Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Constitutional Contradictions

I’m as much of a fan of the Founding Fathers as anyone but I certainly realize they weren't perfect.  I believe they came up with the best guiding document for government in the history of the world.  But, like the Founders themselves, this document was not meant to be perfect.  What happens when the Constitution disagrees with itself?  I’m going to point out some examples and then hopefully convince you that it is more important to follow principles instead of laws, because principles are always true, while constitutions and laws can, and often do, get it wrong.



The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”.  So basically people don’t have to testify against themselves.  That's good because it gets rid of some coercion!  But then in the Sixth Amendment it states that “the accused shall enjoy the right…to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”.  That means the court can force people to testify to defend the accused.  So, a witness can be forced to testify or else he will be guilty of contempt of court, which is a criminal offense.  Wait, when someone is accused of a crime, don’t they have the right to NOT testify?  This is a paradox and an appeal to the Constitution will not provide the answer. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Can Optimus Prime Defeat Global Warming?

Pollution.  Global warming.  Climate Change.  Scary words, right?  There is a lot of heated debate on these topics.  Emotions run high.  The world hangs in the balance.  Entire economies are at risk.  So what do we make of all this when we try to apply the principles of liberty?  That's a great question, but first, a word about the proper use of force:

The non-aggression principle shows us that it is wrong to initiate force, but you can certainly use force to defend yourself.  So how do you do that if you don’t catch the aggressor in the act?  A jury trial.  Every person certainly has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and we, as a society, have decided that jury trials are the best way to not trample that right.  Therefore, any act that coerces an individual to pay for the damage he has caused must only be carried out after guilt has been proven to a jury, or after the individual has admitted his guilt (or after any arbitration process upon which all involved parties agree).  Any alternative to that would be presuming guilt and violating the rights of that individual.  Now, on to the imaginary scenario!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Han Solo is Not Allowed to Spy, and Neither is the Government

Since island scenarios usually provide helpful examples of human interaction in order to conceptualize just or unjust laws, let's imagine four people on an island:  Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO.  

 


On this island, R2-D2 and Chewie often correspond through letters but they speak different languages and find it difficult, if not impossible, to read each other’s letters.  In order to solve the problem, they hire C-3PO to be a translator.  Each letter gets sent to C-3PO first and C-3PO then translates the letter and delivers it to the recipient.  In this scenario, R2-D2 and Chewie both agreed to C-3PO’s terms and let him keep copies of the letters for himself in order to study and improve his translating abilities.  The three of them are happy with this arrangement.  But Han is also on this island and Han believes in the need for absolute security against any possible threat, whether internal or external.  Because of this, Han demands that C-3PO hand over copies of all the correspondence that he collects.  Essentially, Han is demanding that C-3PO hand over his personal property.  Is this a just demand?  What if Chewie and R2-D2 actually support Han in his safety measures?  Then is it just?  In either case, I submit that it is not.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

If the President Looks Weak, That's a Good Thing

You've probably been hearing about Ukraine and its current troubles.  The country is torn between two competing allegiances; one to the European Union and another to Russia.  The president of Ukraine was basically forced out because he favored ties with Russia over the EU and sparked mass protests (Here are some helpful maps that explain the divisions within the country).  The EU will certainly not force allegiance, but Russia looks increasingly threatening, with some of its troops actually inside parts of Ukraine.  Some are saying that a treaty signed in the 1990's would force the United States to aid Ukraine if they are invaded.  Conservative pundits are criticizing President Obama for looking weak and not standing up to Russia.

I sincerely hope that President Obama continues to look weak, because that would allow us to keep some of the freedom we have left (By the way, I would have similar hopes for ANY president).