Author Archives: wayneasmith

“Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill Commentary

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as further background to a later post to be published, the below though not being issues to be directly addressed therein.  This constitutes the body of an additional letter, this being disseminated during April, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

I provide this in my capacity as one of your constituents for consideration in your deliberation on the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill.

While I may have overlooked some material improprieties in Title II or Title III of the bill, it would appear to me that, other than the reference in Sections 203 and 205 to “ammunition”, that these provisions are within the jurisdiction of Congress, do not offend any rights secured to the States or the people, and appear to be reasonable policy.  I however exclude from this sanction the above reference to “ammunition” since it is not mentioned in the preceding sections and therefore is beyond the scope thereof.

I do though have significant problems with Title I of the bill. In fact my difficulties with it are so many — a conclusion that surprised me as I thought many of the opponents of broader background checks were being too extreme — that I am uncertain that I can set forth these objections in as complete or organized a fashion as I would prefer.  Initially I would note that the prohibition set forth in Section 122(a), especially when taken in conjunction with the definition of transfer set forth on pages 13 and 14 of the bill, is far too broad.  In addition to it being so intrusive, as affecting almost every conceivable action constituting a “transfer”, and therefore being in violation of Amendment X of the Constitution, its prohibition on transfer, except by means of the conduit through a federally-licensed person, is a deprivation of a property right that renders it in conflict with Amendment V of the Constitution.

The very narrow and minimal exceptions set forth on pages 11 through 13 of the bill prove the excessive inclusiveness of this prohibition.  Reviewing and reflecting upon them it is an easy matter to conceive of a whole panoply of normal and innocent activities involving a firearm that would be criminalized by such a prohibition.  For example, a person who visited another friend (in a rural area where there was no ordinance prohibition on firearm discharge) and who, while engaged in target practice on his friend’s property, handed his firearm to the friend standing next to him, so as to allow him to practice with it, would apparently be guilty of a felony.  Can it be imagined that it was anticipated that the federal government was permitted to regulate such an extensive range of otherwise permissible and innocent private activities?

The obnoxiousness of the proposed regime, it seems to me, is further proved by Section 123 of the bill. Now a person who has his firearm stolen and fails to at all realize he has to report the theft to the U.S. Attorney General, or is too busy for, say, a day-and-a-half to so report it to the federal government, is also guilt of a felony?  Is it really conceived the U.S. Congress has the constitutional authority to prescribe such conduct ordinarily within local purview only?

I could focus on other provisions and set forth the basis for why these are defects, but I trust the foregoing adequately indicates the core deficiency of Title I as currently drafted.

I understand that Senators Manchin and Toomey are engaged in endeavoring to fashion a compromise substitute for Title I.  I believe the effort is directed at regulating only arms-length transactions, such as gun show sales and online transactions and to not include temporary transfers or those between people who the owner knows or with whom he has the opportunity to familiarize himself. This seems consistent with the catalytic purpose of the bill, viz, preventing firearms from coming into the possession of prohibited persons; for under the latter circumstances the owner knows or would have the opportunity to know whether the recipient appears to be a prohibited person. And if the owner nevertheless delivers it to a prohibited person can be penalized under existing law or perhaps Title II (or a variation of Title II).

Thus I would urge support for such a substitute for Title I.  Failing an adequate substitute, then I would urge a Nay vote on the current version of Title I.

WAYNE A. SMITH

STATUTORY DEFINITIONS OF U.S. MILITIA

[This is being provided both as an independent memorandum and as an introduction to a later post to be published.]

UNITED STATES

10 USC 311 Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are-

(1)  the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2)  the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

(Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 14; Pub. L. 85?861, §1(7), Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1439 ; Pub. L. 103?160, div. A, title V, §524(a), Nov. 30, 1993, 107 Stat. 1656 .)

MICHIGAN

MCL 32.509 State military establishment; composition; organized and unorganized militia.

The organized militia of this state taken collectively shall be known as the state military establishment and constitutes the armed forces of this state. The organized militia consists of the army national guard, the air national guard, and the defense force when actually in existence as provided in this act. The unorganized militia consists of all other able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied citizens who are residents of this state who have or shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who shall be age 17 or over and not more than age 60, and shall be subject to state military duty as provided in this act.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967

MCL 32.555 Unorganized militia; power of the governor.

The governor may order into the defense force any members of the unorganized militia in case of riot, tumult, breach of the peace, resistance of process, or for service in aid of civil authority, whether state or federal, or in time of actual or imminent public danger, disaster, crisis, catastrophe or other public emergency within this state.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967 ;– Am. 2013, Act 99, Imd. Eff. July 2, 2013

 

ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN Memorandum

 

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as an introduction to a later post to be published.  This was drafted originally as an enclosure to a letter disseminated during February, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

This is provided as a brief commentary in connection with the consideration of the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013” Bill, introduced in the United States Senate, and any similar bills that might be or have been introduced in either house.

Certain enhancements of the current regime may be appropriate, but I would tender that a ban of either so-called “assault weapons” or so-called “high capacity magazines” — being terms of art and having no meaning independent of arbitrary statutory definition — would be patently unconstitutional.  In addressing the question one should first give attention of course to Amendment II of the Constitution of the United States of America, viz,

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. [Emphasis supplied]

By the use of the terms Militia and Arms, it is clear that certain weapons arguably of a military character are not prohibited to the people but rather protected from infringement.  Thus, the use of the term “weapons of war” as characterizing implements that can be restricted is plainly a canard.

Now, by the terms of the amendment, the right is not unrestricted, for there are also present, one, the terms keep and bear.  The latter term protects only those arms that could be borne by an individual and whose primary capacity and use is to incapacitate or disable a single individual with each discharge, and the former term further identifies arms as those that both can be and historically are of a type that would have been kept by the people in their individual capacities, viz, arms that by the nature of the function they were designed to perform would not have been stored, in preparation for use, in a community armory.

However, more signal as a criterion is, two, the adjective well regulated.  The right to bear military (or quasi-military) arms is within the context of their disciplined use.  The concept of discipline reminds me of the analogous context of the CPL structure in Michigan.  Any person can, unless within certain defined categories, purchase and maintain a handgun.  However, they are not permitted to carry it concealed without certain training by an authorized person or persons.  By this they are both enhanced in the practical use of the weapon and also subjected to the observance of the instructor, as well as the other participants, in the process.

Thus, might not a tiered system of training, relative to the type of weapon to be used or the context of its use, thereby resulting in a better regulated citizenry, pass constitutional muster?  It would seem it might if the various additional levels of training required were not so arbitrary and capricious as apparently designed simply to be obstacles to the right to bear. In addition to imposition of a greater sense of responsibility upon the person, the additional training required should provide significant opportunities for observation by the other trainees as well as the instructor of any possible psychological or personality aberrations exhibited by any of the participants; if unacceptable or abnormal attributes were observed, then the observer could report this behavior, a determination that the offending person failed in his training might perhaps be issued, and the right to bear such a weapon possibly obstructed.  This it would seem would offer the most efficacious and practicable solution to problems ineffectually attempted to be addressed by misguided “gun control” restrictions.

Would institution of such a regime be consistent with the powers of Congress?  In addressing this question it would now seem appropriate to give attention to the following provision of the Constitution of the United States of America:

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power

[Clause 16]

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; [Emphasis supplied]

The Congress then has the explicit power to prescribe the training discipline to which the citizen-soldier is subject.  This would include it would seem the reasonable level of knowledge, skill and mental acclimation to use an “assault weapon” equipped with a “high capacity magazine”, or other implements of war that can be kept and borne, as a condition to the purchase and keeping of it.  And depending upon the implement there could be gradually expanding levels of training for each, as appropriate.

To my mind, such a regime would provide the necessary amelioration to certain problems conceived to exist in the abuse of these types of weapons, while avoiding the constitutional defects incident to an effort to ban them.

While other proposals in the aforesaid Bill might be consistent with the Constitution, and also be amenable to a sufficiently broad range of the populace, and thus appropriate, I have focused here simply on the provisions endeavoring to ban “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines”.  For the above reasons I consider these provisions constitutionally defective, in addition to being misguided as the objectives thereof ought to be attained by alternative and more acceptable mechanics.

WAYNE A. SMITH

GRIEF & HOPE

Life is a process of constant motion. The motion, however, can be of a linear, circular or retrograde character. Only linear motion results, of course, in consistent incremental output, viz, an ascending, stable edifice. This output, though, can be interrupted by the loss of someone or something close to or intimate with the person.

Then the party can be afflicted with grief as well as be confronted with the conundrum of a possible replacement of the person or thing lost. It is a conundrum since a successor that is sought too soon or too late can be equally adverse.

For, if too soon, then it would suggest that the successor is fully interchangeable with that which was lost and thus there was nothing unique or special in nor depth to the relationship that lapsed. But, if too late, then it would suggest that nothing of which did transpire in the relationship was so important or worthwhile that an effort to replicate it would justify the effort. Either construction would intimate that the experiences and time involved could be construed as having been, at least relatively, squandered.

But, on analysis, one can distinguish and reveal these termini with greater clarity. Let us look first at the state of the expired relationship.

The initial reaction to the absence, depending upon the nature of the relationship, can be a profound sense of loss, a pervasive loneliness. Thus, there can be resistance to a hasty replacement due to a recognition of the depth and importance of the vanished relationship, the joy which was experienced, and the reluctance to dilute the effects, and even more painfully the possibility of shrouding the remembrance, of those experiences. While sadly those memories, and even the ability to easily visualize the late presence of what was lost, will begin to fade, there nevertheless will exist an aversion to accelerating the process through obscuring them by a substitute presence.

In those instances, the grief consists of the lack of opportunity now to display joy toward or demonstrate affection for the thing or being that has been lost. While the sentiments that are the subject of this initial phase are unilateral in nature, they have a natural, though converse, relationship to the importance of the role relationship between the two. However, if the person were to succumb too readily to this grief, by seeking an opportunity to display affection, then it would compromise, or be inconsistent with the depth of, the relationship between the survivor and that which was lost; accordingly, there is an inherent resistance to seek a substitute opportunity to display affection.

Such an opportunity, for the present now gone, is by its nature active. Consequently, it consists of, through such demonstration of joy and affection, making the being — or in the case of an activity, the observers thereof or participants therein — delighted and gratified. In this the opportunity then was a selfless outwards expression of one’s emotions and therefore an unselfish action.

Thus, a certain period of time is required to become reconciled to this state of absence. Eventually one is confronted with another, new choice — whether to persist in avoiding resumption of what was lost. Therefore, now let us look at the state of the  absent experiences.

In due time, then, the usual inclination would be to decline prolonging further the replacement of what was lost; what was the pervasive loneliness is eventually overridden by something stronger — the need to experience again the same state of bliss. For the person would recognize his need to experience again what he knew, both for the pleasure and felicity it engendered and for a quasi-resurrection of the importance and significance to him of what or who he knew before, albeit in a transformed shape. If one does not select a replacement then it denigrates the importance of what was contributed to him by what was lost.

But the choice also constitutes a recognition of the reciprocal nature of the relationship, one through which what was lost delivered happiness or returned the affection to him; thus, to this extent, the need to find a replacement could be characterized as a selfish action. Still, such a characterization might be too harsh. For while the nature of the person’s participation in this phase is more passive, the relationship was not of unilateral benefit only.

For, even if passive, a benefit is only yielded if the object of affection demonstrates the effect of the observer’s actions or behavior. Nevertheless, the demonstration can be isolated or reciprocal, with both modes being components of the larger set of implicit reciprocity. [In this regard, the demonstration, ideally perhaps, is most salutary when it bears an isolated aspect, when the person is an observer only rather than contemporaneously engaged or a direct recipient. For the person either might prefer not to be seeking some acknowledgment for his efforts or simply might feel uncomfortable with a display of affection. In the latter event, the sincerity of the compassionate actions still can be genuine, even if perhaps the person prefers an emotional detachment.]

What might be concluded from such a process of wrestling with grief? One conclusion that might be strongly suggested is that the fear of supplanting memories is overcome by the later perceived need to renew the context of those memories in order to avoid the forgetting of them.

Since these scenarios of loss and grief are inherent in and to life, they, and the employment of the remedies for curing them, will be a regular feature of existence. And as it would seem it must be concluded grief constitutes one of those factors negative and contrary to a constructive life, then minimizing this influence (which detracts from and attacks such a life) is necessary for nurturing this form of life. How then would one marginalize grief?

In answering this it would seem we have to identify what quality or state constitutes a polarity and an antidote to it. If the course of one’s life has consisted of an abundance of phenomena, then it would seem there should be less cause for grief. For perhaps the more active one’s life has been, the corollary will be an expectation of continued and constant growth. And the progeny of an expectation of something is the hope of its transpiring. Another conclusion then that might be strongly suggested is that Hope is the primary motivating factor for a constructive life. Thus, the better question perhaps is how then would one nurture and elevate hope?

One method, perhaps, is to maintain an dynamic life since one, in addition to enhancing one’s expectations, then would have reduced time to grieve, thereby providing greater latitude for the admittance of hope. Still perhaps if there was more satisfaction or contentment previously, then there is more likely to be more grief occasioned by its loss. Thus paradoxes exist: while grief might be enhanced if one’s life has not been active and filled, since one then would perceive it to be at least partially squandered, still a life filled with a large volume of events likely could make the loss thereof be perceived as greater and more intense — and thus yielding greater grief.

How then does one ameliorate this problem by vitiating this paradox? Perhaps by access to and entry into a community, as regular interaction will magnify opportunity for an experiential abundance. It would seem then that bliss may well consist of engagement in community. Such a proposition would then yield that displaying love is a human need. Because of the environment, it manifests itself in mutual engagement, thereby engendering in the other a sense of worth and value. It consequently is an active element. However, too large a community would interfere with any single relationship within it being developed to its optimum extent. Thus, while more than one person is necessary — a community by definition consisting of more than the singular — too large a volume would detract from its beneficial quality. Hence the serenity and tranquility that proceeds from Hope is cultivated in a restricted framework of intimate, austere connections.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
30 Dec 2015

The Efficacy of Small Actions

I am presently satisfied that the maximum effect and benefit a person produces from one’s activities is by their small actions affecting people most intimately and frequently encountered by them. In demonstrating this one might embark upon an analysis employing the below hypotheses as one possible method for confirmation of this conclusion.

One could imagine a set of many concentric circles surrounding oneself, with the person located at a point along the inner circle. To transport oneself to a new point, one would have the potential options of either moving laterally along the arc or perpendicularly to an outer circle. In deciding which direction to move one normally would base the decision upon which movement would be most likely to yield a discrete result; for otherwise one would have to be willing to surrender to the sterile proposition that random motion is constructive.

Now it is true that the farther one advances outward from their “home turf” the greater the length of the circle and the greater the volume of nodes along it.  But the energy and time required for motion along this vector away from the center necessarily reduces the energy and constrains the time the person can expend upon lateral motion. This conclusion is compelled by the acknowledgments that: first, energy and time are each finite; and, second, the constriction of the energy and time available for lateral motion thus must necessarily result from the energy and time expended on movement along the outward vector.

Yet no discernible and productive result is accomplished by traveling along the outward vector other than movement of oneself to a longer circle with more nodes; one still must then initiate further action along the circle’s arc in order to influence those nodes. But even more consequential it would seem is the infrequency of those outward movements.

For one must of course overcome inertia in order to initiate movement along an outward vector. And to have access to a qualitatively-larger volume of nodes requires proportionately-greater outward movement along the vector; each additional perpendicular increment yields more nodes but requires at least proportionate additional energy and time. Thus, kinetics mechanics and experience both teach that we will likely avoid this effort in favor of circulating only short distances from the center; for, one, the same (or less) quantum of energy and time can be expended on lateral motion, and, two, the decreased resistance to this motion due to familiarity with the “home circle” will minimize those expenditures.

Thus, by concentrating upon these lateral movements we will focus upon, and optimize the volume of, our conscious and deliberate actions initiated for the purpose of attaining a particular objective. And by definition those actions will be most accurately observed by and have an impact upon those nodes in closest proximity with oneself.

It then is inescapable that: the frequency of contact has to be with those in the most direct relationship with any of us; and the aggregate of our actions have to most influence those in direct relationship rather than the larger potential circle of people farther away from us.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
02 Nov 2015

 

Religious Liberty vs Civil Rights

The confrontation between proponents of and conflict between putative religious liberty and asserted civil rights has of course been the subject of much recent commentary. It would appear to me though that many of the commentators overlook at least one crucial element in their analysis.

To me one obvious element, which has already been the subject of comment by some, is whether the action by a person asserting the right to religious liberty consists of a form of creative expression rather than the provision of a fungible product. If the former, then an external compulsion to perform constitutes more of an, if not an egregious, interference with their personal liberty; this conclusion proceeds from the recognition that the coerced performer is engaged in customized activity that succeeds and is pursuant to, and arguably restricted by, the demand of the requester. In the latter situation, however, the provider has performed the activity preceding the request for supply thereof, and thus any compulsion to supply it cannot, by definition, restrict or affect activity already performed.

I though have chosen to utilize instead the criteria of whether the performance constituted some form of personal service, the law having long recognized that personal service contracts occupy a unique niche and are subject to different rules of contract. In either event what would be entailed is a person performing an activity that was special, rather than general, and thus possibly deemed constituting or implying a conscious and intentional ratification of the object and product of the activity. Other than for practical reasons, no person in a free society can be compelled to perform any action of any type; they might possibly be properly prohibited from performing certain types of actions. But the power to mandate actions of particular types, much less being compelled to engage in approbation of the principles of another, is the indicia of a tyranny.

However it now occurs to me there is another element that might even better clarify as well as be dispositive of the issue. And this would be whether the person is differentiating based upon the attributes of another or instead the activity or behavior in which they are engaged. This could be deemed parallel to the well-recognized sociological dichotomy of Status and Role.

Most service providers who object to certain activity do not resist based upon only the attributes of the requester; in such a context, since the status of the requester is only a passive element, it is only the provider’s behavior which is in question in this situation — and this therefore does not impinge on the provider’s liberty. But in the context of the activity or behavior in which they are engaged, since it is the requester’s behavior to which the provider is responding, compelling their support of it amounts in effect to participation and ratification — and this therefore does impinge on the actor’s liberty.

Is this a distinction without meaning? I tender the answer is No, it is a significant distinction. The wrong that is the gravamen of the conflict is excessive integration between the sphere of action of one person and the sphere of action of another. If the participants mutually choose to allow these spheres to intersect, then there can be no offense. But the body politic should be encumbered with the obligation to maintain separation between these spheres as much as practicable. Conflicts though are engendered and become onerous when the polity seeks to excessively enunciate and impose certain standards and modes of action that it deems principled and moral. Might not then the proper foundation of the body politic be amorality, doing neither bad nor good but only approving and enforcing policies that are quantitatively, rather than qualitatively, beneficial.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
04 Oct 2015

 

Recollection & Contemplation

An occasion arose last Sunday morning to recall a person whom I occasionally encountered about some either 35 or 40 years ago. The differing range in time was due to my admitted inability to then recall in which of two different contexts I encountered him.

I then reflected that many of a younger generation might well attribute this to the deficiencies of an aging mind. For while it seems indisputable that with the progression of time there is an inevitable deterioration in civilization, society, morals and percipience, it also has a tendency to impose negative physiological effects.

Yet are there not other explanations also? One is the consequence of the aggregation of an ever-increasing volume of recollections accumulated over the longer length of time. If one had the Divine Mind, this would be an immaterial factor. But mortal minds are finite. Therefore this accumulation of recollections results in a compression of them. And this compression inhibits the ability to distinguish between the time framework of individual events.

The second explanation is both the ability and inclination of the mind to synthesize data and ideas as it accumulates both over time. With lower volumes of information either data or ideas will render recognition of any interconnection or apposition more difficult, yielding a hypothesis that either remain isolated and random. However as the mind accumulates both, then more common threads, points or vectors, both parallel or divergent, will present themselves — affording the opportunity to recognize patterns and draw conclusions. And since the mind is finite and inhibited from concurrent linear thought and lateral thought, the mature mind’s predilection is to elect rumination on the patterns and conclusions rather than the particulars of which they are the product.

Ergo, the mature mind does not necessarily suffer from deficiencies due to deterioration but rather exhibits a proclivity that is attributable to the process of its development.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
21 Aug 2015

Eternity

 

To some, at least, eternity seems a fearful prospect, a terror of another kind:

A future without completion, conclusion or end. Constant missions — even if new and different, substituting and replacing concluded errands — and, thus, challenges.

Now certainly God has informed us that, for some at least, they will be afforded the opportunity to “enter God’s rest”. And if the body will be changed, so still will the mind — as even the mortal mind is bade to experience renewal of itself — and this could enable a comfortable adjustment to and grateful acceptance of this unexperienced prospect. Yet, by definition, we cannot now transmute our perception into such a state or presently comprehend such an altered consciousness. Consequently, while perhaps it is truly a rest, we still have no way now of so assuring ourselves — and therefore remain in tension.

But are there are other prospects that are equally fearful?

We here treasure and embrace our intimate temporal pursuits and associates (or at least some). Frequently, if not usually, we take for granted those which are closest and most constant because their presence seems so natural and elemental.  Only with the prospect of the absence or loss of them do we then appreciate their impermanence, and suffer trepidation and anxiety; we implore that the presence of the pursuit and the creature be extended indefinitely, to provide us the opportunity to better and more fully enjoy them. One wishes then he had had more occasion, perhaps indefinitely, to enjoy the object of this pleasure; and this sentiment can assert itself despite, or perhaps because of, one not neglecting the opportunities he had had to extract a meaningful degree of this pleasure — as the greater the uninterrupted involvement, the greater the perception of this presence as inextricable from one’s own existence.  The absence then would intolerably agitate and unsettle, causing one to wonder how they could possibly now adjust and strive onward.

This propensity is generated or enhanced by our inability, or reduced ability, to attune to anything but the present. We by definition can interact only with the present since the past (as far as meaningful to us) no longer exists and the future is unknown. Our senses and sensibilities then can only observe, examine, understand and appreciate that with which we can connect, either tactilely or visually. Since only the present state is “real” to us, then a lofty obstacle, perhaps insuperable, is imposed to truly appreciate a departure from the status quo.

Yet, would not this, the inclination or propensity to avoid mental acknowledgment of the possibility of an interruption of the status quo, be tantamount to eternally experiencing it?  Would one truly conceive that one’s delights should be extended but not perpetual, that there should be some ultimate terminus to them? It does not seem that the mind would conceive of such a scenario nor that it could discern any good reason for such a perspective.  While it may be unnatural (if not impossible) to contemplate perpetuity, is it not likewise unnatural to contemplate transience and mortality?

Perhaps, then, eternity is not such a fearful prospect after all.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 Aug 2015

“Right (or Wrong) Side” of History? — Part I

Two of the most overused, misused and abused phrases currently in vogue are “common sense” and the “wrong (or right) side of history”. Both phrases, while possibly innately innocuous, are now used in contexts that render them malignant.

While Common Sense is now usually being used to imply a solution or answer that ought to be obviously correct, still one person’s Common Sense is another person’s sophistry. Worse though is the aspersion that a person who does not perceive the obvious truth of a solution must be stupid, immoral or corrupt, or a combination of these faults. Consequently, while proposing solutions dictated by Common Sense is ostensibly for the purpose of optimizing the volume of support, it tends to incite conflict rather than collaboration.  Thus it is most clearly not common sense to employ a rationale of Common Sense in an effort to persuade adoption of one’s position.

While perhaps not as irritating, the “wrong (or right) side of history” phrase possesses the potential of — and can be anticipated to almost always inflict — the vastly-greater pernicious effect. For, first, it implies an innate certainty: a present development or condition (either conceptual or tangible) linked in a direct relationship to an overt inevitability. Moreover, second, it is subject to a fatal defect and error: it assumes the progress (a word itself perceived to be endowed with a subjective sense that is questionable) of history is consistent, continuous and positive — despite the evidence that the vector of much, if not most, change is in a negative direction. If historical change results in deterioration, do we really want to be on the side of corruption?

The proper mechanics for analysis is not a prognostication of the misty course of future events, isolated from their meritorious significance. Rather it should consist of an analysis of the virtue and value of an outcome, and whether it then is a sufficient improvement justifying a conscious and persistent effort to attain it, not simply a condition projected to occur in the absence of any effort to obstruct it or substitute another outcome for it. Might it not then be a reasonable proposition that: If an outcome does not require a conscious, intentional and exacting design, implemented by substantial effort, to attain it, then it generally should be avoided and prevented? For, if a condition develops in the natural course without deliberate guidance — a state that might be properly designated as accidental, not purposeful — can it not generally be concluded that it proceeds from sloth, obtuseness, cupidity, corruption, or another like baser human instinct?

I would respectfully tender that numerous examples, parallel metaphors and extrapolations abound to support this harsh assessment of our fecklessness in prescience of history’s direction, and the superiority of using righteousness instead as the guide. I will however reserve addressing these for Part II of this essay.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
11 May 2015

Voter “Suppression” Revisited

[This is in supplementation of my previous post regarding this issue.]

One primary motivating factor behind expanding the electorate — or the ease of exercising the franchise — is the apprehension that “Democracy” is somehow the highest form of government. This type of conception seems unfortunately too much akin to the usual superficial analysis by present society of most questions and subjects.

As we know, classical political theory, first discussed by Aristotle, conceived of three (3) types of government forms — government by the one, by the few and by the many — none of which were considered intrinsically superior to the other; rather they were respectively considered better than the others for a particular community depending upon the type and development thereof.

These classical types were denominated as: Monarchy (or Kingship); Aristocracy; and Democracy. It was conceived however that the proper functioning of these forms could deteriorate and become corrupt. The corrupt forms thereof, respectively were denominated as: Tyranny; Oligarchy; and Ochlocracy (or Mob Rule). Polybius later conceived of these forms as a cycle, with one leading to the other, viz, Kingship -> Tyranny -> Aristocracy -> Oligarchy -> Democracy -> Mob Rule -> Kingship, and ad infinitum.

We no longer of course talk in these terms. We talk in the terms of Bad Government, on one side, and Democracy, on the other. This is unfortunate, for two reasons.

First, a lack of precision yields superficial, and therefore inaccurate, analysis. Vague definitions result in vague thinking. Yet present practice is to subsume too much under the rubric of “Democracy”. It hence has little meaning and less utility as a tool to measure competing policies. If we then want to avoid muddled thinking, we must avoid this muddled definition of Democracy and instead revert to a narrower and delimited sense that is more in keeping with its original meaning. This will yield benefits not only in this specific context but, by training a more rigorous habit of mind and thinking, by replication of this type of analysis in related contexts.

But even more importantly, by failing to recognize the boundaries of legitimate democracy, we stray into a rampant wilderness that our forbears rejected. Studied observation over millennia resulted in a normative conclusion that Democracy is capable of degeneration into a mutated monstrosity. Vigilance in scrutiny, to enable discovery of any aberration from its accepted limits, was as important here as it was for detection of corruption in any of the other forms of government.

Such a perspective then would sanction any form that would partake of the characteristics of or otherwise resemble classical direct democracy. Critical elements of this of course would be presentation of arguments and evidence directly to the citizens of the community and personal approval or rejection by them of the proposed legislation or policy; similar systems are known by us in the original New England Town Meetings setting. Mechanics that would tend to stray beyond such norms would be suspected of likely tending toward or at least laying a foundation for what they characterized as Mob Rule.

Presently though we do not seem to be concerned about such propensities. We seem to think that expansion of what we deem Democracy by ever greater indirect participation tends toward a favorable outcome. [However, this, among other things, confuses the franchise  — and its exercise in elections  — with Democracy; it is not the sine qua non of Democracy much less the definition of it but just a device for the selection of magistrates for a variety of forms of government, since both Kings and Aristocrats occasionally were chosen by election (in one form or another)].

Further, if we are prepared to accede in the “wisdom of the ages”, then we have to be concerned about and seek to avoid departures that might tend toward what could be characterized as extreme democracy. For if we accept these premises of classical theory, then it would seem only those elements that have historical frequency predominance would be deemed appropriate components of Democracy — since they would have developed during the Early and Middle stages of each community and therefore not in the fringe stage most contiguous to Mob Rule; all communities that had the experience of Democracy would have passed through an Early and Middle Stage but not necessarily a Late Stage, and thus measurement of frequency would yield identification of elements more common to the former — and therefore before deterioration and corruption.

I would tender that devices which make it too easy for too many people to indiscriminately elect various partisans are subject to such a characterization. As such, then, they likely would be viewed by the ancients as indicia of entry into the Mob Rule phase and, hence, would be rejected. I then would suggest that we should very critically view:

  • early voting,
  • extended voting periods, and
  • expanded absentee voting,

presuming they are generally dangerous and destructive of the interest of the society. Such a conclusion would proceed from the recognition of these devices as novel, and therefore not inherent in core Democracy. (Again, we must remember that the weight of authority and wisdom rejected erection of any hierarchy of particular governmental forms, which would treat one as usually superior to another, but deemed each as possibly more appropriate for a particular time, conditions and circumstances. Thus, unless experience demonstrated that certain devices or modes were commonly practiced, they would be considered a corruption, being arbitrary and subjective.)

Unfortunately, our present age seems to be afflicted with unparalleled arrogance. Rather than accepting the societal application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics principle, it views change as “progress”, i.e. transformation that is good and positive, rather than of what it most often partakes, viz, deterioration into corruption. Thus study of the old is repudiated and “new ideas” are what are honored; somehow an absence of the “burden” of history is beneficial, enabling the constant pursuit and introduction of new forms.

This rejection of historical restrictions on election procedures in favor of adoption of untried and untrue procedures is but one example. But it is the example, in the writer’s repudiation of the demagogic “voter suppression” diatribe and characterization, that is castigated here.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
26 Oct 2014

The Life of Faith

Yes, a Life of Faith is a conundrum.

Both Scripture and logic  — as by definition the relationship of a mortal with the divine is necessarily one of qualitative inferiority — dictate the adoption of humility as a dominant character attribute.  We are enjoined to be humble; in addition, since Scripture characterizes Christ’s submission to crucifixion as the ultimate in humility  — and as we are charged to be Christ-like  — it is clear that humility must be our guiding principle.

Yet we know that God is omnipotent and omniscient.  If we strive to emulate, then we will be inclined to gradually impart an aura of boldness to our actions and efforts to glorify God; we also magnify our confidence by our greater proximity to God’s greatness and our joy in our hope of growth toward these elevated attributes. But, in this enlargement of our attitude, do we not also risk smiting our humility with a mortal blow?

In addition to the question of the mental perspective is that of the actions which flow from it.  As we not only are commanded to glorify God but thirst to do so, we necessarily don a mantle of animation while endeavoring to exploit every opportunity with which we may be presented; if we are called by God, then we yearn to optimize all the capabilities, and occasions for their employment, with which we are blessed. These trials, though, demand optimal focus and concentration; efforts to surmount our mortality are not casual nor perfunctory. However, in focusing and concentrating on the modest contributions we might make, do we not only risk but also experience distraction of our attention from listening to and reflecting on God?

Yes, it is all challenging and a conundrum.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
01 Sep 2014

 

Voter “Suppression”

Procedures to purportedly enlarge or restrict access to the ballot, as well as also enlarge or obstruct convenience in voting, are of course a matter of current controversy. Much can be said supporting, and significant educated thought does support, procedures that are restrictive; yet, on reflection, it would even appear that such mechanics ought to be viewed and accepted as reasonable by most observers almost without cavil.

Historically, of course, the franchise was limited to persons who were deemed to have a sufficient “stake in the society”. During Colonial times in the American colonies, and extending to the early years of the Republic, this consisted of a requirement of, and was measured by, the ownership of a certain minimum amount of land; unless one met this minimum property qualification, the franchise was not extended to them. The majority of the populace — at least voting populace — as well as Founding Fathers deemed this kind of a requirement to be a reasonable method to assure a virtuous government and citizenry.

Opinion has of course turned. Such a perspective seems “no longer in style”. Much of this is due of course to the abuse that occurred when the States of the former Confederacy instituted certain procedures in connection with and built certain roadblocks to the exercise of the franchise for ulterior and illegitimate reasons; therefore, caution has to be exercised in approving adoption of any such procedures and roadblocks as they likely might be tainted by malignancy. But this alone does not mean the objective of a virtuous government and citizenry is thereby also tainted.

For everyone should be able to agree that all to whom the franchise is extended should be capable of being educated as to the issues to be decided. Further, it seems likely to be without dispute by virtually all that a voter, to properly exercise the franchise, ought to be first informed about the competing considerations and qualifications upon the issues or candidates being submitted to a vote. Unless they are sufficiently informed, how can a vote be made intelligently and with a salutary result? But how would one measure whether a person who is casting a vote is qualified and the vote itself is well-considered? Many mechanics have been used, frequently with discriminatory and unjustifiable effects, if not intent. So these generally should be considered beyond the pale.

However, in what seems a swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme, there now are new artificial devices being suggested to be employed, and these for the purpose instead of expanding or promoting greater access. But do not these seem just as objectionable? It would seem the following ought to clarify, address and constitute a rejoinder to these concerns.

Ideally, both the capacity and the degree of investigation should be of a sufficiently-high level. The rub of course is the problem of quantifying both (or perhaps either) capacity and issue/qualification education.

Optimal capacity to assess and knowledge of the issues is of course but theoretical, as all have intellectual limitations and comprehensive knowledge is but a phantasm; therefore we can dispense with any serious attempt to utilize either measure. The objective to secure then is the best possible approximation of optimal capacity and knowledge while also avoiding the abuse that (even if not intrinsic) frequently becomes attached.

It would appear that this objective can be legitimately attained not by erecting it as a filter but rather allowing it to develop naturally, in the ordinary course of events, simply as a normal and unobjectionable byproduct. This proceeds from the normal relationship between the relevant factors.

It should be conceded that one of the axioms in society is the direct relationship between an interest in exercising the franchise and the willingness to educate oneself on the issues. Thus, if one is not motivated to or has a low interest in voting, it is equally likely they will have expended an equally low level of effort to educate themselves as to the competing factors on the issues. Cannot all agree that electors should vote wisely and on a rational basis? Thus, it would seem most should agree that procedures ought not to be adopted that circumvent and fail to take into account the degree of interest. Making it easier to vote then circumvents the effect of the level of interest in voting. Therefore, most should agree that procedures to make it easier to vote are imprudent as they enhance the proportion of uneducated voters likely to vote.

Now, from a different facet and interjecting an additional contrary rationale, efforts to abnormally elevate interest in or willingness to exercise a franchise should be deemed inconsistent with the purported objective and therefore objectionable. If a person has a lower than average interest or willingness, then, if a motivator or facilitator is able to overcome their resistance, it should be presumed the rationale employed reflects the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator; for if the elector was uninclined to exercise the franchise, the overcoming of the resistance had to be the result of some argument of the motivator/facilitator and any argument by such a person must necessarily be the product of and reflect those preferences. However the argument in favor of enlarging participation is that it will avoid the interests of an otherwise unrepresented segment from being so unrepresented and will enable the interests of more of society to be represented; but if the above analysis is sound, then the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator will be unduly represented by having his or her choice magnified. Would this not then be inconsistent with and rather a repudiation of “equal protection” of those with a contrary viewpoint and result in the dilution of their choice and selection?

The mantra in opposition to measures that might discourage exercise of a franchise constantly echoes that these constitute voter suppression. But haven’t we always had “voter suppression” since we have requirements of, among others, citizenship, age and residence duration. Do these not restrict and in a sense suppress? And aren’t these type of requirements beneficial since they are designed to be inclusive of those persons who are more familiar with the relevant factors bearing upon the respective choice, and thus better likely to make an educated and rational selection? For, as an example, allowing those persons who only have a new and temporary relationship to a community the right of the franchise are clearly more likely to result in superficial, uneducated choices, ones more imbued with and the product of irrational, emotional influences.

True, various persons not infrequently have malicious motives in the procedures and mechanics they propose. And rational dispute can exist as to which is most propitious of various targets. But one objective seems unassailable, and this, not so much as an educated electorate — the standards for and attainment of which might be problematic — but an educated vote. For attainment of this objective, any policy that has as its goal the elimination of reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the franchise ought to be subject to the most rigorous and critical review and critique.

 

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
6 Aug 2014

Gun Control

Do we need Gun Control? Looking at our world and the obscenities and tragedies rampant throughout it, it seems the answer has to be a resounding YES!

However, I would suggest a direction and focus that might be a bit different from what is likely the common answer. I would suggest that the direction and focus should be on controlling access to and use by our Political Leaders rather than, the usual suspects, the Private Citizen.

We have tragedies in Israel/Gaza, the Ukraine and all over the Middle East and Central Asia, to name just a few. After stepping back and taking a look, do we really want access and control in the hands of the likes of, for example, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Khaled Meshaal, or Barack Obama?

I would suggest that just about, say, any N.R.A. Member is more trustworthy than any of those people. So, Yes, let’s start a move toward Gun Control, by exerting more overview of and placing more limitations on the use of Military Force by all Political Leaders. (In the meantime, why not just move on from some of the concerns about our Private Citizens and allow them to continue to retain and exercise their rights in this arena.)

Sound reasonable?

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
18 July 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials? Revisited

Since posting of my earlier message, I had occasion to reflect further on the appropriateness of bonus awarding. This resulted in a reinforcement of the hypothesis that they generally are unjustified.

A person agrees to render services for a specified compensation. He then performs his obligation and a benefit, theoretically at least, is realized by the person with whom he contracted. If the benefit is greater than might have been anticipated, and if this might be due to the ingenuity and perspicacity of the service renderer, is not the result and is not the nature and extent of the services but the scope to which these parties earlier agreed? If so, why is the one due anything more than what he agreed to accept? (Though the dynamic and principle is different, one could look to Matthew 20:1-16 to see a parallel scenario.)

But, for argument, let us accept that a bonus might be able to be justified in an activity performed in the For Profit Arena. While it should be carefully structured because of the great possibility of abuse if loosely granted and administered it might be permissible under limited situations where a significantly greater-than-expected result is produced. But is this what is expected in the Governmental Arena?

Here, the dynamic and principle is to unilaterally provide benefit to the citizens, without a corresponding benefit to the government; a government exists only to do what the citizens cannot easily and efficiently do themselves, and thus it is to serve, not to itself benefit.

Further, because it is the agent of many, it has been delegated extraordinary power, that must be carefully controlled and exercised. Authorizing bonuses for its personnel, because a personal benefit would be received by them as a consequence of the performance of their duties, only encourages potential excessive and onerous exercise of this power, even though the dominant principle is to confine and restrict exercises of power, as being fatal to liberty.

Hence, for both these reasons also, allowance of bonuses to government officials is even more obviously wrong and impermissible.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 May 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials?

Only recently has it come to my attention that certain government agencies provide bonuses to certain of their employees. To say the least, I was astounded and shocked!

On what basis could a public agency justify providing bonuses? Now, the answer may be given that private enterprises not infrequently do provide such extra compensation. But those private enterprises (or most of them) are, by definition, profit-making ventures; their purpose, in addition to providing a valuable product or service, is to make money.

The only reason for the existence of a government agency is to perform functions that its citizens are unable to, or at least can only inadequately, perform for themselves. Thus, its purpose is but to minister in the interest of and upon behalf of its citizens. Consequently, private enterprises and government agencies have different characters and postures, and thus must need be organized on different principles.

Perhaps most saliently the private enterprise is paying bonuses from its own monies; and its shareholders have the capability to directly control awarding, or not awarding, such compensation. The government agency though would be paying these bonuses from someone else’s money, that is, from the pockets of its citizens. And who could possibly say the citizens have the de jure, much less de facto, power to countermand such awards?

Yet someone may say: But certain of our officials perform long, arduous service and thus are entitled to this extra compensation. If so, might not the answer be to appoint additional personnel and divide the work between them?  so that the volume of work is now more in proportion to the compensation? Not only would this seem to resolve the putative objection, but would have the further salutary benefit of allocation of authority between numerous officials and, thus, division of power.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
27 April 2014

Unity = Difference ?

 

Reading 1 Cor 12:12-26 this morning reminded me of a comment last night at our Lenten Study session to the effect that individual interpretations of Scripture are permissible and sanctioned; this would, I suppose, be consistent with the “Priesthood of Believers” principle. This passage from First Corinthians does appear, to some extent at least, to corroborate this opinion.

All the disparate members of a body remain part of it. The whole does not have an identity nor is it viable without its different parts. Unity then exists in difference; and the difference in opinion is an inherent part of and sustains the entity.

But is this not because we are congenitally and inevitably imperfect? We may strive but are unable ever to attain perfection. Yet perfection remains the goal and Eph 4:13-16 instructs us that maturity and growth into a unity remains the objective. Thus, difference of opinion would then cease to exist.

Growth beyond difference of opinion consequently is the ideal dynamic. Yet in this world it remains but the standard upon which we should focus and toward which we should strive, with the affliction of differing interpretations being that with which we are presently encumbered.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 April 2014

Income Inequality / MINIMUM WAGE

Various discussion has recently been generated over the issue of “income inequality”. Ancillary to this has been controversy over the practical repercussions and moral posture of an increase in the Minimum Wage. It is possible that in the noise some perspectives have been ignored. (One which the writer believes can be ignored is the effect or lack thereof on income equality from such an increase, since to this individual it seems clear that any effect would be de minimis.)

In analyzing the questions we should first consider: Who is the Minimum Wage intended to benefit? It would seem a fair conclusion that it is those who are only marginally skilled, either by being new to the work force or by not having had the opportunity or inclination to develop any skills other than the rudimentary. Thus, it would seem that most persons would or ought to be relegated to this category only for a relatively-brief duration. (For those who do not have the capability to develop these skills, due to various physical, mental or psychological deficiencies, there should be provided some type of permanent financial support; since this, hopefully, will only be a small segment, its effect on diminishing overall resources should not be controversial.)

Now, would an increase in the Minimum Wage have the intended effect and the desired efficacy? It may well be doubtful since, by definition, it would only benefit those with marginal skills. The basic and introductory premise, it would seem, is that those with these marginal skills have the least job security since they would most easily be able to be eliminated and replaced, and would only be supplying a limited benefit to the employer. Can we now, from this perspective, further analyze these questions?

This limited benefit to their employer necessitates a conclusion that these employees are of marginal value to the employer. As the differential between the value and the cost to the employer is thus narrow, any magnification of the cost will be material. And if the cost is increased too much so that the cost exceeds the value, the employer may decide termination of these employees, and the investigation of alternatives, is required.

Even if the differential is only narrowed — with the value of the employee still exceeding the cost it is likely the same result will be yielded. For marginally-skilled employees, because of their minimal level of abilities and consequent similarity between equivalent employees, are relatively fungible. Now, even if the differential in value is somewhat diminished, the employer may still continue the relationship out of convenience, habit or tradition. But if the differential between value and cost narrows too much, an exchange for an employee who may be more compatible with the position and of more value may be more easily justified. Thus, the inherent dubious tenure of these employees will be threatened even more under such a regime, viz, where the Minimum Wage is significantly increased.

The above examination of course has proceeded from the position and perspective of the absolute and relative attributes of the employees. It should be at least equally pertinent to consider the position and perspective of the financial status and considerations of the employers.

To this writer it would seem the type of employer who might most often utilize the marginally skilled are also those who experience only marginal profitability. For more skilled employees are of course capable of performing more efficiently and at a higher level of quality. If a person is operating at sufficient profitability, it would normally then be expected they might seek the more qualified (as long as they are not overqualified) employees. If the employer utilizes instead the marginally skilled, it is likely due to it being unable to afford higher-value employees due to their own marginal profitability. Now, if the cost to them of these employees increases, they may be faced with the prospect of becoming unprofitable, resulting in either elimination of some of their current employees or termination of their operations. In either event, the already-questionable tenure of this class of employees becomes even more tenuous.

Thus, it is doubtful that an increase in Minimum Wage levels would in fact attain its objective. Nevertheless, I perceive there being a sound policy that would support and induce such a change. And this would be the pressure it might exert to eliminate or at least reduce so-called Economic Stimulus programs.

A switch of activities or programs to attain this objective from the governmental sector to the structures within society already would be salutary indeed. If this were to result in private, rather than public, organizations being the ones to help others up by their bootstraps, then such a change in policy certainly would be most beneficial.

Now, one could attempt to condition a Minimum Wage increase on an offsetting reduction in appropriations for Economic Stimulus programs. However, it may be sufficient simply to induce a change in the mentality of recourse to resources looking first to and relying upon the private sector by resort to employers rather than government agencies for magnification of disposable income. Thus, even if their is no immediate reduction in governmental expenditures, adoption of such a change in attitude ought to justify obstruction of or even reduction in later expenditures for, much less enhancement of, these programs since the objective thereof ought already to have been attained by the greater disposable income flowing from the private sector. I consequently would think such a Minimum Wage increase should be supported for the above reasons; the conclusion that the purported income inequality reduction argument is merely a phantasmal exercise without weight or logic should not be deemed a reason to refrain from pursuing a policy that has its own good and sufficient rationale.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 March 2014

wayneasmith | PHILOSOPHICAL VISTAS - Part 2

Author Archives: wayneasmith

“Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill Commentary

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as further background to a later post to be published, the below though not being issues to be directly addressed therein.  This constitutes the body of an additional letter, this being disseminated during April, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

I provide this in my capacity as one of your constituents for consideration in your deliberation on the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” Bill.

While I may have overlooked some material improprieties in Title II or Title III of the bill, it would appear to me that, other than the reference in Sections 203 and 205 to “ammunition”, that these provisions are within the jurisdiction of Congress, do not offend any rights secured to the States or the people, and appear to be reasonable policy.  I however exclude from this sanction the above reference to “ammunition” since it is not mentioned in the preceding sections and therefore is beyond the scope thereof.

I do though have significant problems with Title I of the bill. In fact my difficulties with it are so many — a conclusion that surprised me as I thought many of the opponents of broader background checks were being too extreme — that I am uncertain that I can set forth these objections in as complete or organized a fashion as I would prefer.  Initially I would note that the prohibition set forth in Section 122(a), especially when taken in conjunction with the definition of transfer set forth on pages 13 and 14 of the bill, is far too broad.  In addition to it being so intrusive, as affecting almost every conceivable action constituting a “transfer”, and therefore being in violation of Amendment X of the Constitution, its prohibition on transfer, except by means of the conduit through a federally-licensed person, is a deprivation of a property right that renders it in conflict with Amendment V of the Constitution.

The very narrow and minimal exceptions set forth on pages 11 through 13 of the bill prove the excessive inclusiveness of this prohibition.  Reviewing and reflecting upon them it is an easy matter to conceive of a whole panoply of normal and innocent activities involving a firearm that would be criminalized by such a prohibition.  For example, a person who visited another friend (in a rural area where there was no ordinance prohibition on firearm discharge) and who, while engaged in target practice on his friend’s property, handed his firearm to the friend standing next to him, so as to allow him to practice with it, would apparently be guilty of a felony.  Can it be imagined that it was anticipated that the federal government was permitted to regulate such an extensive range of otherwise permissible and innocent private activities?

The obnoxiousness of the proposed regime, it seems to me, is further proved by Section 123 of the bill. Now a person who has his firearm stolen and fails to at all realize he has to report the theft to the U.S. Attorney General, or is too busy for, say, a day-and-a-half to so report it to the federal government, is also guilt of a felony?  Is it really conceived the U.S. Congress has the constitutional authority to prescribe such conduct ordinarily within local purview only?

I could focus on other provisions and set forth the basis for why these are defects, but I trust the foregoing adequately indicates the core deficiency of Title I as currently drafted.

I understand that Senators Manchin and Toomey are engaged in endeavoring to fashion a compromise substitute for Title I.  I believe the effort is directed at regulating only arms-length transactions, such as gun show sales and online transactions and to not include temporary transfers or those between people who the owner knows or with whom he has the opportunity to familiarize himself. This seems consistent with the catalytic purpose of the bill, viz, preventing firearms from coming into the possession of prohibited persons; for under the latter circumstances the owner knows or would have the opportunity to know whether the recipient appears to be a prohibited person. And if the owner nevertheless delivers it to a prohibited person can be penalized under existing law or perhaps Title II (or a variation of Title II).

Thus I would urge support for such a substitute for Title I.  Failing an adequate substitute, then I would urge a Nay vote on the current version of Title I.

WAYNE A. SMITH

STATUTORY DEFINITIONS OF U.S. MILITIA

[This is being provided both as an independent memorandum and as an introduction to a later post to be published.]

UNITED STATES

10 USC 311 Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are-

(1)  the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2)  the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

(Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 14; Pub. L. 85?861, §1(7), Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1439 ; Pub. L. 103?160, div. A, title V, §524(a), Nov. 30, 1993, 107 Stat. 1656 .)

MICHIGAN

MCL 32.509 State military establishment; composition; organized and unorganized militia.

The organized militia of this state taken collectively shall be known as the state military establishment and constitutes the armed forces of this state. The organized militia consists of the army national guard, the air national guard, and the defense force when actually in existence as provided in this act. The unorganized militia consists of all other able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied citizens who are residents of this state who have or shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who shall be age 17 or over and not more than age 60, and shall be subject to state military duty as provided in this act.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967

MCL 32.555 Unorganized militia; power of the governor.

The governor may order into the defense force any members of the unorganized militia in case of riot, tumult, breach of the peace, resistance of process, or for service in aid of civil authority, whether state or federal, or in time of actual or imminent public danger, disaster, crisis, catastrophe or other public emergency within this state.

History: 1967, Act 150, Imd. Eff. June 30, 1967 ;– Am. 2013, Act 99, Imd. Eff. July 2, 2013

 

ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN Memorandum

 

[This is being provided both as an independent commentary and as an introduction to a later post to be published.  This was drafted originally as an enclosure to a letter disseminated during February, 2013, by the writer to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators.]

This is provided as a brief commentary in connection with the consideration of the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013” Bill, introduced in the United States Senate, and any similar bills that might be or have been introduced in either house.

Certain enhancements of the current regime may be appropriate, but I would tender that a ban of either so-called “assault weapons” or so-called “high capacity magazines” — being terms of art and having no meaning independent of arbitrary statutory definition — would be patently unconstitutional.  In addressing the question one should first give attention of course to Amendment II of the Constitution of the United States of America, viz,

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. [Emphasis supplied]

By the use of the terms Militia and Arms, it is clear that certain weapons arguably of a military character are not prohibited to the people but rather protected from infringement.  Thus, the use of the term “weapons of war” as characterizing implements that can be restricted is plainly a canard.

Now, by the terms of the amendment, the right is not unrestricted, for there are also present, one, the terms keep and bear.  The latter term protects only those arms that could be borne by an individual and whose primary capacity and use is to incapacitate or disable a single individual with each discharge, and the former term further identifies arms as those that both can be and historically are of a type that would have been kept by the people in their individual capacities, viz, arms that by the nature of the function they were designed to perform would not have been stored, in preparation for use, in a community armory.

However, more signal as a criterion is, two, the adjective well regulated.  The right to bear military (or quasi-military) arms is within the context of their disciplined use.  The concept of discipline reminds me of the analogous context of the CPL structure in Michigan.  Any person can, unless within certain defined categories, purchase and maintain a handgun.  However, they are not permitted to carry it concealed without certain training by an authorized person or persons.  By this they are both enhanced in the practical use of the weapon and also subjected to the observance of the instructor, as well as the other participants, in the process.

Thus, might not a tiered system of training, relative to the type of weapon to be used or the context of its use, thereby resulting in a better regulated citizenry, pass constitutional muster?  It would seem it might if the various additional levels of training required were not so arbitrary and capricious as apparently designed simply to be obstacles to the right to bear. In addition to imposition of a greater sense of responsibility upon the person, the additional training required should provide significant opportunities for observation by the other trainees as well as the instructor of any possible psychological or personality aberrations exhibited by any of the participants; if unacceptable or abnormal attributes were observed, then the observer could report this behavior, a determination that the offending person failed in his training might perhaps be issued, and the right to bear such a weapon possibly obstructed.  This it would seem would offer the most efficacious and practicable solution to problems ineffectually attempted to be addressed by misguided “gun control” restrictions.

Would institution of such a regime be consistent with the powers of Congress?  In addressing this question it would now seem appropriate to give attention to the following provision of the Constitution of the United States of America:

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power

[Clause 16]

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; [Emphasis supplied]

The Congress then has the explicit power to prescribe the training discipline to which the citizen-soldier is subject.  This would include it would seem the reasonable level of knowledge, skill and mental acclimation to use an “assault weapon” equipped with a “high capacity magazine”, or other implements of war that can be kept and borne, as a condition to the purchase and keeping of it.  And depending upon the implement there could be gradually expanding levels of training for each, as appropriate.

To my mind, such a regime would provide the necessary amelioration to certain problems conceived to exist in the abuse of these types of weapons, while avoiding the constitutional defects incident to an effort to ban them.

While other proposals in the aforesaid Bill might be consistent with the Constitution, and also be amenable to a sufficiently broad range of the populace, and thus appropriate, I have focused here simply on the provisions endeavoring to ban “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines”.  For the above reasons I consider these provisions constitutionally defective, in addition to being misguided as the objectives thereof ought to be attained by alternative and more acceptable mechanics.

WAYNE A. SMITH

GRIEF & HOPE

Life is a process of constant motion. The motion, however, can be of a linear, circular or retrograde character. Only linear motion results, of course, in consistent incremental output, viz, an ascending, stable edifice. This output, though, can be interrupted by the loss of someone or something close to or intimate with the person.

Then the party can be afflicted with grief as well as be confronted with the conundrum of a possible replacement of the person or thing lost. It is a conundrum since a successor that is sought too soon or too late can be equally adverse.

For, if too soon, then it would suggest that the successor is fully interchangeable with that which was lost and thus there was nothing unique or special in nor depth to the relationship that lapsed. But, if too late, then it would suggest that nothing of which did transpire in the relationship was so important or worthwhile that an effort to replicate it would justify the effort. Either construction would intimate that the experiences and time involved could be construed as having been, at least relatively, squandered.

But, on analysis, one can distinguish and reveal these termini with greater clarity. Let us look first at the state of the expired relationship.

The initial reaction to the absence, depending upon the nature of the relationship, can be a profound sense of loss, a pervasive loneliness. Thus, there can be resistance to a hasty replacement due to a recognition of the depth and importance of the vanished relationship, the joy which was experienced, and the reluctance to dilute the effects, and even more painfully the possibility of shrouding the remembrance, of those experiences. While sadly those memories, and even the ability to easily visualize the late presence of what was lost, will begin to fade, there nevertheless will exist an aversion to accelerating the process through obscuring them by a substitute presence.

In those instances, the grief consists of the lack of opportunity now to display joy toward or demonstrate affection for the thing or being that has been lost. While the sentiments that are the subject of this initial phase are unilateral in nature, they have a natural, though converse, relationship to the importance of the role relationship between the two. However, if the person were to succumb too readily to this grief, by seeking an opportunity to display affection, then it would compromise, or be inconsistent with the depth of, the relationship between the survivor and that which was lost; accordingly, there is an inherent resistance to seek a substitute opportunity to display affection.

Such an opportunity, for the present now gone, is by its nature active. Consequently, it consists of, through such demonstration of joy and affection, making the being — or in the case of an activity, the observers thereof or participants therein — delighted and gratified. In this the opportunity then was a selfless outwards expression of one’s emotions and therefore an unselfish action.

Thus, a certain period of time is required to become reconciled to this state of absence. Eventually one is confronted with another, new choice — whether to persist in avoiding resumption of what was lost. Therefore, now let us look at the state of the  absent experiences.

In due time, then, the usual inclination would be to decline prolonging further the replacement of what was lost; what was the pervasive loneliness is eventually overridden by something stronger — the need to experience again the same state of bliss. For the person would recognize his need to experience again what he knew, both for the pleasure and felicity it engendered and for a quasi-resurrection of the importance and significance to him of what or who he knew before, albeit in a transformed shape. If one does not select a replacement then it denigrates the importance of what was contributed to him by what was lost.

But the choice also constitutes a recognition of the reciprocal nature of the relationship, one through which what was lost delivered happiness or returned the affection to him; thus, to this extent, the need to find a replacement could be characterized as a selfish action. Still, such a characterization might be too harsh. For while the nature of the person’s participation in this phase is more passive, the relationship was not of unilateral benefit only.

For, even if passive, a benefit is only yielded if the object of affection demonstrates the effect of the observer’s actions or behavior. Nevertheless, the demonstration can be isolated or reciprocal, with both modes being components of the larger set of implicit reciprocity. [In this regard, the demonstration, ideally perhaps, is most salutary when it bears an isolated aspect, when the person is an observer only rather than contemporaneously engaged or a direct recipient. For the person either might prefer not to be seeking some acknowledgment for his efforts or simply might feel uncomfortable with a display of affection. In the latter event, the sincerity of the compassionate actions still can be genuine, even if perhaps the person prefers an emotional detachment.]

What might be concluded from such a process of wrestling with grief? One conclusion that might be strongly suggested is that the fear of supplanting memories is overcome by the later perceived need to renew the context of those memories in order to avoid the forgetting of them.

Since these scenarios of loss and grief are inherent in and to life, they, and the employment of the remedies for curing them, will be a regular feature of existence. And as it would seem it must be concluded grief constitutes one of those factors negative and contrary to a constructive life, then minimizing this influence (which detracts from and attacks such a life) is necessary for nurturing this form of life. How then would one marginalize grief?

In answering this it would seem we have to identify what quality or state constitutes a polarity and an antidote to it. If the course of one’s life has consisted of an abundance of phenomena, then it would seem there should be less cause for grief. For perhaps the more active one’s life has been, the corollary will be an expectation of continued and constant growth. And the progeny of an expectation of something is the hope of its transpiring. Another conclusion then that might be strongly suggested is that Hope is the primary motivating factor for a constructive life. Thus, the better question perhaps is how then would one nurture and elevate hope?

One method, perhaps, is to maintain an dynamic life since one, in addition to enhancing one’s expectations, then would have reduced time to grieve, thereby providing greater latitude for the admittance of hope. Still perhaps if there was more satisfaction or contentment previously, then there is more likely to be more grief occasioned by its loss. Thus paradoxes exist: while grief might be enhanced if one’s life has not been active and filled, since one then would perceive it to be at least partially squandered, still a life filled with a large volume of events likely could make the loss thereof be perceived as greater and more intense — and thus yielding greater grief.

How then does one ameliorate this problem by vitiating this paradox? Perhaps by access to and entry into a community, as regular interaction will magnify opportunity for an experiential abundance. It would seem then that bliss may well consist of engagement in community. Such a proposition would then yield that displaying love is a human need. Because of the environment, it manifests itself in mutual engagement, thereby engendering in the other a sense of worth and value. It consequently is an active element. However, too large a community would interfere with any single relationship within it being developed to its optimum extent. Thus, while more than one person is necessary — a community by definition consisting of more than the singular — too large a volume would detract from its beneficial quality. Hence the serenity and tranquility that proceeds from Hope is cultivated in a restricted framework of intimate, austere connections.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
30 Dec 2015

The Efficacy of Small Actions

I am presently satisfied that the maximum effect and benefit a person produces from one’s activities is by their small actions affecting people most intimately and frequently encountered by them. In demonstrating this one might embark upon an analysis employing the below hypotheses as one possible method for confirmation of this conclusion.

One could imagine a set of many concentric circles surrounding oneself, with the person located at a point along the inner circle. To transport oneself to a new point, one would have the potential options of either moving laterally along the arc or perpendicularly to an outer circle. In deciding which direction to move one normally would base the decision upon which movement would be most likely to yield a discrete result; for otherwise one would have to be willing to surrender to the sterile proposition that random motion is constructive.

Now it is true that the farther one advances outward from their “home turf” the greater the length of the circle and the greater the volume of nodes along it.  But the energy and time required for motion along this vector away from the center necessarily reduces the energy and constrains the time the person can expend upon lateral motion. This conclusion is compelled by the acknowledgments that: first, energy and time are each finite; and, second, the constriction of the energy and time available for lateral motion thus must necessarily result from the energy and time expended on movement along the outward vector.

Yet no discernible and productive result is accomplished by traveling along the outward vector other than movement of oneself to a longer circle with more nodes; one still must then initiate further action along the circle’s arc in order to influence those nodes. But even more consequential it would seem is the infrequency of those outward movements.

For one must of course overcome inertia in order to initiate movement along an outward vector. And to have access to a qualitatively-larger volume of nodes requires proportionately-greater outward movement along the vector; each additional perpendicular increment yields more nodes but requires at least proportionate additional energy and time. Thus, kinetics mechanics and experience both teach that we will likely avoid this effort in favor of circulating only short distances from the center; for, one, the same (or less) quantum of energy and time can be expended on lateral motion, and, two, the decreased resistance to this motion due to familiarity with the “home circle” will minimize those expenditures.

Thus, by concentrating upon these lateral movements we will focus upon, and optimize the volume of, our conscious and deliberate actions initiated for the purpose of attaining a particular objective. And by definition those actions will be most accurately observed by and have an impact upon those nodes in closest proximity with oneself.

It then is inescapable that: the frequency of contact has to be with those in the most direct relationship with any of us; and the aggregate of our actions have to most influence those in direct relationship rather than the larger potential circle of people farther away from us.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
02 Nov 2015

 

Religious Liberty vs Civil Rights

The confrontation between proponents of and conflict between putative religious liberty and asserted civil rights has of course been the subject of much recent commentary. It would appear to me though that many of the commentators overlook at least one crucial element in their analysis.

To me one obvious element, which has already been the subject of comment by some, is whether the action by a person asserting the right to religious liberty consists of a form of creative expression rather than the provision of a fungible product. If the former, then an external compulsion to perform constitutes more of an, if not an egregious, interference with their personal liberty; this conclusion proceeds from the recognition that the coerced performer is engaged in customized activity that succeeds and is pursuant to, and arguably restricted by, the demand of the requester. In the latter situation, however, the provider has performed the activity preceding the request for supply thereof, and thus any compulsion to supply it cannot, by definition, restrict or affect activity already performed.

I though have chosen to utilize instead the criteria of whether the performance constituted some form of personal service, the law having long recognized that personal service contracts occupy a unique niche and are subject to different rules of contract. In either event what would be entailed is a person performing an activity that was special, rather than general, and thus possibly deemed constituting or implying a conscious and intentional ratification of the object and product of the activity. Other than for practical reasons, no person in a free society can be compelled to perform any action of any type; they might possibly be properly prohibited from performing certain types of actions. But the power to mandate actions of particular types, much less being compelled to engage in approbation of the principles of another, is the indicia of a tyranny.

However it now occurs to me there is another element that might even better clarify as well as be dispositive of the issue. And this would be whether the person is differentiating based upon the attributes of another or instead the activity or behavior in which they are engaged. This could be deemed parallel to the well-recognized sociological dichotomy of Status and Role.

Most service providers who object to certain activity do not resist based upon only the attributes of the requester; in such a context, since the status of the requester is only a passive element, it is only the provider’s behavior which is in question in this situation — and this therefore does not impinge on the provider’s liberty. But in the context of the activity or behavior in which they are engaged, since it is the requester’s behavior to which the provider is responding, compelling their support of it amounts in effect to participation and ratification — and this therefore does impinge on the actor’s liberty.

Is this a distinction without meaning? I tender the answer is No, it is a significant distinction. The wrong that is the gravamen of the conflict is excessive integration between the sphere of action of one person and the sphere of action of another. If the participants mutually choose to allow these spheres to intersect, then there can be no offense. But the body politic should be encumbered with the obligation to maintain separation between these spheres as much as practicable. Conflicts though are engendered and become onerous when the polity seeks to excessively enunciate and impose certain standards and modes of action that it deems principled and moral. Might not then the proper foundation of the body politic be amorality, doing neither bad nor good but only approving and enforcing policies that are quantitatively, rather than qualitatively, beneficial.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
04 Oct 2015

 

Recollection & Contemplation

An occasion arose last Sunday morning to recall a person whom I occasionally encountered about some either 35 or 40 years ago. The differing range in time was due to my admitted inability to then recall in which of two different contexts I encountered him.

I then reflected that many of a younger generation might well attribute this to the deficiencies of an aging mind. For while it seems indisputable that with the progression of time there is an inevitable deterioration in civilization, society, morals and percipience, it also has a tendency to impose negative physiological effects.

Yet are there not other explanations also? One is the consequence of the aggregation of an ever-increasing volume of recollections accumulated over the longer length of time. If one had the Divine Mind, this would be an immaterial factor. But mortal minds are finite. Therefore this accumulation of recollections results in a compression of them. And this compression inhibits the ability to distinguish between the time framework of individual events.

The second explanation is both the ability and inclination of the mind to synthesize data and ideas as it accumulates both over time. With lower volumes of information either data or ideas will render recognition of any interconnection or apposition more difficult, yielding a hypothesis that either remain isolated and random. However as the mind accumulates both, then more common threads, points or vectors, both parallel or divergent, will present themselves — affording the opportunity to recognize patterns and draw conclusions. And since the mind is finite and inhibited from concurrent linear thought and lateral thought, the mature mind’s predilection is to elect rumination on the patterns and conclusions rather than the particulars of which they are the product.

Ergo, the mature mind does not necessarily suffer from deficiencies due to deterioration but rather exhibits a proclivity that is attributable to the process of its development.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
21 Aug 2015

Eternity

 

To some, at least, eternity seems a fearful prospect, a terror of another kind:

A future without completion, conclusion or end. Constant missions — even if new and different, substituting and replacing concluded errands — and, thus, challenges.

Now certainly God has informed us that, for some at least, they will be afforded the opportunity to “enter God’s rest”. And if the body will be changed, so still will the mind — as even the mortal mind is bade to experience renewal of itself — and this could enable a comfortable adjustment to and grateful acceptance of this unexperienced prospect. Yet, by definition, we cannot now transmute our perception into such a state or presently comprehend such an altered consciousness. Consequently, while perhaps it is truly a rest, we still have no way now of so assuring ourselves — and therefore remain in tension.

But are there are other prospects that are equally fearful?

We here treasure and embrace our intimate temporal pursuits and associates (or at least some). Frequently, if not usually, we take for granted those which are closest and most constant because their presence seems so natural and elemental.  Only with the prospect of the absence or loss of them do we then appreciate their impermanence, and suffer trepidation and anxiety; we implore that the presence of the pursuit and the creature be extended indefinitely, to provide us the opportunity to better and more fully enjoy them. One wishes then he had had more occasion, perhaps indefinitely, to enjoy the object of this pleasure; and this sentiment can assert itself despite, or perhaps because of, one not neglecting the opportunities he had had to extract a meaningful degree of this pleasure — as the greater the uninterrupted involvement, the greater the perception of this presence as inextricable from one’s own existence.  The absence then would intolerably agitate and unsettle, causing one to wonder how they could possibly now adjust and strive onward.

This propensity is generated or enhanced by our inability, or reduced ability, to attune to anything but the present. We by definition can interact only with the present since the past (as far as meaningful to us) no longer exists and the future is unknown. Our senses and sensibilities then can only observe, examine, understand and appreciate that with which we can connect, either tactilely or visually. Since only the present state is “real” to us, then a lofty obstacle, perhaps insuperable, is imposed to truly appreciate a departure from the status quo.

Yet, would not this, the inclination or propensity to avoid mental acknowledgment of the possibility of an interruption of the status quo, be tantamount to eternally experiencing it?  Would one truly conceive that one’s delights should be extended but not perpetual, that there should be some ultimate terminus to them? It does not seem that the mind would conceive of such a scenario nor that it could discern any good reason for such a perspective.  While it may be unnatural (if not impossible) to contemplate perpetuity, is it not likewise unnatural to contemplate transience and mortality?

Perhaps, then, eternity is not such a fearful prospect after all.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 Aug 2015

“Right (or Wrong) Side” of History? — Part I

Two of the most overused, misused and abused phrases currently in vogue are “common sense” and the “wrong (or right) side of history”. Both phrases, while possibly innately innocuous, are now used in contexts that render them malignant.

While Common Sense is now usually being used to imply a solution or answer that ought to be obviously correct, still one person’s Common Sense is another person’s sophistry. Worse though is the aspersion that a person who does not perceive the obvious truth of a solution must be stupid, immoral or corrupt, or a combination of these faults. Consequently, while proposing solutions dictated by Common Sense is ostensibly for the purpose of optimizing the volume of support, it tends to incite conflict rather than collaboration.  Thus it is most clearly not common sense to employ a rationale of Common Sense in an effort to persuade adoption of one’s position.

While perhaps not as irritating, the “wrong (or right) side of history” phrase possesses the potential of — and can be anticipated to almost always inflict — the vastly-greater pernicious effect. For, first, it implies an innate certainty: a present development or condition (either conceptual or tangible) linked in a direct relationship to an overt inevitability. Moreover, second, it is subject to a fatal defect and error: it assumes the progress (a word itself perceived to be endowed with a subjective sense that is questionable) of history is consistent, continuous and positive — despite the evidence that the vector of much, if not most, change is in a negative direction. If historical change results in deterioration, do we really want to be on the side of corruption?

The proper mechanics for analysis is not a prognostication of the misty course of future events, isolated from their meritorious significance. Rather it should consist of an analysis of the virtue and value of an outcome, and whether it then is a sufficient improvement justifying a conscious and persistent effort to attain it, not simply a condition projected to occur in the absence of any effort to obstruct it or substitute another outcome for it. Might it not then be a reasonable proposition that: If an outcome does not require a conscious, intentional and exacting design, implemented by substantial effort, to attain it, then it generally should be avoided and prevented? For, if a condition develops in the natural course without deliberate guidance — a state that might be properly designated as accidental, not purposeful — can it not generally be concluded that it proceeds from sloth, obtuseness, cupidity, corruption, or another like baser human instinct?

I would respectfully tender that numerous examples, parallel metaphors and extrapolations abound to support this harsh assessment of our fecklessness in prescience of history’s direction, and the superiority of using righteousness instead as the guide. I will however reserve addressing these for Part II of this essay.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
11 May 2015

Voter “Suppression” Revisited

[This is in supplementation of my previous post regarding this issue.]

One primary motivating factor behind expanding the electorate — or the ease of exercising the franchise — is the apprehension that “Democracy” is somehow the highest form of government. This type of conception seems unfortunately too much akin to the usual superficial analysis by present society of most questions and subjects.

As we know, classical political theory, first discussed by Aristotle, conceived of three (3) types of government forms — government by the one, by the few and by the many — none of which were considered intrinsically superior to the other; rather they were respectively considered better than the others for a particular community depending upon the type and development thereof.

These classical types were denominated as: Monarchy (or Kingship); Aristocracy; and Democracy. It was conceived however that the proper functioning of these forms could deteriorate and become corrupt. The corrupt forms thereof, respectively were denominated as: Tyranny; Oligarchy; and Ochlocracy (or Mob Rule). Polybius later conceived of these forms as a cycle, with one leading to the other, viz, Kingship -> Tyranny -> Aristocracy -> Oligarchy -> Democracy -> Mob Rule -> Kingship, and ad infinitum.

We no longer of course talk in these terms. We talk in the terms of Bad Government, on one side, and Democracy, on the other. This is unfortunate, for two reasons.

First, a lack of precision yields superficial, and therefore inaccurate, analysis. Vague definitions result in vague thinking. Yet present practice is to subsume too much under the rubric of “Democracy”. It hence has little meaning and less utility as a tool to measure competing policies. If we then want to avoid muddled thinking, we must avoid this muddled definition of Democracy and instead revert to a narrower and delimited sense that is more in keeping with its original meaning. This will yield benefits not only in this specific context but, by training a more rigorous habit of mind and thinking, by replication of this type of analysis in related contexts.

But even more importantly, by failing to recognize the boundaries of legitimate democracy, we stray into a rampant wilderness that our forbears rejected. Studied observation over millennia resulted in a normative conclusion that Democracy is capable of degeneration into a mutated monstrosity. Vigilance in scrutiny, to enable discovery of any aberration from its accepted limits, was as important here as it was for detection of corruption in any of the other forms of government.

Such a perspective then would sanction any form that would partake of the characteristics of or otherwise resemble classical direct democracy. Critical elements of this of course would be presentation of arguments and evidence directly to the citizens of the community and personal approval or rejection by them of the proposed legislation or policy; similar systems are known by us in the original New England Town Meetings setting. Mechanics that would tend to stray beyond such norms would be suspected of likely tending toward or at least laying a foundation for what they characterized as Mob Rule.

Presently though we do not seem to be concerned about such propensities. We seem to think that expansion of what we deem Democracy by ever greater indirect participation tends toward a favorable outcome. [However, this, among other things, confuses the franchise  — and its exercise in elections  — with Democracy; it is not the sine qua non of Democracy much less the definition of it but just a device for the selection of magistrates for a variety of forms of government, since both Kings and Aristocrats occasionally were chosen by election (in one form or another)].

Further, if we are prepared to accede in the “wisdom of the ages”, then we have to be concerned about and seek to avoid departures that might tend toward what could be characterized as extreme democracy. For if we accept these premises of classical theory, then it would seem only those elements that have historical frequency predominance would be deemed appropriate components of Democracy — since they would have developed during the Early and Middle stages of each community and therefore not in the fringe stage most contiguous to Mob Rule; all communities that had the experience of Democracy would have passed through an Early and Middle Stage but not necessarily a Late Stage, and thus measurement of frequency would yield identification of elements more common to the former — and therefore before deterioration and corruption.

I would tender that devices which make it too easy for too many people to indiscriminately elect various partisans are subject to such a characterization. As such, then, they likely would be viewed by the ancients as indicia of entry into the Mob Rule phase and, hence, would be rejected. I then would suggest that we should very critically view:

  • early voting,
  • extended voting periods, and
  • expanded absentee voting,

presuming they are generally dangerous and destructive of the interest of the society. Such a conclusion would proceed from the recognition of these devices as novel, and therefore not inherent in core Democracy. (Again, we must remember that the weight of authority and wisdom rejected erection of any hierarchy of particular governmental forms, which would treat one as usually superior to another, but deemed each as possibly more appropriate for a particular time, conditions and circumstances. Thus, unless experience demonstrated that certain devices or modes were commonly practiced, they would be considered a corruption, being arbitrary and subjective.)

Unfortunately, our present age seems to be afflicted with unparalleled arrogance. Rather than accepting the societal application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics principle, it views change as “progress”, i.e. transformation that is good and positive, rather than of what it most often partakes, viz, deterioration into corruption. Thus study of the old is repudiated and “new ideas” are what are honored; somehow an absence of the “burden” of history is beneficial, enabling the constant pursuit and introduction of new forms.

This rejection of historical restrictions on election procedures in favor of adoption of untried and untrue procedures is but one example. But it is the example, in the writer’s repudiation of the demagogic “voter suppression” diatribe and characterization, that is castigated here.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
26 Oct 2014

The Life of Faith

Yes, a Life of Faith is a conundrum.

Both Scripture and logic  — as by definition the relationship of a mortal with the divine is necessarily one of qualitative inferiority — dictate the adoption of humility as a dominant character attribute.  We are enjoined to be humble; in addition, since Scripture characterizes Christ’s submission to crucifixion as the ultimate in humility  — and as we are charged to be Christ-like  — it is clear that humility must be our guiding principle.

Yet we know that God is omnipotent and omniscient.  If we strive to emulate, then we will be inclined to gradually impart an aura of boldness to our actions and efforts to glorify God; we also magnify our confidence by our greater proximity to God’s greatness and our joy in our hope of growth toward these elevated attributes. But, in this enlargement of our attitude, do we not also risk smiting our humility with a mortal blow?

In addition to the question of the mental perspective is that of the actions which flow from it.  As we not only are commanded to glorify God but thirst to do so, we necessarily don a mantle of animation while endeavoring to exploit every opportunity with which we may be presented; if we are called by God, then we yearn to optimize all the capabilities, and occasions for their employment, with which we are blessed. These trials, though, demand optimal focus and concentration; efforts to surmount our mortality are not casual nor perfunctory. However, in focusing and concentrating on the modest contributions we might make, do we not only risk but also experience distraction of our attention from listening to and reflecting on God?

Yes, it is all challenging and a conundrum.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
01 Sep 2014

 

Voter “Suppression”

Procedures to purportedly enlarge or restrict access to the ballot, as well as also enlarge or obstruct convenience in voting, are of course a matter of current controversy. Much can be said supporting, and significant educated thought does support, procedures that are restrictive; yet, on reflection, it would even appear that such mechanics ought to be viewed and accepted as reasonable by most observers almost without cavil.

Historically, of course, the franchise was limited to persons who were deemed to have a sufficient “stake in the society”. During Colonial times in the American colonies, and extending to the early years of the Republic, this consisted of a requirement of, and was measured by, the ownership of a certain minimum amount of land; unless one met this minimum property qualification, the franchise was not extended to them. The majority of the populace — at least voting populace — as well as Founding Fathers deemed this kind of a requirement to be a reasonable method to assure a virtuous government and citizenry.

Opinion has of course turned. Such a perspective seems “no longer in style”. Much of this is due of course to the abuse that occurred when the States of the former Confederacy instituted certain procedures in connection with and built certain roadblocks to the exercise of the franchise for ulterior and illegitimate reasons; therefore, caution has to be exercised in approving adoption of any such procedures and roadblocks as they likely might be tainted by malignancy. But this alone does not mean the objective of a virtuous government and citizenry is thereby also tainted.

For everyone should be able to agree that all to whom the franchise is extended should be capable of being educated as to the issues to be decided. Further, it seems likely to be without dispute by virtually all that a voter, to properly exercise the franchise, ought to be first informed about the competing considerations and qualifications upon the issues or candidates being submitted to a vote. Unless they are sufficiently informed, how can a vote be made intelligently and with a salutary result? But how would one measure whether a person who is casting a vote is qualified and the vote itself is well-considered? Many mechanics have been used, frequently with discriminatory and unjustifiable effects, if not intent. So these generally should be considered beyond the pale.

However, in what seems a swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme, there now are new artificial devices being suggested to be employed, and these for the purpose instead of expanding or promoting greater access. But do not these seem just as objectionable? It would seem the following ought to clarify, address and constitute a rejoinder to these concerns.

Ideally, both the capacity and the degree of investigation should be of a sufficiently-high level. The rub of course is the problem of quantifying both (or perhaps either) capacity and issue/qualification education.

Optimal capacity to assess and knowledge of the issues is of course but theoretical, as all have intellectual limitations and comprehensive knowledge is but a phantasm; therefore we can dispense with any serious attempt to utilize either measure. The objective to secure then is the best possible approximation of optimal capacity and knowledge while also avoiding the abuse that (even if not intrinsic) frequently becomes attached.

It would appear that this objective can be legitimately attained not by erecting it as a filter but rather allowing it to develop naturally, in the ordinary course of events, simply as a normal and unobjectionable byproduct. This proceeds from the normal relationship between the relevant factors.

It should be conceded that one of the axioms in society is the direct relationship between an interest in exercising the franchise and the willingness to educate oneself on the issues. Thus, if one is not motivated to or has a low interest in voting, it is equally likely they will have expended an equally low level of effort to educate themselves as to the competing factors on the issues. Cannot all agree that electors should vote wisely and on a rational basis? Thus, it would seem most should agree that procedures ought not to be adopted that circumvent and fail to take into account the degree of interest. Making it easier to vote then circumvents the effect of the level of interest in voting. Therefore, most should agree that procedures to make it easier to vote are imprudent as they enhance the proportion of uneducated voters likely to vote.

Now, from a different facet and interjecting an additional contrary rationale, efforts to abnormally elevate interest in or willingness to exercise a franchise should be deemed inconsistent with the purported objective and therefore objectionable. If a person has a lower than average interest or willingness, then, if a motivator or facilitator is able to overcome their resistance, it should be presumed the rationale employed reflects the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator; for if the elector was uninclined to exercise the franchise, the overcoming of the resistance had to be the result of some argument of the motivator/facilitator and any argument by such a person must necessarily be the product of and reflect those preferences. However the argument in favor of enlarging participation is that it will avoid the interests of an otherwise unrepresented segment from being so unrepresented and will enable the interests of more of society to be represented; but if the above analysis is sound, then the policy preferences of the motivator/facilitator will be unduly represented by having his or her choice magnified. Would this not then be inconsistent with and rather a repudiation of “equal protection” of those with a contrary viewpoint and result in the dilution of their choice and selection?

The mantra in opposition to measures that might discourage exercise of a franchise constantly echoes that these constitute voter suppression. But haven’t we always had “voter suppression” since we have requirements of, among others, citizenship, age and residence duration. Do these not restrict and in a sense suppress? And aren’t these type of requirements beneficial since they are designed to be inclusive of those persons who are more familiar with the relevant factors bearing upon the respective choice, and thus better likely to make an educated and rational selection? For, as an example, allowing those persons who only have a new and temporary relationship to a community the right of the franchise are clearly more likely to result in superficial, uneducated choices, ones more imbued with and the product of irrational, emotional influences.

True, various persons not infrequently have malicious motives in the procedures and mechanics they propose. And rational dispute can exist as to which is most propitious of various targets. But one objective seems unassailable, and this, not so much as an educated electorate — the standards for and attainment of which might be problematic — but an educated vote. For attainment of this objective, any policy that has as its goal the elimination of reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the franchise ought to be subject to the most rigorous and critical review and critique.

 

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
6 Aug 2014

Gun Control

Do we need Gun Control? Looking at our world and the obscenities and tragedies rampant throughout it, it seems the answer has to be a resounding YES!

However, I would suggest a direction and focus that might be a bit different from what is likely the common answer. I would suggest that the direction and focus should be on controlling access to and use by our Political Leaders rather than, the usual suspects, the Private Citizen.

We have tragedies in Israel/Gaza, the Ukraine and all over the Middle East and Central Asia, to name just a few. After stepping back and taking a look, do we really want access and control in the hands of the likes of, for example, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Khaled Meshaal, or Barack Obama?

I would suggest that just about, say, any N.R.A. Member is more trustworthy than any of those people. So, Yes, let’s start a move toward Gun Control, by exerting more overview of and placing more limitations on the use of Military Force by all Political Leaders. (In the meantime, why not just move on from some of the concerns about our Private Citizens and allow them to continue to retain and exercise their rights in this arena.)

Sound reasonable?

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
18 July 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials? Revisited

Since posting of my earlier message, I had occasion to reflect further on the appropriateness of bonus awarding. This resulted in a reinforcement of the hypothesis that they generally are unjustified.

A person agrees to render services for a specified compensation. He then performs his obligation and a benefit, theoretically at least, is realized by the person with whom he contracted. If the benefit is greater than might have been anticipated, and if this might be due to the ingenuity and perspicacity of the service renderer, is not the result and is not the nature and extent of the services but the scope to which these parties earlier agreed? If so, why is the one due anything more than what he agreed to accept? (Though the dynamic and principle is different, one could look to Matthew 20:1-16 to see a parallel scenario.)

But, for argument, let us accept that a bonus might be able to be justified in an activity performed in the For Profit Arena. While it should be carefully structured because of the great possibility of abuse if loosely granted and administered it might be permissible under limited situations where a significantly greater-than-expected result is produced. But is this what is expected in the Governmental Arena?

Here, the dynamic and principle is to unilaterally provide benefit to the citizens, without a corresponding benefit to the government; a government exists only to do what the citizens cannot easily and efficiently do themselves, and thus it is to serve, not to itself benefit.

Further, because it is the agent of many, it has been delegated extraordinary power, that must be carefully controlled and exercised. Authorizing bonuses for its personnel, because a personal benefit would be received by them as a consequence of the performance of their duties, only encourages potential excessive and onerous exercise of this power, even though the dominant principle is to confine and restrict exercises of power, as being fatal to liberty.

Hence, for both these reasons also, allowance of bonuses to government officials is even more obviously wrong and impermissible.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 May 2014

Bonuses to Government Officials?

Only recently has it come to my attention that certain government agencies provide bonuses to certain of their employees. To say the least, I was astounded and shocked!

On what basis could a public agency justify providing bonuses? Now, the answer may be given that private enterprises not infrequently do provide such extra compensation. But those private enterprises (or most of them) are, by definition, profit-making ventures; their purpose, in addition to providing a valuable product or service, is to make money.

The only reason for the existence of a government agency is to perform functions that its citizens are unable to, or at least can only inadequately, perform for themselves. Thus, its purpose is but to minister in the interest of and upon behalf of its citizens. Consequently, private enterprises and government agencies have different characters and postures, and thus must need be organized on different principles.

Perhaps most saliently the private enterprise is paying bonuses from its own monies; and its shareholders have the capability to directly control awarding, or not awarding, such compensation. The government agency though would be paying these bonuses from someone else’s money, that is, from the pockets of its citizens. And who could possibly say the citizens have the de jure, much less de facto, power to countermand such awards?

Yet someone may say: But certain of our officials perform long, arduous service and thus are entitled to this extra compensation. If so, might not the answer be to appoint additional personnel and divide the work between them?  so that the volume of work is now more in proportion to the compensation? Not only would this seem to resolve the putative objection, but would have the further salutary benefit of allocation of authority between numerous officials and, thus, division of power.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
27 April 2014

Unity = Difference ?

 

Reading 1 Cor 12:12-26 this morning reminded me of a comment last night at our Lenten Study session to the effect that individual interpretations of Scripture are permissible and sanctioned; this would, I suppose, be consistent with the “Priesthood of Believers” principle. This passage from First Corinthians does appear, to some extent at least, to corroborate this opinion.

All the disparate members of a body remain part of it. The whole does not have an identity nor is it viable without its different parts. Unity then exists in difference; and the difference in opinion is an inherent part of and sustains the entity.

But is this not because we are congenitally and inevitably imperfect? We may strive but are unable ever to attain perfection. Yet perfection remains the goal and Eph 4:13-16 instructs us that maturity and growth into a unity remains the objective. Thus, difference of opinion would then cease to exist.

Growth beyond difference of opinion consequently is the ideal dynamic. Yet in this world it remains but the standard upon which we should focus and toward which we should strive, with the affliction of differing interpretations being that with which we are presently encumbered.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 April 2014

Income Inequality / MINIMUM WAGE

Various discussion has recently been generated over the issue of “income inequality”. Ancillary to this has been controversy over the practical repercussions and moral posture of an increase in the Minimum Wage. It is possible that in the noise some perspectives have been ignored. (One which the writer believes can be ignored is the effect or lack thereof on income equality from such an increase, since to this individual it seems clear that any effect would be de minimis.)

In analyzing the questions we should first consider: Who is the Minimum Wage intended to benefit? It would seem a fair conclusion that it is those who are only marginally skilled, either by being new to the work force or by not having had the opportunity or inclination to develop any skills other than the rudimentary. Thus, it would seem that most persons would or ought to be relegated to this category only for a relatively-brief duration. (For those who do not have the capability to develop these skills, due to various physical, mental or psychological deficiencies, there should be provided some type of permanent financial support; since this, hopefully, will only be a small segment, its effect on diminishing overall resources should not be controversial.)

Now, would an increase in the Minimum Wage have the intended effect and the desired efficacy? It may well be doubtful since, by definition, it would only benefit those with marginal skills. The basic and introductory premise, it would seem, is that those with these marginal skills have the least job security since they would most easily be able to be eliminated and replaced, and would only be supplying a limited benefit to the employer. Can we now, from this perspective, further analyze these questions?

This limited benefit to their employer necessitates a conclusion that these employees are of marginal value to the employer. As the differential between the value and the cost to the employer is thus narrow, any magnification of the cost will be material. And if the cost is increased too much so that the cost exceeds the value, the employer may decide termination of these employees, and the investigation of alternatives, is required.

Even if the differential is only narrowed — with the value of the employee still exceeding the cost it is likely the same result will be yielded. For marginally-skilled employees, because of their minimal level of abilities and consequent similarity between equivalent employees, are relatively fungible. Now, even if the differential in value is somewhat diminished, the employer may still continue the relationship out of convenience, habit or tradition. But if the differential between value and cost narrows too much, an exchange for an employee who may be more compatible with the position and of more value may be more easily justified. Thus, the inherent dubious tenure of these employees will be threatened even more under such a regime, viz, where the Minimum Wage is significantly increased.

The above examination of course has proceeded from the position and perspective of the absolute and relative attributes of the employees. It should be at least equally pertinent to consider the position and perspective of the financial status and considerations of the employers.

To this writer it would seem the type of employer who might most often utilize the marginally skilled are also those who experience only marginal profitability. For more skilled employees are of course capable of performing more efficiently and at a higher level of quality. If a person is operating at sufficient profitability, it would normally then be expected they might seek the more qualified (as long as they are not overqualified) employees. If the employer utilizes instead the marginally skilled, it is likely due to it being unable to afford higher-value employees due to their own marginal profitability. Now, if the cost to them of these employees increases, they may be faced with the prospect of becoming unprofitable, resulting in either elimination of some of their current employees or termination of their operations. In either event, the already-questionable tenure of this class of employees becomes even more tenuous.

Thus, it is doubtful that an increase in Minimum Wage levels would in fact attain its objective. Nevertheless, I perceive there being a sound policy that would support and induce such a change. And this would be the pressure it might exert to eliminate or at least reduce so-called Economic Stimulus programs.

A switch of activities or programs to attain this objective from the governmental sector to the structures within society already would be salutary indeed. If this were to result in private, rather than public, organizations being the ones to help others up by their bootstraps, then such a change in policy certainly would be most beneficial.

Now, one could attempt to condition a Minimum Wage increase on an offsetting reduction in appropriations for Economic Stimulus programs. However, it may be sufficient simply to induce a change in the mentality of recourse to resources looking first to and relying upon the private sector by resort to employers rather than government agencies for magnification of disposable income. Thus, even if their is no immediate reduction in governmental expenditures, adoption of such a change in attitude ought to justify obstruction of or even reduction in later expenditures for, much less enhancement of, these programs since the objective thereof ought already to have been attained by the greater disposable income flowing from the private sector. I consequently would think such a Minimum Wage increase should be supported for the above reasons; the conclusion that the purported income inequality reduction argument is merely a phantasmal exercise without weight or logic should not be deemed a reason to refrain from pursuing a policy that has its own good and sufficient rationale.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 March 2014