Mixed Bag: Wrong on Tariffs, Got Hacked?, Garrett for President 2028?

My last post on tariffs was very good if you haven’t read it yet. I just want to make one clarification about that post. Throughout the post, I mention the possibility of plan to make tariffs a bigger source of national revenue. The problem is that I wrote it just trying to educate people about tariffs and thinking after research I could present a plan to help relieve the tax burden. After some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was totally misguided. I know that free trade is a great economic benefit for every country. I never proposed doing away with it. I’ve come to the realization that I was wrong about tariffs. I don’t think there’s way to make tariffs viable without starting multiple trade wars or killing off American businesses. The explanation is simple. Its basically a tariff on imports would make many products that aren’t produce here in America very expensive to the consumer. A tariff on exports would create tension between the US and other countries whom export to us. The bottom line is that tariffs in this free trade world just won’t work either politically or economically.

This particular post is a mixed bag of goodies such as the tariff plan which is not happening. I’m going to try to keep short, not sure that is possible for me. (See any other post) I think that first I want to address the Russia hacking. I don’t usually like to give these ridiculous stories that people call “news” any sort of attention. However, its been bothering me. The problem I have with the story is not that Russia tried to hack, or that Trump wanted to them to hack, or even the debate over whether or not its true. There are conflicting reports that the hacking was made up. Whatever the case is, I find it completely ridiculous. The best I came up with to describe it was this unusual status I made on my facebook:

The Russians interfered with my whole life, hacked my SATs scores, college transcripts, my facebook, my old myspace account, and all four of my email addresses. (I lost count actually) Apparently its totally a valid excuse for why I’m such a failure. You want to see proof just look at how big of a loser I am. This my friends is what the federal government and Democratic party are doing. How pathetic and sad can you honestly get? Trump won because people are tired of Obama and his socialist policies that really haven’t worked. They don’t like the increased terrorism and racial strife. I don’t believe that Trump is the solution but blaming your problems on Russia is ridiculous. Trying to start World War 3 is dumb. If I could run for President in 2020 I would, because the only people who seem to be politicians are idiots.

I think that I make a valid point of how this Russia hacking is playing out in the media. I’ve never actually believed anything the media tells me. I would recommend you don’t listen either. As they say: Don’t drink the kool-aid.  I thought I would just share that.

In an unrelated matter, I want point out that I made a half hearted declaration for President in 2020 even though I’m only going to be 30. If you didn’t know you need to be 35 to run for President. In the event that I turn 35 and I decide to run, I promise that my readers will be the first to know. If you are curious, I will be 35 in 2025, and eligible to run in the 2028 election. So uh, mark your calendars. If Trump doesn’t ruin us then I hope I can count on my educated readers for your support. I will be on running on the libertarian platform with a little bit of my own ideas mixed in. Just for fun, lets review my positions:

  • Against Minimum Wage
  • Pro-Adoption (Pro-Choice because 14th amendment and Against Abortion because its killing)
  • Audit the Fed (Reserve) (Hold them accountable)
  • Pro-free trade
  • Cut spending and actually lower taxes (Against raising taxes on anyone)
  • Hold the Department of Defense accountable (military industrial complex)
  • Make Healthcare a free market system (fix regulations)
  • Repeal the Patriot Act
  • Make gay marriage legal everywhere (states rights be damned, gov’t shouldn’t control marriage
  • Make marijuana legal everywhere (kills the black market and raises revenue)
  • Basic Income, see my post, Which also leads to cuts in all of the welfare portions of the budget plus a savings of about 200 billion dollars
  • Invest in infrastructure like high speed rails and roads
  • Pay down the national debt (again extra money from cuts over a course of 10 to 20 years)
  • Pull all troops station abroad and put them on the Mexican Border (Simultaneously, I would institute a streamlined immigration for legal and illegal immigrants basically just giving them citizenship after a background check and psychological evaluation plus for illegals a higher tax rate to ensure they really want to come here. No handouts here. All countries citizens welcome.
  • Slowly end all unnecessary government functions or phase them out because a big bureaucracy isn’t necessarily great in terms of cost and effectiveness. Including but not limited to my own power once I get what I see fit to be done.
  • Eliminate all Federal government regulation regarding education such as common core because teachers know their own students better.

Granted my plan is ambitious but I don’t just win the presidency not to make a major impact. I made this list off the top of my head. I made some vague positions and perhaps in the future I will get to expand on them. If I had to describe my presidential ambitions in a sentence or two I would describe it as:

I want America to be a fiscally smart, diplomatic savvy and self aware as a nation and as a people. Americans have always thrived on their freedom and their ability to govern themselves and that is exactly what I aim to do, is put the control in hands of the people.

I think my plans are simply for freedom and not much else. America has become extreme and its painfully obvious with the election of a person like Trump. I think we need to go back to our roots. People need to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are the documents that built the country. I think the words have significant meaning that puts being American in great honor. I also think that we shouldn’t forget our past mistakes whether its invading Iraq or the whole cold war, we should not let history repeat itself. I really don’t fancy getting elected or being President easy. However, I think i would really enjoy working to make a country that I’ve been living in and studying since I was a child.

That’s will do it for this post. I had to address a few things and next post will be more coherent, I promise. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Tariffs: America’s Oldest Tax Plan Revisited

In history class, I distinctly remember talking about tariffs. It’s usually something you learn about first especially in American history. The American revolutionaries were unhappy with the tariffs being put on their exports by the British. This is what the revolution started over to a degree. You might not remember what a tariff or tariffs are. The definition of tariff is: tax or duty to be paid on particular class of imports and exports. In other words, a tariff is a tax on imported or exported goods. Every country typically imports and exports goods and services. The goods that are typically exported are those in surplus in that country. The goods that are imported are those which are either cheaper or not in supply in that country. Tariffs have been long a part of the American economy. Tariffs have even long been a part of the government.

In the post, I’m going to first review why tariffs were such an integral part of our nation’s history. Then I want to discuss how we went from a tariff based revenue system to the current system of income tax. After that I want to put forward an idea that seems to have been lost in time. The tariff in the United States was after the revolution used to fund the government. Almost as the sole source of income. Alexander Hamilton had designed the whole system. He set up and got funding for a series of lighthouses and inspection clerks up and down the Atlantic coast. There clerks were to inspect all incoming and outgoing goods. They also had to determine the tariff on each item. They were called Customs Officers. Hamilton became the Secretary of the Treasury and further install his government revenue engine on the back of the Tariff act of 1789. The act is simply explained in its first section:

“Whereas it is necessary for that support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures, that duties be laid on goods, wares and merchandise:” — Section 1; Tariff Act of 1789

The tariff is essentially an indirect tax on goods coming and going out of the country. Hamilton saw the huge war debt from the revolution and knew that the US government had no source of income. There was no income tax or anything like that. (Wouldn’t come til 1912, I’ll explain later) So Hamilton being the genius he was, decided to convince President Washington to take out a loan and install the customs system (Tariff Act). He argued in one of many papers that America need to build credit. If you have a credit card or student loans like me then you know that building credit is paying off your debt. Hamilton’s system allowed the US government build credit, in fact one of the best credit ratings in the world for many years. Not everyone was on board with the plan. People like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. However, they couldn’t stop Hamilton’s plan because war debt was owed to France and other creditors. The US didn’t have many options at that time.

So tariffs were the main source of income from 1789 to about 1911. The US government added liquor taxes, postage taxes, corporate taxes, tobacco taxes and the Panama canal as other sources of revenue. In 1912, tariffs made up about 20 percent of the income of the government. In 1913, the government passed a law that changed the source of US government forever. The law called the Revenue Act of 1913 or the Underwood Act was passed to impose an income tax and lower tariff rates from 40 to 25 percent. This marked the end of tariffs making up a significant portion of US government income. This act was possible by the newly passed 16th amendment. (For another post, the 16th allows for income tax under the direct taxation requirements in the constitution, which was previously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) Since 1913, our tariff income has only been about 1 percent of revenue. This figure is according to this website here, it also breaks down the tariff income based on type of good. All in all, 2013 saw about 30 billion dollars of income. This is compared to 311 million in 1912. In 2016 dollars, that tariff income would be about 7 billion. Obviously, since the early 1900s the conditions of the economy and our government budget has exploded.

You might be asking yourself but isn’t 7 billion dollars in 2016 or 2017 (Happy New Year) like chump change for the US government whose budget is around 2 or 3 trillion dollars. My answer would be yes. However, if you look at these numbers in terms of percentage and scale then you can imagine a viable tariff system for 2017. Remember tariffs made up 20 percent of the 1912 budget. Now tariffs make up 1.7 percent approximately in 2013. So lets say for argument that our budget under President Trump is 3 trillion. Trump decides in order to cut taxes he needs to increase revenues. (In some alternate logical world) So Trump orders an increase on tariffs. His cabinet comes up with about 600 billion in tariffs or about 20 percent of the budget. I think that 600 billion dollars is a pretty nice chunk of change. Imagine what that could pay for? Social Security? War? Food Stamps? But what would those tariffs look like?

Obviously to understand the role of tariffs, you need have an understanding of the global economy. I think its obvious that the world is complex. A significant part of an economy is trade. The trade between two countries or more is essential because it allows scarce resources to be spread. It also widens the markets for such goods. Its been in the news a lot lately about all the trade agreements. These agreements in a basic way remove the barriers and allow trade to flow freely. One of those barriers can be tariffs. There are two types of tariffs. Import tariffs are a tax on goods that imported from other countries. Import tariffs are often seen as protective to a country economy. This was the primary tariff beginning in 1789 because it (artificially) protected the US economy. Export tariffs are a tax on goods being exported to other countries. Export tariffs are typically seen as way to limit the exports of a certain good. For example, if oil became very scarce then the US might want to put a high export tariff to help curb the sale of oil abroad and keep here in the US.  (An export tariff would increase the price of oil outside the US)

I believe that introducing a new tax plan including tariffs might be beneficial to the US. I think you have to carefully consider what to put tariffs on and what kind of tariffs. But its definitely a source revenue that is not used as it once was. Now we rely on income tax so heavily, its crushing many Americans. Its a liberal fallacy to think that you can tax your way out of poverty. Its an irony. Taxes create more poverty than eliminate. I think I need to do another post on the subject of trade because this post is merely just one part of it. I need to do some further research before I offer any specifics on what a tariff revenue might look like. So I will leave this post as to be continued, my next post will try to figure out how to successfully incorporate tariffs into a free trade world.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Deepening Divide: American Political Parties

You might be familiar with the term political parties. I think most people would conjure up images of a donkey and an elephant. Many people associate political parties with democrat and republican. In most countries, there is either no political parties or just one; or there are more than two. America is unique in having only two main parties. There may be some others but America is the best known. The point of this post is just to casually discuss the widening divide of the two main parties. I expect that with my own political compass to probably discuss the lack of a third-party.  Yesterday I was having a conversation with somebody who has some opposing views in terms of politics. The conversation really made me start to think about the political parties. In recent years, it seems that the democrats and republicans have gone to further extremes. Obviously if you were born in 2000 or after you probably wouldn’t notice.

You don’t have to be old to see the extremist stretch of the parties. All you have to know is a little historical context. I’m sure I have explained this before in some other post but its worth explaining again. Political parties started in America in 1776 on about the same day the declaration of independence was signed.  Typically historians will say somewhat ironically that after George Washington’s farewell address is when the parties really got going. I will get to George Washington’s farewell address too. But first lets discuss the political parties at that time. During the time before the constitution was signed, there were two sets of loosely based political beliefs. There was no actual organized parties til much later. The Federalists and the anti-Federalist. (Yes, very creative naming) The Federalists were led (loosely) by Alexander Hamilton. They believed that the constitution maintain a strong executive presence within the federal government. The anti-Federalists who led (loosely, not right away) by Thomas Jefferson. They believed that it should be the states who hold the majority of power not the federal government.

I say loosely lead because there wasn’t any organization not until after Thomas Jefferson’s presidency in 1801 to 1809. Now as for George Washington’s farewell address, this is part where its relevant to political parties: (Irony coming ahead)

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796 Yale Avalon Project

So here is the ironic thing about George Washington and his address, Washington himself was not above joining a party. Throughout his presidency, he tended to call on his secretary of treasury and in the revolutionary war, his first clerk to attend to government business. Alexander Hamilton was one of George Washington’s closest confidants. He also happens to be the de-facto leader of the Federalist party. Washington was actually pretty persuaded by Hamilton’s beliefs. He felt that Hamilton had the country going in the right direction. Washington also did try to stay above the Federalist and Anti-Federalist mudslinging.

If we fast forward to just before the Civil War, we see that political parties have evolved from Federalist and Anti-Federalist to Whigs and Republican-Democrats. The names seem to be different and very much the same even ironic. However, the Whigs represented the Federalist view in many ways. The Republican Democrats represented the Anti-Federalist view. The Whigs dominated the north and the Republican Democrats dominated the south. Abraham Lincoln was the end of the Whig party and the beginning of what many call today’s Republican party. At a contested convention in 1860, Lincoln was able to swing votes to his Republican party from the majority Whigs. From Lincoln time until Teddy Roosevelt, the Republicans and Southern Democrats dominated American politics. Even now, parties tend to be very regional and sectional in popularity. Its one way to define who votes for them. Of course up til 1919, it was only white men who owned land then women’s suffrage was passed.

Teddy Roosevelt was elected by a third-party, one of the few presidents to do so. The 20th century represents a major change in the parties. After Teddy, the political extremes begin to take off. You can contrast the parties in the alternating decades of their rule. The republican decade of roaring twenties saw relaxed government meanwhile the progressive era of 1930s to 1940s  with Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the Democrats dominate because of the Great Depression. The democrats also held power during World War 2 and afterwards with Harry Truman. The 1950s saw the rise of Republicanism in Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was actually pretty moderate by today’s standards. The 1960s saw JFK and LBJ, the latter passing the Great Society, the so-called “second New Deal”. The 1970s saw even more moderates like Nixon and Carter but leaned Democrat. The 1980s is when the extremes pushed higher than ever with Ronald Reagan. Since Reagan, the Republicans have pushed for more tax cuts every year. The 1990s stay relatively moderate with Bill Clinton as a centrist democrat.

My point is that over years it seems like Democrats and Republicans seem to farther apart than ever especially today. I believe this last election really show how deep the divide came. I think when you politicians like Bernie Sanders running, whose view is more socialist than democrat, you have a problem. America always been able to stay the course and not veer to extremes. In part thanks to our constitution and our checks and balances. You know its extreme when Donald Trump is considered an acceptable candidate and is elected. I don’t have a solution to this extreme push to fringes. However, I would propose that we allow more than two dominate parties. I’m a libertarian and I take some opinions from both sides and mold them into one view. I think that being extreme politically is like being ignorant. You can irrationally argue just about anything but you won’t make progress. In order to make progress, you have to accept that there are other ways to achieving the same goals. I think one of the bests to describe the dysfunction of our political parties is that they all have the same goal with a different way to get there.So why can’t we just compromise. The reason is simple. Democrats want big government to control every aspect of our lives except abortions. Republicans want government out of lives except when it comes to abortions. We need to make our goal to make America the best it can be by any means necessary. We need to compromise. Until we can do that then the only thing that will happen is Congressional deadlock and fighting.

Thanks for reading!

Preventing Dictator Trump: Judicial Review and Separation of Powers

An important principle of our constitution that set ups our government is that of separation of powers. It is a part of checks and balances. Separation of powers has always been a hot topic especially in the Supreme Court. It keeps our government running smoothly. It helps determine the jurisdiction of each branch of government. In order to understand the separation of powers, you have to understand Judicial Review. In middle and high school history the concept of separation of powers and judicial review is taught. Mainly because it’s on the regents. Many students sort of zone out on it because it’s not all that interesting. Once again I want to take two Supreme Court cases and review them. After briefly reviewing each, I want to put some modern context on the separation of powers and judicial review. Let’s just say when an election rolls around with a controversial president being elected, my mind goes to thinking about how the constitution allows for checks and balances that keeps our democratic president from becoming a dictator. It’s really petty to blame the election results on Russia or voter fraud. A choice was made and we should deal with it by invoking the constitution. Without further or do, I want to present Marbury vs. Madison.

Marbury vs. Madison was decided by the court in 1803 by the Marshall Court. It was unanimous decision. Now you might remember some of the facts of case from high-school. If you don’t then I suggest you read up on it here. Like usual, I want to skip directly to the questions of the case and the majority opinion. The court had to decide whether or not the officers had the right to go court over the commissions and  whether or not Section 13 of the Judiciary Act was valid? The court held that because Adams had signed the commissions they were legal and should have been given out despite Jefferson’s order to not give them out. They also voided Section 13 of the Judiciary Act because it interfered with Article 3 section 2 of the constitution. The Court had an obligation to uphold the constitution over the congressional law. Here was what the Judiciary Act, section 13 says :

That the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies of a civil nature, where a state is a party, except between a state and its citizens; and except also between a state and citizens of other states, or aliens, in which latter case it shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction. And shall have exclusively all such jurisdiction of suits or proceedings against ambassadors, or other public ministers, or their domestics, or domestic servants, as a court of law can have or exercise consistently with the law of nations; and original, but not exclusive jurisdiction of all suits brought by ambassadors, or other public ministers, or in which a consul, or vice consul, shall be a party. And the trial of issues in fact in the Supreme Court, in all actions at law against citizens of the United States, shall be by jury. The Supreme Court shall also have appellate jurisdiction from the circuit courts and courts of the several states, in the cases herein after specially provided for; and shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts, when proceeding as courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States. [NOTE:  Text in bold of particular relevance to Marbury v. Madison. (Source, here)

The Court invalidated the last part of this law in favor of the constitution.  The constitution goes against the Judiciary Act, more specifically Article 3, Section 2:

The judicial branch has jurisdiction over any case involving: 

  • The US constitution, the laws of the United States laws, treaties, or any cases involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls.

This particular quote is what the Supreme Court cited as their jurisdiction to hear Marbury’s case. Marbury essentially tried to argue for a broader Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Judiciary Act would have allowed that if not for the constitution’s strict view what the Supreme Court is allowed to do. Marbury vs. Madison was the first case to strike out part of a congressional law. Its become known as judicial review. This is only the first case of it, comes up again years later in the Dred Scott decision. (another blog post)

I want to go over just one more case before I bring it into a modern context. I think that one of the most interesting Supreme Court cases is McCulloch vs. Maryland. If you want to read the facts, then click here. The McCulloch vs. Maryland is not so much about judicial review but it does establish an important pecking order within our government. You may have heard of federalism. This is a case that shows what federalism. In this case, a uanimous decision was made that the state of Maryland could not tax the federal government. The question the court had to answer was simply one of federalism. Congress legally created a bank and Maryland tried to pass a bill to tax it. The court found on the basis of the 9th amendment (see my last post) or the enumerated powers amendment. The court set the precedent that federal government has constitutional power over the states. The federal government is allowed to establish banks because of the 9th amendment and the states can’t tax it because its a constitutional function. This is monumentally important case especially with the civil war later in the century. (case was decided 1819)

Marbury vs. Madison gave the Supreme Court the power to strike out congressional laws that are unconstitutional. McCulloch vs. Maryland gave the federal government the priority over constitutional functions within the states. So why are these cases so important today?  I alluded to the controversial election in the beginning of the post. I believe these two cases give the people some hope that President Trump won’t become Dictator Trump. Obviously, he has a favorable Congress and he might even get a favorable Supreme Court pending a successful nomination. But Trump and Congress still have to follow the constitution. In the end, the Supreme Court has a duty to uphold it. So no matter what happens with Trump, I think the separation of powers and judicial review will keep him in check.

Let’s quickly for example, take President Obama and his presidency. Obama’s biggest accomplishment (depends on how you look at it, failure is more accurate) is Obamacare or the Affordable Health Care Act. It was a very controversial becuase it mandated that everyone get healthcare or pay a fine. Parts of it went to the Supreme Court to be decided if they were constitutional. Some parts of it were unconstitutional and others remained. In my opinion there wasn’t enough struck down. However, I think that knowing that obviously unconstituional laws will be struck down is comforting. Nobody saw Trump getting elected. I think we all gotta have a little faith

This definitely won’t be the end of this topic, it went a little longer than I wanted but I hope to revisit it soon.  Thanks for reading!

 

Citations:

Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “McCulloch v. Maryland.” Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1789-1850/17us316 (accessed December 12, 2016).

Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “Marbury v. Madison.” Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1789-1850/5us137 (accessed December 12, 2016).

 

On the Basis of Democracy: Aristotle Part 1

I am so happy to be writing again. I took nearly a month off because the election just made me really want to stay out of politics. It was so demoralizing and embarrassing. Just glad that it’s over. Now with the election over and the reaction starting to cool down, I want to swing my blog into more a history based content. My true passion is history. This specific blog post is going to analyze some of the classic political writings and philosophers. Don’t worry I won’t bore you to death with just some biographies. I want to present a logical argument for a representative democracy. My last post touched on this with Alexander Hamilton writing the 68th Federalist paper. Just to recap, Hamilton presents an argument for the Electoral college that says that a small group of people who have the ability to make a decision is better than having it rest just on the everyday person. Hamilton argues that its crops out the corruption and makes sense when trying to determine who should be elected. Hamilton’s brilliant argument became my own in my defense of the Electoral college. I want to build on the representative nature of the Electoral college that makes our democracy so unique.

I want to introduce two figures of political history. One is an ancient greek and the other an Englishmen from the 17th century. Hamilton was so well versed in all political philosophers. It shows in his Federalist paper 68. I think that its important to know about where the founding fathers got their inspiration and at times their whole concept. Many people who I know and meet, are understandably ignorant on political philosophy. Unless you are a political fanatic or you love philosophy then you probably don’t know much about these two figures. For the sake of this blog post, I want present some of the most relevant theories of Aristotle and John Locke that regard democracy.

Democracy is synonymous with America. Democracy in latin means commoner. Democracy is associated with freedom. Democracy is in the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union’. (If you didn’t know, the preamble of the constitution starts like that) The question or argument that I will be presenting is simply what is the basis for a democracy? Why is Democracy such a successful system of government? These are just some of the questions that may or may not be answered because I don’t believe there is just one answer. History is not an exact science when it comes to the ‘Why’. (Also known as the five W’s: What, When, Where, Who and Why. A simple way to remember how to think about a historical topic)

Aristotle was greek philosopher and lived from 384 to 322 BCE. He wrote on hundreds of different topics ranging from family life to science to politics. One of his political writings is on democracy. First, you have to realize that Aristotle was a student of Plato who had a more utopian view of society. Aristotle was the first realist. He thought that the political community was the top of society. The political community is responsible for the education, health and governance of the rest. In his writings on the best democracy he lays out a few main points. One of these points about political community being a guide: “that human life has a telos and that the political community should provide education and laws that will lead to people pursuing and achieving this telos. Given that this is the case, a regime that allows people to do whatever they want is in fact flawed, for it is not guiding them in the direction of the good life.”  This is just a summary but in simpler terms, Aristotle believes that everyone has a spirit of good in them. This spirit of good needs to guided by the political community aka the democratic government to reach what he calls the good life or happy life.

Similar to Plato, who also believed that there was level of happiness that could be achieved that was above anything in the human experience. However unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that the best democracy was made up of farmers. His reasoning is that farmers or herders are less likely to assemble and own less land.  They offer a democracy the least path of resistance. You might conclude that some of the success of American democracy can be credited with large farming industry starting before and going well after the revolution. Aristotle thinks that a democracy made up of farmers and ruled by “This is a reason why the authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication: “Those who govern themselves in this way must necessarily be finely governed. The offices will always be in the hands of the best persons, the people being willing and not envious of the respectable, while the arrangement is satisfactory for the respectable and notable. These will not be ruled by others who are their inferiors, and they will rule justly by the fact that others have authority over the audits” .  For the purpose of this argument, I think that Aristotle makes an interesting point with  words that I underlined. Let me explain.

What Aristotle means by authority over the audits is that the people must retain control of the budgets of public spending and they should be liable to be persecuted if there is wrongdoing. Aristotle considers adjudication as a right to fair trial by being judged by your peers. I find it so interesting that in ancient greek times, Aristotle is basically laying some constitutional principles that our founding fathers definitely included in our democracy. I also feel that politicians being liable to persecution is not met across the board with all public officials. I think that sometimes politicians are protected for personal gain and to avoid political suicide. Politics is literally a house of cards, because politicians depend on each other more than they let on.

I think Aristotle remains one of the most amazing and interesting philosophers. These writings occurred well over 2000 years ago. It makes you think about just how smart the Greeks were. Let me be honest though, the Greeks did not make the perfect government by any means. Their democracy in Athens was a true democracy with a senate. The voting took place with only land owning men. The politics were corrupt and dirty. There were demagogues that rose up and messed up their elections. However, the greeks set the stage for the Roman Empire which lasted 8 centuries and used a form of democracy for some of that time.

One of things I love about Aristotle is that he is a realist. His perspective mirrors my own in that the most capable people should be in a position to run the government. However, their power should not go unchecked. In a very indirect way, Aristotle is advocating for checks and balances,  the part where he says: “authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication:” . The people need to be in control of the government. I believe this is a problem in our American democracy. We don’t hold the government accountable for anything. When it comes to spending our money or making foreign policy decisions.

To wrap this post up, I want to say in Aristotle’s view of democracy he had envision a simple concept where by the political community and the wealthy educate and govern the farmers and herders. However, the farmers and other common folk hold the purse strings and judge their peers. Aristotle contemplates a fair system of democracy that I believe gave us the foundation to America. America started out as farming settlement in North America. The wealthy men of the settlement decide to wage a revolution and break free from Britain over a variety of reasons including taxes. The ruling class has always been primarily wealthy. However, the biggest change is the modernization of farming which has led to its decline. This is the challenge to our future democracy.

Stay Tuned within a week for Part 2 on John Locke. Thank you for reading! Have a great day!

Citation text: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Safety over Rights or Rights over Safety?

I often think about the great debate that plagues Americans everywhere. It seems that all the struggles in America come down to the choice of safety and security or group and individual rights. This debate has brought out in detail by the recent mass shooting in Orlando over guns and radical muslim terrorists. This debate is nothing new. One of the problems of governemnt especially with a democratic government is that it allows free choice. Free choice in itself can be good and bad. You can choose to make good choices that help you or others. You can also choose to kill people. Of course, for every bad choice or legally wrong choice there is consequences. Our democratic government has fallen into the trap of limiting bad choices of its citizens. This is a natural process throughout our history as we advance through time. The problem with choosing security over rights is quite simply that it takes away the rights of the people. The people as the constitution states, run the government. It can be noted that dictatorships actually demonstrate a full view of an security state. The power of the government is vested in one person. That one person is the government and makes all the decisions. That dictator controls all the rights of the people. Therefore in theory, the safety of the people is guranteed because adjustments by the dictator can be made. However, many dictators are corrupted and use their power to undermine the safety of the people. Ultimately it undermines their rights. In a democratic government the debate over safety or rights is an issue because we follow a constutition which lays out the specific power limitations of government.

The constitution is a very important document that is not fully understood by many Americans. I want to point that the constitution doesn’t grant the government power to do whatever it wants. The constitution is not supposed to be taken advantage of or used to increase personal power or wealth. The constitution is supposed to make sure that our government does its job. The job description of the government is written in the constitution.  Checks and balances and Judical Review both are instruments to help keep and uphold the constitution. If people reconigze the constitution as a statue of limitations then it totally changes how you see our government. Remember the people run the government. Not government run people.

The constitution also lays out our rights as people that are basic to everybody who is an American citizen. The bill of rights is the most important addition to the constitution because it gives us those freedoms that we enjoy. Many people, politicans and groups argue over the 2nd Amendment. This is the right to bear arms. If you don’t know there are two ways to interpret the constitution, they are strict and loose interpretations. In each interpretation, the right to bear arms means the right to own a gun regardless of the purpose. The amendment actually stipulates two different laws. The first is that of a well regulated militia for the security of a free state. In a strict intepretation this would be out of date since we no longer have militias. In a loose intepretation this would mean that if necessary then a militia could be formed. The second part of the law applies to current events.

The second part states that its “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall be not infringed”. This statement in both interpretations means the right to own a gun is not to be taken away under any circumstances. The narrative after the most recent shooting is that assault weapons should be banned. Let’s set aside the fact that bans have never worked. (Tell me about bans: Drugs, Alcohol, Cigarettes under 18….how are those working out? If you ever drank under 21 or smoked a cig under 18 or smoke pot in a state wheres it illegal then you probably know that bans don’t work right?)  The problem with banning assault weapons under the second amendment is that there is no legal grounds to do so. A better solution that has no legal ramifications constitutionally is more extensive background checks and psychological evalutions at 1 year interevals. In this case, there is actually a way to choose safety AND rights. Unfortunately, the government would prefer safety because it increases their power. If they can take away your assault rifle then that’s techincally voiding the second amendment and legalizing all guns for bans. The logical solution is that getting a gun should be very hard through extensive background and psychological evalutions. I would propose a similar regulation to that of motor vechicles. You need to register your car every two years, get an inspectation (In NY STATE) every year, and update your plates. Its not that cheap to own a car with all the expenses like insurance and all that I just mentioned. So why can’t we do this with guns?

I think that its clear that our rights our being traded for security. I want to give one more example. The best example of government picking security over rights is after 9/11. Its obvious why the US government took the steps that it did to protect us. What isn’t so obvious is that they violated our rights while doing so. The main culprit is the Patriot Act. The Act gave legal power to government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, NRA and others to spy and keep track of all citizens. The means by which this was carried out violated many of the constitutional bill of rights. It far exceeded the power that the government should have had. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th amendments have been violated by the Patriot Act. This was done all in the name of security. You may ask then, how do we let this slip by us? The answer lies in who we voted in office. The congress has become very stagnant with the same people in office for many years. This allows for complacency and inactitivity.  One of the problems that occur in the safety vs. rights debate is that politicans are often on both sides. Politicans tend to claim that will defend our rights. In practice, they usually end up either creating new rights for their own advantage or taking away rights for some to help others. Politicans are plagued with self interest and greed. This is human nature. It seems that being a poltiican only makes these two vices worse.

Since 9/11, we have certainly traded a lot of rights for what seems like the same standard of security. I feel like trading rights for security has never worked. Many political observers have often noted this fact. I look around the world with new terrorist attacks every week, I can’t see how we are any safer. I also want to add another facet to the gun debate that also involves rights. The right to keep arms is usually in your house. However, the right to bear arms would suggest that an open carry policy is the constitutional standard. One of the common dominators of terrorist and mass shooting attacks is gun free zones. These safe zones are not so safe and are usually: schools, colleges, clubs, shopping malls, government buildings, convention centers, stadiums. Many people are against an open carry policy, usually offering the argument that America into Somali, a war zone. However, let me submit to you an example of open carry policy in a US state, a state that has had no mass shootings in recent memory since 1983. That is 33 years with no mass shootings. This state if you don’t know already was admitted to the union as the 49th state. It was purchased in Sewards Folly which should be a dead giveway!  Its in the arctic circle. Its Alaska! Yes, Alaska has an semi-restricted open or conceal handgun policy with similar restrictions on other guns. So basically, you don’t need a permit to carry or conceal a handgun. For other guns and assault weapons you may need a permit or not depends on where. So how can this be?

Well, my friends this is how gun control works. I want to use analogy to wrap up my post. Let’s say that Country A and Country B are neighbors. Country A has a nuclear weapon. Country B does not have a nuclear weapon. If Country A decides to nuke Country B there isn’t much that B can do about it. If both Country A and B have nuclear weapons (Same amount) then if Country A threatens to nuke B. The result will be one of two: Country B threatens to nuke or Country B is nuked and retalites. In a situation where both parties have equal strength of force it will become a zero sum game.  If country B does get nuked then retalites against A then they both loose. However, if they both decide against launching their nukes then they both win. This same logic can be applied to guns. This is usually called deterence. It can be more powerful than any passable law.

I know that personallly I would rather have my rights over safety because rights give you safety. The government can’t protect each individual its just not practical or possible. Allow me to suggest that we start advocating for rights over safety so we can guard the constitution, the law of the land.

Thanks for reading!