Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thrasymachus Must Be Answered

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I've been pondering these lines and the question of what makes things right and other things wrong.  We establish government to secure our unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator.  But what if there is no Creator, no God?  Does the theory of Natural Law still stand if there is no Natural Law Giver?  It can be said that Natural Law is the Best Positive Law that we can create...but the best for whom?  

At the beginning of our Republic, these principles were generally (though obviously not absolutely) held by the public, that the life, liberty, and property of others were sacrosanct, that they are granted by a Higher Power.  These values have largely been replaced in society with the idea that the wealth of others may be deemed unfairly gained without a reference to what fairness is, that liberty can be enhanced by the dictates of government.  In most aspects, people lack any guiding principles apart from personal gain, regardless of means.  In fact, most people consider the means of government appropriating and redistributing wealth gives the action moral credibility. 

The ideal of Life, Liberty, and Property as fundamental Natural Rights has been usurped for Might Equals Right.  Most will not be comfortable putting it so bluntly, but the idea that government actions are legitimate because it is a democratic government that took them is arguing that having the power of the majority makes an action right.  Of course, the same people that support government intrusion on the rights of others become indignant the second they become part of the minority, the abused class.  And sadly, many that denounce the abuses of government do so because they wish to be sucking at the tit of government instead.  It is not the abuse of government powers, but the recipient of the benefits that angers these people (the Occupy movement is a great example of this).  For so many people in this country, what is right equals what is good for me.  

The threat of an afterlife, the Myth of Er, may have been false but it certainly had its uses.  In a world without a Higher Power (and I am an agnostic myself), the whole question of right and wrong is often thrown overboard; there is no disincentive to do wrong, and often a great reward. 

Can a society survive if it embraces the philosophy of Thrasymachus?  Perhaps so, perhaps not.  But will such a society be happier than a free society based on respect for life, liberty, and property?  For a small group, yes; for the rest, no. 

And that's where I find myself.  I'm an agnostic.  I don't believe there is a Creator that particularly cares if our Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness are upheld or violently raped.  I do believe that a free society, with positive laws upholding Jefferson and Locke's ideals, is the happiest of societies for most within it.  But I also know that those same political tools used to create positive laws will almost inevitably be employed to destroy what they are supposed to protect; politicians will forever bribe some people with the wealth of others.  Perhaps liberty is such a fragile thing that its existence cannot be maintained.  Like a silver coin passed around too many hands, perhaps we can't prevent its tarnishing and eventual ruin. 

But I intend to keep throwing objections at Thrasymachus, even if he isn't listening.  The political tools used to abuse our economic machine have taken that machine to its breaking point.  Europe may have passed that point already and we are definitely moving in that direction.  When the breakdown occurs, Thrasymachus will not be content to watch the world (and his privileged position) blow up into a billion pieces.  No, he'll have a new political system to mitigate the impact of the next economic implosion.  This one won't be democratic, though I can easily see it being demanded by the people. 

"You never want a serious crisis go to waste."  They won't miss their opportunity. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Presidential Election Predictions

Ok, so it is incredibly early to be saying for sure how the Presidential election will break down nine months from now.  Anyone who knows anything about politics can tell you a who lot of things can change during that time period.  The 2008 election is proof enough of that.  Currently, we hear a lot of moaning and whining about how the GOP field sucks and how this will lead to an Obama reelection.  I don't think that's accurate; the GOP field is definitely not great, but they have the distinct advantage of not being Obama.  Mitt and Newt will duke it out for a few more weeks, but come March I think the primary will largely be decided (with Mitt winning), at which point it becomes a referendum on the President. 

This is what an admittedly not great GOP candidate is up against.  I took these Gallup numbers and plugged them into the electoral college map provided by, with the following conditions:
  • The Republicans win every state they won in 2008.  If these states stuck by the GOP during the landslide Obama win, there's no reason to believe they will switch now.  Polling indicates this is the case.  After the Census changes, the score is Dems 359, GOP 179.
  • States with a 50% or more disapproval of Obama go Republican.  Disapproval of a President is very hard to overcome; people are more excited to throw the bum out than supporters are about going out to vote for him.  Even with an equal participation rate, Obama still loses.  Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, and New Hampshire all go into the red column.  Obama 306, Romney (?) 232.
  • Now we take all of the states that have higher disapproval than approval of Obama, but which are not at 50% yet.  Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Iowa all flip to neutral.  GOP 232, Obama 216.  
  • I don't feel like playing with the Nebraska and Maine splits, so they will stay as they were in 2008.
Of those six states, I somewhat randomly predict the following:
  • Oregon will stay Blue, despite the lower approval rating.  They haven't voted for the GOP since the year of my birth; it's not impossible this will change, but I wouldn't describe it as probable.  GOP 232, Obama 223.
  • Iowa is almost exactly tied according to Gallup.  Romney did pretty well there in the primary, and if push comes to shove I don't see the more hardline conservatives sitting it out in favor of Obama.  I'm leaving this as a tossup for now. 
  • My neighbor just to the south, Pennsylvania.  They swung pretty hard for the GOP in 2010 and the race was pretty close in 2008.   This could end up repeating the 2000 Florida mess.  
  • Virginia has swung pretty solidly against the President, electing a GOP governor against the President's direct campaigning in 2009.  Nearly a 5% difference in approval/disapproval not favoring Obama.  Goes GOP.  Reds 245, Blues 223.
  • The Tar Heels are pretty close to VA; while the African American community will still swing hard for Obama, they always go for the Democrats.  Obama has lost the independents in that state and has a 43% approval rating and a 48% disapproval.  GOP 260, Obama 223.
  • Florida.  A must win for Obama if my other predictions are accurate.  Obama has a 43% approval rating, just short of 48% disapproval, and Romney just stomped Gingrich in Florida.  This one goes GOP.  President Romney 289, Former President Obama 223.  26 are tossups which Obama would have to win, along with flipping either Florida or Virginia and North Carolina. 
Again, a long way to go.  But the GOP should not be despondent about this situation.   Neither Mitt nor Newt is a great bastion of liberty, but either are strongly preferable to the current occupier of 1600 PA Ave.  I've heard a lot of worrying that the weakness of the Republican field could cost them the election, but if I had to bet, my money would be on Romney winning.  The President is not popular.  The nation elected a complete unknown in 2008 due to the unpopularity of the previous occupant; there's no reason to believe under qualified candidates can't be elected again under similar circumstances.