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.

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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”?

A National Strike?

I’ve always known that The Guardian is a left-leaning publication but now I think that it’s really going too far.

Francine Prose wrote this article in The Guardian published on January 30th, 2017. And yes, that is the proper way to write the day you goddamn euros. So let’s just go through it bit by bit and see what’s going on and why it’s absolutely absurd.

“On the morning after Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban went into effect”

Yeah, so-called is a pretty good way to describe it, since it wasn’t really a muslim ban as much as it was an immigration ban. Syria is 10% Christian but those Christians are barred entry as well. And I’ll stop a moment here to say that I disagree with the ban, as green card holders were barred entry as well. Just so people don’t start frothing at the mouth calling me an islamophobe or anything.

But why was muslim ban in the title of the article? As Francine points out:

“halting refugee admissions for 120 days”

Quite simply, a refugee can feasibly come from any country. If war were to break out in South Korea tomorrow and people began applying for entry as refugees, they too would be prevented from entry despite South Korea being a mostly Buddhist country with a Christian minority. Is this ban now a Buddhist ban? Well, yes, but not by design. It’s an indiscriminate ban, so stop calling it a muslim ban unless you also want to call it a Christian ban. Whatever. Moving on.

Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen dozens of demonstrations – most notably, the Women’s March on Washington – that have reinforced our sense of solidarity and provided encouraging evidence of how many Americans oppose our government’s fundamentally anti-American agenda.

The Women’s March (as I’ve noted in another post) is inherently contradictory. But yeah, it was a pretty big march. I think it had 300k members in the US which is about 0.1% of our population. Not bad. But I think it’s a far cry from a show of solidarity. Might be a show of solidarity with people across the world, 3 million protestors… but then again, that’s 0.04% of the population… so we may need to find another metric by which to judge the “strength” of these protests.

I’m going to sidestep the issues with implementation here because I do believe that it isn’t necessarily a bad idea and focus on the intent. The intent of the immigration ban (again, not a muslim ban) was to prevent people from countries in which the Obama administration marked as dangerous from traveling to the United States. Never mind that in European countries such as Sweden that have accepted the refugees are now telling their women to not go out alone at night. Officially advising women like that. That’s a hair’s breadth away from victim blaming. This is a map of every confirmed migrant crime that has been coded based on the type of crime. Doesn’t look that bad, does it? That’s just 2017. This is the map for 2016. You can’t even see Germany’s borders anymore. And these are crimes exclusively committed by migrants. Zoom in, it’s probably worse than you think it is. The crime rates themselves are a debated topic right now so I won’t draw any conclusions on those just yet. Those crimes are mostly difference of culture crimes. Add that to the two trucks of peace we saw this year and maybe you get a picture of how vulnerable the United States could be. Again, do I agree with the ban? No. But do I recognize that it has legitimate cause? Yes.

People are criticizing it as human rights violation but that’s absurd. Nations have borders. To say that denying you entry to a specific country is a human rights violation is to say that you have the right to travel to this specific country just because you are human. Why does that country even have a border at that point. Why does the United States even check passports when you enter it if you have the right to enter the United States just for being human. Why is there an immigration process? Rah.

“Taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with the detainees, and arriving passengers were forced to find alternate ways on getting home. Many used Uber, a company whose CEO, Travis Kalanick, serves on Trump’s economic advisory board, and which thoughtfully suspended “surge pricing” to make it easier and cheaper to subvert the taxi strike.”

Free market at work ladies. Look, if you’re going to go on strike and you provide a service that is easily replaced, be prepared to be replaced. If manufacturers went on strike it would be far more effective because it’s not like I can make toilet seats in my house or something. But taxis? I replace you with public transportation or a phone call to a friend. Symbolic gesture that serves only to put money in the pockets of other people.

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Francine recognizes this, so she says we have to go bigger. We need to work as a nation. We need…

“I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here. Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.”

We need a national strike. We need to not spend money or produce money for a day? That’s your solution? I like to think of myself as a typical American, so let me explain to you the train of thought that’s going through my head when I think of ‘strike for a day’.

I make $13 an hour, if I strike for a day then I’m losing $100 from my paycheck at the end of the month. Sure I could go a day without purchasing something, but what’s the point? If I was planning on going to the store that day, I’m just going to go on the next day and the store would still get my money at the end of the day. On top of that, I make things inconvenient for myself as now the stores will be more crowded because everyone is buying what they would have bought yesterday. 

When she adds the caveat, “anyone who can do so without being fired” it just falls apart. Why should my employer tolerate my political activism? My employer pays me to do a job. I should do my job per my contract which both my employer and I agreed to. One is tempted to argue “With this national strike we could make great change”. Let’s suppose that is true. You then run into the prisoner’s dilemma which you and I both know results in at least one snitch. I need to be assured of the participation of enough people (whatever that number may be) to convince myself to participate. But I imagine that sort of trust is hard to come by, so I’ll always have some niggling doubt, leading to my defection.

On top of that, what does a one day strike accomplish? It sends a message, okay, but sooner or later you’re going to have to work. You’re going to have to buy food. Shoot, you’re going to have to pay rent, which you might find difficult if you’re not going to work. And I realize this may sound pessimistic, in which you are owned by the world around you, but you can’t escape the reality that the world runs on money. Your life is dictated by money. And if you give up money because you disagree with a president, be prepared to lose future endeavors because without money you have no power.

And it’s incredibly ironic that this is coming from the left because the social programs that they champion come out of taxes. And if no one is spending money or making money, where do the dollars for these programs come from? It only gets worse. Imagine we did organize a national strike. What’s going to happen to the sick people? Cancer doesn’t take a day off (or more) just because you do. Someone breaks into your house or burns down a building, what happens next? Well if the police and fire department are really devoted to their protest, it’ll really suck for the victims.

If you want to send a message, that’s fine. Send messages. Send all of the emails, boycott all of the products, make all of the phone calls that you want. But when you try to drag the entire country down because you disagree with a particular president, expect to meet particular resistance.

And maybe a little bit of ridicule.

Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

A National Strike?

Abortions? No Men Allowed

So after Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City policy, a lot of women are up in arms about it because women have the right to abortion or so they believe. I’ve already made like one and a half posts about the issue so I’m not going to comment on abortions. I’ve pretty much said about all I want to say about the issue. I’m happy to tell you about compromises I would make on that front (and why) but really, that’s not the issue at hand today. Today we’re going to talk about the future and how exciting it is.

So what prompts today’s post? This tweet which flew all over my Facebook feed not too long ago (at the time of writing).

I’m just going to leave out that it’s highly probable (mathematically) that over the lifespan of our species (assuming another few billion years) that we will actually see a photograph of some number of women signing legislation about what men can do with their bodies.

So what do I find so terribly interesting about this? Quite simply, the introduction of transgendered individuals being accepted as members of the sex that they identify with. A man that identifies as a woman is accepted as a woman. With the current political climate, we’re at the point where you don’t even need to make the effort to transition through operation to be accepted as whatever sex you want to be. Hell, you don’t even need the op, you can just say that you’re some other gender and badda-bing. You’re ste. See Lauren Southern’s video just to see how easy it is (in Canada, anyway).

This pressure is coming from the American left, not the right. I only bring up the distinction because it’s relevant to the photo above. When it comes to abortion rights, the left tends to support the woman’s right to choose. (As a side note, what is the woman choosing?) So when we combine the above, (sexual identification) and abortion rights, what we get is the possibility that several of those men actually identifying as women (inwardly) and for all you know it could be 4 men and 4 women signing legislation about what women can do with their bodies. So there’s your first strike, you assumed the genders of the people signing the documents, you bigot.

Let’s ride this train a little further. A person may be born as a woman but identify as a man. We also see from Lauren Southern’s case that there’s no necessity for transgender operation (or chemical castration as Vee likes to call it) for this transformation to be accepted. By that logic, it is conceivable that Lauren Southern could have sex with a man (is it gay?) and get pregnant. Lauren Southern is legally a man now, so would abortion rights still apply to him? It should. Which means that abortion rights are no longer women’s rights, they are human rights. But maybe you want to come at it from the biological women’s rights angle. Sure, that’s cool. So the right to abortion is afforded to only people that are born as women?

But the future is a strange and wonderful place. About two and a half years ago, The Lancet (a reputable medical journal) published an article about a successful birth after a uterine transplant. This is big news. In the case of the article it’s biological woman to biological woman, but let’s imagine the future for a little bit. Suppose the transplant was put into a gay man that identifies as a man because he wants to have a child with his partner. Abortion is no longer a women’s rights issue. You can’t come at it from the biological women’s rights issue anymore because now we have a case of someone born as a man that is pregnant.

So what do we have at the end of the day? We have to call abortion rights human rights, and the left needs to get off their high horse because now they can’t frame it as a women’s rights issue. Anyone that finds fault with anything I’ve said can come at me bro. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Abortions? No Men Allowed

Inherent Rights

I made a post a while back about whether or not you have the right to (government subsidized) healthcare. Thinking back on it now, I made a lot of mistakes in the post and didn’t quite word the post the way that I really needed to in order to convey the correct meaning of what I truly think rights are and how they operate. Some people might go back to the original post and issue a correction. I won’t do that for a few reasons. First, the post is hella old and no one will really read it so making a new post gives me an excuse to get one more blog post on my site. Second (and possibly more importantly), I believe that correcting or clarifying mistakes makes more sense if the original material is still intact. You can think of this like one of your homework problems. You learn less from a sheet full of correct answers than you do from a sheet full of corrected answers. Mistakes are a necessity to helping others avoid pitfalls, so let’s keep them up, eh?

So two of my favourite YouTube content creators (better pad that word length) are Sargon of Akkad and Vee. Sargon was my introduction to what some might call the “Rational YouTube Community” (even though some members often lumped into that group don’t like that term). I use the term because it’s what people are familiar with. Sargon’s British accent bass tones are very soothing to listen to, and were often more interesting that various “nyahhh” that I might hear when playing a game. So I’d run his videos in the background and get a little bit of content while I gamed. Vee is Sargon’s friend, and I find Vee to be far more entertaining as a content creator than Sargon. Vee’s accent and snarky sense of humour are delightful and I legitimately enjoy Vee’s videos more than Sargon’s probably because of the character. I bring them up because Vee recently debated (or rather, had a discussion) with a white nationalist. About halfway through, Sargon joins the chat. The topic that had come up was one of rights and the concept of ‘Inherent Rights’. Vee and Sargon often call themselves classical liberals and Cole(?) (the white nationalist) wanted to bring up something about inherent rights and use classical liberalism as a common starting ground. However, it seems that he was unaware that Vee and Sargon both diverge from classical liberalism in practice on the issue of rights.

In classical liberalism there exists the concept of ‘Inherent Rights’. I’ve brought this up (implicitly) in a prior post about the 2nd Amendment. Simply put, an ‘Inherent Right’ is a right you get just for being alive. This is different from a right granted to you by the government, such as your right to a court-appointed attorney should you be unable to afford one yourself. Some libertarians may disagree with such a right as being inherent because it forces someone else to provide their services. Vee explicitly states that there’s no such thing as an inherent right because without someone to enforce the right (government) you may as well not have it. A few times Sargon said that he agrees that the right exists but that without someone enforcing it, it may as well not exist.

While I agree with Sargon, I think his statement has too much concession in it. I believe that someone always has their inherent rights, even if they go to prison or get killed for it. And that while it may be futile for these rights to be exercised, we should still think of them as existing. A person that breaks the law exercising an inherent right is often a catalyst for turning it into a government-enforced right. Think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today we agree that the rights he fought for were inherent rights and that him breaking the law to achieve them can be forgiven, because he wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. Does this mean that if enough people fight for a right that it becomes an inherent right? No. Because there are certain criterion that a right should fit for it to be considered an inherent right. So let’s try to figure out what makes something a candidate for an inherent right. Let me just preface this next section by saying that this is all my opinion and I in no way speak for anyone other than myself. I present this purely for the purposes of thought.

So an inherent right should be tied to the individual. To be redundant, an inherent right should not require any part by another party. Freedom of speech is a good example of this. You do not require someone else around to exercise your freedom of speech. Although if there’s no one around to hear your speech, is it really speech? (#ShowerThoughts)

An inherent right should not be selective in who it applies to. So there are no inherent rights that only blacks may exercise (unless you want to walk into a subset of inherent rights we might call ‘Inherent Rights for Blacks’). There are no inherent rights that only transexuals may exercise. Inherent rights apply to all people.

An inherent right should be voluntary in application. And this is where I tend to side with the libertarians in viewing the optimal society as one devoid of forced interactions. This is part of why I oppose minimum wage laws. They stifle voluntary interactions between two parties. And the most important part of this is that the voluntary interaction should not be one taken under duress. While ‘gun to your head’ decisions are ‘technically’ voluntary, they’re not voluntary on the interaction taking place. But in looking at this criteria, we also need to look at the flip side. While exercising this right should be voluntary, not exercising this right should also be voluntary. In the United States, if you’re over the age of 18 and you’re a U.S. citizen and not a felon (some restrictions apply) then you have the right to vote in your local elections. However, you also have the right to choose not to vote.

A right is not an inherent right unless it conforms to all of these criterion. And this is why the way Democrat Independent Senator Bernard Sanders is mistaken in the way he presents (and probably thinks) about healthcare as a human right. While I don’t think anyone would disagree that everyone has a right to seek health care, I believe quite a few people would disagree that everyone has a right to demand a doctor’s service (I believe even Dr. Vee would agree to that). This is the argument often made by proponents of abortion rights. That the fetus has no right to demand the mother’s body (and this is where I criticize the left for inconsistent application of logic).

So when Senator Sanders says that everyone has an inherent right to health care and college education, he’s wrong. Health care and education require two parties and if these two parties are not making a voluntary interaction (without being under duress), then another right must be violated in order to enforce this right. One of which being one’s right to one’s own labor. Which means at least one of the two rights being applied is not an inherent right. Whichever right ‘wins’ would be a better candidate for an inherent right, but in these two cases, the right being overridden (there’s a reference for ya) is the right to one’s own labor. So if we allow that right to be overridden, we are actually saying that it is not an inherent right. Which means that it is then a government owned right. This could get hairy because if your body and labor belongs to the state, then are you really living in a liberal society? I leave that question up to the reader to answer for themselves. On the other hand, if we allow your right to a doctor’s services to be overridden, well then I guess there’s no problem because it didn’t conform to all three criterion necessary to be an inherent right.

Now what Vee and Sargon are saying is absolutely true in that if no one will recognize your right and enforce your right, then you may as well not have it in practice. And in principle, they are correct. If we look at the definition of ‘right’ in this context:

Right: a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way. – Google Search

So in the broad sense, a right is only useful if someone is willing to enforce it. But just because a right is not enforced, it does not mean that one should not attempt to exercise it. But here’s my sticky point. Let’s return again to the example above of rights overriding other rights. If a right can be overridden by another right, it’s not a right anymore. You can call it a right if you add some asterisks to it to make an exception. The problem this could lead to is a situation in which rights have several asterisks interplaying with each other. At some point we have to ask ourselves if these rights have all of these troublesome exceptions, can we really call them rights?

When this happens in the field of science with models that require asterisks upon asterisks (the Ptolemaic model of our Solar System comes to mind) we usually evaluate the model and see if it might be simpler than we’re making it out to be. Why are we not then applying it to rights? The answer I came up with is that we accept the government-enforced rights model, which could lend itself to these asterisk situations. Or an inherent rights model, in which inherent rights exist, but may or may not be enforced by a government. While they may not be useful for those that would wish to exercise them, they do exist. But again, a question for the reader to answer for themselves.

At any rate, I think I’ve said all that I want to say on the topic at hand. Feel free to let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Inherent Rights

Revisiting Abortion

Ohio state recently passed a bill making abortion illegal after the first heartbeat, so I guess with the heated political climate (especially since President-Elect Trump has stated that he will be appointing ‘pro-life’ Justices to the SCOTUS) now is as good of a time as any to revisit the topic. Some of you may recall that the conclusion that I came to last time; that is, abortion is a difficult topic. I maintain that conclusion. However in part of the post I offer a rebuttal to ‘bodily rights’ argument. The day I began writing this post, I was pointed towards this really old abortion defense paper written by Judith Thomson.

Before I discuss the paper, I figure we should first talk about Judith Thomson or as it may be more proper to call her, Dr. Judith Thomson. Dr. Thomson has a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. One thing you will note being absent, is an M.D. Dr. Thomson is not a medical doctor, her degrees are all in philosophy. Which is oddly appropriate, because the paper itself is not about the medical consequences of abortion, but the logic and morality that come about from opposing it.

The conclusion I came up with is that it’s a very difficult issue and the safest option is to outlaw abortion. It is obvious that the fetus is human (it has two human parents). Whether or not it’s alive may be up to debate, but I concluded that it was alive and was no different to a child outside the womb in its dependence on a caretaker. Since murdering children outside the womb is illegal, why should an exception be made for children inside the womb? Perhaps Dr. Thomson will provide me with an answer in her essay. Let’s look at it.

“Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception. […] We are asked to notice that the development of a human being from conception through birth into childhood is continuous; then it is said that to draw a line, to choose a point in this development and say “before this point the thing is not a person, after this point it is a person” is to make an arbitrary choice, a choice for which in the nature of things no good reason can be given. It is concluded that the fetus is. or anyway that we had better say it is, a person from the moment of conception. But this conclusion does not follow. Similar things might be said about the development of an acorn into an oak trees, and it does not follow that acorns are oak trees, or that we had better say they are. Arguments of this form are sometimes called “slippery slope arguments“–the phrase is perhaps self-explanatory–and it is dismaying that opponents of abortion rely on them so heavily and uncritically” – A Defense of Abortion

So Dr. Thomson is criticizing the usage of slippery slope arguments. I strongly disagree with her because law is all about slippery slope. If a premise to legalized gay marriage could be used to legalize… I dunno, robot marriage then you can bet your sweet patootie that it’ll be used to legalize robot marriage. So I’m sorry Dr. Thomson, but I must reject your notion here. However, this isn’t the focus of your essay so I don’t care too much that we differ in opinion here.

“I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for “drawing a line” in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. […] On the other hand, I think that the premise is false, that the fetus is not a person from the moment of conception. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree” – A Defense of Abortion

Dr. Thomson doesn’t explain why a newly fertilized ovum is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree. But it seems like a bit of a leap. Such a claim would be similar to saying that a newly fertilized ovum is a human adult. No one is making such a claim (to my knowledge). The claim (I believe) she is making is that immature cells are not equivalent to matured cells. It seems irrelevant, because (barring abortions) fundamental human rights are afforded to all humans in the U.S. Whether you’re a babe or a geriatric old man, you have the same rights and are protected by the same laws. She also provides no evidence to support her claim and considering she has no medical degree, I’m not inclined to believe her. And I’ve yet to be presented with any decrees made by a national organization of doctors that says “actually the fetus isn’t a human and here’s why”. So in my ignorance I will continue to assume that the fetus is human because it has human parents. The difficulty (and I point this out in my other post) is in determining whether or not the fetus has rights yet. I’m inclined to think yes, others are inclined to disagree.

Dr. Thomson then proceeds to set up scenarios acting under the assumption that the fetus is a human person with all of the rights afforded to it. She begins with the case of the violinist.

“You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. “Tough luck. I agree. but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” – A Defense of Abortion

I believe the reader is supposed to reach one of two conclusions. Either rights overriding other rights is tricky, or the right to one’s body outweighs the right of someone else to live (or both). I agree with the principle, but not in the way it’s being presented. All it does is point out that this is a very difficult issue to analyze and the answers aren’t in black and white. She then follows it up with this: “In this case, of course, you were kidnapped, you didn’t volunteer for the operation that plugged the violinist into your kidneys.”

She’s probably trying to connect this situation to that of pregnancy. If she is, I’m sorry to say that she did it backwards. The parents implicitly choose to have children during sex. For this example to work, it would have to be the fault of the kidnapping victim that the violinist came down with this kidney ailment. In which case, while I may not agree that the kidnapping victim be hooked up to them by machine, SOME manner of reparation would be due to the violinist. A reparation that is not part of this argument, but I suspect being hooked up to the machine could be one such reparation. In short: the example proves useful only to tell us that which we already know, human rights can be a difficult issue when overlapped.

She then follows it up with a few remarks regarding absolute abortion opposition.

“Nor do they make an exception for a case in which the mother has to spend the nine months of her pregnancy in bed. They would agree that would be a great pity, and hard on the mother; but all the same, all persons have a right to life, the fetus is a person, and so on. I suspect, in fact, that they would not make an exception for a case in which, miraculously enough, the pregnancy went on for nine years, or even the rest of the mother’s life.” – A Defense of Abortion

First, mothers do not spend nine months pregnancy in bed. A vast majority of mothers don’t even know that they are pregnant until they are like two months in. Presumably the mother has a job and continues to work for this duration. And considering the work culture in the U.S. she also works for a few months more as well. But that’s kind of a silly point and its inclusion in this paragraph is an appeal to emotion. I bolded the last sentence of the paragraph because it’s a reduction to the absurd. First, if pregnancies took nine years, I imagine we as a species would find it commonplace and would see it as no different than the current situation of it taking nine months. It seems extreme due to that being 1/8 of a human lifespan but in reality using it as an example brings with it some other fantastical scenarios. The same deal with it taking the rest of the mother’s life. Such a scenario is irrelevant because if it were the case, it would be baked into our species. So it’s incredible to us because we don’t live in such a world, and again, serves only as an appeal to emotion.

Since I do not take the extreme point of view in that abortion is never acceptable, I will not address her inclusion of it in her paper. I personally would permit abortions in two situations. One – the life of the mother is endangered. This comes from a view of pragmatism. The mother is here now, and (obviously) fertile. The mother provides more to the species than an unborn child which may not make it to puberty (especially without a mother). The second case is rape. This is because I view sex, even with contraceptives, (actually moreso with contraceptives) as an implicit agreement to bear children. In rape, no such agreement is made, so the ‘contract’ that is made between parents and nature is not valid. I do not believe Dr. Thomson shares my view in that a nuanced position is necessary,  and believes rather that all abortions should be legal.

Dr. Thomson makes some interesting and entirely unimportant comments throughout the paper. One such example is this:

“The extreme view could of course be weakened to say that while abortion is permissible to save the mother’s life, it may not be performed by a third party, but only by the mother herself. But this cannot be right either” – A Defense of Abortion

I understand the idea of “abortions” being done with coat hangers and willful falls down stairs. But this does not help her argument at all. You can easily liken this to a father driving his son to school one day and suddenly deciding that he wants to kill his son in an inconspicuous manner. So he gambles on his probability of surviving a car accident being  higher than that of his son, and willfully crashes the car. This is still attempted murder. By definition: “Attempted murder is the failed or aborted attempt to murder another person”.

“For what we have to keep in mind is that the mother and the unborn child are not like two tenants in a small house which has, by an unfortunate mistake, been rented to both: the mother owns the house. The fact that she does adds to the offensiveness of deducing that the mother can do nothing from the supposition that third parties can do nothing” – A Defense of Abortion

So I do agree that the mother does own the house. 100% agree. You own your body. And I don’t think that those in opposition to abortion disagree either. But I thought we were operating under the assumption that the unborn child is a human with rights to live. In addition, are we not acting under the assumption that the child is the mother’s child? If we are, then kicking your child to the cold to die is child abuse, and is criminal. If the child isn’t, well then you’re just an asshole, but within your rights (to my knowledge).

Dr. Thomson will now reach the case in which it is necessary to save the mother.

“For we should now, at long last, ask what it comes to, to have a right to life. In some views having a right to life includes having a right to be given at least the bare minimum one needs for continued life. But suppose that what in fact IS the bare minimum a man needs for continued life is something he has no right at all to be given?” – A Defense of Abortion

I’m just going to point out the irony in which leftists demand higher minimum wages and healthcare because it’s their right as a human being but also turn around and use the latter part of this paragraph to justify abortion. In all honesty, I personally agree with the conclusion because I tend to have libertarian views especially regarding property. One might then attempt to extend it to the case of pregnancy. But your children actually do have an implicit right to your property in such a case that it is necessary for their survival. To willfully deny your children the necessities (food, water, shelter) is child neglect. This is still illegal. The only way around this is to attempt an argument to suggest that the child inside of you is not your own… which is a humourous suggestion with no way of being proven true barring that of being a surrogate. In the case of a surrogate, you agreed to carry the child, so you don’t get to abort it.

“In the most ordinary sort of case, to deprive someone of what he has a right to is to treat him unjustly. […] suppose that, having learned that otherwise it means nine years in bed with that violinist, you unplug yourself from him. You surely are not being unjust to him, for you gave him no right to use your kidneys, and no one else can have given him any such right. But we have to notice that in unplugging yourself, you are killing him; and violinists, like everybody else, have a right to life, and thus in the view we were considering just now, the right not to be killed. So here you do what he supposedly has a right you shall not do, but you do not act unjustly to him in doing it.” – A Defense of Abortion

Again, she attempts to use this fantastical setup of the violinist to draw conclusions. But I think she has come to the wrong conclusion here. And we come into this situation of ‘two wrongs make a right’. Murder is illegal in the United States, but not unilaterally illegal. It is permissible to kill someone in self-defense. You are not penalized for this murder because it was done to protect your being. It’s really not as complex as Dr. Thomson is attempting to make it.

In fact, my key criticism with this paper so far is that it attempts to use moral arguments and appeal to emotion too much. Which is amusing because she began her paper with an accusation of slippery slope arguments. Slippery slope arguments are viable for the purpose of law, moral arguments and appeal to emotion are not.

“The emendation which may be made at this point is this: the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly […] But if this emendation is accepted, the gap in the argument against abortion stares us plainly in the face: it is by no means enough to show that the fetus is a person, and to remind us that all persons have a right to life–we need to be shown also that killing the fetus violates its right to life, i.e., that abortion is unjust killing. And is it?” – A Defense of Abortion

She asks this question and then drops it. The answer to this question is yes, because it is child abuse. If you accept that unborn children are people, then killing them is murder. Is there a way to justify murder? Certainly, I gave you an example not that long ago. The justification for most abortions is usually something along the lines of “I can’t afford it” or “The father won’t be present”. Is “I can’t afford it” a justification for stealing? I don’t think so. So why would it be a justification for murder? I can’t think of a comparable example for the father not being present but to be honest, I don’t think it’s terribly relevant as it stands. Current laws dictate that the father has no say in the case of abortion, therefore attempting to use the father as an excuse to get an abortion seems to be in poor taste.

“Indeed, in what pregnancy could it be supposed that the mother has given the unborn person such a right? It is not as if there are unborn persons drifting about the world, to whom a woman who wants a child says I invite you in.”” – A Defense of Abortion

Aha, and here we get to where Dr. Thomson loses me. Because sex is an act of reproduction, I view it as an implicit agreement to nature (or God or whatever you want) that you are inviting a child in. Even with contraceptives, you know that there is a non-zero possibility that you may get pregnant. So you are still signing that contract. This is also why I permit abortions in the case of rape. One of the parents did not consent to sex, they did not ‘sign this contract’ and as such the results of that contract are null and void.

So no, Dr. Thomson, unless you can explain to my why sex is not an implicit agreement to have children I cannot buy this fish. One may attempt to argue that the use of contraceptives is proof that this contract is not being signed, but it isn’t. If anything, it’s a stronger affirmation of the contract, because using contraceptives is proof that you know you are signing the contract. You know the mother could get pregnant, so you try to stack the odds in your favour. But you are recognizing the non-zero probability of pregnancy.

“Suppose a woman voluntarily indulges in intercourse, knowing of the chance it will issue in pregnancy, and then she does become pregnant; is she not in part responsible for the presence, in fact the very existence, of the unborn person inside? No doubt she did not invite it in.” – A Defense of Abortion

She did invite it in, by engaging in sex. To prove to me that she did not invite it in, she has to not consent to sex (rape).

“And then, too, it might be asked whether or not she can kill it even to save her own life: If she voluntarily called it into existence, how can she now kill it, even in self-defense?” – A Defense of Abortion

Self-defense would imply the child is intentionally killing you. While I do support this case of abortion, I do recognize that you are presented with an uncomfortable decision here. There will be some contradictions or exceptions in law. I’m not too bothered by that result. So what Dr. Thomson is trying to do is prove that the moral framework through which you oppose abortion is contradictory, but I’ve yet to be presented with a framework without contradictions. So she serves only to prove the obvious?

“Opponents of abortion […] have tended to overlook the possible support they might gain from making out that the fetus is dependent on the mother, in order to establish that she has a special kind of responsibility for it, a responsibility that gives it rights against her which are not possessed by any independent person […]

On the other hand, this argument would give the unborn person a right to its mother’s body only if her pregnancy resulted from a voluntary act, undertaken in full knowledge of the chance a pregnancy might result from it. It would leave out entirely the unborn person whose existence is due to rape.” – A Defense of Abortion

Exactly. So she comes to the natural conclusion that aborting rape pregnancies (which make up a very  minute amount of abortions) is acceptable. Next she’ll attempt to make it a difficult issue by using some false equivalences.

“If the room is stuffy, and I therefore open a window to air it, and a burglar climbs in, it would be absurd to say, “Ah, now he can stay, she’s given him a right to the use of her house–for she is partially responsible for his presence there, having voluntarily done what enabled him to get in, in full knowledge that there are such things as burglars, and that burglars burgle.” It would be still more absurd to say this if I had had bars installed outside my windows, precisely to prevent burglars from getting in, and a burglar got in only because of a defect in the bars. It remains equally absurd if we imagine it is not a burglar who climbs in, but an innocent person who blunders or falls in.”  – A Defense of Abortion 

The first half of this is a clear false equivalence because burglars choose to burgle. No one chooses to be conceived (as far as we know). While there is some merit in the latter half, a blunder, it makes you think. Suppose we do permit a forceful ejection from the home in question. Would it be acceptable if murder were the method? In the case of the burglar, it may be argued that it is fine to murder them in self-defense and indeed many do in several states like Michigan using ‘stand my ground’ laws. But we’ve already shown the burglar to be a false equivalency, so it’s a moot point. In the case of an accidental fall in, would you murder this person to get them out of your home? If you can honestly say yes, then sure. You may adopt the pro-abortion position.

“Again, suppose it were like this: people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however, and on very, very rare occasions does happen, one of the screens is defective, and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house?” – A Defense of Abortion

I actually prefer this example because it’s the closest to reality but ultimately it’s absurd. This is (loosely) an accurate representation of sex. We actually have to make some final adjustments to make the metaphor work. First, we have to accept that the seeds, when implanted have all of the rights afforded to humans (and the knowledge of this prior to opening the window). Second, sex is opening the window (even with the mesh) during a particularly windy day. Once we adopt both of the changes to make the metaphor work, we arrive at the same conclusion as before, an implicit agreement to care for any seeds that may sprout.

Dr. Thomson is pretty much done at this point, she makes an argument that we shouldn’t have laws in black and white (I agree) so I won’t go any further.

Conclusion:

I honestly cannot see why this paper was lauded as it was. It completely misses the mark in regards to good arguments and serves only to tell us that which we already know: morality is filled with contradictions, superceding rights are a difficult issue, and that law requires nuance. The arguments she presents with regards to who has what rights are often followed with false equivalences or absurd comparisons. Largely, she has appealed to emotion. Starting with her assumption that the fetus is a human with human rights, we arrive at the conclusion that abortion is impermissible with two (known) exceptions. But I suppose that’s just my opinion. I’m sorry that this post was so long and if you’ve made it here, well done.Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

Revisiting Abortion

The Electoral College and Popular Vote

EDIT: Whoops. Forgot to proofread my work and left in the notes to myself to add the links to support my words.

rxl2yIt seems like the proctologist business is booming because there seems to be a lot of butts that are hurt over the recent United States 2016 Presidential Election. Namely, over its results. The God-Emperor Donald J. Trump, the madman himself, has won the presidential election. That’s right, despite almost every news station, newspaper, news website, celebrities, hell, despite what several popular YouTubers said about Trump being ‘deplorable’, he won. I guess it just goes to show that attempting to no-platform ideas you disagree with doesn’t work forever.

So being the tolerant leftists that they are they stood down and accepted… oh wait. They didn’t. Which is fairly odd because Clinton herself said that Trump was undermining democracy by saying he wouldn’t accept the outcome if he lost. She said this on national television during the third (and I believe the second) presidential debate. Now those of you that watch the full clip will know that Clinton called Trump out on it because he’s a Presidential candidate, but if we are to believe the idea of citizen representatives we have to extend it to all citizens of the United States. So these (presumably) Clinton supporters (or at least a large chunk of them are) are protesting, undermining democracy in the same way their candidate said that which they hate was undermining democracy! Irony and hypocrisy make such a delicious combo. So now they’re protesting, blocking streets, beating up 74-year old men, and damaging property. Now the point of this post isn’t to point out the hypocrisy in people or even the left, I’d be here all day. However, I believe there is something of value to come out of these… protests.

There’s a kink in this victory, the Honorable President-Elect Donald J. Trump may have won the electoral college votes (barring any shenanigans in December), but he LOST the popular vote by about half a million votes (illegal immigrant vote came out this time). So now we run into the fifth case of the person that won the popular vote losing the electoral college vote (again, assuming no elector shenanigans). We’ve had this happen five times in the history of our United States. George Washington was our first president in 1789 and Donald Trump will be our president in 2017. 2017-1789 = 228. But we only have an election every 4 years, so 228/4 = 57. So we’ve had 5 out of 57 elections or 8.7% of elections in which the president did not become the president with the popular vote.

So where are we at today? Well, those same leftists I mentioned earlier are proposing that Clinton should be the president despite losing the Electoral College system vote because she won the popular vote. I cannot agree to this and I’ll tell you why. It’s a simple matter of cities holding the most power.

First, CGP Grey (fantastic YouTuber, highly recommend just watching a playlist of his content) argues against the Electoral College because of a mathematical quirk. In this, he counters the ‘Presidential candidates will only visit densely populated states in a popular vote system’ argument with the swing state condition that we’re in right now. I don’t like his argument here. Right now and for the past several elections, candidates have focused on the swing states. While true, the argue is entirely based on the situation now. That situation can change, and his argument only holds while those swing states remain those swing states. Theoretically any state can become a swing state and I would not be surprised if with some population distribution we could make ALL of them swing states. So I don’t like the ‘swing states exist and presidents ignore all other states’ argument.

Second, CGP Grey (same video above) lists the more pressing problem with Electoral College in that 75% of the country can vote against a candidate and that candidate can still win. This would be a problem if we Americans lived in a true democracy, but we don’t. I think the question here is whether or not we want to accept such a possibility if it were to occur. Is it really fair that 25% of people in the country can decide who leads our nation for the next four years?

Third, CGP Grey has made (another?) follow-up video in which he addresses the concerns that I might have with the Electoral College – trust. Do we really trust the electors to vote as the states requested? It’s illegal in some states to not do so, but are the consequences of not doing so steep enough? The answers to these questions are up to you but I do believe they’re worth talking about.

Now onto my contribution. The reason I brought this up is because all of a sudden people care whether or not the United States President is selected democratically by popular vote or continues to be selected by the Electoral College. More specifically, I wanted to take a look at this:

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So this is a list of the most highly populated areas in the United States. The implication being that such a small area of the United States would have great power over the United States. Should the president be elected solely by people that live in what looks like an impossibly tiny faction of the United States? I disagreed, but I wanted to see how far this rabbit hole goes so I went digging.

First, I found the average number of electoral votes per state. We have 538 electoral votes, 50 states and 1 Washington D.C. That’s an average of over 10 electoral votes per state. A state cannot have a fraction of a vote, so let’s round down to 10 electoral votes per person. If you look at every state worth 10 or more electoral votes, it looks like this:

rxl2y

(Don’t focus too much on them being marked for Trump, it’s for visualization purposes only)

10 is the average number of electoral votes, therefore there should be about 25 states here, right? Half of the states should be above the average, half of the states should be below it. There are 21 states here. That’s not too far off, but it’s still only 80% the number of states that it should be. What’s the problem? As you can see, 42% of states control 70% of the electoral college votes. Is this fair? It might be. Let’s look at this list of cities with the most population in the United States.

Of the 50 cities, only 4 are not listed within the states I’ve marked red on the map above. Which means if, assuming you win the most populous cities in the United States under a popular vote system, you control the presidency. But I wonder, how many cities do you need to control to control the presidency? For the 2016 election, there were 146,311,000 registered voters. You only need 50% + 1 vote to win, so you need 73,155,501 votes to win. So how do the cities stack up? Well, if every person in every one of those 50 cities voted for you, you’d have 50,102,395 votes. You wouldn’t have the presidency outright, but you’d be 67% of the way there. The odds of this happening are probably negligible but visiting these areas can still give you impact on surrounding cities, so hopefully that balances things out. Assuming you won every state that had one of these major cities in them, you’d have an electoral map that looked like this:

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So this is better in that it includes more of the country, but it’s still 29 states (well, 28 states and D.C.). Most of those states would probably be ignored because they had little to no population. I suspect the midwest as a group would probably be mostly ignored under a popular vote system. So there’s no reason for someone in the Dakotas to bother getting excited about any president because they can disregard the Dakotas completely.

I think the main reason people are opposed to the electoral college is because of the influence a republican vote has in California. Why bother voting republican if you’re in California? It’s loaded with democrats and there’s no way you can topple that might. Because you vote for the votes of your state, you may as well not bother getting out of bed that day. But if you’re in a popular vote system, aha! Now your vote matters even if you’re a republican in California. I don’t like this line of logic. Surely if the republicans made themselves distinguishable in California, they might attract more campaign time for those sweet 55 electoral votes. Maybe after a few cycles of this, republicans can make a swing state of California. But you’ll never be heard if you do not vote.

I think the main press for popular vote by the left is because of their base demographic. Democrats are known for their love of social programs. Where are the people that are on these social programs? They’re in the cities! So the left is confident that in a popular vote system that they’ll have more power. Of those 50 cities, how many were in California? 8. There were 8 cities that account for 9,066,724 votes. These 8 cities in California account for over 10% of the votes needed to win the presidency. And they’re all in one small area. The electoral college allows the states with fewer people to be competitive with the larger states… in theory (swing states are still a thing whether we like it or not).

To be clear, I’m not saying that the current system is perfect, but I do believe that it is better than one based on pure popular vote. I’m not suggesting any alternative method. I’m just asking you to reconsider your outrage when it comes to popular vote and the electoral college. That’ll be it from me, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

The Electoral College and Popular Vote