Constitutional Authority Running Amok

The coronavirus pandemic has put the Constitution on full display.  The Federal government has power that is supposed to be relatively limited compared to the powers reserved to the states and to the people. The power to quarantine is clearly with the states, and with the people themselves should they chose to voluntarily isolate themselves.

The constitutions of the various states define what emergency powers governors and mayors may exercise.  Whatever is not clearly defined in those constitutions and in legislation is reserved to the people to behave responsibly during chaotic emergencies. While the people have been acting responsibly for the most part, many local officials appear to have abused their power. Some have run amok.

Presidential Authority

President Trump grandly announced that his authority relative to the coronavirus pandemic is “total.”  His actions, however, show that he knows the real power lies with the states and with the people.

Article II of the Constitution gives the president “the executive power,” but does say what it is. Subsequently Congress and the Courts have pretty well defined what the president can do.  Hamilton in the Federalist papers made the argument for an “energetic” chief executive and regarded the legislature as the body that should deliberate and display wisdom.

“Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views, have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature. They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety, considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure their privileges and interests.”

During the pandemic, the President has clearly been energetic.  Daily press briefings highlight ever changing guidance as experts learn more about the virus and its epidemiology. He correctly defined the virus by its origin in China. Members of the opposing party in Congress protest that it is somehow racist to say the virus originated in China. If nothing else, members of legislatures regularly display their banality instead of the wisdom that Hamilton hoped for. But at least in such emergencies, we do not have to rely on the wisdom of the U.S. Congress – just their power of the purse to vote trillions of dollars for good or ill.

Governors’ Authority

Michigan’s Act 301 of 1945  gives the governor emergency powers upon  “reasonable apprehension of immediate danger.”  Most other states except New York have enabling legislation that gives governors extraordinary power if a threat is immediate or imminent.  New York goes far beyond immediate or imminent.

Normally emergency measures must be proportional to the threat and limited in their duration. Within those general guidelines come the inevitable disagreements over “how much for how long.”

In New York, governor Andrew Cuomo signed 11 executive orders, suspending dozens of laws. Only the state legislature can limit his power, but his party controls the legislature so there is little opposition.  In fact the legislature gave the N.Y. governor dictatorial authority during an emergency by changing the language of previous emergency powers from “imminent” threat to “impending or urgent threat.” Is climate change an imminent threat?

Read the bill HERE        (opens in PDF)

Now the New York governor may do as he pleases. Exercising the wisdom that Hamilton presumed would prevail, the New York legislature allowed for repetitive 30 day limits on the governors’ executive orders, with additional 30 day extensions up to an absolute limit at which sections one and two of the enabling legislation would expire and be deemed repealed  on April 30, 2021.

At least the legislature did not envision a dictator for life.

Assemblymen Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) when asked about the impact of the new legislation replied:

It gives “the governor very extensive and almost unlimited affirmative legislative power to not only waive existing laws and provisions of existing laws, which he now has authority to do, but it also empowers him to essentially make new legislation by issuing ‘directives’ to any New Yorkers.” (Quoted from Observer)

New York and Michigan’s governors are not alone in either being granted, or assuming, near dictatorial emergency powers. Many other governors like Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf,(D), and  Vermont’s Phil Scott (R) have been accused of making arbitrary decisions about what is essential or non essential to decide who must shut down their businesses and risk financial ruin.

City and County Authority

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.” (Bill de Blasio)

Local government is that closest to the people and is generally most responsive to the needs and desires of the people. Yet local governments are the ones that can immediately wield the awesome ” police power of the state.”  The president and governors are not the ones who put people in jail during an emergency that suspends normal legal protections. It’s the local authorities who are in a position to back up their presumed authority with force at their disposal.  Interestingly local police occasionally refuse to back up their mayors or county commissioners when they consider the order to be unlawful.

A local Democratic Dallas County Judge, Clay Jenkins, ordered salon owner Shelley Luther to immediately close her North Dallas salon . In Texas, elected county executive officers are called judges.  Jenkins was following Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order (Opens in PDF).

She refused and became the face of a resistance movement that quickly escalated into a public fight between Democrat led counties and cities and libertarian leaning Republicans. A Democrat judge (real judge), District Judge Eric Moyé, acting on a request from the Democrat led City of Dallas ordered Ms. Luther to shutter her business, and when she refused he sentenced her to a week in jail and $7,000 fine. Local police indeed put her in jail.  She was soon freed after a massive outcry and intervention by Governor Abbott who saw his order being executed too harshly.

In the meantime, Montgomery County Judge Mark J. Keough, a Republican, said Governor Abbott’s order was too vague and he would not enforce it.

It’s at the local level that the worse abuses of peoples’ civil liberties happen during ordinary times. Police brutality is an example. During extraordinarily times when local officials are ill prepared to deal with the nature of an emergency, stubbornly authoritarian local leaders may in good faith feel that they know best and force citizens to obey their edicts no matter how draconian or ultimately unconstitutional.

In the current coronavirus pandemic, the courts will be sorting out claims of abuse and unconstitutionality for a long time to come.

Liberty versus Safety

“I didn’t say it.”

Local authorities grapple with the extent of their authority and often fail to restrain tyrannical impulses engendered by what they believe is their more enlightened understanding of a dangerous pandemic.  Opponents of heavy handed government look for learned proclamations of the founding fathers to justify their opposition. Certainly Benjamin Franklin had something to say about shutting everything down in the face of a pandemic.

Unfortunately we cannot find it. He had something else besides personal or civil Liberty in mind when he said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  The “Essential liberty” to which he was referring was right of the Pennsylvania legislature to enact taxes to purchase a “little temporary safety” against attacks on the frontier during the French and Indian War.  No, we need to search deeper if there is a link between Liberty and Safety.

A philosophical justification for choosing Security over Liberty over  cannot be found because they are not in conflict. We can have both. There will forever be tension between the two, and so the dictum, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” seems like good advice. (quoted from The Life of Major General James Jackson, by Thomas U.P. Charlton, 1809)  Combined with Leonard Henry Courtney’s “The price of peace is eternal vigilance,”  it appears some thoughtful people have equated both liberty and peace/security with paying attention.

Dobbin, Hamilton Henry. [Policeman Adjusting Flu Mask on a Citizen]. N.p., 1918. Print.

There is a continuum between questions of Liberty and Security with both being highly subjective.  In normal times we agree to laws that impose a common set of public restrictions, such as speed limits. Few disagree with the concept of speed limits but many would disagree if the speed limit is too slow or too fast. When it comes to questions of the Patriot Act or how TSA handles airport security, the questions become more complex. Recently abuses of the Patriot Act and the FISA courts that the Act created have come to light.  Fortunately there are many both within government and without that are paying attention.

But the Constitution itself never foresaw the myriad of epidemics that have plagued the world and our own country. The closest thing we have endured as a nation to the current pandemic was the pandemic of  1918 caused by the H1N1 virus. It killed 50 million people worldwide because it struck a world of people with no immunity, no antibiotics to treat secondary infections, no immunizations, and spotty compliance with known strategies: isolation, quarantine, personal hygiene, disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings.  Local communities deputized men to form an armed cordon around towns to keep people out.  Such “shotgun quarantines”  were perfectly legal.

May a state close its borders from other states and stop all air travel into the state?  In a word, yes.

Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Zemel v. Rusk wrote:

“But that freedom does not mean that areas ravaged by flood, fire or pestilence cannot be quarantined when it can be demonstrated that unlimited travel to the area would directly and materially interfere with the safety and welfare of the area or the Nation as a whole.”  (citation)

After draconian emergency measures have passed, the people will decide what was appropriate and what was not. Then they can pass new laws if necessary.  They may also show their displeasure for the officials’ actions during an emergency and throw them out of office at the next election. Abuses suffered during the emergency can be adjudicated. If citizens remain well informed and paricipate in representative democracy there is a reasonable expectation that an acceptable balance between freedoms and security can prevail.

Obituary of Thomas Jefferson

Occasionally we run across interesting articles that we would like to pass on.  On further refection we realize that what interests one person may not excite another.  But this time we will make an exception because we are very interested in Jefferson, and so should you.

Barton Family Funeral Service is a family run funeral service in Kirkland Washington, which happens to be almost ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.  The press reported that some of the early deaths from coronavirus occurred at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. So out of curiosity, we started to search on coronavirus in Kirkland WA and we ran into the Barton web site. Assuming that obituaries would be the place to look, we encountered an interesting chain of pages that ended in the Obituary of Thomas Jefferson, almost 200 years late. (Date of death: July 4, 1826)

Chain of Pages

The chain of pages that led us to the obituary involved showing people how to upload pictures to put in an online obituary.

The second of the above three links had links to information about Jefferson, and since he is one of our favorite founding fathers, we followed the link to the last page, which was the obituary.  We called Barton Family Funeral Service.  They were a bit surprised we found the page. It has been on their site for a long time and no one has commented on it before.

Permission Granted

We asked permission to post the article in its entirety and they were more than please to let us do so, asking only that we include their credits and copyright. So here is the Obituary of Thomas Jefferson 200 years late. It has the advantage of historical perspective to make an important point.  As stated in their article about the American Revolutionary War against England, “Their revolution was to be free from England. Ending slavery would have required another revolution and would have been the death of the union, as it almost was in 1861-1965.”

Obituary of Thomas Jefferson 200 Years Late.

Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1743, (Shadwell, Colony of Virginia, British America)-July 4, 1826 (Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.)

Thomas Jefferson is counted among the Founding Fathers . He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he served as vice-president under John Adams from 1797 to 1801.

Jefferson was a prolific writer. John Adams, who also made major contributions to the Declaration of Independence, asked Jefferson to edit the document because  he felt Jefferson had “A peculiar felicity for expression.”

Jefferson is regarded as one of the most intelligent of U.S. presidents. President Kennedy is reported to have said to a gathering of scientists in the White House, that “I’d like to welcome you all to the greatest gathering of minds to assemble here since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

He was a genius by any standard but was just one among other geniuses of the day including, Washington, Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

De mortuis nil nisi bene dicendum

(Speak not ill of the dead)

It has recently become fashionable among a self-righteous and arguably self-centered portion of the population to condemn many of the Founders of the Republic because they did not write or speak about the evils of slavery. Indeed Jefferson owned slaves. He also lived beyond his means, made bad investments, and may have had some personal relationships that used to be illegal in Utah.

Five of the  Founders, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and  Madison are on record for opposing slavery. They condemned it eloquently. Some are on record for wondering why their colleague Jefferson did not use his eloquence to denounce slavery.

Their legacy as founders, and indeed their very lives, depended on uniting a nation and winning the Revolution.

Their revolution was to be free from England. Ending slavery would have required another revolution and would have been the death of the union, as it almost was in 1861-1965.

Wise people know that they cannot always achieve their objectives as quickly as they may want. The ability to delay gratification has been show to be a characteristic of successful individuals.

Jefferson, like all of us when we die, should be remembered for the incalculable good things that he accomplished. He may have wanted to do more. Perhaps he knew he could not live long enough to see it all happen.


Thomas Jefferson’s Grave Stone

Jefferson instructed that his grave stone be made of “coarse stone … that no one might be tempted hereafter to destroy it for the value of the materials.”

Nevertheless people chipped off pieces for souvenirs rendering the monument in such poor repair that it was replaced by a new one in the family cemetery at Monticello and the old one was donated by the family to University of Missouri on July 4, 1885.

Content on this page is  from https://bartonfuneral.com/2008/07/02/thomas_jefferson/
© 2008-2020, Barton Family Funeral Service, LLC. All rights reserve.

Constitutional Authority

“Authority is Total”

The President cause a major freak-out when he declared that his authority is “total.” Listen carefully to what he so inartfully said. Then realize it is not what President says that is as important as what he does.

Righteous Indignation

As you see in the clip from the Guardian’s coverage of the President’s press briefing, the response from the ever vigilant guardians of truth and justice was swift.

What is Truth?

Keep in mind that the philosophical argument about “what is truth” has been going on since the dawn of human history.

Undoubtedly the intrepid reporter who made that bold declaration to the president has her own idea of what truth is. It is her truth, the truth that she subjectively feels. Her intuitive truth.  Perhaps it is informed by her understanding of the Constitution. Perhaps she thinks the Constitution embodies truths that the document itself declares to be “self-evident.” Is it true that all men are created equal?

Some people say the Bible is true. Some say it is not, but those who swear it is true seem to be more willing to die for their beliefs than those who say it is not true. The ones who say the bible is not true are less likely to publicly say that Muhammad was not a prophet contrary to the beliefs of over a billion people, some of whom have also demonstrated a fondness of dying for their beliefs.

Is the truth even worth dying for if there is such ambiguity about what is really true?  There seems to be an inordinate amount of emotion surrounding people’s notion of truth.

Is the President a Liar?

The President is widely decried as a liar because he says things that contradict what others regard as immutable truth. He regularly shows scant regard for the accuracy of numbers or dates, preferring instead to  paint a narrative. Like Longfellow’s highly fictional Paul Revere’s Ride, but without the eloquent poetry, Trump tells stories to get a point across. Those who listen to him and howl, “that’s not true”are not missing the point as much as they just viscerally disagree with the point he is trying to make.  And when he voices his aspirations in the guise of promises and then is unable to execute on those promises, like any accomplished adolescent, he blames the opposing party or fake news for holding him back.

In the final analysis he is right. Opposition to Trump has been breathtaking from even before he took office. It is often difficult to tell who the adults are and who are the petulant children.

The Reality

Back on the subject of Constitutional Authority, there are academic arguments from constitutional scholars and jurists and then there is reality.

We previously commented on the constitutionality of quarantines. We demonstrated that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and to the people.   We also mentioned the troublesome Commerce Clause.

President Trump said that the president has “absolute” power. Not he, but the president.

That statement made a lot of people’s heads explode. Dictators have absolute power. Presidents are supposed to bend to the will of the people, but not necessarily to all the people.  Just their kind of people. When Trump talks to his people, the OTHER people jeer at and mock them all.

Perhaps on a certain level they know he is right. If he were their President, they would cheer him on for taking decisive action and spending trillions of dollars of other people’s money. They intuitively know where the true (oops, there is that word again) power is; its the power of the purse.  The Federal government invents money, Congress votes on where it should go, and the President spends it.

This has sometimes been called the golden rule. You know, he who has the gold makes the rules.

Ongoing Saga of Coronavirus Policies

Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, promulgated the nation’s most draconian lockdown, prompting an immediate backlash. Armed citizens marched in the streets and cars jammed the streets of Lansing.

In a letter signed by Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel, Mainstee County Sheriff Ken Falk, and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, the sheriffs wrote, “Each of us took an oath to uphold and defend the Michigan Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, and to ensure that your God given rights are not violated. We believe we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”

Yet the predictably Leftist press labeled the demonstrations by ordinary citizens as “Right Wing.”  The street-fighting far right groups have failed to show themselves in public, but that did not stop the Guardian’s creative writing team from inventing an interesting headline:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/17/far-right-coronavirus-protests-restrictions

Guardian Video

Note the obvious lack of street-fighting far right groups.  The Constitution of Michigan of 1963 Article 1, Section 6 reads, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”

Most states, including Michigan, have enacted laws that allow local authorities to take emergency actions, including enforcing quarantines and isolation. Michigan’s law (Act 302 of 1945)  that gives the governor broad authority to “to proclaim a state of emergency, and to prescribe the powers and duties of the governor with respect thereto; and to prescribe penalties.”

Notably Michigan’s law  “Subsection (1) does not authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms, ammunition, or other weapons.”

Relationship of the States to Donald Trump

During ordinary times, the Democrat governors of various states join with their partisan supporters to trash Trump and work tirelessly for his ultimate defeat. But during this time of emergency when the President declares the power of the President power to be total, and the Vice-President affirms that the power of the presidency is plenary, governors with their hands out for Federal dollars are far more deferential.

Some are more deferential than others.  The Republican governors always command respect from the President, but now New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo  and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, regularly receive his  high praise for their performance in managing the pandemic emergency.

Governor Whitmer on the other hand is the object of Trump’s disdain, complaining that “all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”  Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is also critical of the President prompting him to admonish the Vice-President, “not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake”

In the world of big egos and boundless ambition, state governors, in whose hands reside the execution of emergency measures,  go begging for Federal dollars, the true fountain of total authority.

Quarantine is Constitutional

Many people have been complaining that shutting down businesses and quarantining people are unconstitutional.

Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee people freedom of assembly?  Limiting how many people can be in a bar or at a wedding ceremony smacks of heavy handed government denying us of our rights, doesn’t it?

No, actually the policies that local and state governments are taking during the coronavirus pandemic are in line with powers that are reserved to the States and to the People by the Constitution. You are free to limit who goes into your home; city leaders can take emergency measures to limit who goes into the city or who goes out in public places; the states have similar powers.

Actions by state and local authorities in emergencies are broad and easily enforced by local police power. There is no immediate Federal authority that will gallop in to preserve what some consider their precious first amendment rights. Or their second amendment rights for that matter. Sure, these amendments are fully incorporated to the states. If somebody thinks the mayor or governor is being too tough on them, they have recourse to the courts.

Spreading sovereign power across levels of government to cities and states is what distinguishes our constitutional republic from countries that rule from the top down. Doing so is the ultimate protection of our individual liberties. At times it may appear cumbersome but any perceived inefficiencies help us avoid the efficiencies of a dictatorship.

States’ Rights Issue

It’s interesting to watch the President and his advisors try to implement a national policy to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Advocates of unlimited federal power complain that Trump should force the states to follow a national plan. They say he should have acted sooner. To them, deferring to the governors is evading his responsibility.

To his credit, the President has stated that it’s not the federal government’s responsibility to do everything, especially what the states have the authority to do for themselves.  He is praising governors for doing their jobs.

Complaints are a continuation of the great Left-Right divide that is plaguing our body politic. Unfortunately this puts the Constitution in jeopardy as people call for nationalization of key segments of the economy.  Single payer national healthcare and other socialist schemes of the Left ignore the Constitutional principles that have allowed our economy to be strong.  As attractive as some of these proposals are to a large number of Americans, they clearly exceed the power of the federal government granted to it by the Constitution.

Tenth Amendment

The Tenth Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to define the balance of power between  federal and state governments It says that the federal government has only powers specifically granted by the Constitution. These powers include the power to declare war, to collect taxes, to regulate foreign and to some degree interstate trade, among other enumerated powers.

Commerce Clause

The Constitution includes sections that seem to favor strong states’ rights, while others like the Commerce Clause have been used to claw back authority to the Federal Government. It grants Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

Over time it has allowed the federal government to grow into a massive enterprise that creates money and dominates the world economy. It bribes the states with grants of money. Local and state entities are lulled into believing that they must follow every dictate of the Federal government if they want the money.

The Texas Example

The constitutions of the various states often mirror the U.S. Constitution by incorporating the enumerated rights of the people and the states. Here we will discuss Texas as an example. Check the constitution and laws in your own state to see if your governor and local officials are acting constitutionally.

During  hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005, a local authority tried to disarm the people. New Orleans police superintendent Edwin Compass called for blanket confiscation all firearms:  “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,”  It was of course unconstitutional on both the state and federal level but there is little time to argue or go to court during an emergency. Actual instances of gun confiscation were fortunately limited and mostly carried out by inexperienced or out-of-state voluntary personnel.

That did not happen in Texas.  After Katrina, then Governor Rick Perry pushed for a bill,  S.B. 112, that was intended to protect the right to bear arms during a catastrophe. While the idea was noble, the bill unfortunately died in committee, not an uncommon fate in a state where “if it ain’t broke(n), don’t fix it” prevails.

Over the years Texas has enacted many laws to protect the people and their agricultural crops and livestock, including numerous laws and regulations that include emergency measures such as quarantine.

What about the coronavirus emergency?  Can the state and cities enforce quarantines or isolation?  What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Texas Home Rule Amendment to State Constitution

In 1912  Texas voters adopted the Home Rule Amendment to the state constitution and the legislature followed in the regular session in 1913 with the necessary enabling act.

A home-rule municipality may adopt rules to protect the health of persons in the municipality, including quarantine rules to protect the residents against communicable disease.  The following are a few of the current enabling statutes.

Texas Health and Safety Code §§ 122.005, 122.006

Sec. 122.005. POWERS OF TYPE A GENERAL-LAW MUNICIPALITY.

(a) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may take any action necessary or expedient to promote health or suppress disease, including actions to:(1) prevent the introduction of a communicable disease into the municipality, including stopping, detaining, and examining a person coming from a place that is infected or believed to be infected with a communicable disease; (2) establish, maintain, and regulate hospitals in the municipality or in any area within five miles of the municipal limits; or in any area within five miles of the municipal limits; or  (3) abate any nuisance that is or may become injurious to the public health.

(b) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may adopt rules: (1) necessary or expedient to promote health or suppress disease; or (2) to prevent the introduction of a communicable disease into the municipality, including quarantine rules, and may enforce those rules in the municipality and in any area within 10 miles of the municipality.

(c) The governing body of a Type A general-law municipality may fine a person who fails or refuses to observe the orders and rules of the health authority.

Texas Health and Safety Code § 81.085 (h)

Penalties. A person commits an offense if the person knowingly fails or refuses to obey a rule, order or instruction of the department or an order or instruction of a health authority issued under a department rule and published during an area quarantine under this section. An offense under this subsection is a felony of the third degree. (Underline Ours)

Of course it is up to the local authorities to decide if they will charge and prosecute offenses, and it is up to a court to decide innocence or guilt.  A felony, even a third degree felony is a serious matter.

Texas Health and Safety Code § 81.083 (individual); § 81.084 (property); § 81.085 ( Area Quarantine; Criminal Penalty)

Texas Response during Spanish Flu

Texas had thought through the pandemic thing in advance of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 by enacting Home Rule for cities, although the above statutes are the product of on-going revision and rendering into plain English since the 1960’s.

Today Texas has a population of almost 30 million people. The governor has responded logically and firmly during the coronavirus pandemic. In 1918, then Governor William P. Hobby was dealing with many problems including WW I, the flu epidemic, raids on the border with Mexico, just to name a few. During WW I, one-third of deaths in the US military was due to the Spanish flu, not being killed in battle.

When the Home Rule amendment was passed in 1912, the total population spread across a huge area stood at about four million. In 1910, San Antonio and Dallas were near 100,000 in population; Houston and Fort Worth were well over 50,000; and only 40 other cities in the state had more than 5,000 people. Laws regarding quarantine where highly focused on preventing diseases affecting agricultural produces like cotton but there were also strong provisions given to state health authorities to prevent the spread of disease within the human population.

There was no question that the state had authority to shut things down.

Art. 4419. [4528] (1913)
General duties and powers.-The State Board of Health shall have general supervision and control of all matters pertaining to the health of citizens of this State, as provided herein. It shall make a study of the causes and prevention of infection of contagious diseases affecting the lives of citizens within this State and except as otherwise provided in this chapter shall have direction and control of all matters of quarantine regulations and enforcement and shall have full power and authority to prevent the entrance of such diseases from points without the State, and shall have direction and control over sanitary and quarantine measures for dealing with all diseases within the State and to suppress same and prevent their spread. The president of the board shall have charge of and superintend the administration of all matters pertaining to State quarantine. [Id. Acts 1913, p. 147.]Art. 4420. [4536]

Epidemics are Part of Human History

Understanding the decentralized nature of our Republic and how emergencies can be managed locally are necessary to understand how various communities can react differently, sometimes to their advantage, but also to their detriment.  A lot depends on local leadership at the time.  Over the years local communities and states have managed many different diseases, most of which are forgotten except to students of history:

  • 1633-1634: Smallpox from European settlers – Native Americans were devastated.  In 1796 Edward Jenner developed a crude vaccine from cow pox . The Latin word for cow is vacca, and cowpox is vaccinia.  Jenner called his procedure vaccination. Now only old people have the smooth little scar on their arms from the immunization that was subsequently refined from vaccinia.
  • 1793: Yellow fever from the Caribbean.
  • 1832-1866: Cholera – in successive waves between 1832 and 1866.
  • 1858: Scarlet fever also came in waves until penicillin was developed.
  • 1906-1907: Typhoid Fever – like coronavirus there were healthy carriers.
  • 1918: “Spanish flu”- The 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus) during WW I is a lesson on how not to treat a pandemic.
  • 1921-1925: Diphtheria epidemic. Now mothers only know the name because children get their DPT shot.
  • 1916-1955: Polio – every summer for many years until Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin became national heroes.
  • 1981-1991: another measles outbreak prompting doctors to recommend a second immunization.
  • 2010, 2014: Pertussis again, whooping cough -time to take immunization seriously. Part of the DPT shot.
  • 1980s to present: HIV/AIDS. Good drugs are available for treatment but there is no real cure.
  • Every year: seasonal flu – sometimes severe. 2009: flu pandemic in the United States was a novel strain of the Influenza A/H1N1 virus.

History

An excellent historical review by Sean McConnell published in the Galveston County Daily News shows similarities between the largely voluntary coronavirus shutdown and measures that were taken in 1918 in Galveston Texas to slow down the spread of flu. Today’s effort is vastly more effective. We are not sending infected soldier off to war on transport ships.  We have doctors who know more than doctors knew in 1918.  There are hospitals with respirators.  Antibiotics, and a host of other drugs help manage concurrent morbidities like bacterial infections.

Responsibility

Our Constitutional form of government, a Representative Federal Republic, has left the power to deal with such problems with the people, municipalities, and states.  It is a mistake to expect the Federal government to do any more than assist with whatever limited Constitutional authority it has.

The fiscal stimulus is probably appropriate. One can forever argue about taxes and debt, single payer healthcare, and the myriad of demands made by people looking to the Federal Government for salvation. Salvation is in the hands of the people, as is their ruin if they if they are too lazy or stupid to accept personal responsibility for their existence on the planet.

The Federal Government has legitimate powers of quarantine within its limited mandate. It can quarantine immigrants and goods entering the country.  It may quarantine soldiers in military service. Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264) allows the executive branch to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states. The President can stop airplanes flying in from China and his opponents are free to say he is racist for doing so and for calling the SARS-CoV-2 virus the “Chinese Virus.”

MLK Holiday- A Day Still Worth Remembering

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK was actually born on January 15, 1929, although this year we celebrated his birthday on the 20th. If he had not been assassinated on April 4, 1968, he would be 91 years old this year and could have looked forward to another 3.78 years of life according to actuarial tables for white American males.

Instead of 91 years of life, James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 – April 23, 1998) cut him down at age 39.  His untimely death at age 39 did not make a positive contribution to the actuarial tables for black American males.

As with every day that we designate as a holiday, it may be of benefit to the human race to periodically ask ourselves if a day, person, or event is still worth commemorating.

The annual Panathenaia, the ancient Greek commemoration of Athena’s birthday is no longer celebrated, at least not in Texas.

National Holiday

On Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to make the third Monday of every January a federal holiday commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr . It was to begin in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000. Some states have combined it with existing state holidays while others have made the holiday a celebration of human rights more broadly.

Idaho’s Idaho Human Rights Day is a example of expanding the scope of the holiday.

Other examples of the combined holiday are:

Alabama: “Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Birthday”
Arizona: “Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day”
Arkansas: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday” from 1985 to 2017, then from 2017 to the present, the name of the state holiday in January is “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday,” and Lee’s is in October.
Idaho as noted above: “Martin Luther King Jr.–Idaho Human Rights Day”
Mississippi: “Martin Luther King’s and Robert E. Lee’s Birthdays”
New Hampshire: “Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day”
Virginia:  Lee-Jackson-King Day until 2000; then Lee-Jackson Day was moved to the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Wyoming:  “Martin Luther King Jr./Wyoming Equality Day”

The fact that a few of these states have combined the holiday with that of  previous heroes suggests that their legislators may not have reached a consensus about what an MLK Holiday actually means.

Confederate Heroes Day

Few Texans know that the 19th day of January is, “Confederate Heroes Day,” in honor of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other Confederate heroes.  This year it falls on Sunday, the day before the MLK holiday.  Our schools no longer teach us about Confederate Heroes.

Confederate Heroes Day could easily be merged with Athena’s birthday and celebrated in July on the 23-30 of Hekatombaion (July), except that the exact date may be confusing because Julius Caesar messed with the ancient calendar. And Athena was not real!

Confederate Heroes Day could also be mercifully relegated to the graveyard of history, where History takes a less impassioned look at people and events. Are the passions of the current “woke” generation by themselves enough to justify jettisoning the memories of long revered heroes?

Rather that an abrupt end to a holiday that some people may secretly enjoy celebrating,  Heroes Day and other holidays can simply be merged like Saturnalia and Christmas.  They could then be promoted as an additional important shopping day.

A more realistic end to the holiday could happen in the legislature when Texas’ statutes are revised to eliminate anachronisms like Article 1, Section 4, the Texas Constitution.

Evolution

Revolution is occasionally necessary, as are divorce, bankruptcy, and other painfully abrupt changes in human experience. None of our holidays, memorial statues, or buildings named after Everett McKinley Dirksen needs to be abruptly dismantled in a Revolutionary fashion. Time and Evolution will make informed decisions about what to remember.

Evolution is no less violent than revolution. Both involve death. But evolution plays out over longer periods of time and is devoid of human emotion, sentimentality, and immature righteous indignation.

Let evolution deal with statues of Andrew Jackson on horseback.  Let the study of history instruct us about the successes and mistakes of our progenitors. Combine the noble instincts of mediocre dead people with the learned writings of our greatest scholars and make holidays to remind us that there were a lot of people who lived who were smarter than we are.

The founding fathers were among the smart people, as were Thomas Payne and John Locke. July 4th is an excellent day to remember them collectively.  Presidents Day is a good day to remember Washington and Lincoln, who rose to greatness because of their circumstances. Lump them all together if remembering presidents is a good idea.

Someday the third Monday in January may be commemorated as Human Rights Day, recognizing the works of MLK,  James Griffin, John Rawls, Charles Beitz, Joseph Raz, John Tasioulas, and maybe Martha Nussbaum  to make sure the list is inclusive. While these people are alive, no one will agree that any one of them is worthy of a day to remember their work. Perhaps “Dead Philosophers’ and Activist Preachers’ Day” will lump them all together with enough anonymity that everybody agrees  that all made a contribution.

Simplicity of the MLK Message

MLK had a relatively simple message: end racial discrimination.

He will not be remembered as a philosopher arguing the nuances of Human Rights.  He will be remembered as a gifted communicator and in the mind of many as a martyr to the cause he espoused. He really was not a martyr.  He was just murdered. The man who killed him did not hate his message; he just wanted to become famous for killing somebody who was also famous.

MLK was an agent for social change that the country still desperately needs.

Until his dream has become reality, a day to commemorate his message is appropriate without being complicated by conflicting messages.  Human Rights Day and Civil Rights Day are fine.  Dead generals need their rest.

Impeachment

Impeachment of Donald Trump

The impeachment of Donald Trump began within days of his election.  At the middle of December, 2019, after 3 years in office, house Democrats, “with heavy hearts,” voted two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.

Someday historians will be able to analyze the current emotional spectacle with the same detached rationality that they chronicle the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, with its eleven articles.  A similar emotional climate accompanied Johnson’s impeachment but unlike our current impeachment, much of the enmity carried over into the senate. The failure to convict in the senate helped establish a principle that Congress should not remove the President from office simply because its members disagreed with him over policy or management style. That long standing principle is again being challenged.

The challenge for contemporary observers is to put aside emotional bias and take a cold look at these historic events with the detachment that an honest historian in 2150 will take.  Since it is demonstrably difficult to put aside such bias, an alternative activity is to watch the emotion without getting caught up in it.  The following is a glimpse of the silliness.

Nancy Pelosi prays for Donald Trump.

Intrepid Reporter James Rosen:

” Do you hate the President, Madam Speaker?”

Righteous Christian Mother Pelosi:

“Of course I don’t hate the president, sweet young misguided reporter.  My heart is full of love, for you and the President.  In fact, I PRAY for the President!”

If you think the above is an Adam Schiff style distortion of what she actually said, you are correct. Judge for yourself if Madam Pelosi is using Jesus to justify her indignation. She is praying for the President, but she does not reveal if she is praying for his demise.

Learned Professors educate Congress about Impeachment

Professors witness their humility and impartiality.

The Wednesday, December 4, 2019,   Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing was a bit of a farce. The professors, all Democrats, were called to opine about what constitutes impeachable conduct.

To anybody except the most partisan acolyte, the level of preconceived opinion and bias was blatant. Rather than a scholarly analysis of previous impeachments, three of the four tried to disguise their contempt for the president in sophomoric rhetoric.

Feldman

This remark from Harvard professor Noah Feldman demands correction.

“The abuse of power occurs when the president uses his office for personal advantage or gain. That matters fundamentally to the American people because if we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy, or we live under a dictatorship.”  (Noah Feldman)

Mr. Feldman is arguing specifically that Donald Trump is abusing his power for personal gain.  He claims that if this is allowed to happen we no longer live in a democracy.  You can read his December 4, 2019 remarks HERE.

The good news is that we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a Constitutional Federal Republic and the Constitution that Mr. Feldman knows so much about has masterfully devised ways to survive even a hypocritical and hysterical onslaught to get rid of the loathsome Donald Trump.

Gerhard

Michael J. Gerhard, an acknowledged expert on the law of impeachment and its alternatives, was a less emotional in his presentation than Professors Feldman and Karlan.  You can read his opening presentation HERE.    His rhetorical devise of comparing Trump to a Monarch is ludicrous.

Karlan

Karlan’s opening statement was unremarkable. You can read it HERE

A little research reveals that she is a political activist with so much left wing passion that she was eliminated as an Obama candidate for the Supreme Court. The American Spectator chronicles her anti-Trump bias: https://spectator.org/pamela-karlans-long-biased-record-of-anti-trump-prejudices/

Ms. Karlan embarrassed herself and tainted her entire testimony with what appeared to be a planted question and an overly cute answer:



Jonathan Turley’s Professorial Decorum

Professor Jonathan Turley, although a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, was chosen by the Republican members of the committee to present his views on the pending impeachment.  His presentation was notable in its humility and apparent objectivity. The 53 page presentation can be downloaded HERE.   (Opens in PDF file.)

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

On October 11, 2019, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring October 14, 2019, as Columbus day. He did the same in previous years as did presidents before him since the day was made a national holiday in 1937 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This year whoever wrote the proclamation for Trump cited Columbus’ ” intrepid pioneer’s spirit of adventure.” He also mentioned “16 million Americans who claim Italian heritage and to carry forth the legacy of generations of Italian Americans who helped shape our Nation.”

Tens of thousands of people marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade. It’s more a display of Italian solidarity and ethnic pride than it is celebrating the virtuous life of a presumed fellow Italian.

Christopher Columbus was not Italian

picture of Columbus by Alejo Fernández

Christopher Columbus depicted in The Virgin of the Navigators by Alejo Fernández, 1531-1536.

Columbus was not Italian. He was born in the Republic of Genoa, known in the 1400s for its banking and trading while occupied by the French. It was also known for its slave trade.  Cristoforo Colombo left Genoa and went to Spain, where he became known as Cristóbal Colón, genovés.  His own penchant for slave trading had little to do with his birthplace.  Slavery was endemic. When he could not reward his Spanish masters with gold, he opted to give them slaves instead.

It’s Time to Scrap Columbus Day

It’s time to stop the charade. Americans of Italian descent cannot be proud of the scoundrel.  Spaniards should not be proud of him either. By today’s post enlightenment standards he was a rapist, mass murderer, thief, tyrant, scoundrel, pimp, masochist, sadist, opportunist, fraudster, kidnapper, slave trader, charlatan, deceiver…  But so were many of his coreligionists. He was a man of his time.

Some state and local jurisdictions are changing Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 1989, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites and to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont officially celebrate  Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Purpose of National Holiday

A national holiday is to commemorate an important event in the nation’s history.  Columbus did not discover North America. He made no meaningful contribution to our history.  If the inhabitants of Hispaniola believe that Columbus made Haiti or Dominican Republic a better place, let them commemorate Columbus’ landing there and decimating the native population.

Making Columbus Day a national holiday was a mistake. The best way to fix a mistake is to cancel the holiday, not rename it to celebrate the victims of European colonization.

Revisionist History

The story of European colonization of the Americas is plagued by revisionism, as is most of the world’s history. Romantic stories of intrepid explorers and colonists fail to portray the brutality of those earlier times. To judge them by our current standards is a mistake and is a form of chronological snobbery. Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples were certainly victims of a clash of civilization. Such clashes have always happened and continue to happen.  How they are portrayed in history falls victim to human imagination.  Author Washington Irving contributed to the pro Columbus myth in 1828 with his fictional biography, “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.” In it he portrays Columbus as a friend to indigenous peoples.

Columbus wrote memoirs of his voyages, mostly to document why the king of Spain should pay him 10% of everything gained from his exploits.

Columbus’ son also wrote a history of his father. We will never know whether the father invented his history and the son believe him and wrote an account of it, or if the son knew the history was false and perpetuated the fraud to enhance is own reputation. The Cristóbal Colón family was in it for the money. The narrative was part of that claim for money.

Columbus and his brothers were eventually charged with crimes and spent time in jail until King Ferdinand released and eventually pardoned them.

Bartolomé de las Casas is known for writing an accurate depiction of Columbus’ and Spanish atrocities.

What Really Happened

Columbus happened to come along at a time that European Monarchs were looking abroad for treasure. Sailing ships and navigation advanced to the point that they were more reliable.  It was the dawn of an age of exploration. If Columbus had not conned the king of Spain into finance his venture,  others would have done so. And indeed, others did.

Early globalism, starting around the time of Columbus  resulted death and destruction on both sides of the Atlantic. Native people died from European brutality and diseases while the royalty of Europe were among the first to experience the wrath of Syphilis, which has been demonstrated archeologically to have existed in the pre-Columbian Americas.  It soon spread among the soldiers of Europe and from there around the world.  This is nothing to celebrate.

Why the Controversy?

One problem with dumping Columbus Day is widespread perception that Columbus actually contributed something.  He did not. Italian Americans have adopted a myth that has taken on almost religious proportions.  The holiday and parades are now tradition. This article in the NY Post illustrates an emotional appeal to keep the holiday.

Suggestions

Rather than trying to substitute Indigenous Peoples’ Day for Columbus Day, expand the scope of the holiday to celebrate the Age of Enlightenment/ Age of Reason that directly led to the U.S. Constitution. It took place in Europe during the 18th century, well after Columbus’ atrocities of the 15th century. It undermined the authority of Europe’s monarchs and paved the way for the American Revolution.

If that is not a good enough reason for a national holiday, simply declare the day as the first day of the Christmas Shopping Season.

Is Self-Defense a Natural Right?

Why would it be even necessary to ask such a stupid question?

Of course self-defense is a natural right and to think otherwise is further evidence of a distorted view of reality prevalent among some factions of society in the United States. Denial of physical and biological reality is finding its way into public discourse in ways that should sound alarm bells for people who believe in personal Liberty and its attendant Responsibility.

Tools for Self-defense are Highly Regulated

Despite the Second Amendment to our Constitution, the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, including knives, swords, bows and arrows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, AK-47s, machine guns, rocket propelled granades, tanks, fighter aircraft, and nuclear bombs has been and continues to be highly regulated. If self defense is really a natural right, to what extent are we able to exercise that right if the tools we may depend on are denied us?  What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

Biological Basis of Human Existence

The fact that we are alive is all we have. We exist individually and as a species for just a brief moment on the planet we call earth whose age is almost beyond our comprehension.

Postulating an existence beyond this life further complicates how we interpret our conscious existence. Martyrdom is the antithesis of self-defense, but so is altruistically sacrificing one’s life to save another.

Everything we own, people we know, our ancestors and posterity, real and imagined, are part of our brief trip through life. Most of us will do everything possible to preserve our lives.

image of Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Byzantine-era mosaic of a gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Other living beings also do everything possible within the limits of their physical abilities to stay alive. Gazelles can run in bursts as fast as 60 mph as they try to outrun a pursuing carnivore that depends on catching the gazelle for food to stay alive. Gazelles eat grass and run to stay alive. Lions run to catch and eat gazelles to stay alive. All plants and animals that survive in their environment have developed survival mechanisms to keep them alive long enough to reproduce.

Humans are not alone in banding together to help each other survive. Animals hunt cooperatively in packs for food.  Water Buffalo and Wildebeests defend the herd with their formidable horns. Chimpanzees and monkeys cooperate on many levels to find food and defend each other.

Humans are not alone in defending one-another at the peril their own lives, but humans do appear to be alone among living things when they invent language and words to express intangible ideas like rights, natural rights, natural law, social contracts, constitutional law, statuary law, common law, and regulatory law. Humans hold the law of the jungle in disdain until they couch it in terms like natural law. The law of the jungle sounds harsh. Natural law sounds like the words of an enlightened philosopher. But the law of the jungle clearly allows for both self-defense and the common defense. And so does natural law. They are the same.

Natural Rights

Political theorists and philosophers have long argued that human beings have natural rights. Thomas Hobbs was one such philosopher who stated in his work, Leviathan, that individual humans have a natural right to survive but unless there were some kind of government to protect them life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” A gazelle may agree.

Image of Thomas Paine

Portrait of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was a philosopher, political theorist, and influential voice in the American Revolution.  He wrote a clear definition of natural rights when he said. “Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence.” He went on to say, ” Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others.”

Paine defined civil rights as those, “which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation, some natural right preexisting in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.”

Paine addressed Hobbs’s observation that without the protection of society, humans would be left to defend themselves against insurmountable odds.  It is within the context of understanding and agreeing with Paine’s definitions of natural rights and civil rights that the Founders drafted the U.S. Constitution.

Natural Rights in the Constitution

When the Founders were drafting the Constitution, they had to juggle conflicting interest of many factions all of whom had rights and privileges that they wanted to defend. State’s rights were high on the list.  Freedom was a difficult objective if it included freedom for everybody. Slavery was an issue that was left for a later time because at that particular moment in history it was necessary to craft a grand compromise.

If it were not for the Amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, it would have been impossible to have ratified the Constitution. Most people in that day assumed that people naturally had rights, whether they called them natural rights or not, and that a legitimate government must protect the rights of the people. They were certainly aware that civil law can easily conflict with natural law when the King quartered his troops in the houses of the colonists.  That conflict between the King’s civil law and natural law prompted the inclusion of the now immaterial amendment number 3.

Life, Liberty, and Property

John Locke was the English philosopher who expanded on ancient discussions about natural law when he wrote that the most important natural rights are Life, Liberty, and Property.  His writings may have been the single greatest influence that shaped the creation of our limited constitutional government. He asserted that natural law can be discovered through reason alone. An aspect of natural law that he stresses here is each individual’s duty to preserve himself, and then when sufficiently secure in his own safety, he should strive to secure the well-being of others:

“Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully (sic), so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.” John Locke (1632-1704) – The Two Treatises of Civil Government

Self-preservation is not just limited to saving our lives, but also our liberty, health, limb, and goods.  This is why some states have codified the justifiable use of force to include defending the lives, health, and property of ourselves as well as others.

Constitutional Protection of Natural Rights to Self-Defense

Self-defense is often more than protecting only physical safety. We have the right to verbally protect ourselves from what others may say to us or about us. President Trump famously does so using social media.

The first amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from stifling our speech.  Around the world and in some quarters in the U.S., there are factions who want to outlaw certain types of speech that they deem offensive. Pejorative but highly subjective labels like “Hate Speech” are used to justify their attempts to ban speech, publication of such language, or assembly where such ideas are expressed.

The second amendment following right after the important first amendment prohibits government from interfering with the right of the people to defend themselves by force of arms.  Humans are not well suited to defend themselves physically without weapons. When violence is necessary to defend ourselves and others, we have a natural right to do so.

A Supreme Court (opens in PDF) decision reaffirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is a personal right. The mention of the militia in the amendment is a slightly archaic way of  asserting Locke’s argument that while securing our own safety, we “ought,” as much as we can, to join together to “preserve the rest of mankind.”  When Locke says we “ought” to defend others, is he implying that we have some kind of moral duty to do so, or is it just his opinion?

There are many who believe that ethics and morality are ideas hatched in the minds of humans, while others bestow more authority on such ideas by claiming they are mandated by a creator.  This is an argument that is bound to go on as long as humans have ideas that they think are original and try to impose their ideas on others, whether through gentle persuasion or outright aggression. Both methods seem to be part of human nature.

A Moral Argument for Self-Defense

Are there objective standards to establish what is moral or are all moral judgements necessarily subjective? Go back to the Gazelle being pursued by the Lion. Both are doing what the nature of their existence dictates that they do to stay alive.

If you decide that you will protect the helpless Gazelle by shooting the lion, the Gazelle runs safely away. Suppose instead you shoot the Gazelle and treat the lion to an easy meal. Whichever decision you made was likely based on some preconceived notion or bias. Is either a moral decision? Animal conservationists would probably claim that both actions are immoral. Let nature take its course.

Suppose again that you see a lion attacking a park ranger. You would surely shoot the lion to save a fellow human.

The ranger could fight the lion with all his strength but unless he, or you, is in possession of a weapon that is more deadly than the lion’s awesome jaws and claws, both you and the ranger would likely become a meal for the lion. These examples involve a limited number of individuals defending themselves from imminent death.  Morality does not weigh heavily on the instinctive decision to defend individual lives.

Where Self-Defense is not a Natural Right in the U.S.

Most would argue that we have a natural right to defend our individual lives through the use of deadly force.  If I have a handgun with 15 rounds of ammunition, and I am set upon by three murderous assailants and I am able to kill all three, most would agree that I had the right to defend myself. But they would be wrong. A natural right does not translate into a legal right in many jurisdictions. And in some jurisdictions, having 15 rounds is illegal.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington DC, and Wisconsin  (15 States) require you to run from an assailant if you are in public, even if you are suitably armed and able to defend yourself. They call it a duty to retreat.  Hopefully if you run but have to stop to defend yourself, the judge or jury will believe that you retreated to the extent required by law before exercising your natural right of self-defense.

Running is all the Gazelle has and they can easily outrun a lion unless ambushed. You cannot outrun or retreat fast enough from most assaults.  You may have only a split second to defend yourself.  Duty to retreat imposes and additional burden of proof to defend yourself from potentially unjust charges.

Stand-Your-Ground States

Twenty-eight (28) states are called stand-your-ground states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Seven (7) other states are not statutorily stand-your-ground states, but do not require a strict duty to retreat: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. In these thirty-five states, you do not have a duty to retreat and grand juries are more likely to find that your use of force was justified if  the circumstances demonstrated that you clearly felt your life was in imminent danger.

Even in stand-your-ground states, it is logical to avoid deadly force whenever possible. Display a weapon, issue a strong warning, and if you are in fear of your life, do what must be done. Save yourself.

Proportional Defense

AR-15 Semi Auto Rifle 5.56 NATO

People using weapons such as firearms need to train themselves in their use as one would with any tool.  The idea of proportional defense suggests that the defense should be proportional to the threat. If a person has a weapon but is not skilled in its use, it is doubtful that the defense will be proportional to the threat.  If a person is skilled in the use of weapons but has an inferior weapon, the defense may not be proportional to the threat.

This idea has important ramifications in the on-going debate about so-called assault weapons. A handgun is often sufficient for self-defense, but when the level of threat increases, the tools available for defense have to increase accordingly. A small caliber semiautomatic weapon like the popular AR-15 looks scary to some people but it may be enough to intimidate a would-be aggressor without ever having to fire a shot. If a more robust defense is necessary, the AR-15 is capable of projecting greater force at a greater distance than a handgun.

A large unarmed man threatening a small woman with a knife is not proportional. She may easily be overpowered, disarmed, and stabbed with her own knife.  A small person aggressively confronted by a much larger person may need a firearm to mount a porportional defense. In 1872, the Colt New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol became known as the Equalizer because it allowed individuals to protect themselves from multiple or more powerful assailants.

Today’s equalizers can be found in such modern firearms as the AR-15 designed by ArmaLite in the late 1950s. The design was later sold to Colt who successfully launched the fully automatic version M16 as a military personal defense weapon.  In 1964 Colt began to offer the semiautomatic Model R6000 Colt AR15 SP1 Sporter Rifle in the civilian market.

People who use a firearm should be very familiar with the meaning and limitations of proportional defense. Often simply displaying a firearm with enough resolve will stop an aggressor. Retreat if you can safely do so. Give warnings. But don’t sacrifice an advantage because of indecision. Most aggressors already know what they are going to do and you don’t unless you have practiced using the tools of self-defense.

Other Tools for Self-Defense

Self-defense does not always involve firearms. A simple walking stick in the hands of a healthy person may ward off an opportunistic attacker. Police style tactical expandable steel batons are easily carried and concealled in a woman’s purse. Stun guns and pepper spray may be useful in some circumstances but they are often over-rated and can provoke an even more violent attack by a large aggressor.

Knives are very effective at close range but like any tool, a person carrying a knife should learn how to use it for self-defense. Blade lengths dictate what may be legally carried in some jurisdictions. What ever happened to swords?

A folding pruning saw is a very effective self-defense weapon that is usually considered to be a garden tool. They are incredibly sharp. Carried in a car, it is highly doubtful that it will be questioned as a weapon, especially if it has a few green stains on it from cutting branches. Leave it laying on the floor along with a few rusty garden tools.

WARNING: This discussion of firearms, saws, knives, or other devices in not intended to suggest that you may legally possess or use any of these devices where you reside. The Constitution is a wonderful document meant to protect our rights, but local and state governments routinely infringe on what we may consider to be a right guaranteed under the Constitution.  It is up to citizens to lobby their elected representatives to change the laws when laws no longer serve or protect the people.

Brass Knuckles are legal for self-defense in most states, but even Texas outlawed them at one time, along with California, Illinois, Michigan and Vermont. Now Texas has seen the error of its ways and will allow brass knuckles, clubs, and those cute wild kat keychains to be used for self-defense.   In South Carolina it is illegal to possess brass knuckles only if “they are used with intent to commit a crime.”

A Few Self-defense Tools


A Kubotan is a 5 inch keychain stick that can inflict painful wounds. They are generally legal everywhere except on airplanes even if made of Lexan.

This ice pick has a threaded cover. It is also unsuitable for travel on airplanes. Its stainless shaft is 2.68 in long. It is not a knife and may presumably be carried for defense in Seattle, WA. But is it a dangerous weapon in WA State under RCW 9.41.250?

A Seattle, WA city ordinance declares it illegal to “carry concealed or unconcealed…any dangerous knife,” defined as a knife with a fixed blade longer than 3-1/2 inches.


Knife Length Laws in the United States

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) incorporated in the state of West Virginia in 1997 as a 501(c)3 national nonprofit advocacy and education organization embracing every segment of the knife industry. Prior to the AKTI’s pioneering efforts, laws regarding knives in the U.S were hopelesslyconfusing. This is beginning to slowly change as states and municipalities reform their laws to conform to uniform definitions and standards promoted by AKTI. Some of their success can be seen on the AKTI Website HERE.

In 2005, AKTI published their Knife Measuring Protocol, which was the first time standard definitions were applied to knives. Since then numerous states have updated their laws to give citizens a clearer picture of which types of knives are legal under varying circumstances.

AKTI provides information about which knives are forbidden or prohibited under state law; which knives cannot be sold or other restrictions on sale or manufacture; and which knives may be carried and whether concealment is an issue.

Click HERE about knife laws in your state. (Opens in a new window)

Although the information provided by AKTI is not considered legal advice, it is a good place to start to understand what restrictions states have placed on weapons, including knives. Consult local law enforcement, an arms dealer, or qualified attorney in your state to better understand the details of local laws.


For those who do not have the patience to read long boring discussions:

What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

In the U.S., and apparently in the whole world, there is a constant fight between the Left, who instinctively deny the existence of a biological human nature, and the Right, who dogmatically assert that Darwin was correct and Utopia is the greatest threat to individual Liberty ever contrived in the Minds of Men.

The Left instinctively wants to disarm the populace, provide cradle to grave security, and eliminate all crime, dissension, mental illness, poverty, and unhappiness.

The Founders of our Republic were pragmatists, , brave and realistic.  They knew that if the Revolution against the English Monarchy failed, they would all hang.  There would be no appeal to a benevolent court. Enshrining individual Liberty in a new nation was their goal. Correcting the errors of the past, including slavery, would have to wait for subsequent generations to achieve by using the Freedoms that the Founders bestowed on their posterity.  We are that posterity.

We have an obligation to understand why we have what has been given to us.

John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) had already made his huge contribution to human understanding of nature.  Adam Smith (16 June 1723 – 17 July 1790) provided the bones to what would become an economic miracle, Capitalism. Karl Marx came later. His legacy is one of destruction and on-going dissention,

Some of the concepts we should understand relate to the basic biological nature of our existence:  Natural Liberty, laissez-faire, the Invisible Hand, self-interest, division of labor, universal opulance, ‘the system of natural liberty.’  We do not want to get carried away talking about economics when we are trying to show that natural law gives us the right and duty to defend ourselves and allow us to have access to the tools to make it not only possible but easy. It’s just that liberty, economics, and self-defense are all tied together.

So we will make one last reference to a modern philosopher who is seldom given the credit he deserves: Malcome X said, “I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.” In his 1964 speech he stated: “We don’t do anything illegal.”

Indeed the Second Amendment gives us an individual right to arm ourselves in defense of ourselves, our property, and our fellow beings. The problem is that other people and even our own governments try to take these rights away from us under whatever guise is popular at the time.  Right now in the summer of 2019 after several well publicized murders, frantic utopian Leftists are again crying for a general disarmament.  So we too must continue to defend ourselves in the political arena and keep the pressure on our elected representative to protect the Constitution.

So what types of arms are appropriate and who should have them.

Who Should have Them?

First, society has a right to protect us collectively, so there are people who should not have weapons, and there are people who should not have their personal freedom. They should be locked up. But if we cannot lock them all up, we individually must have the means to defend ourselves from them, and we must support those whom we hire to defend us, the police, the FBI, ICE, the military, etc.

Background checks are reasonable and may be strengthened with technology, but safeguards must be built in to prevent background checks from infringing our rights.  Protection orders are also a logical defense of public order. It’s already in Federal Law.  Gun violence Emergency Protective Orders are also appropriate if the are not abused.

What Types of Arms

Firearms

Because the principle of proportional defense always applies, the type of weapon available in the hands of a law-abiding citizen should be capable of meeting any potential threat.  If the treat does not measure up to the available weapon, the law-abiding citizen is the one to decide proportionality by limiting the use of the weapon to the actual force needed. This is why any semiautomatic weapon with any magazine capacity should not be banned. We need to have them if necessary and we are free to limit their use.

The present laws of taxing fully automatic weapons, although infringing to some degree, is not causing  too much hardship.  If a situation arose where more people need to have automatic weapons, current access to semiautomatic weapons could fill in the gap until more appropriate weapons for the new threat are made available.  To legally own a fully-automatic weapon now requires three things: time, money, and a spotless criminal record.

The bottom line is this: All rifles, shotguns, and handguns, of any caliber presently available, and magazines of any capacity should be available in commerce, subject to reasonable regulations. Many states currently impose unreasonable regulations, particularily in the states of California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ikkinois, Hawaii, and Massachuetts. The City of Washington DC  also abuses citizens rights.

Other Weapons

Any device, concealable of not, that can be safely deployed to protect an individual against aggression by another should be freely available in all the trritory of the United States. Most weapons of this sort should be small and easily accessable. Three of our favorite are pictured above.

Swords, pikes, and large weapons like maces, hatchets, and hammers are obsolete in most circumstances. Hatchets, hammers, saws, screw drivers, ice picks, kitchen knoves, and other tools can make excellent weapons in a pinch. Their possession for any reason should not be restricted.

Chemical and Electrical Weapons

In the right hands, such as law enforcement trained in their use, weapons like mace and TASER can be effective. TASERS are not legal in all states. DC, HI, MA, NJ, NY, and RI ban the civilian sale of TASER weapons. CT, IL, MI, and WI are legal with certain restrictions and requirements. We disagree with the rationale for banning them in those states.

These weapons are used to de-escalate a violent situaltion, but the person deploying the device needs to be prepared if the violence does not de-escalate. What if ist gets worse?  A law enforcement officer carries the equipment to take it to the next level and we believe that civilians using these devices must also be prepared to respond if the Taser or mace doesn’t work.

They have drawbacks that should be considered. Some TASER devices look like pistols and in the dark may be mistaken for a firearm.  Why not just carry a firearm and follow firearm safety procedures, including properly identifying yourself to a law enforcement officer and following directions.

We believe that pepper spray and many low power electrical devices are not effective enough to be reliably deployed.  Take a professional self-defense class to learn what is worthwhile.

screen shot of Fox News broadcast 26JUL2019

Poorly informed Electorate is a Danger to the Republic

We generally refrain from commenting on current events because such events almost always fade into obscurity along with the people responsible for those events. But there is something happening currently that is troubling. It’s not just one thing; it’s a constellation of events and the people behind them that cause us to question where it will lead our country and the Liberty we cherish.  Among these events are clueless voters, illegal immigration, deep state operatives, and pathological educational institutions.

Clueless Voters

There are pockets of voters in certain regions of the country that are electing people who do not seem to share our common understanding of limited government, personal Liberty, and property rights. While we label some rank and file voters as “clueless,” their leaders in the DSA, and public icons like Elizabeth Warren are clearly not clueless idiots. Now, if some polls are to be believed, 40% of Americans are willing to embrace various tenants of socialism. Their numbers are enough to elect inexperienced representatives who are masters at self-promotion but very weak on intellectual achievement.

Among these unusual new representatives are the four congresswomen known as the “Squad.”  They openly call themselves Democratic Socialists. That by itself is nothing new.  There is also the granddaddy of Democratic Socialists, Bernie Sanders, who is mercifully coming to the end of his long political career feeding at the rich bosom of capitalism that he claims to despise.  It is highly doubtful that the  hapless voters who put him and the Squad into power have ever heard of Eugene Debs or Michael Harrington, who have also mercifully faded into obscurity.

Socialism is Incompatible with Freedom

A generation of self-indulgent citizens has failed to learn enough about history and economics to understand that free market capitalism has produced unprecedented wealth for the great mass of humanity. It has lifted people out of starvation around the world.  It is responsible for the freedom that people need to be creative. Despite these obvious lessons of history, many current voters are willing to sacrifice our freedom to once again experiment with failed Marxist philosophy.

Democrats who call for socialist policies stress that their socialism is not that of Venezuela and Nicaragua.  They like to claim that theirs is the “third way,” like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

If anyone was paying attention, these countries did indeed experiment with a few socialist policies in the 1970s, and subsequently corrected their mistakes. They are small enough countries to quickly change direction.  They are now in many respects more free than we are, with no guaranteed jobs, no minimum wage,  and no “Green New Deal.”

James Madison knew that people need to educate themselves if they want to be self-governing. The alternative is for carelessly ignorant people to submit to the tyranny of dictators. In 1822, Madison wrote to his friend William Taylor Barry:

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Illegal Immigration

One of the issues that is popular among Democratic Socialists is globalization and the eventual dismantling of nation states. They may not frame their arguments in this way, preferring instead to advocate for compassion, free medical care, free education, free housing, and sanctuary cities. (Last month we published a lengthy article on this subject)

Some states and many cities are becoming  microcosms for socialists policies. This is actually a good thing because it demonstrates the long-term problems of socialism before too much damage is done.  It also gives current generations of idealistic voters time to mature and learn from their mistakes.

Migration between states is a feature of our Republic.  When one area of the country becomes too socialistic, those who cannot thrive in that environment can move. The opposite is also true. Masses of homeless people and illegal immigrants are flocking to large west coast cities seeking a myriad of benefits, such as Medicaid and Section 8 housing.

Deep State Operatives

The subject of deep state operatives is controversial. Wikipedia classifies it among conspiracy theories. Eventually more information will reach the light of day and it may cease to be a theory.

At a rally in Billings Montana, President Trump referred to “unelected deep-state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.”

Many believe that elements in the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice, conspired, and may continue to conspire through elected representatives in Congress to remove Donald Trump from office. It is obvious from their public statements that they hold president Trump in disdain.  While a classic coup d’état, South American style, is not a possibility, a more sophisticated campaign to impeach the president or at the very least prevent his reelection is not mere conjecture. It is playing out daily in Congress and on all the news outlets.

Regarding the ongoing investigation by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I can’t tell you what he found, but I can tell you that if you care about the rule of law you’re going to be very upset about how the DOJ and the FBI behaved themselves during the 2016 election,”  “If you hate Trump, you won’t care. If you love the rule of law, you’ll be very upset.”

Senator Lindsey’s calm characterization of the investigation gives a hint that those involved will fade into obscurity. Then the famous words of the Bard will once again intrude on our skeptical minds:

Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Pathological Educational Institutions

Universities are one part of the educational institutions that we address here. They, in contrast to smaller community colleges, have become breeding grounds for theories that interfere with students’ rational thinking and their ability to enter the job market. Ideology is a luxury that should be reserved for tenured professors.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has become one of the foremost critics of what Universities have become in North America.

We accept as axiomatic Madison’s assertion that if people are to govern themselves, they have to be smart enough to do it. Prof. Peterson makes a strong case that Universities are actively promulgating spurious ideas that weaken the ability of people to make historically informed decisions.  Watch the video below.

Further educational institutions such as community colleges, trade and technical schools, and military colleges/academies are more targeted to preparing student for an occupation, and so they generally avoid the culture battles taking place on some university campuses.

Another significantly pathological educational institution is the Internet as a whole.

Internet

The Internet with the omnipresent screens, both large and small, give us an endless about of information. The great barrier to turning knowledge into wisdom is that most people are not prepared to deal with the vast amount of information. They don’t have the critical skills to know what is true. Nor do they question the concept of truth.

Added to blatantly fake content on the Internet is the reality that the Internet is the hunting ground of thieves, robbers, child molesters, murderers, Nigerian princes, fake IRS, fake banks, and fake people.

Most people think that what they believe is true. Very few people have developed the ability to separate emotional beliefs from potentially empirical truth. And in our zeal to embrace all that is new and exciting, we reject the wisdom of history and tend to repeat the same stupid mistakes.

Current Events

Invariably students don’t understand what a current event is all about. Ideally teachers should train students to use their intellectual faculties to evaluate events and put them into a historical perspective. As much as this would be an ideal outcome, current events in most of the country point to an electorate that makes decisions based on emotions.  And the teachers are themselves part of that emotional electorate.

How can a student, or anyone for that matter, discover the truth behind what is happening. The bias of news outlets borders on criminality. Who has time to spend hours comparing opposing opinions?  And those who spend the time will have a very difficult time separating fact from propaganda. A cynical view of network news is that it’s an extension the entertainment industry, which distracts the populace from their lives of quiet desperation.

If we venture into an arena that should be relatively free of fake information such as medical research, what can we believe?

In the International Journal of Surgery, (2006), and article entitled Deceit and fraud in medical research laments a loss in public trust in medical research and doctors. It shows how researchers misuse statistics to give weight to incorrect conclusions. It reminds us of Benjamin Disraeli’s opinion of statistics, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

7 Fatal Errors Universities Make
“Postmodernism is  just a shell game for Marxism”

Illegal Immigration and the End of Prosperity

Introduction

Illegal immigration is aggression, a home invasion on a larger scale.

But clearly the motives of most illegal immigrants are not those of home invaders. Or are they?  More about this later.

But the central question of this discussion is this: Will illegal immigration cause an end to American prosperity?

The answer is YES, but not for the reason you may imagine.

NOTE:  This discussion is about illegal immigration. It assumes that people of goodwill, working for a common cause, can eventually devise a system of legal immigration that systematically adds to our economic social capital.  If we are unable to decide what kind of immigrant can add to our social capital, then immigration and a borderless state will be our downfall.

Contentious Issue

One of the most contentious issues facing the United States on the 4th of July, 2019 is illegal immigration. Congress seems paralyzed in the face of hords of immigrants crossing our southern border. Why can’t Congress pass a law to fix what is increasingly being recognized as a crisis?

The simple answer is that there is no agreement about immigration policy. The political Left advocates for open borders and free immigration; the Right pushes for changing the laws to prevent the incentives that promote illegal immigration. Most agree that legal immigration is not only desirable, but essential to our economy.

Claims about the economic value of immigration vary widely, primarily because the economy is another point of contention between the Right and the Left.  America’s favorite Ponzi scheme, Social Security needs more workers to support it.  Microsoft wants programmers from India via the H-1B visa program, and healthcare pushes for increases in nurses admitted on H-1A visas. Farmers used to want guest workers until that program flopped and the farms got bought up by international corporations. Now the guest workers are old and their children and grandchildren are proud Americans who shop at Walmart and pay sales taxes.

We are told that Americans don’t want to work in the harvest. Maybe the wages are too low, or maybe there are enough underpaid immigrants entering the country illegally to fill the demand.

Illegal Immigration and the End of Prosperity

Our title is intentionally provocative. It is intended to draw attention to an overlooked aspect of economic growth. The people of a country, collectively, determine the type of economy and degree of prosperity of the country. A nation of poorly educated people divided by tribalism will remain poor for generations. Such a country is destined to be ruled by elite dictators.

A nation of well-educated people sharing a high degree of cooperative effort is likely to choose a government that helps promote their common interests . Such a nation is likely to enjoy a high standard of living, and will tend to maintain that standard throughout subsequent generations by promoting the educational and ethical standards that fostered it in the first place.  Philosophers have dubbed such a nation an open society although as with any concept, there are those who interpret the term to suit their own ends.

Americas Are Lands of Immigrants

Colossal Olmec Head

The United States and the all of the Americas are lands filled with immigrants.  It’s just a question of when they arrived. The ancestors of Native Americans arrived at various times, possibly as long as 30,000 years ago, and in various waves until about 10,000 years ago.  Archeology does not tell us very much about the wars that must have occurred anciently as one wave overran another. Mesoamerica offers some clues but that record goes back only to about 2500 BCE, and really only dates from the mysterious so-called Olmec culture about 1600 BCE.  Did the Olmecs simply, and peacefully, evolve into the Maya culture, or did they disappear through genocide or natural disaster?

European Invasion

Beginning in 1492, European nations began their competitive colonization of the Americas.  England ended up with most of North America except what is now Mexico.  She also got a few islands in the Caribbean, the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, and British Honduras in Central America.  Spain and Portugal got most of the rest. Holland still has a toehold that makes a nice place for European tourists.

In an early demonstration of low trust societies, Spain and Portugal entered into the Treaty of Tordesillas, supposedly sanctioned by the Pope (but not really) to divide the new territory, only to be followed by numerous subsequent treaties in recognition that everybody was cheating.

The present languages of the Americas reflect that early immigration. Their religions also reflect the dominant religions of the earlier home countries. For many years the U.S was predominantly protestant, while from Mexico and south were Catholic. Much of that is changing now.

Most counties in the Americas have growing economies with the notable exceptions of countries that dabble in socialism, or frankly embrace it. Socialism stands out as an impediment to a growing economy.

U.S. and Brazilian Economies

What accounts for the difference between the United States economy and the Brazilian economy?

There is a joke that Brazilians tell on themselves:

A certain citizen had the following conversation with the Supreme Being during the creation of the world.

–  Lord, You created the world and the countries, and in them you put earthquakes, tempests, tornadoes, and even deserts.

–  That’s true, my son.

Zé Povinho from 1875 cartoon

– All well and good!  But in Brazil You put green forests, a marvelous ocean with fresh breezes and rivers with clear water. All of nature in Brazil is beautiful and tranquil.

– That is true, my son.

– <mild Brazilian expletive!> Lord, that doesn’t seem fair to me!

– Relax my son; I haven’t finished my work yet. Just wait to see the povinho that I’m putting there!

We didn’t translate povinho because it’s one of those wonderful Brazilian words that defy translation into one word within the context of the story. It also is part of a history of Brazilian self-deprecation, admiration of simple people, and acquiescence to corruption as a fact of life.  Look up Zé Povinho.

So to answer the question, “What accounts for the difference between the United States economy and the Brazilian economy?”

Corruption…

Language and Culture?

Dominant religion?

Brazilians readily admit to corruption. But where did the corruption come from?  In Brazil, it is difficult to trust anyone without getting to know them for a long time. The same is true in southern Italy. And China…

Corruption has been part of Brazil’s cultural landscape for years. People joke that justice can be had by buying a judge. Corruption in Brazil even has its own Wikipedia page, but so does the U.S.  Most folks in Brazil complain about corruption, Idealistic young people demonstrate against it. Yet, it is so endemic that as the young people mature, most simply go along with the system. And when they emigrate to the U.S. they bring their skepticism and distrust with them.  Nevertheless, Brazilians, as a nationality, demonstrate an amazing ability to assimilate into American life, especially those who immigrate legally. The rest live on the fringes looking over their shoulders and struggling to find legal employment.

Other South American Countries

The easiest way to gauge other countries’ current level of corruption and distrust in a society is to check their rankings on the Transparency International Website.

Francis Fukuyama Explains It.

In his seminal 1995 book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, Francis Fukuyama picks up where Adam Smith in his  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations left off and subsequent economists have generally passed over.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith taught that wealth is produced when government is limited and stays out of the way of enterprising free citizens. It is an enduring argument that may account for most economic achievement. But Smith also recognized that economic life is dependent on the morals of society.  Yet Smith did ascribe to any clear system of religious morality; he was critical of both Christianity and Judaism. Wealth of Nations is not about economics. It’s more about political philosophy, which seeks to explore ethics, and ethics and trust are linked inextricably.

The word trust occurs at least 20 times in Wealth of Nations but Smith does not dwell on it; he seems to take it for granted that people who are trustworthy will enjoy the extension of credit increased commerce, and ultimately wealth. Smith was not an economist. His Theory of Moral Sentiments is the work of a philosopher.  In it he tries to describe natural principles that govern morality and how people attain. Fukuyama gives a clearer picture of how people become trustworthy.

Fukuyama stresses the importance of cultural factors in economic growth, including the degree of trust that exists in the society.

Trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community … Social capital is a capability that arises from the prevalence of trust in a society or in certain parts of it. It can be embodied in the smallest and most basic social group, the family, as well as the largest of all groups, the nation, and in all the other groups in between. Social capital differs from other forms of human capital insofar as it is usually created and transmitted through cultural mechanisms like religion, tradition, or historical habit.”  Fukuyama, F. Trust: Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. (Simon and Schuster, 1996): 26. 

Read the above quotation again and let it sink in.

How to get Social Capital

There exists some disagreement among social scientists whether attainment of social capital is a conscious decision or if it happens as a consequence of activities outside the economic sphere. Fukuyama believes that  “all cultures seek to constrain the raw selfishness of human nature in some fashion through the establishment of unwritten moral rules.” (p.35) The degree to which society as a whole acquires these values depends on how each individual acquires them.  It is not hard to imagine how these values can be taught by example within a family, with reinforcement from society (schools and churches) as children grow to be adults and enter the work force. It would be necessary for these values to have the character of habits:  honesty, loyalty, and dependability. These are qualities that employers value highly and lead to job stability. They are habits acquired through language, religion, education, and cultural reinforcement.

“Social capital, which is practiced as a matter of arational habit and has its origins in “irrational” phenomena like religion and traditional ethics, would appear to be necessary to permit the proper functioning of rational modern economic and political institutions – a fact that has interesting implications for the nature of the modernization process as a whole.”  (Ibid p.325)

Which Are High and Low Trust Societies

Fukuyama explores the development and expression of trust in different countries, grouping them into high-trust and low-trust categories. It is not hard to guess which countries fall into which category.  Any businessman doing business internationally knows the difference.

High Trust

Japan – Keiretsu – High Trust Integration of Businesses

The size of the Japan’s individual corporate entities is a bit misleading because the Japanese are masters at business relationships, which require incredibly high trust. Keiretsu is the system whereby industries share capital and technology.

Japan has formed huge corporations that dominate world commerce: Toyota (167.2 Billion USD); SoftBank Group; Nippon T&T; NTT Docomo;  Keyence Corporation;  Sony; Fast Retailing Co.; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial; KDDI Corporation; and Recruit Holdings. These are the top ten (by capitalization) There are many more, with more famous names. Value Today has 144 Japanese companies on their list.

German Giants

“The German economy is Fukuyama’s second example of a high trust society that has built giant corporations.

Among the huge corporations are: SAP SE (166.29 Billion USB); Linde AG; Allianz SE; Siemens AG; Volkswagen AG; DT. Telekom AG; BASF SE; Bayer AG; Adidas AG; and Daimler AG. (271 on the Value Today List)

United States Dwarfing all Others

Fukuyama devotes a whole Section (IV) of his book to the United States, which he titles, “American Society and the Crisis of Trust.”

Obviously the U.S dominates the world of large corporations. Value Today currently lists 1798 of them. This number is misleading because many of the companies are U.S. Companies with predominantly foreign operations that have listed on U.S. stock exchanges. As listed companies they publish audited financial statements that greatly increase transparency and trust.  Many foreign companies sell their stock in the U.S, because it is seen a place where capital flows more freely, also a characteristic of trust.

But even back in the 1990’s when he wrote the book, Fukuyama was aware of changes coming to the American nation. Now in 2019, his vision is even clearer to all of us.

“From school boards enlarging curricula to include the study of non-Western languages and cultures, to corporations staging ‘diversity training’ seminars to sensitize their employees to subtle forms of discrimination, Americans in the 1990s have become preoccupied-pro and con- with the issue of ‘multiculturalism’.”  (p. 269) “Under these circumstances, it may seem odd to sound an alarm, however modest, about the economic consequences of a decline in American social capital.” (p.321)

Low Trust

Fukuyama’s short list of low trust societies includes China and some parts of Italy, which place high regard on loyalty to family. Others on his low trust list are Korea and France. When considering the state of national economies in the early part of the 20th century, most of Asia, Africa, South America, Southern Europe, and the Middle East can be added to the low trust list. Decide for yourself where Russia belongs.  Is it a nation where people trust each other?  Is it run by a dictator propped up by oligarchs?

Do you personally know Russians who have immigrated to the United States?  The first generation still carries the scars of living in the communist USSR.  Pay attention to their spontaneous level of trust.

The wealth of a nation is not among the criteria that define low/high trust, although high trust nations are wealthier, and high trust regions within nations are wealthier.  France is a wealthy European nation but it, along with southern Italy have built prosperity around family enterprises rather that more widely held corporate entities.

Image of Tel Aviv in 2010

Construction boom in Tel Aviv – 2010
Continues to this day.

The Israeli Dichotomy

A visual depiction of high and low trust resulting in prosperity and poverty is obvious when one travels around Israel.

Without delving into the substantial cultural and religious differences, nor confronting claims of political exploitation of one group over another, the Jewish state has become an oasis of technical innovation in a sea of impoverished nations run by monarchs and dictators.

Refugees from the turmoil of the Middle East pouring into Europe will have long-lasting consequences for the countries that are so generously welcoming them into their midst. Hopefully the dominant culture of Germany is strong enough to assimilate the refugees. Historians will write that story several hundred years from now.

Decline of Trust – Increase in Tribalism

When a nation allows large numbers of people to immigrate, whether legally of not, that nation is importing the cultural and moral orientation of all those people. Go to any city where there are large numbers of immigrants and you will see the changes. The first generation of immigrants likes to associate with others from their homeland. To some degree the children of those immigrants identify with their parents, but inevitably they lose the language skills of their parents. By the third generation, most of the children have assimilated to some degree with only a small affinity for their grandparents’ countries of origin. While assimilating into the culture of their new country, they have lost most of their parents’ and grandparents’ culture but have gained little of the shared understanding, values, trust, or cooperation of their new country’s older generations.

Interstate Migration

Migration between the states in the United States is legal and guaranteed under the Constitution. It is a microcosm of illegal immigration. The states receiving the new people into their midst do not get to choose what type of people they get.

Although John Steinbeck did not write Grapes of Wrath as a documentary, he correctly describes the effects on both migrants and society when large numbers of poor, often uneducated, people invaded California from the middle of the country that had become a dust bowl. The tragedy of Grapes of Wrath, is not the long lasting effects the migration had on California, which had its own economic struggles. The migrant family ended up in worse shape than they were in when they left Oklahoma. California got bailed out by World War II and the massive employment provided by the military-industrial complex as President Eisenhower called it.

How is current migration from one state to another different from migration from one country to another?  The simple and obvious answer is that interstate migrants mostly share the same national language and culture. At least most have unconsciously agreed to abide by the social contract we call the Constitution and the rule of law that flows from it. Illegal immigrants by the very act of defying the law and crowding to the front of the line demonstrate that their economic distress takes precedence over respect for the law.

Even Interstate Migration Affects Regional Economies

Emigration and Immigration within the United States is essentially economic migration. When conditions become uncomfortable or even unbearable in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, people relocate to places that seem to offer more opportunity. They bring their political ideas with them, often being an acceptance of social programs like welfare.

Eventually Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Florida see a subtle shift in the way people vote. There is fear among those of the dominant population that the factors that made their state attractive in the first place will be eroded by the new-comers.

This is not just a theoretical observation. Big cities in Texas, including the capitol of Austin, have seen political shifts where the populations are now voting in ways that resemble the places where the immigrants came from. If Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles enacted high taxes and restrictive regulations on business in response to the demands of the electorate, why would anybody imagine that newly transplanted citizens from those cities not bring their fundamental ideas with them and demand regulations and the taxes that support social programs?

The City of Austin, Texas is documenting these changes on their website.  ” The center of wealth in Austin has slowly migrated into the hills west of the city.”  “Austin is becoming a more divided city, divided not just in terms of income but also in terms of cultural attributes, linguistic characteristics and political persuasions.”   They also report that highly entrepreneurial Vietnamese households are fleeing Houston to open new businesses in Austin. A possible explanation of the flight from Houston to Austin is Houston’s high violent crime rate reported at 75.90/1000. This is not a sign of a high trust society.

After several generations, will the descendants of Californians in Texas resemble old Texans, or will the grandchildren of Texans become more like Californians?  Only time will tell, but what is certain, there will be changes.  How that relates to the resulting population’s ability to create prosperity remains to be seen.

An exception to this generalization about economic migrants, are the millions of retired people flocking to the south. Many are fleeing the high taxes, crime, and other perceived problems of their home states to enjoy warmer climes. They settle in the suburbs among others of a similar social status and find themselves welcome.

It is doubtful that the reverse of this migration, a Texan moving to the Big Apple, will make an impact on the City that Never Sleeps.

Internet

The Internet has become a kind of virtual reality for many people. Their experiences on the Internet can be totally imaginary as in a video game or painfully real, exceeding normal casual reality. How can the Internet impact culture and the social capital we all depend on?

In 1995, Fukuyama hinted at the possibility that Internet hackers might not share the ethical norms of what we might call the “legacy society.”  He worried that junk email might overwhelm the system. Other than a few shallow observations, the Internet was too new for Fukuyama to express informed predictions. He did not comment on the possibility that adverse foreign actors could assault our constitutional republic through the glass fiber that connects the world.

He could not foresee the enormous amount of theft and fraud perpetuated over the Internet. It is doubtful that he could have foreseen Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Netflix, nor envision that their market capitalization exceeds the entire FTSE 100.

Invasion of Privacy is not Virtual

Internet invasion of privacy is a frequent topic of concern. So too are questions of personal narcissism, as people purposely expose every aspect of their personal lives.

Does the Internet foster that sense of shared community (Ge·mein·schaft) that contributed Germany’s economic miracle?  Or does it reduce it into a contentious platform for identity politics?

The Internet is efficiently making a billion Chinese citizens into reliable consumers of goods and services, not only for global giants like Baidu and AliPay, but also for millions of small mom and pop businesses selling food, clothing, and entertainment. The Chinese are not alone. Americans make efficient 2 click purchases from Amazon for goods to be delivered the same day or in a few days.  That’s a short enough time that anticipation replaces immediate gratification.

There is a lot of research about whether the Internet contributes to the kind of social capital that leads to prosperity. The very definition of social capital is being questioned.  The Internet has expanded relationships among people. Some researchers focus on social ties and resources, others on civic engagement and trust, as Fukuyama did in his book.

In the end, the Internet may be a marvelous tool to augment social capital, foster collaborative businesses, and promote prosperity.

Prosperity is not Equal for Everybody

In a nation like the United States, it is obvious that the absolute level of prosperity is increasing.  Most people are better off now that they were in the recent past. But is the level of prosperity increasing as fast as it could?  Is prosperity diminished by the influx of millions of immigrants who enter illegally, and will be condemned to live on the margins of society?   Do immigrants bring ideas with them that limit the sense of shared community and trust that Fukuyama identified as the way Japan, Germany, and the United States built huge corporate economies?

There is currently a lot of discussion on the political Left in the United States about a great chasm that exists between the fabulously wealthy (1%) and the poor. Never mind that the poor in the United States are wealthy by comparison to the truly poor in many nations. The Left panders to the electorate by offering free healthcare, forgiveness of student debt, free college education…  So-called millennials apparently accept socialism as a viable alternative to the free market capitalism that has created our unprecedented wealth.

Rather than being concerned about how big government will be able to pay for such social programs, society should be concerned about how widespread are the attitudes among a segment of the population (millennials and Gen Z) that appear to have abandoned their trust and loyalty with business.

Are there Two Enemies within the Gate?

If there are both a growing population of younger generations who display little trust of American institutions, and a very large low-trust immigrant population, what is the future of the engine of growth that generates our prosperity?

Millennials are people born between 1980 through 2000 (depending on who defines it), with Gen Z classified as anyone born from 2001 until the next meaningful cohort is identified. These two groups comprise slightly over 60% of the global population.

Immigration is adding more numbers to the millennials than any other group. The Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 76.2 million. Thereafter, the oldest Millennial will be at least 56 years of age and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration.  By 2050 there will be a projected 74.3 million Millennials.

Legatum Institute

The Legatum Institute is a London-based think-tank “with a global vision: to see all people lifted out of poverty. Our mission is to create the pathways from poverty to prosperity, by fostering Open Economies, Inclusive Societies and Empowered People.” (From their website)

It posts a ranking of countries in terms of their prosperity. The United States ranks Number 17!

The good news is that we have not changed since the list started in 2007.  HERE is a link to the entire list

In compiling their index, Legatum looks at what they call the nine pillars to prosperity, namely: Economic Quality, Business Environment, Governance, Personal Freedom, Social Capital, Safety and Security, Education, Health and Natural Environment.

All of the nine pillars relate directly to the trust and social capital of the citizens of the countries. The economic quality, governance, etc. are all a product of the people who created them over time and those currently in charge of maintaining them, including the electorate.

Open Economies, Inclusive Societies and Empowered People

The  Open Society Foundations  founded by George Soros, (born Schwartz György; August 12, 1930),  pours billions of dollars into countries world-wide to “build vibrant and inclusive societies, grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law, whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. ”  Also, ” Our vision is a call for change—change in the way we think about others, and in the ways we work together.” (From their website)

The terms open society and closed society are attributed to a French philosopher,  Henri Bergson in his Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1935).  He developed the idea that human instinct naturally excludes others who are not members of one’s closed society, e.g. clan.  The British philosopher Karl Popper picked up on the idea and developed it further in The Open Society and Its Enemies.(“Open Society”)

George Soros is a fan of Karl Popper. In a widely published essay in 2016, Soros said, “As a student at the London School of Economics, I came under the influence of the philosopher Karl Popper, and I developed my own philosophy, built on the twin pillars of fallibility and reflexivity. I distinguished between two kinds of political regimes: those in which people elected their leaders, who were then supposed to look after the interests of the electorate, and others where the rulers sought to manipulate their subjects to serve the rulers’ interests. Under Popper’s influence, I called the first kind of society open, the second closed.” We underlined Soros’ assertion that he developed his own philosophy. Soros’ closed society deviates substantially from Popper’s use of the term.

When living in Vienna, Popper was a socialist, and The Open Society reflects its radical character. Later in his life he reportedly rejected some of the socialist ideas of his youth. Yet a careful reading of Popper shows that he really never abandoned his socialist sympathies and advocated for government intervention in the economy and piecemeal social engineering. (Underline ours)

The Wikipedia article about Open Society and Its Enemies says, “The last chapter of the first volume bears the same title as the book, and conveys Popper’s own philosophical explorations on the necessity of direct liberal democracy as the only form of government allowing institutional improvements without violence and bloodshed.”  Nowhere in Open Society does Popper use the term “liberal democracy” or “direct democracy”

Popper’s Development of Closed and Open Societies

What Popper really develops in Volume 1, Chapter 10 of Open Society and Its Enemies is what Fukuyama identified as the reason societies succeed in building prosperity. They abandon the closed, tribal society and begin to function cooperatively with a high degree of trust.

“Our Western civilization originated with the Greeks. They were, it seems, the first to make the step from tribalism to humanitarianism…

A closed society resembles a herd or a tribe in being a semi-organic unit whose members are held together by semi-biological ties—kinship, living together, sharing common efforts, common dangers, common joys and common distress….

Thus when we say that our Western civilization derives from the Greeks, we ought to realize what it means. It means that the Greeks started for us that great revolution which, it seems, is still in its beginning—the transition from the closed to the open society.”  (Volume I, chapter 10)

Closed Societies, Immigration, and Home Invaders

Petri dish with skin bacteria and black plague bacteria
“A closed society at its best can be justly compared to an organism.(Popper)

The Petri Dish

A Petri dish is a closed environment with nutrition to allow microorganisms to grow. It can serve as a metaphor for the world we live on.

There are good microorganisms and bad microorganisms, which is admittedly a very subjective statement depending on who is being helped or hurt. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is yeast that makes it possible for people to have beer and bread, presumably a good thing. Other microorganism like the ones picture above can be also good or bad. Certain strains of Staphylococcus live on the skin and make it difficult for bad staph to take hold.  Yersinia pestis growing on the dark red part of the Petri dish was responsible for killing up to half of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages.

On a very basic level, humans are organism competing for space in a closed environment. The marauding wars of the closed society may be somewhat diminished in our current enlightened state, but has it really been that long since the glory of Greece and Rome?  Our wars that are creating refugees, and the dysfunctional low trust societies that produce economic refugees, are dragging us down to where we came from.

If one were to introduce a bacterium called Streptomyces rimosus onto the above Petri dish, the current residents of the dish would soon experience the ravishes of an invading population, proving that on a biological level that diversity is not a good thing.

Are Illegal Immigrants Home Invaders

In reading through the foregoing, you may logically conclude that we are making an argument that illegal immigrants bring attitudes or moral values with them that will eventually overwhelm and dilute the degree of social capital that has help the United States provide a high standard of living for her citizens.

You may also logically conclude that illegal immigrants will cost more to society than they produce. Proponents of immigration, both legal and illegal argue that immigration is a net plus to the economy. Opponents correctly claim that illegal immigration costs more than they contribute in sales taxes and property taxes paid by their landlords. Illegal immigrants cannot get social security numbers and they do not pay social security taxes or income taxes when they are being paid illegally under the table. They can get ITIN numbers and pay taxes in the hope that it will help them become legal someday. The IRS reported in 2015 that 4.4 million tax returns without SSNs paid 23.6 billion in taxes. Forbes reported that about 50% undocumented taxpayers paid 12 billion in state and local taxes using an ITIN.

To put these numbers into perspective, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador reported that their citizens residing in the United States sent over $17 billion home in 2018 alone.

Although it is nearly impossible to correctly calculate the economics of illegal immigration, and any such calculation necessarily covers a sort time span, the long term result of illegal immigration is a society-wide disrespect for law and decline in trust of the kind that builds prosperity.

Regardless of the merits of philosophical or economic arguments, can you conclude on a rule-of-law basis that illegal immigration is akin to a home invasion?  The motives of most illegal immigrants are not those of home invaders. Most of them don’t want to directly steal your stuff. Stealing your taxes probably doesn’t occur to them.

You Invited Them

Here’s the reality of it. They are not home invaders because a large cohort of your fellow citizens invited them to come into your country to steal your stuff and bring their ideas with them. This large cohort is comprised mostly of younger generations who believe in globalization and the international humanity of humans. They allowed our laws, either through apathy or design, to become dysfunctional and cause people to stream across the borders in numbers that make assimilation difficult if not impossible.

And now it is time to fix the problem but 50% of the political class cannot agree with the other half.  Calls for comprehensive legislation make it even more difficult. “Comprehensive” for the Left is code for Utopian, everything we ever hoped for.  For the Right, comprehensive means they will have to compromise with their closely held personal beliefs to the extent that the solution becomes unacceptable.

As previously mentioned, Karl Popper understood the necessity of undergoing social engineering with deliberation when he advocated “piecemeal social engineering in opposition to Utopian engineering.”

Little Downside for Illegal Immigrants

When an illegal immigrant uses a fake social security number, as many do, the taxes are withheld and paid into social security. When a name and number on a submitted W-2 do not match, the Social Security Administration may notify the  employer but cannot take any enforcement action. The IRS could fine the employer $50 for each wrong SSN but generally do not. So any taxes withheld on a fake SSN are just paid in and no refunds are legally filed for.

Persons living in the U.S, whether citizens or not, and earn wages  are required to file a tax return even if the wages are so low that no tax would ordinarily be collected.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C. based think tank, sums it up this way:

“At the heart of this issue of undocumented immigrants and taxes is the fact that U.S. immigration and taxation laws are misaligned. Agencies are singularly focused on their own mandates: the IRS is interested in maintaining a broad tax base and collecting all taxes owed to the government, regardless of the source, whereas immigration enforcement officials want to enforce the law against unauthorized work. Meanwhile, other actors within the system, including employers and workers, are doing the same. Addressing these conflicting interests would require legislative change and implicate millions of taxpayers, which means the current state of affairs will likely prevail for the foreseeable future.”

Will Illegal Immigration Cause an End to American prosperity?

Yes, unless a Black Swan comes along to save the Republic.

The reason is that social capital is being lost and immigration is part of the reason. We have been losing it slowly for years and while it is true that the wrong kind of immigration can diminish social capital, the right kind of immigration could increase it.

At this point is seems rather remote that Congress will be able to determine what kind of immigration will add to social capital.  In the year 2019, Congress is divided and squabbling over distractions. Many in Congress are not concerned about increasing immigration of people who will add to our social capital; all they want is to win reelection. The cohort divide in congress is glaring as the old guard seems unable to curb the demands of Millennials and GenXers in their midst. Congress itself is a victim of the same loss of social capital that is evident in the general population. If all the doctors and nurses in an Ebola clinic themselves have contracted the disease, it is hard to see how anybody will come out alive.

There appears to be an obvious effort among some politicians to recruit certain demographics in an effort to amass power. Immigrants are perceived to be sympathetic with the political Left. While it is difficult to demonstrate, it is human nature to vote for people who offer all sorts of benefits and that is what the current crop of leftists is doing. If immigration can increase the ranks of Millennials and Gen Xers enough to pass a plethora of socialists’ policy objectives, the Left hopes to remain in power for generations to come.

 Early Warning

The decline in social capital is not a new phenomenon but it has not been widely discussed in the popular press. Scholarly articles abound.

As is customary in scholarly articles, a list of works cited gives proper attribution to others who contribute to the discussion. One frequently cited name is Robert Putnam.

This is from a Master’s Thesis dated 2007 by a Smith College student:

References

Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America‟s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6 (6), 65-78.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robert David Putnam  is Harvard professor who sounded an early warning in the 1990s along with others such as Francis Fukuyama, previously cited. Putnam contends that individuals born before 1930 are more trusting and civic-minded and that subsequent generations are less likely to be civically engaged, volunteer time, donate money or contribute to the production of social capital.

Work by April K. Clark  finds that not all aspects of social and civic life have been in decline but the greatest fall has been in trust. She attributes the fall in trust to differences among people in educational attainment, race, and religious preferences. Prof. Clark’s definition of social capital is a broad definition in opposition to Nan Lin’s succinct definition, “Investment in social relations with expected returns in the marketplace.”  ((Lin 2001) Social capital: A theory of social structure and action. London: Cambridge University Press). 

It is interesting that Dr. Clark may have inadvertently reinforced Popper’s observation that tribalism is a feature of low trust societies.  She says “Not only is there no evidence of an across-cohort decline in social capital, but rather I find support for a modest cohort-based increase – beginning with individuals born in the mid-1960s – for spending time with relatives.”  (Reference is HERE)

“Greater diversity means inevitably that we have less in common, and the more we encourage diversity the less we honor the common good.”Edward J. Erler, professor emeritus of political science, California State University, San Bernardino

Conclusion

On a basic biological level, human beings have genetically determined instincts that go mostly unrecognized. The hormonal release of adrenaline and glycogen in the fight or flight response kept our ancestors alive long enough to give us their genetic legacy.  Instinct still accounts for what appears to be a universal fear of snakes, although more enlightened humans have learned how to get along with snakes.

Some of our other instincts such as tribal loyalty, revenge, greed, and urge to procreate excessively are claimed to be impediments to an open society that promotes the welfare of all its citizens.  The modern nation-state has evolved as a place that can nurture and preserve democracy. The idea of what constitutes democracy continues to be debated but nobody has materially added to what has already been said before.

The Founders of the U.S. devised a system of government that combined what they considered the most equitable parts of democracy, with structural features of the new government that they hoped would lessen the chance of mob rule, the dictatorship of the majority over the minority.  It really did not envision “one man, one vote.”  Rather decisions would be filtered through various layers of elected representatives, with checks and balances put in place to ensure as much as possible that no one part of government could amass dictatorial control.

The Swiss have done a good job of governance that continues to recognize the value of the individual. It stresses individual responsibility and is very close to being a direct democracy. Yet voter participation is near an all-time low. Voter turnout in national elections has not exceeded 50% for almost 40 years.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an organization of 36 nations that are committed to a market economy and democracy. The stated goal of the OECD is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all. The OECD has been at the forefront of documenting rising levels of income inequality, and the emergence of an elite global ruling class.

There are many among those who control vast wealth and power that do not trust the rule of the majority. They fear mob rule – the natural tendency of human beings to revert to their biological heritage of greed and self-preservation.

They also do not trust powerful nations such as the United States and try to dilute the influence of one nation over another. So in all nations, they quietly work behind closed doors to pull the levers of power to accomplish ends that preserve their privileged existence.

Proponents of globalization advocate open borders where nation states exist in name only.

Is this the Open Society envisioned by the Soros’ Open Society Foundations or is it Karl Popper’s open society. Popper says that nationalism appeals to tribal instincts, and our “nostalgic desire to be relieved from the strain on individual responsibility.”  He was talking about nationalism in Nazi Germany where individuals gave up their individuality.  Nationalism is not the same as supporting and preserving the nation-state. The nation-state is a place to preserve democracy, not National Socialism.

Preserving the nation-state and democracy requires engagement by citizens, cooperation, and acceptance of individual responsibility as the essential element to preserve personal and collective Liberty. The antidote to globalism is more engagement on the local and state level, which is a hallmark of the Swiss Confederation.

Open borders, gratuitous immigration, and the inability of host countries to assimilate newcomers will gradually diminish the social capital that has lifted so many people out of poverty during the 20th century. Historians will write the obituary of the 21st century where over-population, environmental degradation, and foolish experiments with immigration, democracy, and free markets killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

image of goose that laid the golden egg