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

25 February 2016

The Educational Attainment of Americans Before 1850

It is widely assumed that few Americans prior to 1850 and the development of government-run school systems were capable of reading and that knowledge was sparsely distributed.  This is a myth which there is much evidence to refute.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Andrew Berstein which was published in The Objective Standard, Vol. 5, No. 4 (2010) under the title The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools.

Prior to the mid-19th century, government schools did not exist in America. All schools were private, and education was widespread and outstanding. For example, in the Middle Atlantic colonies during the pre-Revolutionary period, professional educators established numerous schools to satisfy the demand for education.15 Philadelphia, for instance, boasted schools for every subject and interest. Between 1740 and 1776, 125 private schoolmasters advertised their services in Philadelphia newspapers—this in a city whose population was miniscule relative to today. Professional educators provided mentoring services in English, contemporary foreign languages, science, and a wide variety of other topics.16 Children who grew to be such brilliant scientists, writers, and statesmen as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington received their education at home or in private schools.
(As to higher education, by the late-18th century six private colleges operated in the colonies: Yale, the College of New Jersey [Princeton], the College of Philadelphia [Penn], Dartmouth, Queen’s [Rutgers], and Rhode Island College [Brown].)17
Predictably, the educational results of such a free educational market were superb. The literacy levels of Revolutionary America were remarkably high. For example, Thomas Paine’s book, Common Sense,written in plain style but enunciating sophisticated political principles, sold 120,000 copies during the colonial period to a free population of 2.4 million (akin to selling 10 million copies today).18 The essays of The Federalist, written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay in support of a Constitution for the nascent republic, were largely newspaper editorials written for and read by the common man.
Sales of American books and educational materials in the early- and mid-19th century likewise indicate a high national literacy rate. Between 1818 and 1823, while the U.S. population was under 20 million, Walter Scott’s novels sold 5 million copies (the equivalent of selling 60 million [actually more than 77.5 million] copies today). Early in the 19th century, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper likewise sold millions of copies.19 The McGuffey’s Readers, first published in 1836, routinely used such terms as “heath” and “benighted” in third-grade texts. They asked such questions as “What is this species of composition called?” and gave such assignments as “Relate the facts of this dialogue.” The fourth-grade reader included selections from Hawthorne, and the fifth-grade text, readings from Shakespeare. “These were not the textbooks of the elite but of the masses,” explains Thomas Sowell. “[F]rom 1836 to 1920, McGuffey’s Readers were so widely used that they sold more than 122 million copies.”20
Given the high quality of education in early America, it is no surprise that two renowned French visitors observed and reported on the phenomenon. In an 1800 book Vice President Thomas Jefferson commissioned, titled National Education in the United States of America, Pierre Du Pont de Nemours reported that Americans received an education far superior to that of other peoples. “Most young Americans,” he wrote, “can read, write, and cipher. Not more than four in a thousand are unable to write legibly.”21 Several decades later, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that Americans were the most educated people of history.22
The bracketed text in red is my correction.  Footnote 17 explains that Harvard College, King's College in New York City (now Columbia University), and William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, which are all private colleges now, were founded by governments.  Harvard was founded by the Massachusetts Bay Colony and King's and William and Mary Colleges were founded under Royal Charters in the colonial period.  It is clear that the 1800 book Vice President Thomas Jefferson commissioned, titled National Education in the United States of America, Pierre Du Pont de Nemours stating that "not more than four in a thousand are unable to write legibly" did not include slaves.

The idea that a private education system would leave many Americans less educated than the government-run education system of today is belied by this history and by the fact that the approximately 11% of schools today that are private out-perform the government schools readily.  Home-schooled children also greatly out-perform government-schooled children.

The government-run schools have little reason to teach children good reasoning skills, the knowledge they need to earn a living, and the habit of independent, critical thinking.  Without these attainments, it is a very uphill battle for individuals to achieve wisdom and the necessary skills to make their own value choices well.  Government-run schools have a tendency to propagate myths that support Big Government and diminish the exercise of individual rights.  Government-controlled education endangers children, future adults, and our constitutionally limited republican government of a few enumerated powers.  Government-educated students generally have no idea what purposes and achievements define a legitimate government, no sound understanding of individual rights, no thoughts about the intelligibility of laws and regulations, and no commitment to the Rule of Law.  Because the People are divided about ideas of morality, the government schools downplay moral principles.  They have little knowledge of history and the many lessons of how governments have deprived their citizens of their rights.  They have no understanding of basic economics and are taught to believe in policies that deny the basic Law of Supply and Demand and the importance of production itself.  They massively promote group identifications and victim-hood and victimizer status for these groups in a highly divisive manner.  They systematically undermine the much greater diversity and wealth of individual choices provided by the private sector in favor of the rigid, group oriented controls of the government sector.

The government-run education system wallows in a profound conflict-of-interest and because it is coercive and tax-funded, it has no reason to improve.  In fact, the schools are more commonly provided with more money the more they fail, providing them with no incentive to provide a decent education.  Government-run and controlled schools very commonly put the welfare of their under-performing employees well ahead of that of their under-performing students.

The state of education in America today is tragic and is much of the reason that the state of government in America today is increasingly harmful to the freedom, security, and general well-being of Americans.

23 February 2016

An 1840 Massachusetts Legislature Committee Prediction on a Government-Controlled Education System

In 1840, Horace Mann was pushing the state of Massachusetts to establish a government-run education system after the model of the state-run schools of Prussia and France.  A legislative committee upon evaluating this proposal made three predictions:
  • It would destroy America's republican principles.
  • It would be a tool to increase government power.
  • It would spread propaganda and diminish the influence of parents on their children.
All of these predictions have come true.  The committee appears to have failed to anticipate how broadly incompetent a government-controlled education system would be, however.

18 February 2016

Free Speech is Mostly Restricted in American Colleges and Universities

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has just produced its newest evaluation of the speech codes and policies of American Colleges and Universities.  FIRE has a list of the ten worst colleges and universities for free speech.  They are:

Mount St. Mary’s University  
Northwestern University, where a high school friend is an Economics Professor and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education  
Louisiana State University  
University of California, San Diego  
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota 
University of Oklahoma, from which a sister earned a BBA degree  
Marquette University  
Colorado College  
University of Tulsa, from which the same sister earned a Master of Taxation degree  
Wesleyan University

Because I have many family members and old high school friends who live in Oklahoma, the fact that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa are on this list is particularly distressing.  I would occasionally deal with the boredom of high school by playing hooky so I could spend 10 hours reading in the library of the University of Tulsa.  The Oklahoma State University also lowered its freedom of speech rating from a Yellow Light rating to a Red Light rating.  Apparently Oklahoma's academic professionals are playing catch-up with those of the longer established commitments to socialist elitist indoctrination, political correctness, and the belief that some groups are incapable of rational thought and forever governed by irrational emotions.

But, FIRE has been successful in creating a trend in the direction of more free speech in our colleges and universities.  The improvements have been slow and have required many a hard fight to bring about.  There are now 23 colleges and universities that have earned a good Green Light evaluation by FIRE of their speech codes, namely codes that guarantee free speech on the college campus.  This is up from 18 colleges and universities out of 440 which are evaluatedTwenty-two are listed here, and the University of Maryland - College Park has just been added to those with a Green Light freedom of speech evaluation.  The good, free colleges are:

Arizona State University
Black Hills State University
Carnegie Mellon University
Cleveland State University, where my wife took some courses to prepare for a change of major for graduate studies
Eastern Kentucky University
George Mason University, with a great Economics Dept., but many scientists who want to suppress the free speech of scientists who reject the catastrophic man-made global warming hypothesis
Mississippi State University
Oregon State University
Plymouth State University
Purdue University
Purdue University Calumet
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
The College of William and Mary
University of Florida

University of Maryland
University of Mississippi
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
University of North Florida
University of Pennsylvania
, the only Ivy League School with a free speech policy!
University of Tennessee – Knoxville
University of Utah
University of Virginia
Western State Colorado University


Unfortunately, the really awful Red Light evaluations still apply to 49.3% of the colleges and universities evaluated for the 2014-2015 academic year.  But this is a considerable improvement compared to the 75% of Red Light universities in the 2007-2008 academic year.  So, which American Universities that I have attended, my family members have attended, or my friends have attended are so inclined toward totalitarian free speech restrictions that they have landed on the FIRE Red Light list?

Brown University, where I earned my Sc.B. degree in Physics
Case Western Reserve University, where I earned my Ph.D. in Physics
Columbia University, where one of my daughter's earned her MBA
Franklin & Marshall College, where a colleague earned his B.S. in Chemistry
Georgia Institute of Technology, where a son-in-law earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a niece is pursuing an engineering degree
Johns Hopkins University, where two colleagues earned their Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry or Materials Science and Engineering
Lehigh University, where a colleague from the past earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry
Ohio University, where a fellow graduate student is now a Physics Professor
Oklahoma State University, which two sisters and my brother attended, as well as many high school friends
Pennsylvania State University, where an old colleague teaches
Princeton University, where a friend from Brown University earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where a graduate student friend earned his B.S. in Physics
Ohio State University, where many of my wife's family earned their degrees
University of Cincinnati, for whose faculty and graduate students I have provided many analyses
Dartmouth College, where two high school friends earned undergraduate degrees
University of North Carolina - Greensboro, where a sister lives
University of Texas at Austin, from which a daughter earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering
University of Tulsa, from which a sister earned a Master of Taxation degree

When Brown University and Case Western Reserve University ask me for donations to their "educational" endeavors, it does not endear them to me that I know that they are not primarily interested in helping their students to learn thinking skills and to develop independent minds.  They are largely in the business of producing socialist elitists in a carefully controlled environment with very limited freedom of speech.  Neither does it give me a warm and fuzzy feeling to think of the fortune my wife and I spent to send a daughter to one of these schools.  She compounded the indoctrination problem by earning an MBA at another of these strictly controlled indoctrination schools.

At least the generally dismal condition of our American colleges and universities is slowly improving on the whole.  Instead of giving donations to Brown University and Case Western Reserve University, I will give the money I might have given to them to institutions interested in studies and educational efforts that benefit individuals who value liberty and rational thought.  FIRE is one such organization.




16 February 2016

Rationally Choosing a President

As an American with the right to vote for President, how does one rationally exercise that right?

The first task the rational individual has is to determine what the legitimate purpose of government is and how government acts to achieve that purpose.  It is easier to understand how government acts to achieve its purposes, than it is to understand what its legitimate purposes are.  Government achieves its purposes by using force.  If challenged by any of the people it governs, it is willing to use overwhelming and fatal force.  It is the nature of government that it achieves its ends through the use of force.  Without a clear understanding of that and which of many purposes it may have that are legitimate, it is not possible to make a rational choice of that government's chief executive officer.

Many people believe that government exists to enforce a morality upon a society.  Thus that portion of the left which is long educated in the government-controlled education system commonly believes that some groups deserve to be treated by everyone nicely.  These groups are usually people they see as systematically discriminated against or as rather helpless.  If those of the favored groups are not treated nicely by someone, the government should use force to see that those who are not nice will act nice.  On the other hand, that portion of the right which believes in religious fundamentalism largely believes that everyone should be forced to live in accordance with what they think Christianity requires of moral people.  There is some overlap in these two groups' ideas of morality, but there are also important differences.  What they have in common is a belief that it is right to have government enforce their idea of moral behavior upon those whose ideas of moral behavior differ from theirs or upon people who sin by not living up to the morality they themselves may recognize.

Neither group believes in a broad concept of freedom of conscience.  Because both groups are broadly willing to use force to achieve their goal of moral uniformity in individual's relationships with one another, neither believes in a broad concept of freedom of association either.  The socialist elitist group of the left and the Christian fundamentalist group of the right are the most polarized groups willing to use force to make every individual comply with their moral beliefs, but this is actually a trait of most Americans.

It does not dawn on most Americans that it is from a broad individual right to freedom of conscience and freedom of association that all of the individual rights that most think they should have arise.  Why should an individual have freedom of speech?  Because freedom of speech enables people to develop, with feedback from others, and trade the knowledge they need to survive and flourish on Earth in the midst of powerful natural forces and other people.  Freedom of speech is often opposed by those who wish to suppress the knowledge and understanding that may result.  A crucial portion of that knowledge and understanding is about a moral code suitable to sustaining life as a thinking and living being.  Freedom of speech is critical as a support for developing learning, identifying values to pursue, earning a living by production, and trading values with other individuals.

Today's socialist elitists are often weak on freedom of speech because they argue it can be hurtful to some among those groups they favor or think are incapable of managing their own lives.  Not infrequently, they even believe that scientific pursuit of knowledge should be suppressed if it might cause people to disagree with part of their belief system.  This is most apparent if those who disagree are pursuing profits in trade or disagree with their ideas about evolution or man's relationship with the environment.  The fundamentalist right sometimes forces the teaching of Intelligent Design or forces counseling prior to a woman having an abortion.  Freedom of speech means we have the right to say what we think, but also that we have the right not to be forced to listen to those we disagree with.  Real freedom of speech also rests in freedom of association.  We have the right to speak to those who want to listen to us.  Freedom of the press is just the right to put our thoughts on paper or electronic media and distribute them to those who want to read what we have written.  Consequently, freedom of press also has a foundation in our broad freedoms of conscience and association.

Of course, freedom of religion is just a subset of our broad freedom of conscience.  Indeed, the two were often conflated when the early state constitutions were formulated and in the debates about the federal Constitution.  Freedom of religion is clearly both about a set of beliefs and the freedom to gather with others of similar belief, as is our broader freedom of conscience.  Freedom of conscience, really the freedom to think and to act upon what we think, is inseparable from freedom of association in our interaction with others in a society.  Thus, when a socialist elitist has the government use force to make a Christian fundamentalist baker bake a cake for a gay wedding or to make one pay for a woman's abortion, that socialist elitist is violating the Christian fundamentalist's freedom of conscience and his freedom of association.  It is not of primary moral importance that the socialist leftist may be right that discriminating against gay people and their marriages is wrong or that a woman has a right to have an abortion.  If these are fact as I think they are, this is still not justification for using force to violate the individual rights of the Christian fundamentalist.  Neither would it be right for the Christian fundamentalist to deny the government contract for domestic partnerships to gay people or to force those who do not share their religious beliefs to attend and financially support their church.

Our Declaration of Independence correctly identified the legitimate and very limited function of government.  Its legitimate functions are limited to the protection of the individual's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It accomplishes this purpose by not allowing individuals to initiate the use of force upon others and by not itself using any more force than is needed to prevent individuals or aliens from initiating the use of force against its citizens.  Legitimate government is not in the business of doing harm to some in the name of a greater good claimed for others.  Legitimate government lives under a rule that it must first do no harm to anyone who has not initiated the use of force.  Legitimate government minimizes the use of force in a society, including its own use of force.  This is why the Constitution gave the federal government very limited and enumerated powers.  Those powers have been expanded by present-day interpretations far beyond the context of this very limited role of simply protecting individual rights.

Legitimate government rests on the foundation of a People who are mostly competent to comprehend their lives and environment, choose their own values, and pursue those values in a robust and choice-rich private sector.  It is in the private sector that individuals can best exercise their quest for knowledge and understanding, learn about the many values they might pursue, and exercise their choice of values by acquiring them, often in cooperation with others who wish to enter into trades of values with them.  No such enabling environment is possible in a society following a large government model.  The nature of laws and regulations that go beyond prohibiting the initiated use of force is to reduce choices of values and reduce their free trade.  Such a society suffers a reduction of knowledge, the reduction of the happiness of many, and a subsequent reduction in the production of goods and services.

The socialist elitist thinks it is crass to argue that their web of laws and regulations lead to a reduction in the growth of an economy.  They believe it is fine to impose these limits on human activity in pursuit of their moral ideals because trade and business are immoral, or at least not endeavors suitable to the most enlightened minds.  Never mind the fact that a free society with limited government whose private sector production of goods and services may easily grow at a 4% rate will provide 1.83 times as many goods and services in a generation (about 31 years in America) as one growing at a 2% rate characteristic of their partially enacted agenda under Obama.  They never consider how many of those with lesser abilities or drive will find it much easier to live and to enjoy a much more interesting life in a society with 83% more goods and services in a generation.  They never ask if the medical achievements, the development of new life-enhancing products, the advancement of knowledge generally and its teaching, the increased wealth available for charities, and the shortened work hours in such a more developed private sector might not easily be much preferable to the society with more public housing, free food, long term unemployment benefits, higher taxes, less investment, more corn subsidies, more Import-Export Bank subsidies, more renewable energy subsidies, more college loans, incalculably less pollution, and higher minimum wages now at the expense of this growth.

A moral society starts with a government that does not itself act immorally by using any more force than it must to keep individuals from using force unnecessarily.  A harmonious society starts with this minimization of the use of force.  It allows individuals to choose their own values, manage and own their own lives, and to trade freely with others for each trader's mutual advantage.  Such a society prospers in happiness and security.

Being happy is less about having a good or service than it is about being free to choose what you want and being able to act for the purpose of achieving your values.  The competent individual is capable of doing this.  The individual who is free to do this is more likely to feel competent.  This esteem that follows from the act of using one's own mind to understand reality, to identify and choose one's own values, and to act to achieve those values is essential to happiness.  Self-chosen values are the food of dreams and the freedom to act to achieve them is the basis for hope.  Good government does not kill our individual dreams and does not subvert our hopes.  It does not squash any individual's dreams and hopes in favor of a chosen group.  It provides equal freedoms for all to choose their values and to pursue them.

The man to vote for to become President is the man who best understands this and will try his best to reform government to make it legitimate.

11 February 2016

NOAA Fudges Temperatures in My Backyard to Bolster Failed Man-Made Warming Hypothesis

Tony Heller at Real Science has once again shown how our federal government through NOAA has provided a faked data plausibility for the failed catastrophic man-made global warming hypothesis.  This example of NOAA data fudging is from my own backyard.  It is amazing what can be done to take advantage of very local urban heat island (UHI) effects.  Having taken advantage of UHI, NOAA then adds further corrections to temperature measurements to lower those of the past, when population densities were generally lower, instead of lowering recent measurements to compensate for increasing UHI contributions to present temperatures.  I wrote a post long ago showing that rural temperature measurements showed no significant temperature increase for a long time.

Of course, since the "settled", "consensus" physics said to cause carbon dioxide to warm the surface of the Earth is wrong, it is hardly surprising that the many special interests dependent upon the catastrophic man-made global warming fraud are manufacturing data to hide the lack of warming in the last 18 years.  It is disgusting that many scientists are active participants in this fraud.

Unconstitutional Rule by Bureaucracy

There is an excellent article by John Yoo and Dean Reuter at AEI on this subject.  I think it is instructive, but not surprising given the general incompetence of our federal government, that there is no authoritative list of all the rule-producing government agencies.  This fits in very well with the fact that the federal government has no authoritative accounting of its assets.  It is not even clear that it knows who it employs.  Yet this unaccountable government expects individuals and companies to be much more accountable than it is.  It is the old "Do as I say, not as I do." rule.  This is the unaccountable, unconstitutional power that adds 80,000 pages of rules and regulations a year that everyone of us is expected to read, study, interpret, check on court interpretations, and find ways to obey in our lives.

Did you do your duty as a peon under this system of governance?  If not, wouldn't you be better off if you required the legislative body, our Congress, to be the sole source of binding rules which we must obey.  Of course, that would not be sufficient either given that our elected representatives cannot be bothered to read the laws they vote for.  We must make them pass a law that no legislative representative may vote for a law they have not read.

10 February 2016

Educating Students Around the World in Materials Analysis and Characterization

In addition to my writings on this blog, I have written most of the website content for my materials analysis laboratory, Anderson Materials Evaluation, Inc.  That website consists of nearly 80 pages of information about the laboratory, materials analysis techniques, applications of materials characterization to a wide range of materials to make better use of materials and better products, information about the industries, companies, universities, and governmental agencies we support, and background and specialization information about our scientists.

AME's Dr. Kevin Wepasnick is a home brew-master. He recently collaborated with C&EN, a publication of the American Chemical Society, to make a helium beer. Helium actually is soluble in beer, gives it a very fine head, and maintains a very rich and creamy taste. But it has a much lower solubility than carbon dioxide does and does not create the carbonic acid that CO2 does. Carbonic acid gives beer a sharper taste.  Consequently, helium beer is quite flat.  Because the solubility of helium is very low, Kevin used a much higher pressure of helium in the brewing process. Due to that high pressure, much of the brewing was performed in our laboratory at Anderson Materials Evaluation using higher pressure hardware than is used for the usual carbon dioxide beer. See the C&EN video at www.andersonmaterials.com/beer.  Note the remark that our AME logo is Tight!




An incredible number of students are coming to our website to learn about analytical techniques and materials characterization. In just the last week, about 100 university internet users came to our website. Visitors came from Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, Yale, Dartmouth, Cornell, the Universities of Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Cal Poly, UCLA, UC at Davis, Oregon State, Michigan State, U. of Rochester, RIT, Case Western Reserve U., Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kent State, SUNY at Potsdam, Lehigh, Arizona State, Missouri U. of Sci. & Tech., Carnegie Mellon, U. of Pittsburgh, Northeastern U., UMBC, George Mason U., Purdue U., Washington State, and many more have visited in the last week.  Visitors from McGill, U. of Toronto, U. of Alberta, U. of Calgary, and other colleges in Canada visited the AME website.

In the United Kingdom, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Universities of Strathclyde, Sheffield, Southhampton, Northhampton, Windsor, Reading, Bath, Leeds, and Birmingham have provided visitors. In the rest of Europe: Uppsala U., Ecole de technologie superieure, U. of Ulm, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz U. Hannover, Picardie U., U. of Mons, Flinders U., U. College of Dublin, Waterloo U., U. Libre de Bruxelles, and others have visited. Many South American, Middle Eastern, African, Indian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese university visitors have also been to our website in the last week. AME is certainly doing its part to educate the world in materials science and engineering!

05 February 2016

The Aggressive Maryland Ban on "Assault" Firearms Must Defend Itself Again

The Maryland law banning 45 types of firearms as assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was ruled constitutional in a lower court ruling, despite the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.  The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has now ruled in a 2-1 decision written by Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr. that the lower court ruling must be based on a more stringent legal standard.  The Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, Democrat, helped to pass the law when he was a state senator.  He remains an ardent supporter of the arms ban.  He claims it is just common sense that the 2nd Amendment does not give people a right to own military-style assault weapons.

Assault weapons by name imply an intention to use the weapon in an offensive, rather than a defensive, manner.  Yet, in any fight for one's life, the fight will tend to oscillate back and forth between defense and offense.  Yes, one may be defending one's home and family, but to do so one cannot simply block blow after blow and expect that one will be forever successful in blocking the next blow.  At some point, one has to find an instant to move to the offensive and deliver a knock-out blow to end the contest.  The sooner this is accomplished, the less the threat to one's loved ones and values.  The Democrats never seem to understand this.

There is no clear distinction between an assault and a defensive weapon.  There is also no clear distinction between a military weapon and a defensive weapon.  The dissenting judge on the Appeals Court decision, Robert B. King, claimed the Maryland law banning assault weapons banned "exceptionally lethal weapons of war."  Now I ask you, what other kind of weapon would you want to have while defending your family and home?  A pocket knife with a 3-inch blade is not sufficient to the task of protecting one's values.  Morally, how can it be wrong to defend your family and home with the best tools available for doing so?

When the 2nd Amendment was approved by the states of the new Republic and became effective on 15 December 1791, many Americans lived on the frontier and were under frequent threat of attack by Indians or even the British who still occupied Canada and various forts in the Midwest (then the Northwest), despite the Ohio Territory having been ceded to the Americans by the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolutionary War.  The Northwest Indian War, also called Little Turtle's War, lasted from 1785 - 1795, with the British supplying weapons to the Indians.  Not so long after, the British and their Indian allies launched a brutal attack upon the Americans in the War of 1812.  Throughout this period, it was clearly a common sense necessity that many an American must arm himself with the best weapons of war he could afford.  Those weapons were not necessarily any different than those used by the meager official armed forces of the federal government.  The common American could own the best musket and the best rifle available.  A few even owned cannons.  Some shipowners owned rather heavily armed sailing ships.  The right to do so was then protected by the 2nd Amendment.

The Maryland law banning so-called assault weapons was opposed in court by a group of gun store owners and individuals who claim the prohibited firearms are not military weapons.  I consider this a concession that should not be made.  The military and individuals use weapons, and may do so on a moral basis, to protect persons and property.  There is no rational reason to deny individuals a weapon simply because it might be used by the military.  The only reason to deny an individual the use of a weapon is if the individual has used a weapon to initiate harm to others, has threatened others with initiated force, or has shown a well-established inability to act rationally.

Yes, there are weapons that one may not be likely to need to defend one's home and family.  Bazookas and tanks are not likely to be useful, unless one lives very near the Mexican border and has to protect one's ranch from drug and human traffickers.  Some individuals may simply think it is cool to restore a WWII tank.  That seems a very reasonable hobby to me.  There is surely nothing in the 2nd Amendment, the conditions of the period when it was added to the Constitution by the people, or in basic rational morality that argues against individuals arming themselves with the best weapons they may choose to own.

There are some weapons which may be prohibited to individuals.  For instance, weaponized anthrax or corrosive nerve gases are simply be too dangerous for even well-intended people to handle and preserve without endangering others.  They are dangerous enough that anyone who did want to own them would fall into the category of being unable to behave rationally and in so doing, posing a threat to others. It is very difficult for even a large organization, such as the military, to handle such weapons safely.  In fact, the U.S. military does not even use them when they have them because they are too dangerous to use.



03 February 2016

Prof. Walter E. Williams on Education and Guns

Prof. Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, has written two thoughtful columns this month.  One is on education, with some emphasis on the education of black Americans, and one is on guns, which are treated as though they are evil, though bombers are treated as the source of evil rather than bombs.  These columns may be read here.