Thursday, July 26, 2012


Alright, folks, it is getting into the home stretch of election time. That means I get angry at every political advertisement I see.

There is a very simple reason for this problem. Almost every political campaign (and the arguments of the candidates' supporters) relies on heavy use of persuasive language. These efforts at persuasion invariably rely on logical fallacies. Why? Because the audience usually does not know enough, does not pay close enough attention, or is too emotionally embroiled to notice. Once those argument slip into the debate, emotions run higher and tend to leave the combatants even more emotionally strung out and even less able to form logical arguments. Am I guilty of using such tactics? Absolutely. If I can raise some one else's blood pressure enough that they aren't thinking well, I'll do it. It makes them more likely to be flustered and not notice the weaknesses in my arguments.

But, as a public service, I want to run down some of the most common fallacies I see in politics.

1. The ad hominem-the personal attack. If you don't want to argue the point, just smear the opponent... I'm sure no one will notice you refused to actually answer the question.

2. The appeal to authority-ummm, I'm not really sure, but that guy with a bunch of degrees says this is so. He must be right.

3. The appeal to emotion-to prove myself right, I will make you feel sorry for my side of the argument.

4. Begging the Question-Have you stopped beating your wife? Simply, the question assumes a premise.

5. Confusing Cause and Effect-gun ownership and food poisoning are both rising, therefore, food poisoning causes gun ownership. Or do I have that backwards....

6. The Straw Man-by not supporting gun control, my opponent is putting guns into the hands of criminals...

Those are just a few that stand out, even though the examples are out of my imagination.

For more reading on the subject look here, here, here, or just Google "logical fallacies." Or, if you want Wikipedia, go here and here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affordable Care Act

As I'm sure most of you know, this morning, the Supreme Court upheld the healthcare bill (ACA). From a political philosophy perspective-and this may surprise some of you who know me-I do think the sovereign has the right regulate, even mandate, healthcare coverage. However, that gets very complicated in a dual sovereign system such as the one in the United States. So, you begin to see why I can say the sovereign has the power and right to do this, yet still say the federal government should not. The Constitution was designed to limit the federal power, and leave the rest to the states. (Yes, later the states were limited by the Amendments, etc.) In my opinion, if one of the sovereign States' peoples voted to institute a healthcare system for that State, and could fund it, then more power to them.

All that said, what do I think of the ACA? I (like most of Congress) have not read it. So what the actual changes will be, I can only speculate. But I will predict that it will not have a huge impact on the majority of Americans. I think it is safe to say that most citizens have very little knowledge of what laws are in place that keep things running in the manner we expect, or prevent things from running as well as they could. People just are too oblivious to notice. It will probably be the same with this.

There is one exception: I can expect to make some money off of it. A new bureaucracy will lead to more business for lawyers willing to take on administrative law cases.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Emailed Lobbying

So, I was asked to comment on one of those chain email things about politics. The bold print is part of the legal changes proposed in the email. Everything else is my knee-jerk reaction fired off within a few minutes. Any errors in reasoning are mine and due to not thinking before I type.

1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office. 

Ok, this is doable, I actually like this one. But, no tenure? Stop voting for them.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

So, this is doable as well. But, it will conflict with some of the later proposals.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

Umm, they already do, they just wrote the plan. So, this wouldn't actually change anything.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

I would want to see what the annual rates have actually been. The arguement may just be a red herring if Congress doesn't always vote themselves a pay raise, or if the rates are already lower than this proposal has. Besides, Congressional pay raises already do not take effect for the Congress voting on it. The raise is delayed until the next session, so those voting on it may never benefit from it.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

This presupposes a national health care system, so supporting this either supports Obamacare (or something similar) or supports employees participating in employer sponsored healthcare plans. Umm... Congress then gets to decide what health care plan to offer itself, and this rule does nothing. Nothing except placate people who don't actually know what they are asking for.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

They do, as far as I know. With the obvious exception of the Constitutional ban on arresting Congressmen while Congress is in session.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.

If we want Congressmen to be treated just like everyone else, why give them a massive loophole out of contract law?

Finally, if we don't want career Congressmen, vote them out of office. Isn't that the definition of democracy?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Food for Thought

For any of you with e-readers of some kind (insert unsolicited plug for B&N's Nook here), you should go peruse the archives at Project Gutenberg. It has all sorts of wonderful works that have made their way into the public domain of copyright. Works such as St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company. It also has, to my delight, a number of works by G.K. Chesterton. This gives me the opportunity to read Orthodoxy and Eugenics and Other Evils. The latter piece starts with the following paragraph:
The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air.
That opening paragraph illustrates, far better than I could, why arguments consisting of what may be characterized as "scare tactics" have some merit. It is a statement that is at the core of my reasons for arguing for limitations of government, and why I typically am not in favor of extensions of government power.

I know that I have friends who simply cannot understand my willingness to "prevent people from receiving adequate medical care because they can't afford it" and other such stances to curb social welfare projects. I believe those friends have the best of intentions. Nor am I unsympathetic to the needs of the, for lack of a better word, needy. I simply think that our government is one of strictly confined powers and those bounds should not be exceeded, no matter how good the intentions. (Good Intentions: sponsored by Hell Paving & Asphalt Co.)

Perhaps I could have more fully formed this post before writing, but if I tried to do that, I never would get anything done. That said, as I read more of Eugenics, I will pass on more political/ethical thoughts from the Chesterton/Cramer distillation project. (Ha, evidence of the supreme arrogance of a law student to make that comparison.)