Trust in Government

I’ve an acquaintance (call her Sally) who’s adamantly against allowing citizens to carry handguns of any type. She can endure “hunting” firearms (though she doesn’t really support hunting), but thinks self-defense weapons are both unnecessary and dangerous. Citing the (peer reviewed) research of John Lott does not sway her view in the least and any standard argument leaves her unfazed.

So I found it interesting when I brought her up on one particular path–specifically: the carrying of handguns by off-duty police. She has no problem with off-duty cops bearing arms amongst us. When asked why it is desirable for a cop to carry, but not her law-abiding neighbor, the immediate response was, “The Police are trained.”
Now I can honesty say that based on my experience at the local range, many of my weapons-bearing friends are significantly more skilled in the handling and use of handguns than plenty of police officers. But that, as you can imagine, meant little to Sally. So I asked, “If I were to take the same training as the local police, would that suffice to gain your support?” Immediate answer: “No.”

Though it took a long, round-about discussion to get the point, we finally landed on it–She had absolute faith in an “authority”, but none in her fellow citizens.

So there you have it: some people trust the average citizen’s judgement and ability above the bureaucrat’s, while others will put their full trust in the bureaucrat.

And never the twain shall meet.

The Ugliness of Strawmen

I was talking to a teetotaler some time ago about Prohibition and the reasons it was rescinded in the early 30s. Most of us have a decent understanding about the amendment to our Constitution to abolish the eighteenth–the cure for alcohol abuse was worse than the disease. I won’t bore everyone with a litany of social ills that arose from the attempt to stop people from over indulgence: the record is pretty well known.

But my friend correctly noted that Prohibition did in fact have some of the desired effects–consumption overall did drop by half, public drunkenness did plummet, alcohol related diseases dropped, and some of the secondary social problems (such as work accidents, family issues, etc) decreased. In his view, the true measure of the effects of Prohibition has been misstated because of a bias towards a freedom to drink. In his view, Prohibition worked and should not have been abolished. As you can imagine, he looks upon drug laws in a positive light as well.

Now I personally see most drug laws (criminalization of drug use) to be detrimental. Don’t get me wrong on this–easy access to drugs has it’s downside; I’m no Pollyanna libertarian on this one, but in the balance I think decriminalization would be a positive (please note that decriminaliztion isn’t the same as legally selling heroin to 6 year-olds on the school grounds).

In the course of our talk he became upset with my view and told me that the 10,000 deaths due to DUI drivers was blood on my hands.

“Blood on your hands…”

And there ended the conversation.

Unfortunately his reaction to an opposing view is the default one today–I can’t have a calm discussion with someone whose view is different from mine without being slandered in the worst sorts of ways.

Think I’ll go watch an old Bill Buckley program.

The Loss of Debate

Some one I care very much for once told me that she believes conservatives are simply greedy people. No discussion about limits of government would penetrate her shield–if you weren’t a good liberal, you were a bad person. As Bob Beckel would say, “case closed.”

Now this is not a stupid or uneducated person. In fact she has a PhD and tenure at a well respected university. I–being the naive person that I am–assumed that with reasonable debate I could penetrate that attitude. Nope; information and debate were not needed–she knew the way of the world and she had no need for any other views.

I finally did my “Let me get this straight” routine: “You believe that I went from being a good, noble person to a greedy, ugly one in the course of a few months of studying previous economic predictions and measuring them against actual outcomes? You believe that applying a scientific approach to my policy opinions is immoral?”

End of friendship.

Which is becoming more and more common place for me. Few of us are willing to simply engage in a friendly discussion: we are filled with factoids–many of which are either untrue or nearly so–and refuse to engage any logic or reason to our positions. This wasn’t always so. If you watch some older shows, you’ll see civil debates and thoughtful responses. For that matter, watch Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” from 20 years ago–he’s actually fair, and tough on everyone, not just the Right.

I’ll leave the root cause of the demise of reason and debate to others–I suspect it’s a combination of things that came to us from a coarsening of values and a dumbing down of society, but in any event the Ayers branch of the infantile left has won the day on the cultural side. They haven’t yet carried the field on the political power side and I suspect things will not work out as they envisioned. But we are at that Manichean point that they claim they hate, but in fact support–the Us against Them fight. What’s coming will be ugly.

You Can’t Persuade a Liberal

Some years ago I had a neighbor who was a classic modern liberal (a Smith college gal). We were good neighbors to each other: always cordial, even friendly. But political discussions were tough to say the least–she would become very frustrated with my libertarian views and arguments.

It’s notable that we were always respectful when we talked politics–never a raised voice, which is rare today. I suppose it’s that willingness to listen to the other guy that led to a real honesty of views.

Anyway, at some point I asked Jane (not her real name) what she saw as good in our nation. Her answer was enlightening:

“The only real good I see in America is the potential to become a decent nation.”

Now a lot of folks will fall into the puerile statement that we aren’t perfect. That is a trivial axiom–completely meaningless since by definition, nothing can be perfect. But what most liberals who shout that mean is that the US is far less perfect than many other nations. So I asked Jane if she thought that this was the case.

She replied, “I believe many, if not most other nations are morally superior to the US. Even, or rather specifically, socialist and communist countries are superior, though they may be less desirable to live in, because their stated goals are ones with which I identify.”

And there you have it–when the measure is one of intent rather than result, there can be no legitimate argument. It’s a sad situation to me. I’m a pretty strong libertarian, but told one leftie friend that if the early claims about Obamacare were to hold true, I would have to give it my support–pragmatism should override ideology. But I also told him that I had little hope for anything but a disaster in general quality, availability, and cost, all heaped on top of government inefficiency.

Time will tell who is predicting accurately. If the left has called it right–I’ll concede. But if I’ve called it correctly, you can bet the farm my friend will not.

Funny that.

Teachers Then, Teachers Now

This is a bit of a long story, but please bear with me.

I was raised in a liberal home. My father was a socialist, no ifs ands or buts–he believed that free markets were the law of the jungle and that government would could provide for us all if the means of production were nationalized. Mom, for the most part, was a Scoop Jackson democrat, but had no problem with the myths of FDR and government efficacy. Through my school years, until an epiphany in grad school, I was highly socialistic, even borderline commie, through I never fell into the hatred of our own that ran through so many of my leftie friends.

We lived in a small south-western Virginia town–remote, even somewhat backwoods, through not “Coal Miner’s Daughter” country. The school was, to be blunt, not urbane. In this environment, my views were not exactly the norm though, to be fair, I wasn’t mistreated in any way.

In my senior year, I took a government course–something that would have been called “Civics” in other schools. I can still see our teacher–a 30-something, thin, school-teacher looking guy. Unremarkable, even nerdy looking…and a great teacher. Along with teaching us–yes, the man actually taught–how the government worked, he included classes on debating and false arguments. It was during those sessions that I would invariably get into rather heated arguments with some of the students–my liberal views could elicit strong reactions. Throughout this class, I was convinced that our teacher agreed with me, though he never took any side: he simply maintained a proper order between us.

Some years later, when I was in college, I ran into him and we got into a long discussion on politics. Now here’s the point–he was literally a John Bircher. This guy made Ann Coulter look like a New Dealer. And he never let on in class what his views were.

I thought about that some years later when my daughter was having trouble in a class with a highly political teacher. My (now) libertarian politics were causing problems for her because, as any child will do, she would try to take my position on issues–issues than were inappropriate for a 3rd grade class. Since the teacher was very popular with the kids–even my daughter adored him–my child became a pariah. At one point I mentioned to him where I grew up and said, “I never knew how any of my Southern teachers voted. I can tell you how every one of my daughter’s teachers vote Think about that.”

He relented, not because of my arguments, but because of the price she was paying, but the thought still comes to me. Those Southern small-town teachers were more professional than virtually every teacher I met in New England.

Think about that.

Veterans Day

I entered the Navy as a nuke officer in 1974; that time when the military was very much NOT respected by the clever class–the common attitude was that only losers or psychos were in the military. Even the mother of a good friend asked me how I could join “the enemy.”

It wasn’t the nicest of times.

Fast forward to the present. Now most libs–not all, but most–hide their disdain for us, if for no other reason than that some push-back occurred. Of course, the end of the draft helped a lot–let’s face it: what would the response be if the slackers and adolescent 20-somethings faced a requirement to get through boot camp…it’s would not be pretty. We’re a true professional military now; some good things about that, but some bad as well. I won’t bore you with a discourse on the need for the citizen soldier–it’s the mainstay of a free people, but let that go for another day.

What this is about is the ubiquitous “Thank you for your service,”…on Veterans Day, it’s becomes nearly universal. I know folks mean well by it, but frankly I take it as trivial at best (rather like “Have a nice day”) and patronizing at worst.

On Veterans Day we get to see the public shows–cliches spoken and poses struck, usually by folks who’ve never carried the arms nor sworn the oath. It’s a pretty image and has some worth if it drives some consideration of those who uphold our Constitution. But in truth, the only respect we crave is the respect of our brothers in arms–we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

Kipling had it right,

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Open Classrooms Again…and Again, and Again

We have a local elementary school that is going through a massive remodeling and expansion (the justification of which is based on outright lies from the school board) which includes combining classes into a semi-open classroom format. Eventually they plan to extend the openness across all of the grades.

This year has seen that first step with grades 1 and 2 being together as well as grades 3 and 4.

It’s already showing problems.

Which brings me to the great part of the story: Adele (not her real name).

Adele was a huge supporter of the bond issue and the increased spending on the school where her 2 children go. Living very near the school itself, she proudly proclaimed her support for all of the initiatives, letting those of us who pointed out problems with the plan know that she had deeper feelings than we. And her moral view is more clear, her values higher, and her general nobility superior. This is NOT an exaggeration, by the way.

So now that the new plans have been partially implemented for the last 2 months? Adele is strongly considering home schooling her kids. She’s very concerned with the unruliness of the classrooms and what her kids are actually (not) learning. She doesn’t share this with the community as a whole, just quietly with individuals she knows.

But those of us who predicted accurately are moral inferiors.


All Aboard the Grievance Train

I was writing on a comment thread about the general efficacy of gun laws–no firebombs or partisan stuff. Got called every type of name you can imagine by a vastly superior professorette who let me know that data and reason do not apply in her “reality.” If she is to be believed, she’s tenured at a major university in…gender studies. So I simply said that she possesses a PhD in inconsequential Studies, produces nothing of value–no advancement of science, no expansion of knowledge. But she IS a fireman aboard the grievance train.

Got unfriended by the FB person who started the conversation.

Was it something I said?

Laws of Human Dynamics

1. FN’s First Law of Human Dynamics–Within a standard deviation above the norm of intellect, people will believe that a statement of an axiom is a reflection of deep understanding and reason.

Lemma 1: Most people will see some moral aspect to an axiom.

2. FN’s Second Law of Human Dynamics–all human activity involves various states of inefficiency and lost energy. This increase in entropy is directly proportional to the number of people engaged in a specific action. Government involvement multiplies this entropic loss by several factors.

3. FN’s Law of Human Uncertainly (or the Human Uncertainty Principle)–No 2 people can develop the same well-ordering of outcomes.

Corollary: There are no perfect solutions to any human issue. Circumstances, perceptions, and moral principles determine the impossibility of viewing with complete clarity and objectivity the same outcome or circumstance.

4. Spite Principle–a large portion of any population will refuse a significant improvement in social outcomes, if the implementation involves actions opposed by their world-view.

Lemme 1: Large numbers of people will embrace personal harm if they see it as harming people they dislike.

5. FN’s Law Of “Shoulds” : People maintain a limitless list of “shoulds” that are unobtainable.

Lemma 1: “Shoulds” will invariably be used to obstruct sound, achievable policy.

On Arming Teachers

There was a post on FB that stated that 73% of teachers oppose the move to arm teachers. I responded that the percent probably tracks with party affiliation–most teachers lean dem. Immediately I got a virtue-signaling reply about it being life or death, not dem/repub.

Really? We can’t just make an observation–one which turned out to be near dead-nuts–72% of dems oppose arming teachers–without the secular sanctimony?

Allowing teachers to carry arms (I don’t know of anyone who’s proposing that they be required to carry) is a debatable issue. Certainly there are safety issues about firearms in the school beyond the function as a deterrent or a defense, and I say this as a gun-wacko myself (check my previous posts). But the fact is there a substantial perceived risk vs reality that is driving policies through emotion rather than reason. Sigh.

How about this–try to speak of facts or reasonable predictions over calling me nazi, racist, homophobe, sexist, fascist, etc. I will refrain from calling you a moron (even if you are) if you refrain from calling me evil.