% bracket, generating $229,998,073, which outweighs the 39.6% bracket… [math ensues]

And what we end up with is this (and I’m actually quite surprised by this result). The brackets necessary to balance each other out are the 10%, 15%, and 25% brackets compared to the 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% brackets. The totals are $490,067,188 to $412,524,138. Much closer to a 50/50 split than I thought, coming out to 54.29/45.71

“Now just hold the phone, Artemis! From what I see, the poor pay more than the wealthy!” Ehh, technically yes, But there are also a lot more poor people than grossly wealthy people. The number of returns for people in the lower-half is substantially higher than that of the higher half, with around 101 million returns for the lower have compared to around 9 million for that of the higher half. So the higher half pays 10x as much on a per return basis than that of the lower half. And all of this is ignoring capital gains taxes which are likely heavily slanted against the wealthy compared to the poor.

I’m self-employed, I make around $16,000 a year. You take take ten of me and you get well past the 25% bracket, you actually get squarely within the 28% bracket for a single person. And I know that anecdote isn’t really an argument, so let’s use the federal minimum wage. A full-time federal minimum wage worker makes $15,000 a year, and 10 of them is also squarely within the 28% bracket (for singles). So no matter how I cut it, it seems fair. 10 of me would make 10x as much money and I would flip from my side of the ratio to the other. Ironically enough, you only really need about 6 of me to flip sides of the ratio, which means that the wealth are actually overpaying (through this analysis).

Conclusion:

No matter how I cut it, I can’t help but get to the result that the wealthy are not only paying their fair share, they’re paying more than their fair share. So I don’t see the need to start increasing the taxes on the wealthy. I think if anyone wants to take a good stab at the deficit, the first place you hit is the military (Amdahl’s Law). But we live in the United States so I don’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon despite spending double that of China and totaling that of the four countries that follow us in terms of total spending. Despite China spending only 1.9% of their GDP on the military, we spend 3.3% (source). I dunno, shoot me.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to poke at my analysis. I’m not tax expert, I’m just a robot in a cave looking at numbers. If I’ve made any mistakes in my analysis, or if you just think it’s terrible, please let me know in the comments or by email. As always, I welcome criticism. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

What is a “Fair Share”?

2nd Amendment: You’re Doing It Wrong

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I fully support the 2nd Amendment and the citizen’s right to bear arms. That said, I do think that the argument isn’t being had the correct way.

The Second Amendment and Prior Action:

First, what is the Second Amendment? The text is as follows:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – Second Amendment

As a native English speaker, the way I read this is “Since a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. From a cursory glance (with no constitutional law degree) it seems to suggest that no law may be passed which infringes on the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. That stuff about a militia in front seems to be a justification for why the amendment exists. I also notice something special about its words. It says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. To me (again, no constitutional law degree) this suggests a presupposed right to keep and bear arms. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t give you the right to keep and bear arms, it protects it. You already have the right to keep and bear arms. This amendment prevents laws from being passed that restrict it.

Now we need to ask the question what a restriction on your right to keep and bear arms is. Suppose certain firearms are prohibited from use or storage, that could be a restriction on your right to bear arms. Requiring all guns to be stored at some government facility, that could be a restriction on your right to keep and bear arms. Really, what we’re looking for is any law that prevents the user from owning their firearms.

This is why I never buy the argument on the right that gun regulations, making guns more difficult to obtain legally is against the 2nd Amendment. Sure, some things that have been done could be argued to be unconstitutional. For example, the assault weapons ban of 1994 is unconstitutional. It restricted firearms you may legally own to those with some number of modifications. It seems incredibly silly to me, because it seems that you could have all of the components of a prohibited weapon but as long as they’re all apart from each other it’s fine. It’s like if vehicles with six wheels were illegal so you took out a middle row of wheels and put them under the vehicle. You’re still driving on four wheels but you have the ability to switch to a six wheeled vehicle…

The purpose of the assault weapons ban was to prevent mass shootings. You can argue about whether or not it was effective. In terms of mass shootings we see that during the ban there were 16 mass shootings or 1.6 per year of the ban. After the ban we have had over 30 mass shootings over a ten year period (2004-2014). The rate has practically doubled. This is also somewhat troubling because crime rates have been dropping for decades. Despite an overall crime rate drop, why do we see a doubling in the number of mass shootings?

I tend to favor reading this as a correlation rather than a causation. Especially when we see 17 mass shootings from 1984 to 1993. The rate seems to have spiked since the 2000’s. Did anything happen in the 2000’s that may have led to more mass shootings? In today’s political climate, I’m sure people want to hop on the War on Terror argument. Looking at the names of the perpetrators at a glance, I wouldn’t want to hop on that train at all. I do not believe mass shootings are a War on Terror problem.

The (Poor) Arguments:

With all of that hullabaloo out of the way (and I can’t believe spell check isn’t throwing a fit over hullabaloo) let’s get down to the right vs. left argument. The right maintains that a regulation of who may purchase guns is an infringement of rights. I disagree. The laws in gun regulation by and large regulate who may purchase guns. This is not restricting who may own guns. However there are restrictions are who may own guns in federal law. Among the list are people addicted to controlled substances, fugitives, and domestic abusers. There are also a series of non-citizen clauses but if you’re not a citizen then you’re not protected by the United States constitution so I wouldn’t bother going down that rabbit hole.

Focusing on the United States citizens cases, (fugitives, domestic abusers) I don’t think people would generally disagree that these people shouldn’t have firearms. However restricting their right to bear arms is a violation of the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms was presupposed. There wasn’t an exception “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed unless they abuse their spouse”. I imagine the laws stand because of public opinion and safety concerns. But to me, this is a clear case of the Second Amendment being hit. I’m a firm believer of “slippery slope” applying to arguments in law because of how precedent is used. But that’s just my take on this.

“It’s to prevent tyranny”

This is an argument from the right. It’s suggesting that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to prevent tyranny, so that if the United States ever wanted to crack down on the people, they could defend themselves. If the United States wanted to enact martial law (and the armed forces were willing to comply) there isn’t a whole lot you can do with your gun against their tanks and nukes. Seriously, what is this argument even. Again, that doesn’t mean that I believe you shouldn’t have your guns, it’s that the argument itself doesn’t pan out. Could a guerilla warfare force take down the United States? I suppose it’s possible, but highly unlikely. There’s just too large of a technological gap/organization for the people to win. Would this be solved if civilians could own tanks? We’d probably need a lot of tanks. Especially since civilians currently cannot own tanks that actually fire rounds (which I personally find odd because again… the firing mechanism is the “arms” part of the tank).

I do not believe that there is a way to fix this argument.

“…Historical context…”

This one gets played a lot. It is used to justify arguments about what the founding fathers intended. It may be a correct in all terms of historical context, I won’t argue that. But we don’t live in the time of the historical context. If it only makes sense in context, and we’re not in context, then why should it apply? I think this is actually a recurring theme in the arguments from the right. Even if the arguments are justified, most of them seem to be focused on observing tradition. I’m sorry to say that requiring us to observe tradition because we observe tradition is a circular argument.

A way to fix this argument is to apply the reasons for that tradition and see if they still hold today. For example, let’s suppose at some time it was illegal to sell cow meat because all cows were infected with mad cow disease for some reason or another. If we’re here 200 years later and we’re pressing to lift that sale restriction, do we say “No, cow meat has been illegal for 200 years, why would we change it now?” Or do we say “That ban existed for a reason. We have now addressed the cause, as cows no longer have mad cow disease. We may now safely lift the ban”.

“It’s what the founding fathers intended”

I personally find this one to be the worst argument (and it comes from the right) despite being backed up by quite a bit of history. What this argument is really saying is that there is a religion of the Constitution in which the founding fathers are Gods. This is a faith argument. It has ties to a ‘social contract’ argument (which would be valid) and a ‘precedent’ argument. However, it fails out of the gate if we accept EVERYTHING that the founding fathers intended. The founding fathers said that standing armies were dangerous yet here we are with the armed forces. The founding fathers had intended that only educated land-owning citizens be permitted to vote because they had a larger stake in the running of the country than the plebes. Yet here we are with voting rights for any person over the age of 18 years old. The question then becomes, if you want to follow this line of reasoning, why are some intentions of the founding fathers followed yet others are not?

Now I don’t like the idea of the religion of the founding fathers. I like to think that the founding fathers intended for our nation to grow and change with the times, which is why the Ninth Amendment exist. I do not believe there is a way to fix this argument to suit the debate.

“The founding fathers never expected these weapons”

This one comes from the left, often as response to the argument above. I refuse to accept it on premise. I find it odd that the founding fathers didn’t know about the existence of tanks (they should’ve been familiar with Leonardo da Vinci). They knew about machine guns, grenades were used in the Revolutionary war, cannons had existed for years… So to think that these educated individuals didn’t one day expect us to be flying spacecraft or have weapons that fire 10x faster than the fastest firing weapon of the time seems ludicrous. I also don’t think that it’s relevant. Again, there is no religion of the Constitution. We should not be worried about what the founding fathers would’ve wanted. We should examine the Constitution as it is and see how it applies to law.

Ultimately, these ‘intention’ arguments boil down to ‘Not what you said but how you said it’.

“Don’t you care about the 32,000 people that die every year?”

This is an appeal to emotion. It’s not an argument. Suppose we did remove guns from the hands of every law-abiding citizen. The non-law-abiding citizens would still have guns and you have no proof that removing guns makes crime happen less often. We actually have an experimental test case to look at: Australia.

In 1996 and 2003, Australia released mandatory firearm buyback policies. The question now follows, did crime drop after the buyback? Certainly not for homicide. In fact, the homicide rates go UP after the gun ban. It seems crime goes down as enforcement officials go up, not as guns go down. Who would have thought?

I do not believe that there is a way to fix this argument. If the intent is to get the opponent to recognize guns to be a threat to society, you need to bring in numbers. To put this into perspective, about as many people die in the United States by firearm (this includes suicides) as people that die due to motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The average household has about two vehicles (a wash and a wear I suppose) while the average household has 4.4 guns per household. If we look at this from a very elementary point of view, the more guns we have, the more gun deaths we have. If we have twice as many guns as we have cars, we should see twice as many gun deaths (or at least substantially more gun deaths) as we see motor vehicle deaths. But we don’t. So where’s the data that says more gun regulation means less deaths?

On top of that, this ‘argument’ presupposes that I do care, and that I would like to reduce that number. What if I don’t care? Then you need to convince me that we’re better off with those people alive. And since a good majority of them are suicide, removing guns from the picture won’t save 2/3 of these people. The short version is, to fix this argument you must make it a logical argument.

Conclusion:

That’s all of the arguments that I could think of off the top of my head that I have a fundamental disagreement with. I believe that if we want to have this gun debate, we need to move it into the realm of logic and away from these arguments of ‘faith’. We need to look at the arguments for increasing gun regulation and the arguments for decreasing regulation. Yes, people seem to agree on more regulation. Not many people have put forward what that regulation is, but they seem to agree that it is necessary. And if that’s what the people want, then our representatives should get on it. This is how our democracy works.

I think that we, as a nation, have to decide how we want to handle gun ownership. I maintain that as the Second Amendment stands, there are no restrictions on what you may own. That said, addressing how guns are sold through legislature does not seem to have an impact on the Second Amendment. What you are really arguing about there would be your right to purchase a firearm. It should be covered by the Ninth Amendment, in that you have a right to purchase a firearm. But restricting how you purchase a firearm isn’t an infringement of your right to own a firearm. Worst-case scenario you still be able to make whatever firearm you want and own that firearm.

If as a nation we decide to continue to produce and sell firearms, we should be ready to accept the consequences when those firearms are used to commit not only acts of evil but acts of good. If that means 32000 deaths a year and 75000 injuries per year, then that would be the cost of having this freedom. This has been my opinion on the gun debate. I’ll get back to work on the voter stuff soon. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

2nd Amendment: You’re Doing It Wrong

Debate or Debait?

I guess I better publish this one because I’m running out of time. The debate is tomorrow and the East Coasters I expect to read this are probably going to bed like… now. I’m wary of the upcoming democratic debate in New York. I believe that both Sanders and Clinton should be as well. Ultimately, I feel that the debate will be inconsequential. Why? Let me explain.

Let’s examine Clinton first. Clinton has been hit very hard in these debates and town halls with questions that have no “good” answer. One striking example that I remember is a death penalty question she received a while back (source). For those that do not wish to watch the video, I’ll paraphrase the question. The person asks, “How do you still hold your stance on the death penalty, knowing that there have been many cases of innocent people getting killed for crimes that they did not commit”. She makes it clear in her response that she only approves of it at the federal level for a very select subset of crimes. But she justified her answer. She justified her support of the death penalty,and props to her for standing for her position instead of taking the weasel way out and saying that she’s changed her mind. People seem to get especially touchy at the thought of a death penalty, which makes this a loaded question. You know, that might be a topic for another death. The death penalty debate is rather… interesting. A primary criticism is that you can unjail a person but you can’t undead a person. While true (at this point in time *fingers crossed*) it seems irrelevant because you can’t give the time in prison back either. The individual asking the question had spent 39 years in prison. They missed the prime of their life. I can only hope that whatever compensation they received (if any) made up for their lost time. You can’t undo the psychological damage that they may have sustained either. But we’re getting off topic. The /r/Politics subreddit and their Sanders bias loves to come up with questions which put Clinton into a very difficult moral position (but Sanders can do no wrong). I would not be surprised if some of them get aired. It’s not like Clinton hasn’t given them plenty to work with.

However, none of this is my problem with the debates. Or perhaps they are, but only tangentially. My problem is that these questions seem designed to elucidate some aspect of Clinton’s characters, some aspect of their moral standing. It’s airing dirty laundry. Maybe the public cares about dirty laundry, and that’s why they want these questions asked? Personally, I don’t. If people listen to her policy responses, most of them sound fair, if not moderate. But since debates turn into Benghazi 2: Electric Boogaloo, we don’t get to see that. At least, not as much as we’d like.

Now let’s talk Sanders. Sanders has had a low impact on me since debate 3 or so. Why? Understand that I watch debates online because Alaskan time zone not always conducive to watching these debates and town halls. Sometimes when it comes to Sanders, I can’t remember if I’ve seen this one before. Maybe it’s intentional to get the message across, but Sanders has said the same stump sound bites in every debate. He could walk on, say “We need to get the big money out of politics,” walk off, and the same net work would be done for a much lower cost. With very few exceptions, he will always return to this. Two hour debates (airtime), one hour per candidate, and he can’t get his mind off of big businesses. What I want from Sanders is for him to make this a new debate. Give me, and the other undecided voters a reason to pick you over Clinton that doesn’t go back to banks and big corporations.

If this debate is ultimately another regular debate, it will be a waste of time. Clinton will have to defend herself from a barrage of attacks (none of which center on policy), while Sanders will sit pretty. If this is another repeat debate, it’s no wonder Clinton would object to having it. All of these debates are just attacks on her and Sanders gets no kind of interrogation. If the eye is supposed to be on both candidates, why does only one get scrutinized? It’s just a bait to get Clinton out in the open to attack her once more. It’s unfair. And I think that it’s weird how an “issues based campaign” isn’t objecting to attacks on character rather than attacks on policy. Who cares about the transcripts? The transcripts don’t tell me anything about how you plan to address the Middle East. Okay, the fracking might have some issues, but why must you attack so many jobs at once in the name of the environment? Why is nuclear energy off the table? This is just my take on the possible debate, and I hope it exceeds expectations.

Artemis Hunt

Debate or Debait?