Thursday, July 24, 2008


How about this as an academic argument:

The key phrase of the Second Amendment is found in the preamble, but not the militia part. The key phrase is "necessary to the security of a free state." Why the adjective? The flip answer is that a state that bans the possession and use of arms by the "people" is not as free as one that does not. But there is a more mechanical aspect that supports a right to self defense.

A free state implies necessary restraints on the armed agencies of government that are vested with the authority to use force. This lessens the risk that such entities will become agents of tyranny, but also impedes their ability to defend the life and safety of individual citizens. Unless the people are willing to accommodate an oppressive police presence in the interest of public safety (airline security lines notwithstanding) the citizen of a free state (i.e. one in which government force is restrained in the interest of individual liberties) must be allowed the right and means to provide their own defense.

As an aside, I think that probing whether English common law protects a right of self defense is largely unhelpful. It is my understanding (quite possibly wrong, but...) that people living in England were subjects, and that the King owned some sort of interest in his subjects' lives beyond humanitarian or humanistic ones. Killing one of the King's subjects was almost as bad as killing one of the King's cows. People living under the U.S. Constitution however are not subjects in that sense, and are not afflicted by the disabilities imposed by monarchical abstractions.

To sum up: "Free" implies limitations on the state's ability to provide an arbitrary level of security, this necessarily implies a degree of self reliance on the part of the free citizen to protect his life in the setting of such limitations. If the Constitution prevents the policeman from looking in the trunk of the speeding hit man's car when he is on the way to kill you, the Constitution impliedly allows you to rectify that by dispatching the miscreant when the choice comes down to you or him.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


One of the problems with the progressive notion of redistribution is that it is anti-progressive. Redistribution is an end rather than a means, and it is rather a dead-end. Redistribution is the process by which the loaves are divvied up rather than by which they are created. There is nothing industrious about redistribution. It is a policy that assumes that the distributed goods are the final fruits of effort and merit rather than the seeds of further progress.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The recently completed United States Supreme Court term has generated a gread deal of internet comment and analysis. Websites such as the Volokh Conspiracy are loaded with critiques and discussions as to what the various opinions mean and argue over the legal principles that are either vindicated or violated by these decisions.

What is interesting about these discussions is that very smart people disagree sharply over the legal principles, interpretations and construction of the law. They also argue over history and legal philosophy, supporting wildly varying conclusions. In reading these discussions, one can make the following observations:
a soc
There are a number of philosphies of law, each of which presupposes the existence of some definite thing, such as a divine law giver, a state of nature, a social compact, or natural order. The position taken in these abstract legal arguments depends largely on what one presupposes as the foundation of law. TO understand the arguments, it might be helpful to fully understand the different theories by reading Aristotle's Rhetoric or Montesquieu's The Spirit of Laws or Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, but in understanding how the controversies in law arise, it is helpful to presume, not a particular fundamental principle, such as the social contract, but merely to accept that legal reasoning presumes such a principle, regardless of what that is.

Legal reasoning tends to be fairly consistent: specific observations and historical data are analyzed to try, using inductive reasoning, to identify the underlying principle that will resolve the dispute. Deductive reasoning then applies this principle to the specific facts to the case at issue. This is true whether one is an originalist or legal positivist or utilitarian, or whatever. This process is subject to the limitations and quirks of human cognition. Very smart people reach different conclusions based on the same data becase the cognitive processes that are used are not deterministic.

When a person analyzes facts and data and legal precedent, and uses them to distill an underlying legal principle, he is using the cognitive process of pattern recognition. This process has a sensitivity and specificity associated with it. Someone who is very adept at recognizing recurrent patterns and readily identify the common principle in disparate facts is also likely to find patterns where none exist. This is a natural consequence of pattern recognition in human cognitive processes and is responsible for the phenomenon of apophenia, the experience of seeing patterns in random data. This potential lsource of "false-positive" error affects not only legal reasoning, but all forms of cognitive analysis where pattern recognition is necessary, such as interpreting electrocardiograms. In order to increase the liklihood that a doctor will correctly identify the subtle patterns associated with particular types of cardiac pathology, he will have to accept the risk of identifying that pathology when none is actually there. He trades off false positive interpratations as the price of minimizing false negatives.

In the legal context, this apophenia phenomenon leads legal scholars on jurists to find patterns in factual scenarios, legal precedents and modern culture that appears to fit with a certain principle. Sometimes they derive a useful rule or concept, but they also will occasionally be fooled into thinking that they have identified an underlying truth that really isn't there.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Homosexuality is an expected consequence of nature using sexual reproduction as a method of providing genetic diversity.

There would be little diversity resulting from all males being attracted to the same trait, and all females doing likewise. In the extreme case, not only would all males be attracted to the same type of female, they would be attracted to a single individual. This would frustrate the purpose of genetic diversity, which would negate the benefits of sexual reproduction. Thus, "normal" males (to focus on this portion of the species) are attracted to a variety of different female attributes; some men prefer thin females, other more sturdy shapes, some prefer large breasts, others not, different men are attracted preferentially to different body parts, etc. Nature endows the male inventory with a bell curve of sexual appetites, and as we move from the norm, we encounter all types of paraphilias that are not ultimately character defects, but the statistical and anomalous consequences of nature's quest for genetic diversity within the species. Nature has decided that it is OK to have a small percentage of the population have sexual orientations that incline away from reproduction as price to keep stirring the genetic pot. This may explain why there is no true homosexuality gene. If all sexual appetites were genetically determined, all types of genetic traits would cluster in discrete populations, and once again, the goal of genetic diversity would be frustrated.