Part 1: Economics 101: Supply and Demand are Essential

I talk about politics and history on my blog quite a bit. These are my absolute favorite topics. I have in past posts talked about economics but it tends to be boring. One of my goals when starting this blog was to educate. So in this post, I intend to educate about some economic policies that relatively misunderstood by the general population. I won’t jump into the hardest concept first because in economics similar to math and science you have to understand the basics. First I want to talk about supply and demand. I know that I have talked about it before. Then I want to move into monetary policy. I might even touch on tariffs which I explained here. It occurred to me that President Trump’s recent tariffs have confused many people. You may or may not realize that tariffs can have very serious effects on our economy. They can also affect how other countries treat us. More on these topics later.

Supply and Demand: How it works?

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You might be familiar with a chart that looks like this. (Above) The way to read the chart is simple. First, you have to recognize a basic principle in economics that I call “push and pull”. Its very similar to Issac Newton’s “For every action there is a reaction” because for each transaction or movement of money or just action there is a reaction that also involves a transaction or movement of money.  Therefore if we look at the orange line labeled as supply and the purple line labeled as demand, you can see horizontal axis is labeled Quantity (increasing from left to right). The vertical axis is labeled Price which is increasing from up to down.

To put it simply:

As the supply goes up, the demand goes down. (Price and Quantity go up as well)

As the demand goes up, the supply goes down. (Price and Quantity go down as well)

This chart is the basis for literally everything in economics. Nearly everything can be put into terms of supply and demand. I will give a simple example of how supply and demand works:

Let’s say you own a winery in Napa Valley, California. Let’s say you have two main competitors that are approximately the same size winery as you. All three wineries make similar profits, have similar expenses and locations.

The going-market value for a 750ml bottle of wine is 25 dollars.

Your company price: 27 dollars, Competitor A: 27 dollars, Competitor B: 27 dollars

So right now every company is above value meaning that supply is meeting demand. Every company is able to charge more because of a high demand. Now Let’s say there is a massive drought. Shortage of grapes. Now you and your competitors can’t make as much wine. What do you think happens to the price?

Your company price: 30 dollars, Competitor A: 31 dollars, Competitor B: 32.

If you said that the price will increase because the supply has been depressed while the demand remained the same then you would be correct. Now let’s say the drought is over but a study comes out that says wine is bad for mental health. Suddenly everyone stops buying wine. What happens to your prices?

Your company price: 23 dollars, Competitor A: 20, Competitor B: 23 dollars.

If you said prices will decrease because of the drop in demand and the excess supply of wine then you would be correct. This is a very simplistic example and obviously running a winery is more complicated than I presented. I think that the concept is clear. For every action there is a reaction. For every push there is a pull.

I hope you got supply and demand down pat, because we are going to use it to help explain why President Trump’s tariffs are not as great as they sound. If you want to check out my post on tariffs then click here. In this next section, I will be focusing specifically on the economics.

The “Dead-weight” Tariffs– Tariffs in the context of supply and demand.

If you went to read my tariff post then you’ll have some idea what I’m about to explain here. For the purpose of this section, I’m going to assume you just learned about supply and demand. Let me explain that tariffs are a tax on an import or export (In this case President Trump is putting tariffs on imports) Tariffs actually used to be the US government’s biggest source of income up until the turn of the 20th century. The US approved an (16th) amendment to constitution that made income tax the primary source of government income. Now a days, tariffs only make up about 1-2 percent of income for the government.

An import is a good or product that is shipped or brought into the country. An export is a good or product that is shipped out or sold outside of the country. It’s good to know these terms. Let’s take a look at another chart, this represents tariffs on the supply and demand curve:

taxes

It may look confusing but it’s actually really simple. Keep in mind that as the supply goes up, the demand goes down. (Price and Quantity go up as well) Also as the demand goes up, the supply goes down. (Price and Quantity go down as well) Now if we at look chart let’s take the green line into account first. The green line is labeled “Supplier’s share of tax”. In order to explain the green line, I will give a brief example:

So let’s say there is a Steel Maker company and a Railroad Tie company. The Steel Company makes the steel that is needed for the Railroad Tie company. There is also a third foreign steel company located in China. So pre-tariff on the import of steel, the cost of steel for the Railroad company is .50 cents per pound from the foreign steel company. The Steel Maker company located in America has a price of .60 cents per pound. The green line represents that .50 cents that the Railroad company currently buys it steel at.

Now lets look at the red line labeled Customer’s share of tax. Back to our example: President Trump has imposed a 15 cent per pound tariff on imported Steel from China. (Not real, just made it up)  How does this affect our three companies? First let me give one key detail: Railroad company sells rail ties for 25 dollars per tie. So here is the breakdown of before and after the tariff

Company:                    Pre-Tariff Price              Post Tariff Price              Net Change

Railroad company Ties      25 dollars                       30 dollars                   5 dollars

USA Steel Company:           .60 cents                         .60 cents                      No change

China Foreign Steel Co.     .50 cents                          .65 cents                     15 cents

What happened? Well the Railroad company rose it price by 5 dollars. They also switch suppliers since they don’t want to pay more than they have to for steel.  Now refer back to the chart. The distance from the green to red line is known as “dead-weight”. In the chart, the blue triangle in the middle represents the dead-weight. Remember that “customer value” represents the demand side. Also that the green and red lines both represent supply both before and after the tariff is applied. The term dead weight refers the money lost due to the tariff. The Railroad company had to pass its extra cost of 10 cents to its customers. The reason?  The tariff made the foreign steel more expensive, however the American made steel did not get any cheaper so therefore the Railroad company had to pass that 10 cent per pound difference to the customer.  Of course, depending on the well-being of the company it could have also led to job-cuts or reduction assets.

Conclusion:

To recap: Tariffs create dead-weight whereby the tax increases the cheaper foreign competitor above the already more expensive domestic price. The unnatural increase creates a dead-weight because instead of natural competition, the tariff forces  a company to spend more without getting any benefits.

I’m end it here because they will be a part 2. In Part 2 we will finish up with a discussion of President Trump’s policies and the impact it will have with China. Then I will continue to explain some monetary economics that are important to understand.

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Guns: A Guide for Dummies

I am so tired of hearing the racket that is the gun control debate. Nothing could be such a echo chamber as people who probably haven’t shot a gun trying to elaborate policies that honest to god won’t work. Recent events like the Parkland Shooting and many others keep bringing gun control to forefront of national news. I’m not at all interested in going into every detail about what happened or didn’t happen. I want to talk about guns and the people that shoot them. You may not know it or like it but I’ve shot guns and I thoroughly enjoy guns of all types. I own a small set of Nerf guns proudly. More to the point though, I have shot two real guns in my life.

I definitely want to go shooting again but opportunities are rare especially in a city of 8.6 million people. I experienced my shooting at a Boy Scout camp. I shot a 12 gauge shotgun which was such a thrill. I also shot a little .22 rifle. It was your typical pigeon shot. As turns out I was a good shot. My love for guns began way before I shot them at 15 years old. If you didn’t know I received my bachelors degree in history. One of my favorite topics to study is war. One of the first guns to ever come to American soil was a flintlock. Flintlock rifles are ancient but are some of the coolest replicas you will see. To shoot a flintlock, first you load the lead ball with rod down the barrel similar to a musket. You have to cock the hammer an then you put the gunpowder on the pan.  Now you are ready to fire. When you fire, the hammer strikes the flint which creates a spark in turn igniting the gunpowder and propelling the bullet.

I always found the weapons of each decade of war to be interesting. Weapons have a tendency to evolve. Weapon development has contributed to many of today’s inventions for civilian life (a whole other post). Yet, here we are in 2018 with seeming rampage of school shootings. Many people believe that its because of the technologically advanced rifles and ease of access for buying them. To some degree, I will agree that access to buying them is a little bit looser than it should be. However, the simple fix is psychological evaluations along with background checks. As a rule someone who is on psychotropic drugs shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. The problem that I see is not guns or the background checks or lack thereof.  Gun. Free. Zones.

The stupidest three words ever to put in a sequence. Gun Free Zones– there I fixed it. I have noticed a pattern that all the schools, colleges and places that tend to get shot up are in fact: Gun Free Zones. This is the one common denominator aside from guns in all shootings. Listen, guns are merely a tool like a hammer, knife, truck, or crowbar, these are objects that don’t commit any crime. Honestly, its the gun free zone is that the real killer. For a second just imagine you are a disturbed school shooter. You bought your guns illegal on the black market. Now you need a place to carry out the dirty deed. What place is going to let you spill the most blood without much resistance? Honestly if school or college isn’t in your top 3 then you might be a bad criminal. Needless to say, imagine that same scenario but all the schools have at least 20 people packing heat. If I’m the criminal I’d think twice.

Moving away from being demented human being lets consider my point about other tools that could be used a killing weapons. Gun Free Zone doesn’t cover them. So if you can honestly tell me that you would rather be unarmed than armed to defend yourself and others then wow you are brave. Congratulations. Guns are like nuclear weapons. There is a reason why Trump and Kim Jong Un haven’t already started the nuclear holocaust. Nash Equilibrium. I like to call it: game of outcomes.  The basic principle is that most of the time the best strategy is not to shoot until its absolutely necessary. Kim Jong Un understands that if he nukes the US, we will hit back 1000 fold. The game of outcomes can be used to understand why arming everyone that is not a psychopath would actually be effective in preventing shootings.

Just tell me what the chances that you would shoot between the following options:

  1. 100 people, unarmed
  2. 100 people, 50 armed, 50 unarmed

My guess is that you wouldn’t shoot in option number 2. Unless you had a death wish. Once again its a game of outcomes.

In summation, the point of my guide is rally against Gun Free Zones which are ridiculous. If you think a criminal would follow the rules than why does everyone speed or not turn on their blinker? Both laws and yet nobody seems to mind when they break them. Its not that crazy or insane to think that Gun Free Zones are the problem. Just please stop this insanity. Please!!!!

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Hiatus Break: Audit The Federal Reserve

Have you ever gone shopping like at the grocery store or for clothes? Any time you go shopping at a place on multiple occasions you probably notice prices change over time. This could be due to any number of factors. I feel like at the grocery store most people have a certain amount of money they like to spend. I know that I do and even with clothes shopping, my wife and I usually set a limit. If you’ve ever felt like every year you go with that set budget you buy less stuff, then you have felt the effects of the federal reserve. So you have to ask yourself did prices go up or did the buying power of my money go down? The answer is probably a combination of both.

If you haven’t read the title or guessed yet this post is about auditing the federal reserve. Now many people have absolutely no clue what this is or what it does. The federal reserve is a private, central bank that regulates our monetary policy here in the US. It is not controlled by the US government. Although the President is able to appoint the Chairperson of the Fed and the other heads in 11 cities around the United States. All of the appointments have to be approved by Congress. This is the only role that the government plays.

The current Fed Chairperson is Janet Yellen whose term is up. This means Donald Trump has to appoint a new chairperson. His selection matters greatly for us. I don’t care who Trump picks but whoever it is, has a big responsibility.  The Federal Reserve controls interests rates, money circulation, debt, bonds,..etc. They tell the US mint how much money to print. They set the circulation levels of the denominations. Keep in mind they have a lot of power without much supervision.

So why Audit the Fed? Well, one of favorite Senators Rand Paul has been saying this for years. The problem with the federal reserve that Rand Paul and others see is that an institution with unlimited power that has no accountability to anyone is a dangerous institution. Do your own research but here something that I learned by reading up on this. Before the 2008 financial crisis the federal reserve not only SAW but actively IGNORED the housing market bubble. They literally just WROTE IT OFF like nothing. The Chairperson of the Federal Reserve at time, Ben Bernanke just flat out denied that it was nothing but aberration!

Then during the crisis they did nothing.  Just a quick reminder that everyone employed by the Federal Reserve is very smart most of them with Ph.Ds in economics. These so called “economic geniuses” failed to act in the face of major crisis that saw trillion of dollars lost and millions of families affected. People lost their houses, lost their retirement and their jobs. Did the Fed suffer any consequences? Nope. Somehow they are still allowed to function!

Auditing the federal reserve would mean accountability. We can’t let them devalue our money and ignore possible crises that could affect millions any longer! We need to hold these professional bank robbers accountable for their crimes against the USA. Auditing the Federal reserve is just the beginning. After we find that they have been fucking us over, we have to get rid of them. Ever since 1913, when the fed was established, we have been getting screwed over by their monetary policies.

Trust me, every day people like me and you are screwed by these pompous assholes. They devalue the dollar on purpose. They decrease your buying power. Why do you think that 30 years everything was cheaper? I can remember growing up and my parents both had steady jobs. Luckily they never got laid off or fired until this year. So we always had a steady income. The financial crisis hit. We went from shopping at Hannafords which isn’t super expensive but its pricey. We started shopping at Audi’s which is much cheaper in comparison. I didn’t realize it til later but the financial crisis drastically decrease my parents buying power. Thankfully we never starved.  But imagine the price paid by poorer families who could barely get by in the first place?

The federal reserve is an evil institution. It cannot be trust. We need to end the Federal Reserve. I hope whoever is picked as Chairperson agrees to an audit which will inevitably lead to ending the federal reserve. Thanks for reading. Please tell your friends and share this post. #EndtheFed #AudittheFed Let’s spread the word.

 

Hiatus Break: NFL Protests and Tax Reform

I have previous written about the original NFL protest by Colin Kaepernick. This post basically tells Kaepernick to put his money where his mouth is. He did exactly that. Now the protest has spread around the league. President Trump has tweeted, spoke and commented on the protest on multiple occasions. In apparent backlash, NFL ratings are down pretty significantly. The owners and players are seemingly at odds. (I’ll get into this more) I won’t just be talking about the NFL protest in this post. I also want to touch on tax reform which is currently the hot issue in Congress. I hold an extreme belief about taxes. I mean extreme by that its a position that isn’t possible in today’s circumstances. However, it doesn’t mean its not achievable eventually through some means. I will lay out my own set of tax reforms in the second part of this post.

I have been an NFL fan my whole life. Quite literally since I was in second grade I remember watching the Jets. I remember wearing Jets jerseys (I still have them). I absolutely love football. Although I never played in an organized manner. If I was athletically gifted I would be a Quarterback in the NFL. Generally I’m one of those people who doesn’t care to mix politics with anything but politics. So when Kaepernick started his protest I wasn’t that happy. Its not that I don’t care about the issues he is protesting or that I dislike him. Its just I watch football to watch football. I don’t care about the political leanings of the players or owners or coaches. Aside from that, they all get paid handsomely (Players) or are extremely wealthy to begin with (owners).

The problem with the protest now is that its gotten way out of control. At first it wasn’t too crazy. The craziest comes from a unlikely source in President Trump. Now Trump himself isn’t shy about creating controversy or saying incredibly inflammatory things. However, the President of the United States typically doesn’t pour gas on a fire like he did with the NFL protests. I basically have two issues here and the main issue is Trump’s position on this. Trump wants the owners and NFL to force the players to stand for the anthem. I think that many conservative thinking people probably agree. They think its disrespectful to the flag and the military. Which I don’t fully disagree.

However, the constitution has a bill of rights. In that bill of rights there is a first amendment. The first amendment is the freedom of speech. Over the years the Supreme Court has ruled that speech isn’t just talking, it can also cover symbolic speech and others. In this regard I have disagree with Trump, he or the government can’t make a law forcing them to stand. Its the players right to protest and there is nothing that Trump or the government can do. However, the NFL could do something like fire the players. But they won’t do that. Let me tell you why they won’t: Backlash would very bad for the NFL probably twice or three times as bad it is now. However, the NFL could force players to stand, its not a violation of first amendment rights. The reason is because the players represent the NFL as brand and the NFL has right to protect its brand from being unnecessarily tarnished especially by its own employees. The NFL also has a collective bargaining agreement which apparently does state that players must stand. If its true, then its over because the players agreed to that agreement and therefore would have to follow it or be fired.

In my opinion, I think that players should stand because of the ratings and money. I mean they are only affecting their own livelihood. If the owners still feeling the pinch then so will they. In the end, its better if they stand and try to protest in a different way or become an activist and use all those millions to do something about the problem. I don’t think anyone can deny that police oppression is real. However, I think the solution lies within criminal justice reform. I won’t get into this because I’m not an expert and I didn’t do any research yet. However, look out for future posts.

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Tax reform is one of my favorite topics to discuss. Its because they are a lot of solutions to a problem that seems to never go away. I think one thing that is always missing from the tax reform debate is spending reform. You might say that’s a totally different reform! But actually taxes are based projected government spending.  For example: the government spends approximately 600 to 700 billion dollars on the military each year. In order to cover that they need to raise that in taxes.

Generally the federal government’s budget is anywhere from 2 to 4 trillion dollars. It is supposed to be a certain percent of GDP or gross domestic product. (I have a post dedicated to this subject of GDP) So my ideal tax reform in a perfect world would zero taxes. You may have heard taxation is theft. If you haven’t then its pretty plain what that means. Yes the government is stealing from us. This is a very extreme way to view taxation but its not as crazy as you think.

Originally the US government didn’t really collect taxes. In fact, the US government taxed products and used tariffs up until about 1913. So our government was able to run entirely without any income tax. Income tax is now the largest category of revenue of the US government. Its also the worst way to fund the government. Income tax really sucks. There will never a true, fair way to split up the weight of paying it. Its awful. However, there is no way the government could survive with 20 trillion dollars of debt and absolutely no tax income. That insane.

My proposal is essentially this get rid of the current tax format. Install a universal basic income (See this post). Then install a flat tax starting around 15 percent. No more brackets. No more loopholes. My plan does a lot of things but the two main things is that it cuts spending and will eventually lower taxes! So with basic income it would cut out most of social welfare programs and replace it with a government check to everyone over 18 and not a criminal. This saves approximately 200 million dollars a year. Each year for about 10 years you fix or pay off the debt. Plus the 15 percent over ten years would generate enough income to really pay off the debt and run the country. After ten years you lower the tax rate to 10 percent for another 10 to 15 years. Essentially the goal is to make the government so lean that it won’t need tax money. Its definitely possible over time.

This a simplified version which I think is good start. The details and actual numbers would have to be worked out by someone in a math oriented field. I can only hope that this tax plan eventually happens. Its not a popular one because usually conservative politicians advocate flat taxes. Basic income isn’t too popular either because it sounds a little crazy. But I feel like the two very different approaches really balance each other out. Also you can’t possibly say a flat tax isn’t fair. Its fair by nature. Also it still ensures that the poor pay less and the rich pay more. Which is why I don’t understand why people don’t like it. I guess they would rather get fleeced by the current system.

Thank you for reading! Have a awesome day!

 

 

 

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!

Flag Burning: A Burning First Amendment Controversy.

If you haven’t heard already, President-Elect Donald Trump wants to make flag burning a crime. A federal crime. In case you were born yesterday, this is not a new or radical position to hold. Although flag burning is highly disrespectful and controversial, it is protected by the first amendment. The freedom of speech has been interpreted in many ways since the original amendment was written. I wanted to weigh in on the controversy or as I’d like to characterize it a non-story. Before I get into why I think flag burning shouldn’t be penalized, I want to explain in some depth analysis about how the Supreme Court came down on flag burning. If you don’t know already, I’m a huge nerd and love looking at policies and politics. One of my absolute favorite branches of government is the Judiciary branch.

If someone told me I could be whatever I wanted for the rest of my life, I think a Supreme Court Justice or Constitutional lawyer would be in the top 3, right along side NFL Quarterback and Historian. The fact is I love the constitution and its intricacies and I’ve studied many of the men who wrote it. I think the document is a testament to the human experiment. The constitution is ageless, timeless and perfectly logical. The language is quite simply genius. The beauty of our constitution is that it can interpreted many different ways and that allows the US to have flexibility like no other nation before us. I honestly believe that most people don’t truly understand the constitution. The truth is that what they teach you in elementary school up to highschool is all true. The constitution sets up the rules and rolls of the government. The Bill of Rights is much deeper than just guaranteed rights by nature but it’s how the actual laws of this country are defined.

All of this introduction to say that the first amendment was written to protect many different types of speech. I took a constitution law class in college. One of my hardest and most favorite classes of all time. I really got my affinity for the constitution during the class. However, the class required me to memorize approximately 20 to 30 supreme courts cases on a few different topics. I had to know the facts, the reasoning, the ruling , the dissent and sometimes the precedents. So before we can discuss the case of flag burning, we should probably read over the first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

For this particular case, Texas vs. Johnson, we want to focus on “abridging the freedom of speech”.  The freedom of speech is pretty vague phrase which is why flag burning is protected. If you want to read about the whole case, I would recommend doing that here. I won’t be going over the ‘facts’ because it’s not that important other than to say that quite a few states tried to pass laws to make flag burning a crime. Those states, specifically Texas tried to prosecute someone named Gregory Lee Johnson for burning a flag. Now the court decided that the issue with the flag burning was whether or not its protected by symbolic speech. In order to understand the phrase ‘symbolic speech’ in a constitutional meaning, you have to know two other supreme court cases. In other words, the court cited two precedent.

In Stromberg vs. California, this was case where the court decided that California could not ban red flags. It was unconstitutional because it was protected by symbolic speech and due process (a 14th amendment right). It was a landmark case because it gave symbolic speech the protection of due process. Which if you missed that in history class, due process protects the denial of life, liberty or property by the government, outside the sanction of the law. In other words, the government has to have a legitimate reason to pass a law that is vague or unfair.  The second precedent which I believe is slightly more relevant and well-known is Tinker vs. the Des Moines Independence Community School. In this case, the court voted 7-2 in favor of kids wearing black armbands to school as symbolic speech. It is the most cited and often best supported argument for symbolic speech. The students were voicing their opposition to the Vietnam war with the black armbands and the court justified this as their right because “students and teachers don’t shed their rights to freedom and expression at the schoolhouse gates.” This is how symbolic speech has been defined in the past. If you read the actual briefs, the judges cite many cases but these two clearly show how symbolic speech is protected especially as pertains to flag burning.

In Texas vs. Johnson, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling of 5-4. The Majority opinion was written by Justice William Brennan. The dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens. The court ruled that flag burning was in fact protected by symbolic speech. Why? The court decided that the Texas law used viewpoint to try to justify the ban of flag burning. Court said that viewpoint wasn’t justifiable objection alone. However, it did exempt flag burning to get rid of an old flag. They also said that the offensiveness of flag burning is notwithstanding in a law to ban it. Now to me, this might bring up the another constitutional issue of obscenity, however, I’ll leave that for a different post.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens was that flag burning should be ban because of the flags unique symbolization of the unity of America. Justice Steven was suggesting that national unity outweight symbolic speech and free speech. Whether you agree or disagree with either opinion, I think there is a fundamental problem with Justice Stevens argument. I believe from what I’ve heard that Donald Trump pretty much has the same line of reasoning. The fundamental problem is that suspending freedom of speech or symbolic speech in just one instance, could lead to future expansions of that suspension. What I mean is that if flag burning becomes illegal because it’s a symbol of unity, then eventually that might turn to censorship of the press, the quelling of protests, and the silencing of the people. This flies directly in the face of the first amendment, which says prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom speech.

So I believe the court got this right the first time. Now you ask the question, what does that say about your loyalty to the American Flag and the country itself if you support flag burning? Well, the answer is easy. I am a loyal American who votes and participates in our wonderful republican democracy. I do not support flag burning. I think it’s really disrespectful because our troops have fought for that flag. They have given up everything for that flag to wave in the air. They died for that flag and our country. My grandfather was enlisted in the military during World War 2. He served his country and help make the flag a symbol for peace, liberty and unity. What I do support is anybody’s right to burn the flag in protest or anger or hate or honor. It doesn’t matter the viewpoint of why your burning it. The fact is not everyone will agree with your decision. There is no way to possibly legislate a viewpoint. Its an opinion, not a fact. Therefore I believe that Justice Brennan and the Majority opinion was the correct one. Justice Stevens dissent is fundamentally flawed.

I hope that you found this to be somewhat educational and interesting. I didn’t want to bore out every single detail. I’m also hoping to do more this type of post. Constitutional law is fun to me and its interesting, challenging and tedious. I think its a very cognitive thought producing process that can really expand your argumentative skills and make you consider the simplest facets of life and how they are related to the government. What people say that politics doesn’t interest them, I wish I had the time and attention to explain them that it matters deeply to every individual. The constitution protects our freedoms which allows many people to ignore the fact that politics is in everybody interests especially in democracy. Trust me, the founding fathers experience a government that was unresponsive and didn’t allow them representation. They fought a war to govern themselves. The beauty of the revolution was the ability to participate in your own governing.

Thank you for reading!

On the Basis of Democracy: John Locke, Part 2.

Welcome to Part 2 of on the Basis of Democracy with John Locke. If you missed Part 1, you should read that first. The purpose of this blog post is to simply figured out the origins of Democracy and how it works within our American democracy. In Part 1, I went over some of the ideas of democracy from Aristotle. Political theory is a pretty easy theory to follow because each political philosopher usually builds off philosopher’s of time past. Therefore, the more ancient political scholarship you understand, the more modern/current political thoughts you can understand. In Part 2, we will be discussing John Locke and his ideas on democracy.

Who is John Locke? He is an english born political philosopher. Born in the early 1600s. He was influenced by Aristotle. Locke has a deep range of writings. He is often considered to be one of the fathers of the enlightenment. Similar to part 1, I won’t give a full biography but go to straight to Locke’s ideas about democracy. Starting from his first writing and going forward, Locke’s main premise is the consent of the governed. In his first writing called “Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina”.  In this piece, Locke and his mentor, wrote a constitution meant for the Providence of Carolina in England. It was never adopted. However, the ideas that he mentioned became the basis of political philosophy going forward.

The most influential of Locke’s writings came in his Two Treatises of Government. Instead of trying to paraphrase his great words, I will just show you. Then I will explain how the founding fathers use Locke’s ideas especially in the Declaration of Independence. Here is just a few excerpts of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government:

Sect. 95. MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

Sect. 96. For when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority: for that which acts any community, being only the consent of the individuals of it, and it being necessary to that which is one body to move one way; it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority: or else it is impossible it should act or continue one body, one community, which the consent of every individual that united into it, agreed that it should; and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority. And therefore we see, that in assemblies, impowered to act by positive laws, where no number is set by that positive law which impowers them, the act of the majority passes for the act of the whole, and of course determines, as having, by the law of nature and reason, the power of the whole.

If you want to read more of Locke: Click here.

Locke’s main point is that the governed hold the power of the government. Locke believes that a government cannot operate without the consent of the government. This is a basis of democracy. The reason why Locke believes that the consent of the governed is so important is because of the freedom or liberty that it offers. If the government is ruled by the people it can prevent tyrants and better rule the people. Locke is also coming from a monarchy in England and in a time when the dark ages we’re not that far off. In the dark ages, it was a small oligarchy who wealthy that ruled over the poor and working class who had no say. Locke’s ideas are perhaps best expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s document.

Thomas Jefferson was a philosopher in his own right. Jefferson also understood that Locke’s philosophy fit perfectly with the American cause for revolution. If you didn’t pay attention in history class then you want to know to that one of the rallying cries was “no taxation no representation”. The American people were clamoring for representation in the British parliament. The unilateral rule of the British Monarchy over the American colony was directly what John Locke was trying to get at. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson took a page for Locke and wrote this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Thomas Jefferson essentially took Locke’s words and used it as a justification for the revolution of the American people. Locke’s vision for democracy did not just end with Jefferson but kept going. Locke’s idea that the consent of governed is needed in democracy still holds true today. Unfortunately, in today’s America we have gotten lazy. We seem to have ignored the fact that our democracy is supposed represent the people. Many people blame our representatives. We should look at the majority of governed who don’t vote. I think in a very indirect way, Locke is also advocating for participation in government. I feel that political participation has gone down as politics has become more polarizing.

We can blame Trump. We can blame Hillary. We blame our politicans. However, I think that democracy in the words of Locke lies with “the consent of the governed.” I think to wrap up this series, I want to just conclude a few major considerations for the basis of democracy. One basis that Aristotle outlined is the authority over aduits. In other words, Aristotle thought that the people should hold purse strings and keep the government accountable. Aristotle gave us a second basis that is the foundation of our judicial system. The right to a fair trial with a jury of your peers. Locke gives us the basis of the consent of the governed. The theory that democracy should always be run by the people and for the people. The majority of people should have the power to control the government. This means everyone must vote. Everyone must participate. These are the three main bases of democracy as written by Aristotle and John Locke.

This will be end of this series for now. I may continue it with different philosophers at another time. Below you will find my sources especially for the quoted stuff. Thank you for reading!

Citations:

https://www.johnlocke.org/about-john-locke/who-is-john-locke/

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/7370/7370-h/7370-h.htm

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/