Category Archives: Uncategorized


I support medical marijuana, but only if properly regulated. My impression is that it is not properly regulated in California, so I need to look at the other states that have approved it to see who does a good job. I think something like the Michigan version is good.

[Note: This has been, and should continue to be a state issue, but it has federal implications because marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law.]

I am not generally in favor of allowing it for recreational use, but think that criminal penalties for minor possession should be reduced to the level of a misdemeanor. This is generally the case in Kentucky, where position of small amounts (less than 8 ounces) is a class B misdemeanor, punishable with a fine or up to 45 days in jail, or both. (Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 218A.1422.) It is also a crime to cultivate and traffic the drug.

I don’t know if it should be removed from the Federal Controlled Substance list, but it certainly shouldn’t be a Class 1 drug. It should probably go way down the list, which would allow more testing of its use for medicinal purposes.

Finally, I support current legislation to allow the growing and production of industrial hemp. There are not many times when I can say that I agree with Sen. Paul & McConnell, but this is one of them.


Medical Marijuana Pro-Con at

1-800 Medical Marijuana at

Marijuana Policy Project at

Environmental Regulations

Conservatives like to complain about environmental regulation and the burdens they place on business and the economy. In order to fully discuss issues relating to the environment we need to discuss the costs, reasons, and efficacy of environmental regulations.

Let’s start the discussion with a broad hypothetical: an industrial facility that emits pollutants into the environment. The first question to ask is whether this is a problem or not. It depends on what is being emitted. Let’s just say that it is smoke from burning coal for power, and the smoke is full of soot and carbon and sulfur and nitrogen and mercury (and lots of other toxins). And let’s just say, for the sake of the hypothetical (though it is not hypothetical it is a true fact) that many of those pollutants are quite harmful and can kill if breathed over a long period of time. I would suggest, and I think that most people agree, that this is a problem. Unconstrained emission of dangerous pollution is a problem. That leads to the next question: what to do about the emission of pollutants?

Let’s use a different hypothetical to address this issue: let’s say that a factory dumps a harmful liquid effluent waste into the river. Is this a problem? If the pollution is killing fish or making the water undrinkable, that is clearly a problem for the people downstream from the factory. Let’s deal with the issue of the property rights of the people downstream, which are known as riparian rights. If the factory is making the water downstream undrinkable or killing the fish, the land owners downstream are having their property rights harmed. They have a legal right to be compensated for that harm. At common law they could sue for damages, which would be measured by the economic harm they suffered. If the damage is ongoing it is also possible to sue for an injunction. An injunction is an equitable remedy, and while equity is newer (it dates from the 17th Century in England) than the common law (which dates from the 14th Century), it is a well-established and time tested remedy to harm. So historically those directly affected by pollution could bring a legal action to rectify the harm.

Let’s broaden the hypothetical. There are now lots of factories along the river, it is a big river, and it feeds into a big lake. To take it out of the hypothetical we can all it the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Now it’s not just one factory polluting and harming individual property owners along the river banks. It is easy for a downstream property owner to show harm and prove the source when there is one source of the emissions. It is a different task with multiple polluters and many people downstream, and some only subject to indirect harm.

There are a number of possible ways for those who are injured, or feel aggrieved, to vindicate their rights, or to find some sort of solution. We know this because many of these solutions were tried in this country from the 1950’s through the change in environmental laws in the 1970’s, and we’re seeing the same process repeat itself in developing countries like China and India. One solution is litigation. Throughout modern history those who have been harmed can go to court to seek redress. But in a complex situation like I describe above – lots of facilities and lots of people harmed – how do you identify the cause, show the harm, and clearly prove damages? It’s not easy, and the history of the early environmental movement proves this out. It also does not help matters when the factories have money to hire good lawyers and exert political influence (which often subtly influences the legal system) and those who may have been harmed are poor and politically powerless. Litigation (and lobbying, not to mention bribery – not common in the U.S. today, but still quite common around the world) is expensive. So, without regulation, if we rely solely on litigation, there are still costs imposed on business.

Another possible solution is what lawyers call “self-help.” Self-help means taking action outside the legal or political system to resolve the problem. One common self-help solution used in the 1960’s was to plug the discharge pipe and allow the effluent to back up into the factory. This caused anything from a mess on the factory grounds, to the destruction of equipment. There are other forms of self-help, with the most extreme being to burn down the factory. These impose a cost on business: they have to clean up or rebuild factories, repair equipment, and in some cases hire guards to protect the facility.

People are most likely to resort to self- help when they have no other reasonable options. It was used in the 1960’s because it was extremely difficult to prove harm when there were lots of facilities. It was also used because factories (and the companies that own them) often have the money to hire lawyers and thwart litigation. So both litigation and self-help create financial costs and burdens on business.

Another solution is for the parties to appeal to the government for some other solution. Citizens can seek laws that limit discharges that are difficult to identify but that harm large numbers of people. Businesses seek laws to limit legal liability and the costs of litigation. (But here’s the thing, the more businesses successfully limit their exposure to litigation, the fewer fair and legal options available to potentially aggrieved citizens, and the more likely they are to turn to self-help. We see this in China today.) So a compromise is reached. Government imposes a limited range of regulation, and in exchange businesses obtain limits on their liability. If, for example, a business can show that they were complying with environmental regulations they will be immune from a suit for any resulting harm. That is the trade-off: be regulated but limit liability. So perhaps regulation is actually a desirable option. It removes the costs of potential litigation, the cost of potential repairs from self-help activity, and the cost of hiring an ever larger coterie of armed guards. Not a bad trade off. And that, in very broad strokes, was the issue in the late 1960’s, as the Cuyahoga River burned and the government debated regulating factories to protect the environment.

The nation’s first environmental laws, NEPA, created a fairly simple framework. Every facility that emitted pollution, either into the air or water, had to be identified, and the type and extent of their emissions listed. Then, in certain circumstances, they had to use the best available pollution mitigation technology to reduce the total amount of emissions. In a number of cases, however, there was no requirement to immediately install emission control technology. In certain industries, power generation for example, the requirement was that when the facility was upgraded the pollution reduction equipment had to be added. But if it was not upgraded there was no need to add the technology. A few pollutants were deemed so harmful that they had to be eliminated entirely from the discharge. At first this was a huge cost to business, as they were forced to install pollution control technology. But over time pollution mitigation technology became part of the operational machinery, and the costs came down. I should also note that these requirements created an entirely new industry of engineers who designed pollution control technologies, factories that made pollution control equipment, and consultants who help businesses comply with environmental requirements. So while there was a cost to those industries that created pollution (through burning coal for power, for example), entirely new industries were created.

I should also note that there was another cost to this framework. In those industries that were “grandfathered,” meaning they did not have to immediately install new pollution control technology until they modified their equipment, some chose to put off modifying equipment as long as possible. This made economic sense on one hand, because it deferred the cost of the pollution control technology. But it made no economic sense on the other hand, because new more efficient and less polluting operators came along, and they had a cost advantage because they had new and more efficient equipment. This may have reduced the cost of environmental compliance for some industries, but at the cost of technological competitiveness.

So there was and is clearly a cost to business for environmental regulations. But what conservatives fail to note is that there are costs to business without environmental regulations, and that the regulations created a trade-off, which was the near elimination of self-help (and the costs associated thereto) and the significant reduction in the cost of litigation (and those costs).

This was roughly the history of most environmental laws in the United States and Europe in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and it is the current path of environmental regulation in emerging economies like China and India.

When conservatives complain about environmental regulations the question should be, what is their proposed alternative? Do they want to eliminate regulation and return to litigation? Would that be less expensive for business? Or would they be constantly tied up with environmental laws suits, and eventually bankrupted by litigation costs? Or are they proposing a double whammy: remove regulation and limit legal liability? What do they think would happen then? Would the people who are harmed by pollution simply roll over and take it? My guess is that people would once again resort to self-help. This guess is supported by actual history and experience. And would it really be cheaper to deal with self-help? In some cases it might be, but in others it might not be. I suspect that in most cases it would be far more expensive.

The other question is whether there are different possible models of environmental regulation. What we currently have is a total ban on a hand full of toxic pollutants, and rules requiring limits on other pollutants, which are achieved by requiring that facilities use the best available technology to mitigate emissions.

Is there a better way to limit or reduce pollution? One way is to set strict limits on what can be emitted by certain facilities and certain industries. This would clearly reduce pollutions, but is probably the most intrusive and costly solution. For that reason it was rejected in the United States and largely throughout the world.

Are there other solutions? One idea was to try to apply free market principles of supply and demand to pollution and pollution control. That was done by setting a total upper level of allowable emissions based on the current level of emission. Each facility was then given a quota based on their current emission. If one company wanted to expand its operations it had to find another company that had reduced its emissions, and basically buy the second companies excess emission quota. This had the effect of creating a financial incentive for companies to reduce emission, since they could sell their excess quota. This was tried in the 1990’s to eliminate “acid rain.” It worked brilliantly, far better than expected. It resulted in faster reduction in sulfur and nitrogen based emissions and a cost far less than expected. Because it worked so well, and because it was based on market principles, it was widely embraced by the Republican Party. It was called Cap and Trade, and the McCain – Palin campaign supported it as the best method of pollution control. Unfortunately, after Barack Obama won the Presidency, and endorsed Cap and Trade to reduce carbon emissions, the Republican Party did a 180 and rejected Cap and Trade.

In my view, and based on history, Cap and Trade is the most effective method of pollution control. But because Cap and Trade has become toxic (pun intended), the current hodge-podge of regulations we have is the most effective and relatively cost effective system available.

The First And Second Amendments Compared

The Second Amendment states: “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.”

Supporters of gun rights quote the Second Amendment and act as if it says that there can be no law restricting the right to own a weapon. They read the phrase “shall not be infringed” as an absolute.
This sounds nice, but the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), noted that even the Second Amendment is subject to reasonable regulation. “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” The court noted that nothing “in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places … or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Some supporters of gun rights act surprised at this concept. Do they believe that the rights protected under the Constitution are not subject to any restriction? Do they pay attention? All rights are subject to some level of restriction.

The best comparison, in my view, with restrictions of supposedly unrestrictable Constitutional rights, involves the First Amendment right to free speech. Were you to ask most people, I believe most people would say that this means that citizens have the right to say anything they want, without government restriction. But the reality is that there are many restrictions on this right.

The First amendment, in pertinent part, states: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ….”

Despite this fairly firm statement that Congress shall make NO LAW, there are lots of laws restricting the freedom of speech.

Copyright laws restrict the ability to speak freely by limiting a speakers us of other’s words or ideas. Defamation laws limit the ability to speak freely by allowing litigation over the use of certain words or ideas to describe another person. Obscenity laws limit the ability to depict certain things, thus limiting the right and ability to speak freely. There are also innumerable “time, place, and manner” restrictions on the ability to speak at will. Communities have noise ordinances that prevent a person from expressing their political views from a sound truck in a neighborhood in the middle of the night. Generally those are broad noise ordinances that prevent any loud noises in residential areas at night, but the impact is that it limits all forms of speech, even political speech. Communities have ordinances to deal with parades and protests. They can’t be stopped, but the community has a right to manage this activity in order to limit public disruption. And there are also a wide variety of broadcast restrictions on content broadcast over the public airwaves. There are also a whole host of laws regulating speech as action, what Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to as “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” A person can claim they were exercising their right to free speech when they slip a robbery note to a bank teller (it has happened), or provoked a fist fight.

So, the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” but the reality is that Congress has passed lots and lots of laws abridging the freedom of speech. The question is whether those are reasonable restrictions on the right to speak freely. The same question should apply to second Amendment rights. Is the restriction or limitation reasonable?

One could get into a linguistic argument over whether “shall not be infringed” is more or less definite that “make no law abridging.” Is “shall not be infringed” more definite than “make no law abridging”? Perhaps it is, but perhaps it is not. I would argue that “make no law” is more definite because “no” means “no,” while “infringing” is a legal term that implicitly implies that there is behavior that does not infringe. Infringe, by definition, incorporates limitations.

Despite what seems like clear and absolute language it is important to note that throughout American history there have been laws that have restricted the freedom of speech. The First Congress, with a number of framers present, enacted the Bill of Rights, but also passed laws that imposed restrictions on both speech and firearms, so one could argue that, despite the absolutist language, no one took those words to mean absolutely no restrictions. The reality is that, from the beginning, Congress and the courts allowed “reasonable” restrictions of all constitutionally guaranteed rights.

This raises a second argument frequently mentioned by gun right advocates: the slippery slope. Supporters of gun rights say that if Congress limits the right to have assault weapons, the next step will be more restrictions, then more and more, until all our rights are lost.

This sounds like a logical and reasonable argument, but the problem is that it fails the history test. Rights have always ebbed and flowed. Since the nation’s founding there have been periods of increased restriction, and then periods of easing of restrictions. Let’s look briefly at the history of restrictions on the right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The Constitution says that Congress shall make “no law” abridging the freedom of speech. But in the 1790’s Congress passed the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to criticize the government. This was a clear restriction on the right to speak freely. That law was eventually repealed. The law was part of the intense hostility between the Federalists, under President John Adams, and his nemesis Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonian Democrats, and when Jefferson won the Presidency in 1800 his allies in Congress overturned the Sedition Act. (See, “What Kind of Nation” by James F. Simon, 2002.) This was only the first of a number of laws directly limiting the right of people to speak freely, and I’m not just talking about the laws set out above. Most of these laws were passed during periods of war or impending national emergency. President Abraham Lincoln imprisoned newspaper editors, in clear violation of the First Amendment. Congress passed a Sedition Law during the First World War, and a number of loyalty oaths and laws during the second Red Scare of the 1950’s. There have also been numerous state laws restricting pornography, and these laws were essentially nationalized when the U.S. Postal Service refused to allow such material in the mails.

According to the slippery slope theory, the slippery slope only runs one way. So once Congress passes these sorts of laws they will only pass more, and eventually – and inevitably – there will be more restrictions.

But guess what? Reality was starkly different. Congress has passed laws, then overturned them. Or more to the point, Congress has passed laws, and in the last fifty years of so the Courts have overturned them. So, if anything the slippery slope, particularly for speech, has gone the other way. Speech has become nearly unconstrained (except for a few reasonable restrictions set out above). Courts shave struck down most restrictions on speech, and now just about anything goes. While there is still no nudity on broadcast television, there is certainly a great deal of sex and vulgarity. In fact I must note the irony that the same people complaining about government restrictions in one area (gun rights) are complaining about the lack of government restrictions in the area of speech and the First Amendment.

Gun restrictions have also ebbed and flowed. There have been various gun restrictions throughout American history. States regulated guns to varying degrees before the Civil War. After the Civil War there was a great deal of concern that the 14th Amendment would force the states (primarily the Southern States) to allow the newly freed slaves to own guns. The most significant national gun restrictions were passed during the Depression. The most significant was the National Firearms Act of 1934, which prevented people from owning fully automatic weapons. This is enacted, in part, because of the crime wave caused during prohibition, and particularly Al Capone’s St Valentine’s Day massacre.

Since then, gun restrictions are often proposed in the immediate aftermath of a visible gun incident, such as the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan in 1981. The Brady Bill, which took years to pass, was named after former Reagan Press Secretary James Brady, who was grievously injured during the Reagan assassination attempt. Not long after the Brady Bill was signed into law, Congress passed an Assault Weapon Ban. Clinton signed this into law in 1994, but it expired in 2004, and has not been replaced. The simple fact that this law was allowed to expire, shows the fallacy of this slippery slope argument.

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People

This bumper sticker statement implies two closely related ideas. First it implies that all gun deaths are intentional, and second, if there were no gun the killer would simply find another weapon.
Let me start with the first point. If guns don’t kill people, people kill people, that means that every time a gun is used to kill someone it is intentional. Let’s address the idea that every gun death is intentional.

Here are a couple recent news stories to help flesh out this idea:

“Toddler shoots 5-year-old” A three year old in South Carolina shot and killed his five year old cousin with a gun.

The tables were turned in Kentucky when a “5-year-old shoots toddler sister to death.” On May 1, 2013, a five year old boy playing with a “Crickett” riffle, shot his little sister.

These are tragic incidents, and I don’t want to make light of them, but in my view the GDKP – PKP statement trivializes these deaths. The statement implies that the three year old in South Carolina would have toddled out into the garage and grabbed a crowbar to beat his cousin to death, if the gun hadn’t been available. Clearly that’s absurd. Clearly there are cases of accidental gun deaths.
According to the CDC, approximately 600 people die from accidental gun use every year. [See:,] These are people cleaning guns, dropping guns, inadvertently hitting the trigger, as well as small children who use the gun not realizing that it is a real weapon and not a toy.

This blithe bumper sticker statement ignores hundreds of unintentional or accidental gun deaths a year. Those deaths, those people, don’t seem to count for many advocates of gun rights.

The GDKP – PKP statement also implies that there is a level of murderousness that we simply can’t control. It implies that in every case where a gun is used to kill someone, the murdered would have simply used a different weapon, a knife, a golf club, a hammer, a rope, his bare hands.

It is true that people kill, and they do everywhere. They kill with guns, they kill with knives, the kill with bombs, they kill with their bare hands. For the GDKP – PKP statement to be true the murder rate should be roughly the same everywhere in the world. But it’s not. It varies dramatically by country.

Here’s a chart from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
[Murder Rates by country: ]

According to the UN Office On Drugs and Crime the worldwide average murder rate is 6.9 per 100,000 people. [, citing UNODC statistics, which were verified]

This rate varies dramatically be region. It’s 17 per in Africa, 3.1 per in Asia, 3.5 per in Europe, 20 per in South America, and 3.9 per in North America. The U.S. has a pretty high murder rate for a developed country, at 4.7 per 100,000. In fact it has the highest murder rate of any of the G20 countries, except for Russia.

Clearly murder is inherent in the human condition. Some people are enraged, others are depraved or unconstrained by the normal bonds of human behavior, and they kill. But the fact that murder rates vary dramatically by country indicates that social conditions affect the likelihood of killing.

One point to note is that the murder rate does not correlated directly to the rate of gun ownership, though there is some relation. Europe has a very low murder rated and a low gun ownership rate. But South American has a very high murder rate but a low gun ownership rate. [See] and]

The main controlling factor for the murder rate appears to be level of economic development: the higher the level of economic development, the lower the murder rate. The main exception is the United States.

There is one other point to note: The US a very high gun death rate, at 10.0 per 100,000. This is much higher than the murder rate because most gun deaths are suicides.

I find the GDKP – PKP argument silly and disrespectful of the intelligence of the American people. I find that it is unhelpful in the public debate.

That being said, there are valid arguments in favor of gun ownership, and it is for these reasons that I support the rights of Americans to own firearms.

Guns are important for self-defense. There may be an argument about actual numbers, but there is absolutely no doubt that there are many cases where homeowners have protected themselves and their families with a gun. It is well known that thieves tend to target houses where no one is home for fear of being shot by a homeowner. So guns are absolutely used for self-defense.

Guns have been safely used for hunting and sporting uses by millions of Americans for hundreds of years. In fact the vast majority of gun owners are sensible and safe.

Guns are part of American culture and American history. This is a true statement, and part of a valid argument in favor of Second Amendment rights. Although the history argument brings up issues of gun ownership related to free blacks before the civil war and freed slaves after the war. And discussion of culture raise issues of the negative impact as well as the positive impact on American culture.

The reality is that millions of Americans safely own and safely use guns every day. The reality is also that only a tiny tiny fraction of the public misuses firearms. We should not let the irresponsible behavior of a small hand full of people impact the rights of the majority.

I’m sure that some people will suggest that I oppose gun rights, or support restrictions on Second Amendment rights, but this is untrue. I have no interest or intention in changing gun laws. Despite some recent high profile cases the rates of gun deaths in this country are largely static. Crime rates have been coming down in the nation over the last twenty years of so, and rates have inched down for murders.

My argument here is for a sane, sensible, and reasonable discussion of these rights, and not to advocate for restrictions on these rights.

The Science, Sociology, and Logic of Abortion

In order to explain my support for abortion rights I’ll address a couple of common statements from the anti-abortion movement. First a couple of bumper sticker statements: “It’s a Child, Not a Choice” and “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” These imply a number of things, but primarily that a fetus is equivalent to a living child from the point of conception. This implies that life begins at conception. I don’t know as a theological or philosophical matter when life begins, but I do know from some research into the medical literature that the vast majority of fertilized eggs do not become full term babies. According to the best statistics I can find, barely 50% of all impregnated eggs adhere to the wall of the uterus and result in a full term pregnancy. Some statistics indicate that far less than 50% of fertilized eggs eventually adhere to the uterus, and as many as 20% of “known” pregnancies spontaneously abort. The reason for this low success rate is that the process of gene splitting and differentiation that occurs in the zygote is highly complex and does not always work correctly.

For Information on Miscarriage and Spontaneous Abortions See: MedlinePlus: Miscarriage []

I have a hard time reconciling the theory that life begins at conception with the medical fact that, due to the complexities of human genetic development, less than half of all fertilized eggs become a living child. The best we can say is that a potential life begins at conception.

A related fact is that it is virtually impossible for a preterm baby to survive if born before 24 weeks of gestation. There is one recorded example of a baby being born at 22 weeks, and surviving, but only one. This means that a fetus is not viable, and is not a life independent and separate of the mother, until after 24 weeks. The Supreme Court has said that abortions should be available before fetal viability, which means that abortions must be available before the 24th week, and conversely states can begin restricting abortions after 24 weeks. It is also important to understand that a significant number of preterm or premature babies have significant health issues. So “life” is extremely tenuous in the early stages of pregnancy.

See: Healthy Children: Premature Babies at

Because of this, I believe that the real issue is balancing the rights and interests of the potential life of the fetus against the rights and interests of the life of the woman carrying the baby.
It is important to understand at this point that making abortion illegal will not make it go away. Abortion has existed since the beginning of humanity, and it exists in every place on earth. Abortions happen in countries where it is widely accessible, and it happens in countries where it is illegal.

Abortion exists because unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist. Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist because of human nature. Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist because people are not always careful when they have sex. That is a fact of human life that has been with us since the dawn of humanity. So unless you change the laws of human nature, you will not make unplanned and unwanted pregnancies go away. And as long as there are unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, abortion will exist.

The reality of human nature is that some of the women who have unwanted pregnancies will seek to end them. History and human experience bear this out. If these women are forced to end these pregnancies through illegal means, they will do so. And in many cases illegal abortions are unsafe. And unsafe abortions frequently result in the death of the woman. We saw that in this nation before abortion was legalized, and we see it around the world where abortions are illegal.

Making abortion illegal will not make it go away, but it will make it unsafe, and making abortion illegal will result in the death of women. We saw that in this country before abortion was made legal, and we see that in nations around the world where it is illegal.

The other option for women seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy is that they will go to places where abortion is legal. This will mean that abortions will be yet another thing that only the well-off can afford.

So if the question is balancing the rights and interests of the potential life of the fetus against the rights and interests of a living, breathing human being, I think the scales tip towards the rights of the living human being. I believe that we need to be more concerned about the rights of the living human than the rights of the potential human. This means that, whether we like it or not, abortion needs to be safe. And the only way to make is safe is to keep it legal.

That being said, I don’t oppose common sense restrictions on abortions, like bans on late term abortions. The problem is that most of the current crop of legislation restricting abortion rights are not about making abortion safer, or stopping it in extreme cases, but are attempts to create such onerous restrictions that effectively end abortion. The best current example is the attempt to restrict abortion after 20 weeks, rather than 24 weeks. This seems reasonable, but the problem is that most women do not realize that they are pregnant until 20 weeks.

Here’s another bumper sticker: “It’s a Child, Not a Choice.” I think we need to address this idea of “choice” not only in relation to abortion but in many areas of life. In many cases in life the choices we face are not always good. The bumper sticker logic implies that the choice is between a really good thing (a bouncing baby!!!) and a really bad thing (murdering your baby.) But this is nonsense. In most cases the choice is not, metaphorically, between cake and ice cream. In many cases the choice is not even between a good option and a bad option. It is not, metaphorically, between the lady and the tiger. Some times in life the choices are bad, and the choice is between bad and worse, or even between bad and awful. Sometimes the choice is, metaphorically, between being hit head on by the truck in the wrong lane, and swerving and going into the river. Sometimes all the choices are bad and we have to cut our losses.

I do not support abortion because I think it is a good choice, but because I recognize that in some situations it is the least bad option. There are situations where a fetus is deformed and will be born only to live a short time. It seems cruel to force a parent to carry a child to term only to watch that child die. There are situations where the pregnancy would endanger the life or well-being of the mother. There are situations, like rape or incest, where it would an unspeakable cruelty to force a woman to carry the child of her abuser. And there are also many situations where a baby would cause untold problems for the mother or family. It seems cruel beyond words to me to force someone to bear and deliver a child against their will.

I also believe, as I have mentioned in a previous essay, that we strip women of part of their humanity if we pass laws that control their bodies and their lives. If we believe in freedom we have to give people freedom and trust that they won’t, in the main, misuse that freedom. And because some people misuse their freedoms doesn’t mean we should restrict freedom for everyone else.

Abortion and the Decline of the United States

Some conservative Christians blame the Roe v. Wade decision for the decline of the United States. They not only pin what they see as the social decline of the nation on the Supreme Court decision, but they also blame it for what they see as the economic decline as well as the loss in international stature.

At the end of the Second World War the United States stood astride the globe as an economic and moral colossus. Our industrial might, our military strength, and our high moral standing saved the world from truly evil forces. We were unrivaled on the world stage. But that seemed to change in the 1960’s, as the culture changed, and as the war in Viet Nam dragged on. But the wheels seemed to truly come off in the early 1970’s.

Roe v. Wade didn’t necessarily create moral degeneration, but it certainly put the government imprimatur on the existing cultural slide. Government may not have created the “anything goes” culture of the 1960’s, but Roe v. Wade was certainly a stamp of approval. Conservatives blame the degraded nature of our society on a wave of immorality and licentiousness that peaked, in their view, with the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

This almost makes sense on a very superficial level. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) was handed down in 1973. That’s the same year that the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, and essentially “lost” the war, the first war in U.S. history that the nation lost. The Arab – OPEC – Oil embargo began that same year, which threw the nation into economic turmoil and was the beginning of nearly a decade of economic stagnation and inflation. The sense of change, of loss, was palpable in the early 1970’s, and it hardly seems happenstance that it began after Roe. The rest of the seventies were a pretty nasty time, economically, politically, and culturally. (I know, I was in high school and college then. The clothes alone were enough to make your skin crawl.)

The American economy entered a serious slump starting in the 1970’s, and except for a few good years during the Reagan administration, was in the doldrums until the 1990’s and the Clinton boom. And now it’s back in the doldrums again.

After the loss in Viet Nam, the American dominance of world affairs came to an end. The emotional nadir may have come when a group of scruffy Iranian college students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. American was no longer feared, and barely respected.

Society has changed dramatically in the last forty years, and the culture has become debased and degraded. Women were liberated, there was a sexual revolution, and now movies and music are drenched with sex, and pornography is everywhere. Along with that cultural decline, all social cohesion and a shared sense of purpose are gone. We are divided by more things – cultural, social, economic – than we are bound by. Our politics have decline to the point of near perversity. Our elected officials are corrupt and sleazy, and partisanship is toxic.

In the minds of many social conservatives it all started with Roe v. Wade. Certainly some conservatives date it a decade earlier with the Supreme Court decision banning prayer in public schools, which began the decade of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But other conservatives date it nearly a decade before that, with the liberal Warren Court and a whole host of liberal civil rights decisions, which set the stage for everything else. (They don’t want to say Brown v. Board of Education because of its shadows of racism, but you can almost hear references to it.)

This is an interesting viewpoint, and there is no doubt that the chronologies match up. Because of this the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand. But the time line ignores the fact that the rest of the world actually exists. It isn’t just a backdrop for the American drama.

The Arab Oil embargo, for example, was the result of tensions in the Middle East over Israel, and over America’s support for Israel. Yes certainly there is an American element, but the conflict between the Arab nations and Israel go back to the founding of Israel in 1948. It was, and is, a longstanding conflict based on religious and historic tensions that have nothing to do with American domestic policy. The roots of the Iranian Revolution go back at least to the mid-1950’s, when the United States supported the Shah of Iran during the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister.

The supposed “decline” of the American economy, starting in the 1970’s, was a product of the fact that the Asian and European economies were finally and fully rebuilt after World War Two, and were now competing with America on an equal footing. The reality was that the American economy was still growing at a healthy pace in the 1970’s, but much of the developed world had now caught up.The “decline” was in relative terms, not in real terms.

The loss of manufacturing jobs since the 1990s is a product of the rise of automation and the development and implementation of computers, as well as the changes in the Chinese economy, which began in 1978. To blame, for example, the loss of American manufacturing dominance on abortion is to ignore the contributions of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in ushering in the computer revolution, and to assume that Chinese Premier Deng Xioaping decided to allow private ownership of business in China in response to American social policy.

This view seems to presume that the United States is the center of the world, if not the universe, and that other nations only make decisions based on a keen observation of American public policy. This view presupposes that inventors and innovators are either motivated directly or indirectly by changes in the American culture. It’s a surprisingly simplistic and childish view of the world, of the economy, and of international affairs.

This also only works if you agree with the conservative view of American decline. Many of us don’t. Most liberals, in fact, probably think that, all things considered, the nation is in much better shape today than in the 1950’s. Certainly the economy is not growing as it was in the immediate post war period, and not producing blue collar jobs that pay middle class wages, but beyond that, when you look at things like life expectancy, standards of living, and opportunities for all Americans (and not just white men) things are actually pretty good. The world is a much safer, fairer, and saner place. We don’t deny that there are problems, mostly with the economy, but we place the blame for these problems on different things than conservatives. (And some blame conservative economic policy, but that is for another essay.)

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There is a quote misattributed to de Tocqueville that says that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

This concept, if not these words, underlie a great deal of the desire of the anti-abortion movement to change abortion laws. They believe that abortion is a moral stain on the nation, and even if it did not directly lead to the decline of the nation, it creates a deep moral fissure that must be healed.

The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that abortion is evil, and that it can someone be stopped. But as I noted above, abortion existed even before it was made legal, and making it illegal will not make it stop, it will only make is unsafe, which is a form of evil all its own.

The reality, in my view, is that there are two competing rights: the rights of the living woman to control her life and her body (a thing we might call freedom) and the rights of the unborn person. As noted in a previous essay [here] the unborn person is only a potential person until a certain point in the term of the pregnancy. So we are balancing freedom against potential life. Finding the right balance is in no way an easy task, and I’m not suggest that it is. It is a very difficult decision, but I think that, in the land of the free, we need to defer to freedom. Perhaps that is not a good choice, but it is a realistic choice.

Campaign Opening Statement

Note: I am not currently running for Congress. I withdrew from the race in 2014 because of family medical issues. But I am contemplating running again in 2016. One of the main issues that I may address is the nearly complete breakdown of the American political process. Partisanship has gotten so extreme that nearly nothing gets done in Washington and many state capitals. The focus of my campaign, should I run, will be my plan to end partisanship. To read more about that click: Plan to End Partisanship.

In the meantime, here’s the opening page of my previous campaign web-site:

The Four Pillars of My Campaign

The main goal of my campaign is to try to find ways to improve the American economy. In order to get there we must fix many problems with our government, and one possible way to do that is to reform our electoral process. This will be one of the central features of my campaign, but it is part of a broader agenda, which is based on four main principles. These four principles are derived from a detailed analysis of the key components of successful modern economies. The goal of my campaign is find ways to improve the American economy by addressing these four issues.

To read more: What Works. Campaign Opening Statement. Old Front Page

1.   Science is the Foundation of the Modern Economy

The industrial revolution began when James Watt applied Boyles Law to create an effective steam pump. Since then technology has driven the economy. From James Watt to Steve Jobs, technological advances have created vast new industries and opportunities, and all have relied upon scientific principles. We need Representatives in Washington who understand this, and who support science in education, government research, and public policy.

The read more: Science and the Modern World; Science and the Foundation of the Economy, Science and Government Support, Science and the Economy, No Solyndra

2,   Tolerance is Good for Business

The Renaissance began in Italian port cities because they were open to Arab traders who brought new products and new ideas. Since then, those societies that have been most open to new people and new ideas have been the most economically successful. History clearly shows that tolerance is a key component of a strong economy. We need government policies that allow everyone to fully contribute to the economy, and fully participate in every aspect of life.

To read more: The Market has Spoken, The Cost of Discrimination, Tolerance is good for the Economy, Immigration Reform

3.   A Responsive Government is Vital to a Strong Economy

Since the dawn of political liberalism in the early 18th Century, counties with the most open and responsive governments have had the most dynamic and successful economies. Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, due largely to extreme partisanship, our government has become ineffective and unresponsive to the needs of the people and the economy. It is no coincidence that this period of extreme partisanship and partisan gridlock corresponds with a period of relative economic stagnation. Our government is simply unable to deal effectively with the problems facing the nation. That is why I’m proposing a plan to fundamentally restructure our political and electoral system, as well as a number of other policy changes to reform our political systems.

To read more: Proposal to End Partisanship, Government Reforms

4.   Successful Economies have a Properly Regulated Free Market

Market capitalism is the best system on earth for creating a broad range of goods and services and distributing them to the widest range of people. Market capitalism is the best system on earth for improving the lives and living standards of the greatest number of people. Despite that, the history of modern economies also shows that without some level of government regulation, markets spin out of control, producing vast disparities in wealth, creating market inefficiencies and dislocation, and resulting in social instability. We need Representatives who understand the need for common sense and time tested regulations, and are not beholden to untested and extreme economic theories.

To read more: Red v Blue Economy, What Went Wrong, Ma Bell, Abolish the Fed, So this is Capitalism