Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

12 December 2015

One Person, One Vote?

The Supreme Court just heard a case on Tuesday, Evenwel v. Abbott, over whether state legislative districts must equalize the number of voters or the number of people.  The particular state in this case is Texas, where districts are apportioned by number of people and where the number of voters per district then differs greatly in some cases.

One person, one vote sounds nice -- until you give it some thought.  Of course children are persons, but we exclude them from voting.  Non-citizens are also not supposed to vote, though many do in some districts, especially those controlled by the Democratic Party.  Many people though eligible to become voters do not register to vote.  Many people who are registered to vote skip many or some elections.  There simply is no sense in which one person gets one vote and one share of representation.  There is no feasible way to achieve any such outcome in the future.

The Constitution originally handled the problem this way:
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and Excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Consequently, districts for the House of Representatives were equalized for the total number of people, excluding untaxed Indians and two-fifths of slaves.  The free Persons included non-citizens.  The idea at the time was that those men eligible to vote would represent all men with insufficient property to vote, children, women, non-citizens, those bound to service for a term of years, and all slaves.

The 14th Amendment changed the apportionment for the House Districts by only excluding Indians not taxed.  It went on to punish states that denied the right to vote to male citizens of 21 years of age or older by reducing the House representation in proportion to their numbers in ratio to the total number of male citizens 21 years of age and older.  The idea was still clearly that male citizens of 21 years or older would represent all women and all non-citizens.

But how should the House Districts properly be set up?  By extension, how should state legislative districts be set up?  Is it reasonable to assume that those who vote are trying and able to represent the good of those who cannot or will not vote when they cast their vote?  These are substantive questions.  It is not unreasonable for fairly reasonable people to disagree on the answers.

At the time the 14th Amendment was written, it was considered that House Districts should be apportioned in accordance with the number of voters or eligible voters.  That idea was shot down immediately when Representative James Blaine, Republican of Maine, examined the census data and found that since the ratio of men to women was much higher in Western states than in the Eastern states, the Eastern states would lose massive representation if it were based on the number of voters or eligible voters.  Women could not vote, but they were valuable for inflating the numbers of persons for representation, much as slaves had been in the South in the past.

It is now easy for all citizens of age to vote.  Despite this, in many areas very low fractions of the citizens chose to vote.  They are either not sufficiently interested or they are so infused with a sense of futility that they see no point in voting.  Should uninterested people or those so infused with a sense of doom and futility be given representation that they will not use? 

In most cases, such uninterested or futility-bound voters especially occupy highly Democrat districts.  So many Progressive Elitist Democrats believe such non-participating voters or potential voters should be represented because they, the Progressive Elitists, will cast their votes in the interest of the apathetic or doomed-in-futility persons.  Yet these same Progressive Elitists have long claimed to be doing this, especially to minimize economic inequality.  Nonetheless, the Congressional Districts with the worst economic inequality are almost exclusively Democratic and have been for decades.  Clearly, the Progressive Elitist voters, who do vote in high percentages, either do not actually vote to reduce economic inequality or they do so with a complete misunderstanding of the consequences of their votes.  They are clearly horrible at representing the interests of the less educated and less inclined to vote people in their districts.

In general, people who vote either vote their own interest or they vote for the interests of others without actually understanding their interests.  Let us be realists and recognize the facts and human nature.  People barely able to motivate themselves to vote rarely have any understanding of the legitimate role of government, the important political issues of the time, the principles of the candidates, and the manner in which new laws and regulations will affect our futures.  In the era of
Big Government these issues are often much more complex than they were in the past in America.

We should also note that it is clear that people are not good at representing the interests of children.  We see this in the miserable public education system we have, in the huge national debt, in the terrible future liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, and the complete disregard for the effect of compounded economic growth rates on the standard of living of Americans 30 or 40 years from now.  Few voters weigh the future enough to look to future outcomes.  Consequently, they are nearly worthless as representatives of the interests of today's children.

House districts, both federal and state, should simply be apportioned on the basis of the number of voters in the last several elections, assuming they do not exceed the number of eligible voters as they do in some Democrat districts.  This apportions representation according to the numbers of citizens of age to vote who actually have an interest in government.  Yes, many of them will not understand the issues and the consequences of their votes either, but this is the one form in which One Person, One Vote is actually achievable in the form of One Voter, One Vote.

Adding to the weight on political outcomes of those districts with higher voter turn-out is likely to raise the quality of the People's Voice about as high as one can accomplish by any means except an improved education system or other educational efforts.  If the reward in political outcomes is greater for those who already care enough to vote, perhaps they will make a greater effort in the future to think about their votes.  These more thoughtful voters then may even realize a bit greater responsibility not to do harm to others, including those others who do not care to vote.  But realistically, one will be giving a greater voting weight to those who are voting for the interests of those they know best, themselves and perhaps their immediate family and friends.  That is not a bad thing.  Most great wrongs are done when people vote or act for others they do not even know, or when they pretend to do so.

How might one determine the number of voters for these district apportionment purposes?  How about the last four elections in the previous decade with re-apportionment occurring once a decade?  It would be nice if one could just make this the last four elections, but the re-districting effort and battles would be too much.  As for why four elections, the fluctuations in voter turn-out are great, especially the differences between Presidential elections and those when voting on the President does not occur.  The last four elections will include two presidential and two non-presidential elections.  It will include elections when no vote was up in the state for Senator in Congress.  It is a good number to average out, though it may slightly lag overall population shifts.  I would gladly live with that population shift lag for the many benefits of One Voter, One Vote, One Share of Representation.

As for state legislative districts, a variety of formulas are fairly reasonable and determining what formula to use should be left up to the states.  Only very unreasonable state decisions should be corrected by the Supreme Court.  Among the unreasonable apportionments would be those that count non-citizens.  Perhaps counting citizen children should also be considered unreasonable, though I am less adamant about this than about the non-citizen count.

Which brings up the need to also tackle the problem of ineligible voters casting ballots as another aspect of the voter representation problem.

08 December 2015

On Prohibiting Guns to Those on the No Fly List

The No Fly List is an often incompetently compiled list which does not follow the judicial procedures that are a necessary protection of individual rights.  It denies individuals the right to travel by air with the false claim that one does not have a right to travel by air.  It is claimed that travel is just a privilege which government can revoke at its whim.

This is not true.  The right to travel is a very fundamental right.  Just as no one has the obligation to provide us with happiness, no one is obliged to enable our travel.  But, no one is justified in preventing our traveling with the use of force or the threat of force so long as we do so without hurting anyone else.  Before one's right to travel can be abridged, there must be a judicial determination that one has a history of initiating the use of force or that one has plans to do so. 

The right to bear arms is an explicitly guaranteed right in our Bill of Rights.  The Second Amendment to the Constitution specifically recognizes this right to own arms.  Obama's call to prevent the sale of arms and the possession of arms to those on the No Fly List is highly irrational.  I am sure it seems to make sense to many Americans, but it does not.

Only those who have established felony histories can be denied their Second Amendment right to bear arms.  This means those who are deprived of their gun rights have been first evaluated by our judiciary as a reasonable threat to others should they be allowed to own a gun.  But note what Obama is doing to undermine this basic right guaranteed in our Bill of Rights:  He is denying this right on the basis of a list made in denial of a travel right without a proper judicial review of those denied this right.  In his own terms, he is using the revocation of what he calls a privilege to justify the revocation of an individual right protected in our Bill of Rights.  The downgrade of our travel rights is being used as a basis to downgrade a right protected in our Constitution.

Even in the Articles of Confederation, the right to travel from one state to another was recognized.  Many court cases decided under the Constitution have also recognized this right to travel.  Yet since 9/11, this right has been denied, especially in air travel.  Now we see once again how the violation of one right is used to justify the violation of another individual right.

Obama Nonsense on Islam and Its Claim to Freedom of Religion

In his speech Sunday night, Obama claimed that those who use violence as a means to advance Islam are practicing a perverted form of Islam.  Since Islam is essentially a religion that obligates its believers to emulate Mohammad's life practices and Mohammad used violence and terror to advance his religion, it is nonsense to claim that people who believe they are using violence and terror to advance Islam are practicing a perverted form of Islam.  In the context of Islam, they are not radical, however radical they are as human beings.

Yes, most people who think of themselves as Muslims are not themselves violent in their practice of the religion.  Many are good people.  Nonetheless, those of us who are not practicing Islam have often observed that far too few Muslims are openly critical of those who use violence or terror to advance the religion.  Well, there is a very logical reason why Muslims do not offer such criticism as much as good people should.  They cannot criticize the present-day advocates of violence against non-Muslims without making an implied criticism of Mohammad himself for using violence and terror to spread his religion.  They must be silent.  Their silence is in some part due to fear, but it is also due to the fundamental beliefs of the religion itself.  Many of those Muslims who do not themselves use force to make others observe Islam make "charitable" contributions to organizations that advocate or actually use force for that purpose.

Contrary to Obama's claim that we owe Muslims all of the rights we usually allow people under the freedom of religion, we do not owe this religious freedom to any religion that advocates the use of force to make others practice that religion.  Freedom of religion, as with all freedom of conscience, has to have a foundation in the prohibition of the use of force against others as a means to practice the religion.   Given that prohibition of force, we can and should allow others their freedom of conscience, even as we claim the exercise of our own freedom of conscience.

Given that Islam is in essence the emulation of Mohammad, we can very reasonably ask if Mohammad were alive today, would we allow him to enter the United States?  I would not allow him in.  He is much too dangerous, too violent, and too committed to terrorism.  Neither would I allow those who followed his commands to commit violence against non-believers to enter the U.S.  In doing so, I would not be in violation of anyone's legitimate claim of freedom of religion.  I would be protecting most Americans from violence.