Posts Tagged ‘PATRIOT act’

Scattered Thoughts On Gun Control

Guns are bad...Like everyone, I’m sad and angry about Friday’s tragedy. But I keep hearing that now is the time to discuss gun control. So, fine, let’s discuss…

 

—It’s unfortunate that so many people now dismiss the idea that there should be a window of mourning, during which political discussions ought to be tabled, after a national tragedy like Friday’s shooting. I understand why that is: Calls to postpone talk of politics are so often themselves politically motivated, a way to put off a conversation one side never intends to have, that they seem cynical. But it should be obvious that the time for policy discussions is not when people are angry, sad, depressed, scared, emotional, and irrational. This is what leads to laws like the Patriot Act. It’s not that policy discussions should never flow from a national tragedy, and obviously knowing how long to wait is tricky, but I suspect the answer is at least a few hours, maybe even a day or two.

 

—Why do so many of the same people who (rightfully) laugh at the idea that drug prohibition decreases drug use, endorse the idea that gun control will solve the problem of gun violence? Gun control does not mean that bad or crazy people won’t get guns; it means the government will get to decide who gets to have guns. This is the same government, of course, that kills foreign Muslims almost indiscriminately, that imprisons blacks at six times the rate it imprisons whites, that systematically harasses young men based on their ethnic background. But for some reason people think new gun laws would be enforced fairly and equitably.

Continue reading

First Amendment Symposium, Part III: Why Rights Still Don’t Matter

So, Josh exercised his right to free speech by responding to my critique of rights with his own defense of rights. His defense was valiant, yes, but doomed.

Let’s start right at the beginning, with Josh’s attempt to define the ineffable concept of a “right”: “If X has a right to do something, he is legally protected from interference by Y. In other words Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s right. So, if X has a right to speak freely, then Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s speaking freely.” This doesn’t really help us much, does it? A right means that Y—Y, as defined by Josh himself, “being any other individual or the government”—has a duty not to interfere with that entitlement. So, technically, every single time you interrupt someone you have violated someone’s right to free speech, since you’ve interfered with that person’s speaking freely. Apparently, that person now has legal recourse against you. By this standard, public school teachers who force students to raise their hand before speaking have collectively committed the gravest assault on our free speech rights that the U.S. has ever known.

Of course, this is ridiculous because Josh’s standard is ridiculous. A right protects you from any interference? That’s simply not true empirically. Continue reading

Yes, We Really Need Checks and Balances

An_Advertisement_of_The_Federalist_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16960John’s Argument:
John S. has two main arguments against checks and balances: 1. They are outdated and no longer consistent with the Founding Fathers’ intentions and 2. They are overrated. The first is easier to respond to than the second since John’s second argument is more based on his personal preferences rather than any sort of logic or historical pattern. Nonetheless, I will respond to both.

Understanding the Meaning of Checks and Balances:
Checks and balances, according to his own cited definition, is a “principle of government under which separate branches are empowered to prevent actions by other branches and are induced to share power.” In other words, checks and balances specifically deals with the interaction among multiple branches of government. The presidential veto and the Senate’s power of impeachment are two typical examples of checks and balances. Checks and balances were designed in order to moderate the excesses of democracy and prevent factions (groups of people united under the same interest adverse to the liberties of other individuals) from exercising influence under a concentration of power.
Continue reading