The Politics of Atheism I

A reader of Daylight Atheism recently made an excellent suggestion via e-mail:

As several of your recent posts suggest, it is perhaps time for atheists to unite into a force for change. And in America, that means political change. I welcome this prospect, but believe that we should have some agreement on what changes to make and what our common vision of America should be. I think a series of posts on the politics of Atheism would be helpful. Perhaps it should include the beginnings of a platform for our vision of America. But before we can hope to move America in a new and better direction, we should have some idea of what that direction is.

In accordance with this suggestion, this post, and the following ones, will present my vision of the politics of atheism: what our vision for society should consist of, what issues should be part of our common platform, and how we can best work together to achieve these goals.

If you have read my essay “Rule the World” on Ebon Musings, or “An Atheist’s Creed” on this site, you probably already have a good idea what form my politics takes and what positions I will advocate, but this series will give me a chance to elaborate on those ideas. In general, my political views could best be described as liberal with libertarian leanings. As members of a minority, we nonbelievers should be especially sensitive to issues of civil rights and freedom of individual conscience. The government should not be in the business of prescribing personal morality or dictating conformity, but rather creating a free and open society where every individual can best pursue his or her own conception of the good life. On the other hand, we should want to live in a well-regulated society that provides order and stability and ensures a basic happiness for everyone. In the web of tradeoffs between these two guiding principles, I believe we can find the blueprint for an ideal society.

Finally, as I have often said in the past, all this is my opinion, and I could be wrong. I am one atheist among many, and I make no claims for my vision being definitive. If you disagree with anything I put forward, and I would be very surprised if no one did, I encourage you to speak out. If being an atheist means anything, it means acknowledging the power of reason and trusting that the truth will emerge from informed debate.

Law & Government

When it comes to the basic question of how society is to be governed, I believe it is self-evident that no atheist can support a theocracy. Building a flourishing society requires informed and wise decision-making, and rulers guided by false or unverifiable religious beliefs rather than reason and evidence can do this only by accident. In addition, theocracies inevitably come to believe that opponents of the state faith are enemies of God who must be punished accordingly. The bloody swathes such beliefs have carved through human history need not be recounted here.

But as religious apologists never tire of reminding us, theocracies are not the only kind of government that can commit atrocities. The avowedly secular Communist nations that arose during the twentieth century engaged in acts just as heinous as the medieval holy wars and inquisitions, or the Christianity-inspired anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany. An atheist can and should deplore all these evil acts alike, which is why I propose the more general principle that atheists cannot abide totalitarianism of any kind, including but not limited to theocracy. Any society whose leaders are unaccountable to the people and dogmatically believed to be infallible has the potential to become a horror.

This principle leads to democracy as the only remaining option, but we can derive further consequences from it. Any measure that tends to disenfranchise people or deprive them of their equal stake in the process of governing partakes of the spirit of totalitarianism, and should be opposed by atheists. For example, gerrymandering districts in an attempt to predetermine election results, using phone jamming or other methods to obstruct get-out-the-vote efforts, or selectively destroying voter-registration forms are nothing less than efforts to overturn democracy, and should be punished accordingly. (Perhaps in addition to the recognized crime of obstruction of justice, there should be a crime called obstruction of democracy.) Similarly, atheists should support efforts to ensure that voting machines and the other vital paraphernalia of democracy are fully and equally available in every region of the country, and that the standards for voting are clear, simple and uniform.

On the other side of the coin, I argue that support of democracy entails allegiance to the principles of fully open and transparent government. To this end, I support creating and making publicly available transcripts and video of every speech and debate in legislative chambers; extending the reach of laws like the Freedom of Information Act that grant citizens access to non-classified government documents; and full disclosure of the sources of campaign contributions and the activities of lobbyists.

Finally, atheists know full well the necessity of relying on evidence, rather than trusting on faith. Nowhere can this be more vital when it comes to selecting a new government. To this end, I assert that atheists cannot support or condone the deployment of “black box” voting machines that give no proof that a citizen’s vote has been accurately recorded.

To eliminate the possibility for fraud or confusion, I suggest that all voting machines should provide a mechanism for making an unambiguous choice, following which the machine will print out a paper ballot that reflects that choice. (Providing paper ballots to be filled out by hand offers far too much potential for ambiguity, as the infamous 2004 American presidential election testifies.) The voter should then deposit that ballot in a locked box that cannot be tampered with or disposed of by workers at a local polling place. All the boxes for a given election should then be brought to a central place where they can be counted, either by hand or by machine. If by machine, the hardware blueprint and software code for that machine must be open-source and rigorously certified by an independent accrediting body. If by hand, I suggest that each ballot be counted by teams of at least two people, who cannot both belong to the same political party.

Civil Liberties

It goes without saying that separation of church and state is one of the civil liberties which atheists hold dear. I anticipate little disagreement when I say that atheists should support a very strong separation of church and state: no religious language in official oaths or affirmations, no public money to be used in support of religion, no law or public policy that supports one religion over others or religion in general over non-religion, and no law or public policy based on religious belief unless it also has a legitimate secular purpose. While some of these principles are already established in American law through Supreme Court decisions, I would recommend that atheists advocate a Constitutional amendment to establish all of them beyond any possibility of doubt.

It should likewise go without saying that proselytizing to captive audiences under a government aegis should be forbidden. This means no teaching of creationism in public schools, regardless of how it is relabeled, and no teaching about religious ideas in general unless it is done in an accurate, objective and non-devotional way. Similarly, no religious group should be allowed to evangelize in prisons or provide social services through public grants unless they are all offered the chance to do so, and participation in such programs can never be coercive; a secular alternative should always be available.

Finally, atheists should support ending the tax exemption on churches. This change would provide the government with some much-needed revenue and put a stop to the egregious practice of subsidizing churches’ growth through taxing nonbelievers, which is what this policy does by default. It would also slice the twin Gordian knots of complicated and confusing laws regarding just what churches may say about candidates for political office and how far they may go in buying up land to expand their holdings. In place of that, this change would offer a simple solution: let churches say whatever they want about political candidates, let them buy whatever land they can afford to build on, and let them pay for those privileges just like everyone else.

Another point I consider obvious: Atheists should support strong freedom of speech. Although reasonable time, place and manner restrictions are probably necessary in some cases, we should look skeptically even at those. The only kinds of speech that can be outright forbidden are speech used to harass and speech that directly incites or encourages criminal activity, or that otherwise causes direct and tangible harm. In particular, I strongly believe that atheists must oppose “hate speech” laws, as well as every other attempt to squelch ideas, no matter how well-intentioned. Both world history and current events demonstrate that such laws can easily be used by the majority to stifle criticism of prevailing social mores, something that we as atheists should be especially sensitive to.

Finally, and again for obvious reasons, atheists should support a strong right to privacy. An intrusive state that keeps tabs on its citizens’ beliefs, whereabouts and activities is only one small step away from being a totalitarian state, and such measures have historically been used as tools of oppression against atheists and minority faiths. While openness and honesty are virtues, the sharing of personal information should always be voluntary, except where absolutely necessary. Any government inquiry into this information should only be carried out with the oversight and authorization of a third party, which means that atheists should oppose laws such as the Patriot Act that attempt to weaken judicial oversight of surveillance activity. We should also support laws that put strict limits on what businesses can do with collected customer information and on how they must protect that information. All citizens should have a reasonable ability to view data collected about them, to control how it is used, and to correct any errors it may contain. And there should be certain types of information that one always has the right to keep private; for example, no business should be allowed to force employees to submit to a genetic screening as a prerequisite for being hired.

The commitment to privacy rights also means that atheists should wholeheartedly support gay marriage. What consenting adults do together is no concern of the state, so long as it harms no one; and few things could be more personal or more intimate than whom one chooses to love. If there is any area that is none of the government’s business, this is it. (As I have said elsewhere, I would support withdrawing the term “marriage” from government definition altogether. Government should grant civil partnership licenses that bring with them the relevant legal benefits, and no more; whether this arrangement is considered marriage or not should be up to the individual and their community.)

Coming up: Part II of the Politics of Atheism will propose an atheist political platform in the areas of social justice, the media, science and education.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Quath

    I agree with what you have so far. I don’t see too much controversy yet.

    BTW, I think you meant the 2000 election.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I hope you’ll excuse me if I insist on a republican form of government, and not a democracy. To some, they seem to be interchangeable, but they are not. A republic is when the government, which IS democratic, is limited and guided by a Constitution that limits even their power, and this Constitution is made to specifically protect the minority from being suppressed. I believe that a government like Britian’s (no offense intended, just my viewpoint) is a dangerous one, where the majority has complete control of pretty much the entire country and citizens have no recourse when wronged besides the appealing to the mercy of Parliament. We must ensure that the rights of the people are clearly defined and upheld, but even more important, the powers of the government must be clearly defined and it should be also noted that the government has no right to take even a single step outside of these barriers; if it’s not a power subscribed to them, they simply cannot do it, ever. It is failing to follow these kinds of limits that has let governments, in many cases, become thoroughly corrupt and dangerous, and as a tiny minority, atheists need to be sensitive to this issue.

    Something else to point out that we should all hate; McCain-Feingold Finance Reform Act. Even though the Supreme Court upheld it, it is still clearly a violation of Freedom of Speech. For those who don’t know, one part of the bill makes it a criminal act for any group to speak about a candidate in the month or two prior to an election for a federal office (the exact time varies depending on the type of election). I do not know if this extends to blogs, but it might, or might soon. Voting records, quotes, opinions, everything is forbidden…except for the media and the candidates themselves, who are free to continue on as normal. This means, of course, that the only info we get is screened and made PC, and as Adam’s recent post on the religious right’s terrorizing hold on media shows, that we’ll never get a clear picture without research. This is nothing more than a complete violation of free speech and free press (I do not regard only “official” news as press).

    And as for the genetic screening thing; I’m all for it. A business should have a right to collect whatever info it wants on a potential employee, and reject them for it. To limit them is simply needless government intervention, and there’s no reason why the government, if allowed into private business, won’t move next into private homes. Nor is there any ethical distinction. As long as it’s voluntary, I think a business should do what it wants. And if it goes out of business because it’ll only hire white males who are exactly 6’2″ and are blonde, then that’s their folly.

    Overall, however, I am in agreement. Limit government intervention wherever we can, while ensuring basic protection of life, liberty, and property. This will prevent 99% of corruption and control by ANY social group.

  • Loren Petrich

    I’d want introductions of alternative voting systems that are more third-party-friendly, something that could shake up our two-party oligopoly. There are several ways to do that, like being able to choose more than one candidate, ranking candidates by preference, and proportional representations. Here’s a nice activist site for that sort of thing: http://www.fairvote.org

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Er, there’s a disagreement going then. I don’t. Proportional representation is not a good system, and is not the american system. I understand not liking the two party monopoly, but the real cause of it is public ignorance. There’s little reason to bother tweaking a system that people don’t even use properly.

  • Unbeliever

    As always, a great article.

    What’s really sad is that our own Constitution, as written, would serve us well. There are well defined limits on what government can do, but the Supreme Court, in its various Commerce Clause rulings among others, has given Congress a blank check to enact just about any law that it wants.

    Also, the Bill of Rights was a terrible mistake. By creating an enumerated list of rights, we in effect now have a laundry list to check every right against. Want to be gay? Well, let me check the Bill of Rights…nope, nothing here, you must not have that right. While the Ninth Amendment was added to protect our unenumerated rights, far too many are unable to find any rights in it. (See Judge Bork and his inkblot)

    I agree with BWM that we need a contitutional republic like we have now, but I don’t believe that Adam was advocating pure democracy, just democratic principles. Obviously we need a way to protect the minority, and the only way to do that is to tightly restict what the government can and cannot do.

    BWM is also right that McCain-Feingold is an abomination. I can understand retricting the flow of money, but restricting speech is a terrible idea and completely at odds with the First Amendment.

    Here is how I would reform campaign finance: You can only give money to a candidate that you are elligable to vote for. At the federal level, I could donate to any Presidential campaign, senators for my state, and my congressional representative. My money could not be used by any other candidate. One side-effect of this would be to lessen the stranglehold that the two parties have on our system. They would no longer be able to collect vast sums of money to prop up a failing candidate to increase their majority in Congress. This would also eliminate contributions by foriegners and corporations, another way of giving power back to the people.

    I also have to side with BWM about privacy and companies. If an employer wants to require a test, even a genetic test, for employment, then they should be free to do so. The position belongs to the company, not the prospective employee or the government. While I would disagree with this type of testing, it is not within my rights to dictate to another what thay can and cannot do with their own property.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    One question on that; if we limit contributions to only who you can vote for, wouldn’t the further polarize the country? Like, a state that’s very union and activist would easily install untouchable democrats, and a big business or conservative area would put in republicans that couldn’t be touched. Wouldn’t we go from having little to having next to no change in party control, ever? And you’re the first person I’ve met who agreed (or said the same thing, at least) on the Bill of Rights issue; I really wish they hadn’t of written it, because now the focus is only on what rights we are allowed to have, not what limits the government has to follow.

  • Unbeliever

    Loren,

    I would like to see us test some other voting methods. Far too often we are faced with the choice of voting for the lesser of two evils. Allowing the voter to pick their favorite and then a backup in case the first candidate loses would be a nice change. Some others ideas also have merit.

    I, for one, don’t have the issues with the electoral college that your webiste does. I honestly believe that if Gore had won in the electoral college in 2000, that Democrats woudn’t dislike the electoral college so much. Many feel cheated because Gore won the popular vote but lost the election. BTW, I live in Texas, so my vote is also highly diluted by the existing system.

    What needs to happen is to get the fedeal governmnet so far out of our lives that it doesn’t matter as much who become president.

  • Unbeliever

    BWM,

    If you live in an area that is 75% democrat, shouldn’t you vote in a democrat? Or should the GOP be able to spend massive amounts of money (taken from all over the country) to defeat the democrat and elect a republican?

    If we pull the rug out from under the two parties by limiting their ability to affect local elections, then it will open the door for more parties and more independant candidates. This will actually reduce the polarization by increasing the number of poles. It reduces the effect of special interest groups and 400 pound gorillas like the AARP, NRA and the unions. It gives power back the people. We will no longer have to vote for people according to the party affiliation, but according to their abilities and the content of the character (to borrow a phrase).

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I also have to side with BWM about privacy and companies. If an employer wants to require a test, even a genetic test, for employment, then they should be free to do so. The position belongs to the company, not the prospective employee or the government. While I would disagree with this type of testing, it is not within my rights to dictate to another what thay can and cannot do with their own property.

    If a person lived on a deserted isle, and had no impact on anyone else, then I would agree with the above. But living in a community, what a person does impacts others. As such, government regulation has it’s place. Especially with a business or corporation, which is kind of a super-person, the consequences of who’s actions are magnified.

    The worker is free to accept company policy or work elsewhere? The company is free to accept social policy or do business elsewhere. As long as we live in a community it is a two way street. The economic system and the political system are simply two different marketplaces.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I don’t understand how you get to that. If an area is 75% democrat and the GOP can’t come in and launch a fair election, then the area will simply be solidly democratic, period. Sure, on a local scale, it’s already more diverse, but for federal elections, there will almost never be a turnover, because whichever side has more in state money wins, period. While the republican party could match the democratic party, if they are not permitted, there is no way that Joe Nobody could get the money to compete. I mean, as it stands, getting libertarians and such into local offices usually require money coming from nationwide, while it’s easy for the GOP to just tap the heavy resources located in state. Also, there is the question; how do we limit the soft donations, which are the main problem? You know, hosting dinners, or supporting just a cause that everyone knows one candidate supports without actually mentioning them, or spending money on the party in general but not the Candidate, etc. We’d just have 50 different democratic offices that each got seperate contributions and therefore locally supported the candidate.

    Or am I just being really cynical? I know that’s possible.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Sorry to double-post, I missed EoS; I disagree ENTIRELY. You’re right, a business is a super person; but it’s a person, and people have rights. If people don’t like the practices of other people, they have the option to express their dislike and to refuse to talk to them, etc. But they can’t force change on them. It’s no different if it’s a super person. Your analogy doesn’t work because company policy is a private, one-to-one agreement; it is merely terms in a private contract. Social policy is the majority forcing the minority to do what it wants. When you give the government that type of power, that’s when big companies can move in and buy government, and you just end up with a bunch of puppets fighting each other. When they are limited, companies are forced to deal with people directly, instead of just paying off whatever politician the people are trying ot use.

    It’s like Walmart; I hate Walmart and I won’t shop there. Yet, most people, even those who dislike them, shop there, then say they’d gladly vote to kill them. Well, why doesn’t that vote happen? Because Walmart owns the politician! If the people didn’t have a false hope, they’d not have that escape hatch; it’s either support them or don’t. I think the only way to stop Walmart is direct, public action. Same for everything else. At best, with the current system, you can get “justice”, but that’s usually because some interest groups or other businesses fund your effort to kill a competitor, not because of legitimate politics.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    A business is not a person. If it were merely a person I could go shoot hoops with it. So I do not have to treat a business as a person or give it the same rights as a person. I understand the legal convention that treats a business as a person, hence my use of the term “super person”. I happen to take issue with that legal convention. Now if you can find me a corporation to have a beer with I will acknowledge that it is a person:)

    As for forcing change, I am not forcing change. If the company doesn’t like the regulation, it is free to do business elsewhere. The employee is free to get a job elsewhere.

    Also social policy is not simply the majority forcing the minority to do what it wants, the opposite and all points in between are true. A particular society does not spring from thin air, and by choosing to do business in a particular society, the company is under that social contract. Like I said it’s a two way street.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    But you are forcing the company (which may well BE a person, if it is a small business) to do certain things on it’s own property. It IS a person in that it is single legal entity. “Groups” are merely abstract terms; there are not actually different than anything else. Only “individuals” are thing and only “individuals” can have rights. Everyone has a right to own property and to do what we want WITH our property; this is the basis of freedom, for without the right to ownership and the right to use our goods, we have no way of securing any other. We can’t have free press if we can’t own a press. We can’t have free speech if we can’t own ourselves. You get the idea. You are advocating random and discriminatory regulations on private property here; you are opening the door to corruption and tyranny, because if the government can get in and affect your business, then obviously the puppet master controlling the government can as well, or the “mob”, etc.

    Of course, I do recognize limits for rational purposes; no one’s rights should affect of void anyone else’s rights, like the 9th ammendment states. However, the freedom for a company to hire whoever they want is not in anyway affecting any one else’s rights, so limiting that is nothing more than tyranny of the majority. They have a right to any test they want, it’s called a right to property, and limiting that gives the government the right to limit property entirely. How can anyone say, for example, that wire taps are wrong because of property while saying that property rights can be freely waved off whenever desired? It is a two way street indeed; if you and I are to have the right to say and do what we wish on our property, so does everyone else.

    And “social contract” is an imaganinary term. It doesn’t really mean anything except what you want it to.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I did mean the 2000 election, of course. My mistake.

    A republic is when the government, which IS democratic, is limited and guided by a Constitution that limits even their power, and this Constitution is made to specifically protect the minority from being suppressed.

    Actually, a republic is just a democracy where people vote for representatives. What you’re referring to is a constitutional republic.

    For those who don’t know, one part of the bill makes it a criminal act for any group to speak about a candidate in the month or two prior to an election for a federal office (the exact time varies depending on the type of election).

    I didn’t know about this aspect of the McCain-Feingold bill, and I have to say I was surprised to see that it actually does do this. However, I don’t think your description was entirely accurate: this section of the law doesn’t apply to any group, but just corporations and labor unions. Nonprofit advocacy groups, for example, are exempt. And it only restricts TV and radio ads, not ads in other media. That said, this still strikes me as obviously unconstitutional. I’m amazed it was upheld.

    And as for the genetic screening thing; I’m all for it. A business should have a right to collect whatever info it wants on a potential employee, and reject them for it.

    I can’t agree with this. The danger here is of creating a “genetic underclass” where people with genetic defects, for example a hereditary syndrome such as Huntington’s disease, through no fault of their own will be unemployable because no business will want to shoulder their eventual health-care costs. And the cheaper and easier genetic testing becomes, the more incentive there will be for all businesses to do this. (Would you want to be the one company hiring the people everyone else rejected as genetically unsuitable?) This is just not the sort of information that should be a permissible factor when making hiring decisions.

    If we ban discrimination based on race or gender, surely we can ban discrimination based on genes. Think of it in terms of John Rawls’ veil of ignorance: for all you know, you might have some genetic disorder that hasn’t manifested yet and that, if known, would rule you out of many jobs. Would you endorse a policy that might well come back to haunt you later in life?

    I, for one, don’t have the issues with the electoral college that your webiste does.

    My biggest objection to the electoral college system is that, if you live in a state where you are not a member of the majority party – a Republican in New York or a Democrat in Texas, say – your vote essentially counts for nothing. In the meantime, citizens of swing states are lobbied, plied and flattered with a diligence all out of proportion to their influence on national affairs. An elector could even, in theory, cast a vote for a given candidate regardless of how the people in his state voted. This is a relic from the early days of American democracy when the general public was not actually trusted to make the best decision. (Don’t forget it took a constitutional amendment to allow for direct election of senators!) I would certainly support abolishing it, or at the very least, altering it so that electors must cast their votes not for whoever wins the state, but for whoever wins the popular vote nationally. Several states already have such bills on the table (more info here).

    I like the instant-runoff idea, though it would take substantial public education; some people seem to have trouble even with the idea of choosing one party or the other. But it would be nice to see a system that reduced the strategic voting we’re forced into now and gave third parties more of a chance. On the other hand, no voting system can ever be perfect, as per Arrow’s theorem.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    From my understanding, your calling a representative democracy and a republic the same thing; Constitutional Republic is just defining that there is a Constitution as opposed to some otehr name. But whatever, as long as we have minority rights, as I’m sure you agree.

    I still don’t know how to quote, sorry I’m doing it long hand; about the act, I don’t think that’s true. I say it because the reason I was aware of it was because the NRA was challenging it and lost and THEY were a group prohibited from speaking now. That’s why they went and bought a TV station, because without it, they were legally barred for speaking out. The might be wrong, I am definately appealing to authority here, but I don’t think they were lying.

    On the testing; exactly, I’d eliminate all laws forbidding sex or race discrimination as well. It’s just ignorant. Your argument is a good one, but I answer that yes, I would. Just like I support free speech knowing I might one day have a smear campaign on my name or something. But, also, I want to know that if one day I start a business, I can hire whoever I want. I’m not racist, but perhaps I have a legitimate reason to need a white, male in that position (since there are still racist people, it might hurt me financially to send a black jewish woman to talk to a Naz about buying my sprinkler system). Let’s say I was the company getting all the to-be-sick people; fine, I’d not have comprehensive health coverage, but would pay them fairly, and thus would have workers, and the market moves on. There’s not a problem here. I feel denying the company the right to know what risks it’s going to have to take is criminal; actually, it IS crimnal, is it not? An insurance company has a right to ask questions about your parent’s condition and your health history and whether you smoke etc, and you have to answer truthfully; why is there a sudden disparity here? Genetic defects are not your fault, but that doesn’t mean other people should uknowingly be forced to take the burden of your problem; it’s not their fault either.

    Whoa, vast disagreement on the EC there; back when we made the Constitution, the common public was MORE educated in politics and MORE capable of making an informed decision. Today, not 1 in 100 knows ANYTHING about politics, but 30 of them will vote. Politics used to be a past time; a farmer would travel for days to see, for example, William Jennings Bryan giving a speech. Does that happen nowadays? No. People might drive for an afternoon, but usually only after they have totally decided to vote for the guy, and all the candidate says is the same old rhetoric. We are in more need of an objective electorate than ever. We should first rescind the crookend ammendmet allowing people to vote for Senate, because the whole point was for the Senate NOT to be the servant of the public but the states, and then rescind all laws that forces the EC to vote with the majority of the state. That’s not even voting. The EC was made because, indeed, voices are too easily drowned out, not the other way around. If you are a republican in a democratic state, the shocking thing is that it doesn’t matter; you were never intended to vote! The president has nothing to do with the public and s/he never should; they are a servant of the states. Without the EC, instead of swing states, heavy population centers will be the focus, as all one needs are the 10 most populated urban areas to vote for you, never mind the other 80% of the physical surface of the US. Big cities will run politics, and THAT was why the founders made the EC.

    Sorry, it’s something I’m passionate about.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Incidentally, the “blockquote” tag is used to quote text. There’s a list of allowed HTML tags above the comment entry box.

    I say it because the reason I was aware of it was because the NRA was challenging it and lost and THEY were a group prohibited from speaking now.

    That is interesting. Do you have a link? I’d like to read more about this.

    Let’s say I was the company getting all the to-be-sick people; fine, I’d not have comprehensive health coverage, but would pay them fairly, and thus would have workers, and the market moves on.

    The problem is that, under the current system, that just isn’t enough. When even a few nights in the hospital can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, no ordinary salary can support such expenses. Without health insurance, a major medical catastrophe can wipe out a person’s entire savings and then some – and that assumes that they have savings. We as a society have an obligation to ensure that all our citizens have equal access to health care, not differential access premised on the ability to pay. (I leave the question open of whether the exorbitant cost of health care is intrinsic or can be reduced; the point is that, for now, this is the way it is, and we have to deal with that somehow.)

    An insurance company has a right to ask questions about your parent’s condition and your health history and whether you smoke etc, and you have to answer truthfully; why is there a sudden disparity here? Genetic defects are not your fault, but that doesn’t mean other people should uknowingly be forced to take the burden of your problem; it’s not their fault either.

    That’s more of a tricky issue. I maintain that no company, even an insurance company, should be allowed to require people to submit to genetic screening as a precondition of doing business with them. That is shockingly invasive and all too reminiscent of Brave New World-style totalitarianism. BWM, you worried about too much regulation opening the door to tyranny, and I couldn’t agree more; but is tyranny any less abhorrent if it is foisted upon us by corporations rather than governments?

    On the other hand, voluntary behavior should certainly be taken into account when determining insurance policies, because that is something for which a person is legitimately responsible. There’s nothing wrong with making a habitual speeder pay more for car insurance. But other facts should be off-limits. And yes, this does mean that some of that burden will be spread around onto other people, but that’s not terrible; that’s exactly what insurance is. Everyone pays, each person hoping they won’t have the accident they’re covered for, and their premiums go to support the small fraction that do experience such a problem.

    …back when we made the Constitution, the common public was MORE educated in politics and MORE capable of making an informed decision.

    Perhaps that is so. Nevertheless, the Constitution was originally designed to take a substantial degree of power out of the hands of the public, which is why it had provisions like the legislative election of senators. I really don’t see the basis of objecting to the 17th Amendment; of course the Senate is there to represent the states, but why would ordinary residents of a state be less cognizant of that state’s interests than legislators representing it?

    I think the reformers of the Progressive Era had it right: legislative election of senators is an open door to corruption. For one thing, it means that a corrupt person only has to successfully bribe a few legislators to get into office, rather than millions of voters. But even beyond that, there is a clear and present danger of politics becoming an old boys’ club as it is. Think how much worse it might be if one entire house of Congress could be chosen only by people making promises to their friends in the exalted circles of politics, without having to interact at all with the common people.

    Without the EC, instead of swing states, heavy population centers will be the focus, as all one needs are the 10 most populated urban areas to vote for you, never mind the other 80% of the physical surface of the US.

    Yes, and what’s wrong with that? The whole idea of democracy is that the candidate with the most votes wins; therefore, it makes sense that candidates should spend most of their effort campaigning in regions where the most people live. That makes perfect sense to me. That is a legitimate reason for candidates to consider certain areas most significant, as opposed to the current system, which grants disproportionate significance to certain states on an arbitrary basis. Nor do I see why the total area of land owned by the voters should matter. We elect politicians to represent people, not acreage, surely?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    But, how do I get the quote in there? I can’t copy a line on this page; whenever I try to click and drag, no matter what I do, the entire page down to the point I clicked is highlighted.

    This looks about right; the NRA has a pretty organized site, so you can find a couple of article on it by just searching for “McCain”.
    http://www.nraila.org/Issues/Articles/Read.aspx?ID=60

    No, I cannot support the health care argument. “Society” is merely an abstraction, what you are REALLY arguing is to punish some INDIVIDUALS for the sake of other INDIVIDUALS. You are being prejudice. I do not mean this as an attack, but since “society” is not a “thing” but a collection of “people”, you are simply hurting some people who have managed to do well for the sake of those who haven’t. No one should have an obligation to help others under threat of jail. That’s not charity; that’s coercion, and surely you oppose this.

    Regarding the Senate; it’s not that, it’s that the people ALREADY have a representative. We have two houses for a reason; not so both can reflect the EXACT same voters, but so ONE house reflects the voters and one house reflects the states themselves. This is division of powers; different bodies have different representatives, not “the public controls them all”. The thing is is that the public IS less cognizant of the issues at hand. They don’t know the political nuances, they don’t know what is needed from the federal government. But they SHOULD have a voice; they already DO. WHY do they get two voices, three if we abolish the EC, and no other organization has a word? It is the division of power that specifically PREVENTS corruption and manipulation; it’s harder to manipulate a group of lawyers than a bunch of people. And if the Senate DOES get corrupt too badly, then throw out the STATE legisltature, and in the mean time, use the House of Reps to deadlock the Senate.

    Your idea on the EC is entirely right…but is a non sequitor; we are not a democracy. We are a republic. We are not based only off of majority vote. I agree that if we were, the EC would be completely baffling. But it’s not. The founders knew that, although I maintain people were more politically savvy than today, their contemporaries could easily be whipped into a frenzy, and that is exactly what they wanted to stop. That’s why we have the EC; because originally, there was not intended to be ANY campaigning at all, and thus your complaint about swing states would never have been an issue. They wanted the president to be as isolated from “the mob”, to keep singular issues from determing who is the most powerful person in the US, and they did this by making only non-position holding appointed by a Legislature the electorate for the president. They have time and means to carefully investigate the issue, instead of getting swept up in one big issue *coughTERRORISMhack* and electing based only on that.

    I want power to be split up and divided as much as possible. I want inefficiency. I want corruption to be hard because you have to bribe and control dozens of different bodies of people who are all on oath NOT to be corrupted and under threat of punishment, instead of needing nothing but talented demagogues to whip up a bunch of voters.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Regardless of how this turns out, I think this quite clearly shows us something; an atheist platform can’t really exist. One COULD be made, probably, because I have found atheists to usually be more liberal (just an observation, some people feel attacked by that word, so this is my disclaimer), but there is no over-arching platform that’s going to include atheists because we DO come from all different walks of life. The only thing atheists are going to support pretty much 100% is freedom of religion, enforcing the Establishment Clause, and probably freedom of speech/press, but as to how to enforce them and everything else, there is nothing approaching consensus. I mean, being an atheist doesn’t really tell you whether or not the death penalty is allowed; you might oppose it because you believe that this is our only life and so no one should be allowed to take it for any reason, but that’s not going to be at all the only logical application of atheism.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    But you are forcing the company (which may well BE a person, if it is a small business) to do certain things on it’s own property. It IS a person in that it is single legal entity.

    The business is not a person. It will never be a person. So it does not follow that we have to naturally confer all rights of personhood.

    And “social contract” is an imaganinary term. It doesn’t really mean anything except what you want it to.

    A business/corporation is a social construct. It exists in a particular place and time, with access to a particular workforce, with all that social system has available – climate to facilitate commerce, protections, transport, education and ethic of population, etc. That’s why a company may do business in the USA and not for example in Nigeria. It is contracting with this social system and not with the other. Social contract in this regard is not meaningless or imaginary.

    You are advocating random and discriminatory regulations on private property here; you are opening the door to corruption and tyranny, because if the government can get in and affect your business, then obviously the puppet master controlling the government can as well, or the “mob”, etc.

    There is nothing random about it, and because the business is a social construct, the social system can and should regulated it. I can come up with equally dire scenarios of a corporation(s) engaging in the actions you fear from the government. A good reason to have multiple forces in play.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Regardless of how this turns out, I think this quite clearly shows us something; an atheist platform can’t really exist.

    Yes this is a concern, although very likely all Republicans and Democrats do not agree with all planks of their respective platforms. We will never all agree, so I think the exercise is to come up with something that many can live with. But perhaps atheism is not a broad enough umbrella. Does make for interesting discussion though.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    1) A business could be a person; sole proprietership.
    2) All a business is is a series of contracts; nothing more. There is no qualitative difference between a business, and me hiring my neighbor to mow my grass.
    3) It’s quite random, because they are no different than people. Social contract is imaginary, I’m sorry. Since “society” is not a “thing” but a group of individuals, it cannot have more power than individuals do. What you are advocating is for some individuals to limit the rights of others, dressed up in nice language. This is discrimination.

    Let me try and make an analogy to this policy. Alright, I own a house; I have a right to deny police entry unless they have a warrant or probable cause, correct? What if I have a roommate and we cosigned on the house; are we now not able to deny them entry because we are now a “group” instead of two “individuals”? What if there are three of us? What if me and 5 others bought a small chain of apartments and we live in them? What if we rent out the last two apartments for a small profit? What if it’s not for profit? At what completely arbitrary point is our right to do with out property as we wish as long as we are not infringing on the rights of others denied, and why? Individuals make small groups and medium groups and large groups; why do you get to say “Well, when there is *this* many doing *these* perfectly legal things, we suddenly get the right to jump in and deny your freedom”? Again, a business is just a web of contracts; nothing more. You are saying that either having contracts or being in groups denies you property rights; this is tyranny. I mean, hell, does that mean a family of four has no RIGHT, merely privelege, to property because a family is a group?

    Clearly, there is no qualitative difference between different sized groups and individuals when it comes to rights. I can’t force my neighbor to hire who I say he will to mow the grass, and therefore, I can’t force the bottling plant down the street to hire who I say for quality control.

    About the corporation fear; the only reason that happens is BECAUSE of government intervention. When the government does NOT enforce laws and does NOT persecute breaches of contract, companies get away with murder. A legally binding contract is legally binding; I stand by that entirely. I’m not a republican, so I’m not advocating unregulated business. But I AM supporting regulation that only consists of securing rights and upholding contracts. Arbitrary hiring regulations or safety regulations (yup, I’m against those, ASSUMING that the contract that the workers sign doesn’t guarantee them) or whatever simply allows big companies to buy their way out (so that smaller companies are crushed under the excessive costs), or forces them to move overseas, or makes them cut pay, etc, all because you won’t let them do what is completely within their constitutional rights to do on their own property.

  • Unbeliever

    I still have to side with BWM on the issue of the rights of a company to hire whom they want based on whatever criteria they choose. I would even extend that to race, gender, age, whatever. Look at it this way: If I own an apple, I can give it to whomever I want. The government should not be able to set rules on where my apples goes. If I don’t want to give it to a black man, then that is my right. It is my apple. It may be unfair and bigoted, but it is still my decision. The same is true for a job. The position and the paycheck belong to the employer. And the employer is either an individual in the case of privately-owned company or the shareholders in the case of a publicly-owned company. The job belongs to these people.

    One of the most sacred rights is the right to your property. Not just to own it, but to decide what to do with it. By putting restrictions on what a person or a business does with their property, you are in effect taking ownership of that property. That’s theft. You may do unfair things with your property. You may exclude people from it for stupid, bigoted reasons, but that is your right.

    There is no social contract. There are only voluntary contracts between people. A contract which you are forced to abide by but never agreed to isn’t a contract, it is tyrrany.

    The role of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. Nothing more. You do not have a right to a job or to health care. Those are things that you must ask for and earn. You DO NOT have a right to other people’s property, including their money. If you have a right to health care, then you de facto have a right to my money, and then there is no longer any such thing as property rights.

    If you have a terrible illness and cannot afford care, that is where charity comes in. People VOLUNTARILY giving some of their property to you.

    Say that you and I are walking down the street and we see a homeless man. If I take a hundred out of my wallet and give it to him, it’s charity. If I take a hundred out of your wallet and give it to him, it’s theft.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    By putting restrictions on what a person or a business does with their property, you are in effect taking ownership of that property.

    That would only be a problem if what you did on your property affected no one else. But that just isn’t the way things work. If I own a parcel of property, should I be allowed to build and run an unfiltered coal-fired power plant there? Even if the pollution drifts downwind and causes smog, acid rain and mercury poisoning on other people’s property? What if I’m at the source of a stream that runs through other people’s property – should I be allowed to dump garbage in it and let the water carry it downstream into someone else’s land? What if I’m a farmer and the excess fertilizer that runs off of my property causes algae blooms that kill fish and deny fisherman their livelihood? Is it wrong for the state to “take ownership” of my property by denying me the right to do these things?

    The point of having regulations like these isn’t to arbitrarily restrict what people can do on their own property because the state is a nasty tyranny and wants to do that just because. The point of having regulations is to maximize everyone’s right to use their own property as they see fit, and the way to achieve that goal is to prevent people from using their property in a way that infringes on others’ right to do the same.

    If you have a terrible illness and cannot afford care, that is where charity comes in. People VOLUNTARILY giving some of their property to you.

    And if people do not voluntarily choose to do that, then… what? I die in the street? That certainly doesn’t sound like any society I would want to live in.

    The reason we have compulsory taxing is to solve the free-rider problem. When someone needs medical care, others should, morally speaking, give them the money they need to pay for it. For most of us ethical people, that’s not a problem; we were going to do that anyway. It should hardly be galling to live under a law that directs you to do something you were already going to do. But there will always be some percentage of people who want to selfishly take all they can get from society and give nothing in return – people who would, for example, plead for monetary help if they were ill but would never extend that generosity to others in the same position. If there is no punishment for being a free rider, the number of free riders will inevitably increase over time; and once their numbers reach some critical threshold, the whole system collapses. (This is just the old problem of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.) And the best way to solve this problem is through regulation that prevents free-riding from taking place.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Adam; your first point, and I don’t mean to be aggressive, but is completely ignoring what Unbeliever and I have agreed on, if I am not mistaken; we certainly have agreed that if you are infringing on another’s right, you can’t do it. However, that’s a non sequiter; we are not talking about pollution, we are talking about hiring. No has a right to never be offended. If it offends you that I won’t hire you because your name is Adam, well, too bad; you have no “right” that I am violating. I, however, DO have the right to trust my property and my work and my reputation to whomever I want, not to who some faceless policy maker wants (or is bribed into doing). “When coercion enters, charity leaves”-G. Edward Griffin

    Second point; others’s should, morally speaking, help, sure. Other’s should NOT have the right to take money from whomever they wish for the sake of helping others. And free riders can’t exist under this society, so I don’t know what you are talking about. If they are cheap, miserly, and mean, and never help the sick, when THEY are sick, they’ll STAY sick. Free riding actually is what you are ENCOURAGING; since only those who have made it ever pay, all the poor people getting free care are free riding.

    Look at it this way, since you know the bible; the story of the good Samaritan. You agree that that is a stupendously moral story, no? It’s how people should act. But, what you are saying is that it would be entirely moral if the Samaritan pointed his sword at the next guy on the street and commanded that he help him carry the sick guy or he’d chop off an arm. Even if that guy was going to volunteer to help, he isn’t any more; this is coercion. What’s even worse is that the system you are advocating would be that if the Samaritan had went over to help the guy then realized he was rich, had left him there to fend for himself. He’ll punish anyone who doesn’t help the poor, but if your rich, you have to take care fo yourself. I think the christian platform, even though they hardly follow it oftentimes, is better than the atheist one given here.

    And, we originally had taxes for one purpose; so the government had the funding to secure YOUR rights. YOU payed to have a court for when YOU needed one. YOU payed for the military and YOU were being attacked. Now, the system is that you pay for OTHERS, and this is not taxation, it’s stealing. It’s as if the Red Cross knocked on your door, and during the middle of his speech to ask for a small donation, Moose and Rocko busted in, took 50 bucks out of your wallet, and walked off.

    One more issue; what if you actually need the money? Someone is dying and needs medical care, and you’d argue that we can take Joe’s money. What if Joe’s wife has cancer and is dying in the hospital? You’d take his money anyway! I mean, not on an individual basis, but you’d support a law that would go to this middle class guy who’s wife is dying despite his higher status and take the money he really needs since the medical bills are surpassing what insurance will cover, to give it to Bob, a poor guy, who’s wife is in the same condition. Where is the justice in that?

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    I would agree with governmental control with respect to the example you give. Your pollution is affecting other’s property, either publicly owned air or water or privately owned land. But my apple is still my apple. I can’t throw it and hit you, because that infringes on your rights, but you don’t have the right to dictate to whom I can give it. The same is true for a job. That position belongs to the employer and no one is entitled to it. No one has a right to what you own.

    As for mandatory charity, it is just an instance of the end justifying the means. Giving to help others is good, but stealing from others to do it is wrong.

    Let’s say that I give $100 to charity every month, but one month I don’t because I need to spend money on my son or to help an ailing parent. According to you, I don’t have the right to make that choice. That $100 must be taken from me to help others even if I might need it for myself. How is that in any way just? How is it any different from theft?

    If we significantly reduce the size of government, we will all have more to give to help others, but on our terms and when it is best for us. That may sound selfish, but this is my money, my property. If I am not allowed to decide where it goes and when, then is it really mine anymore? I would suggest that even a little socialism is bad. Tyranny often starts small.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Tyranny ALWAYS starts small nowadays.

    “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts”-Edmond Burke

    “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”-Patrick Henry

    “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel”-Patrick Henry

    “No man is free who is not a master of himself”-Epictatus

    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others”-Thomas Jefferson

    Sorry, I keep these saved in a Word file. But we have two views; we either have FREEDOMS, or PRIVELEGES. So far, all I see is advocacy of PRIVELEGES; you are ALLOWED to keep only so much of your money, you are PERMITTED to decide only such things with your property. That is not freedom. Slaves used to be ALLOWED to copulate as well, that didn’t mean it was a freedom. FREEDOM means you can’t touch it no matter how vile, dirty, or disgusting it might seem…unless it’s hurting others. Look at sodomy laws; I don’t have any desire to ever be involved in that act, but even if I was a fundamentalist christian in the sense that I thought it was the most horrid thing around, that doesn’t mean I have the right to stop it. That is freedom. The only limits on a freedom are other’s freedom. Priveleges are given to serfs.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    BWM,

    I’ve always liked the adage, “Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.”

    The socialist ideal is actually rooted in good intentions. But while it helps those who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, it also removes the consequences for bad behavior. Don’t want to work or support your family? Fine, here’s some money. An adult who can work but doesn’t want to should be left to starve. Hunger is a great motivator. That may seem cruel, but isn’t it far crueler to facilitate someone’s dependency and apathy? The welfare state doesn’t create workers, it created welfare recipients.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    “Moral hazard”. It’s like if everyone payed into a fund that automatically covered the full price of our speeding tickets, everyone would speed. Of course, the fund was only made to cover the, let’s just say, 10 million dollars in tickets a year, so when suddenly they are expected to pay 100 million, it goes bankrupt, but the speeders got a break because they only payed like 1 dollar of their whole ticket, while all the SAFE drivers were charged the rest. It just rewards those who do bad.

    I will argue that, in fairness, most welfare recipients don’t stay on welfare that long. There are not that many families of pure laziness who do nothing forever. However, that doesn’t really change the fact that even their short lapse into drug use is costing ME money for no good reason. I am a very charitable person and give money to every charity that comes by, even religious ones if they are feeding people or something, but I don’t like the idea that DESPITE this, I get charged.

  • Loren Petrich

    BWM:

    Proportional representation is not a good system,

    Why’s that?

    and is not the american system.

    And why is that supposed to be the case? It isn’t exactly written into the Constitution.

    I understand not liking the two party monopoly, but the real cause of it is public ignorance. There’s little reason to bother tweaking a system that people don’t even use properly.

    How is it not used properly? What do you mean?

    BWM, let me give you an example with the problem with our current system that you might be able to relate to. Imagine that you much prefer the Libertarian Party but you are not confident enough that the Libertarian will get enough votes to win. You have two choices:

    1: Vote Libertarian and have a strong risk of your vote going to waste and doing nothing to stop the worst statist of the two major candidates.

    2: Decide which of the two major statists is the less obnoxious of the two and vote for them.

    So that’s why alternatives like approval voting (vote for as many candidates as you like), preference voting, and proportional representation are more reasonable.

    Imagine that your home state used proportional representation for your House delegation, if it’s a multi-member delegation. Then you’ll stand a chance of getting a Libertarian into Congress, instead of nothing but statists. So how about that?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Umm, it IS written into the US Constitution, aka, the EC, or the original method od senatorial election.

    I understand the process, I just don’t care. We are not a democracy. I don’t want mob passions to rule everything. I don’t want a wave of, let’s say, religious right fanaticism to allow voters to, in a few short years, fill every state and the federal government with fundamentalist christians. I don’t want, if there’s an even worse terrorist attack, a sudden anger against Muslims to cause large segments of the government to be forced into a situation to short-change Muslims in this country. That is exactly why the founders did NOT have representative democracy. By doing so, it means that demagogues hold all the power. All that matters is whipping some voters into shape. It defeats the idea of progress due to MERIT or INTEGRITY and mostly focuses entirely on who is more appealing and can launch a better smear campaign.

    Let me return an example; I don’t recall everything Perot stood for, I had other things going on at the time, but I do remember how his campaigns went; the two parties had merely to smear him and ignore him and the media derided him, and his chances were destroyed. Why? Because the people only had to see some scattered and unimportant signs to dislike him. He did very well, but even though I recall him being MUCH more down to earth, relying on logic and emprical data (even if he was wrong, he at least TRIED an open strategy), the people hated him because he was short and looked funny and Dan Rather kinda laughed at him and that was that. The end. Independent bodies of electorates charged with making the best and most intelligent decisions would have had a much higher chance of throwing votes to Perot. He was big against NAFTA and anything like it, if I’m not mistaken; well, any intelligent electorate trying to represent a Rust Belt state would have been more inclined to worry about it, or places with large textile industries, etc. Now I’m not saying he would have magically won if things had operated differently, but our system is already so close to just flat-out representative democracy that Perot had no chance in hell as long as the other parties hated him, because the common person only needs about 2 minutes to make a decision.

    Not to mention one quite clear thing; the US citizen was never part of the Presidential election system in drafting. They COULD be, the option was there, but that was not the intention. The President was simply not a servant to the public, that was not his position; his job was to put a check on the Legistlature but also to carry out it’s laws. The public was not really viewed as part of this equation. The Senate was the same. Everyone is looking at this from the current POV, but back then, the idea of electing the Senator was just dumb; you already got a representative, but the state at large needs one too; one not ALSO catering only to your needs.

  • Loren Petrich

    BlackWizardMagus, I notice that you have not really addressed my comments. Like what’s supposed to be so bad about preference voting or proportional representation?

    Instead, you’ve moaned and groaned about demagoguery.

    The truth is, many people do understand the deficiencies of first-past-the-post. That’s why there is a such a thing as strategic voting, and that’s why many nations have preferred preference voting, proportional representation, and other such schemes.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    And that’s why we aren’t on our fifth Constitution but our first yet. My problem isn’t that I dislike those types of voting over other types of voting, it’s that the President was never intended to be a popularly elected official. He is not supposed to be a servant of the people but of the country as a whole. Just like Senators were intended to be servants of their STATE and not of the state’s people. This is “seperation of powers” and it was designed that way for a reason. Democracy collapses; once people have the right to vote themselves other people’s money, that’s it, you’re on the road to the end. To get to that point, the voters have to be able to elect all the bosses. If we go ahead with these plans, we will end up with the entire Legislative and Executive branch being dominated by nothing but the passions of the mob, hence demagoguery will be the order of the day. At the point, the Courts will either be the next target or will be cowed into compliance (and if the leaders can’t lead the people to abolish the tenure of the Justices, they will simply wait and ensure that the next generation of bench holders are more compliant). I do hope I’m clear enough.

  • lpetrich

    I don’t see the point that BWM is trying to make — is he claiming that any system other than first-past-the-post leads to dangerous instability?

    And I find BWM’s position curious — first he deplores statism, then he defends a system that has enabled two statist political parties to lock out parties that he’d presumably like much better.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Wait, let me make sure I understand; we are talking still about PRESIDENTIAL elections, right? If not, sorry, I’m lost. If we still are, then I’m arguing that ANY ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT BY THE PEOPLE IS A BAD IDEA PERIOD!

  • lpetrich

    BWM, what is your ideal system of electing the President? No Constitution-thumping, just tell us what you consider your ideal system.

    And the same for other offices.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    But I think the original Constitution was just about fine. Okay, the pres should be elected by a body of people not part of the government, appointed by the legislature fo the state, with obvious laws against bribery, as much as is resonable. The senate should be elected by the legislature of the state. The reps should be elected by popular vote fo their district. I’m still out on the USSC; on the one hand, I certainly understand that Justices should be free of demagoguery when making decisions, but I am not sure of COMPLETE and TOTAL isolation is the best way to go about things, because then a Court with an agenda (we will see if that’s how it is now, but it’s hard to argue that, right or wrong, the Warren court wasn’t clearly liberal) is completely uninhibited, except by Constitutional ammendments. That’s something I don’t feel like I have thought enough on to make an educated decision, so I won’t try.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    A business could be a person; sole proprietership.

    The person would be the owner, but if that’s what it’s come down to then great, it seemed earlier the claim was all businesses were a person – has that changed? Is IBM still a person?

    All a business is is a series of contracts; nothing more. There is no qualitative difference between a business, and me hiring my neighbor to mow my grass.

    A business entity is a social construct of law. It is not a real person, and therefore does not intrinsically have the rights of a real person. People can contract with the business entity. The business entity has whatever attributes the society has given it. Both you and your neighbor can contract with the business entity. You could buy stock and he could work for it. You are both real people – the business entity is not a real person. We can argue that the business entity “should” have certain rights of a person, but not that it intrinsically has them.

    It’s quite random, because they are no different than people. Social contract is imaginary, I’m sorry. Since “society” is not a “thing” but a group of individuals, it cannot have more power than individuals do. What you are advocating is for some individuals to limit the rights of others, dressed up in nice language. This is discrimination.

    Since a business entity is not a person, I don’t have to defend discriminating against the business entity in terms of it having the rights of a person.

    Let me try and make an analogy to this policy. Alright, I own a house; I have a right to deny police entry unless they have a warrant or probable cause, correct? What if I have a roommate and we cosigned on the house; are we now not able to deny them entry because we are now a “group” instead of two “individuals”?

    Assuming you and your roommate each have your name on the property title, you would have whatever rights you have as separate persons. But if X Corporation was formed, and X Corp owns the property, then it is not a given that all the same rights would apply. As a social construct, X Corp would have whatever rights the society has given it.

    Clearly, there is no qualitative difference between different sized groups and individuals when it comes to rights. I can’t force my neighbor to hire who I say he will to mow the grass, and therefore, I can’t force the bottling plant down the street to hire who I say for quality control.

    Your neighbor is of course a person. But if the worker is contracting with SodaCo at the bottling plant then yes, there may very well be some hiring restrictions. If I did not agree with the regulation, I would argue why SodaCo, this social construct, should be modified so that it has a particular person attribute, I would not start claiming that it is a person.

    I’m fine with arguing why you think one of these social constructs “should” have certain rights that a real person has, and would probably agree with you on some of them. But not OK with naturally conferring all rights of a person to a non-person.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    One of the most sacred rights is the right to your property. Not just to own it, but to decide what to do with it. By putting restrictions on what a person or a business does with their property, you are in effect taking ownership of that property. That’s theft. You may do unfair things with your property. You may exclude people from it for stupid, bigoted reasons, but that is your right.

    You are using person and business interchangeably, which I have already addressed. But in regard to person, while not sacred, a right to property is very important – as long as the rights of all persons concerned are being addressed, which in your examples I am not seeing done. When a person appropriates a piece of property, the rights of other people who could have used that property are being infringed. One way to compensate for this rights infringement is restriction, regulation or even tax – none of which in these instances equate to theft.

  • Philip Thomas

    Of course, if businesses are persons, they can get married, right? Think of the tax benefits there!

    The problem with running a society in which poor people starve to death is that there are more poor people than rich people, and they don’t like watching their neighbours starve. The tradtional response to this problem was twofold 1) Military repression and 2) Religous underpinning. 2 is out by operating assumptions of atheist politics. 1 on its own is rather dangerous…

    There’s a further problem with specfically “Atheist” politics: the use of that label excludes a great many people who are highly sympathetic to your politics but are still wedded to a religion (often in a rather vague way). Secular Humanism may be more acceptable…


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