8/01/2006

My problem with the world part 2

Upon further reflection, here is what it comes down to. You have your opinions of how things should be run. I have my opinions of how things should be run. Doesn't it make sense to allow the greatest number of people have things run as they see best, even if that means that a few miles away things are different? Is different really that bad? Are we really that intolerant of other points of view?

19 comments:

Fishfrog said...

Is different really that bad?

Well, in my very humble opinion, yes and no. When differences from one state to another are more than trivial, they can lead to complications and make it difficult to travel from one state to the next or to do business in two neighboring states. It’s like Germany and Russia. If we were to allow states to individually choose the gauge of the railroads that go through their states, we would have to change trains at the border. The cost of doing business would skyrocket. I would no longer be able to afford shoes made across the river!

You bring up a good point which made me think of something I hadn’t thought of before. A rationale for preferring a state to the whole country as the decision-making level is that, because the state is smaller, it can be more responsive to the residents’ preferences. And furthermore that two people from Alabama are more likely to see eye to eye than one person from Alabama and one person from California.

I think what is interesting is that this seems to suggest that we use the political subdivision of the state as a proxy for identifying like-minded people. But here in Missouri, the residents are split almost 50/50 between the political parties. And this split tracks, to a certain extent, the divide between urban and rural (with the suburbs tending to rural). Which is to say that we urbanites are often saddled with policies that no one we know supports. We’re stuck with state representatives like Kit Bond and Jim Talent just because a bare majority votes for them. How is that any better than having Bush as president because a bare majority (or a bare minority in 2000) of people country-wide voted for him?

So I guess I’m not sure what my point is, except that Democracy doesn’t seem like that great of a system, whether at a state level or a national level.

This comment is getting long, but I think this was a really interesting post and it got me thinking about a lot of stuff, so I’m going to keep going.

One reason I support rule-making at a national level is because, contrary to what a lot of people say, people in America are more homogeneous on important topics than ever before. Even on abortion, there is a large consensus that it should be legal but restricted. On homosexuality, although there seems to be a severe split on the issue of marriage, there is a consensus that a person shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The split is that some of us think that means they should be allowed all the privileges of marriage, including the word “marriage.” What with the internet, interstates, and national television networks, the reasons to support fifty mini-countries are swiftly disappearing. And as I unsuccessfully attempted to say above, using the state as a proxy for similarly opinionated populations ignores the reality that urbanites in Kansas City are more similar to urbanites in Denver than to a resident of Piedmont.

So am I intolerant of other views? I don’t think so. I think I just see the USA as more America than United States. (Yes, you can all use that pithy statement on job applications)

Matt said...

Medicaid spending. It's largely a state program, and you often see in states with high minority poor populations less funding of the program. Which is unethical. Uniformity of solution can be a good thing.

Arfanser said...

So upon further reflection my complaints boil down to two separate things.

First, if one assumes that the federal government regulating more is a good thing, wouldn't it still be better to make them comply with the constitution and amend it if the super-majority of us think that the federal government should regulate that area. This is more a a procedural issue. Without deciding what should be done, isnt it better to comply with a normal reading of the constitution instead of a twisted one (which I beleive we currently have).

Second, I believe a state can be more responsive to the desires of the individual. Both fishfrogs example of train tracks and Matt's example of medicaid would fall into categories where the feds can regulate, through the commerce clause and the spending clause respectively. I have no problem with either of these. But if a state is allowed to regulate the majority of affairs in the country, people still have the option of leaving a state in which the dominant political party is not one with which they agree while still remaining in America. The way things are now, there is no escape without running to another country. If CA allows abortion and gay marriage (to go back to the first examples) and MO doesnt, and I really want to live in a state that allows those things, I can go to CA without abandoning the country. This allows people more choice in my opinion.

Now again to preempt. I know that for the poor classes picking up and moving across the country is a difficult proposition, however, many of our ancestors picked up and moved across the ocean in order to find a better political and religios climate so if it really matters to a person they find a way.

Fishfrog said...

"Both fishfrogs example of train tracks and Matt's example of medicaid would fall into categories where the feds can regulate, through the commerce clause and the spending clause respectively. I have no problem with either of these."

Clearly they fall under constitutional powers, because the courts have told us they do. The fact that you have no problem with either suggests that what you consider the proper reading of the constitution happens to coincide with how you think our government should be structured. My preferred reading also happens to gel with how I want the country to be run.

Specifically, I think the separation clause should prohibit any law that can be justified only by religion and/or faith. For example, a law banning gay marriage should be unconstitutional under the first amendment because the only rationale that is in any way persuasive is that the bible says it's bad. Also, we should be able to conduct unfettered stem cell research without laws forbidding government support of such research. After all, without a faith-based idea that an embryo is the same as a human being, there is no objection to the research. They are just cells.

Lastly, your statement that if someone wwants to move bad enough, they will find a way seems to contradict your statement that you know it is hard for poor people to move. For many, it is not just a matter of wanting it bad enough, or else all the poor people would live in whatever state had the best medicaid funding. It is simply not possible for the majority of indigent citizens to pick up and move.

In conclusion, I'm not really sure why we should show such deference to a document (the constitution) that was written so long ago by people facing totally different issues.

Arfanser said...

"we should be able to conduct unfettered stem cell research without laws forbidding government support of such research." Why should any government be forced to fund any sort of research at all? Should the government be forced to fund research into my idea of how to cure diseases assuming I can make a credible case. That is ludicrious. The government should be able to fund what it wants.

Second, if I come up with a non faith based reason for forbidding abortion, stem cell research, or gay marriage then you will support the ban? No, obviously. Just because the reasons that are easiest for you to tear down are religious based does not mean that there are no other reasons. But this is getting into a debate on those issues and I only wanted to use them as an example. In retrospect a bad idea because people's feelings on those particular issues are to strong to allow a debate where those are brought up in a peripheral manner.

So finally to get to your main contention (I believe) that both of us are just advocating different interpretations of the constitution. As I understand Matt's contention, medicaid is simply giving money away. Having thought about it now, this may not qualify as spending for the common good. The reason I was willing to accept it previously is that 1) it was state spending, and if the federal government is giving money to the states in a rationally equal way then I am ok with it, it is then up to the state to spend as it sees fit. 2) I hadn't thought about it much, and so my blanket acceptance was premature. Thank you for calling me on it. Your example of train tracks was given as train tracks crossing state lines which is the classic example of interstate commerce. If your example was meant to include tracks which are purely intrastate then I think the feds should not regulate them under our current system.

Finally, you ask, "why we should show such deference to a document (the constitution) that was written so long ago by people facing totally different issues?" My response, the constitution was intended to change. Even the people that wrote it realized that they hadnt done it perfectly and so amended the constitution to create the bill of rights. the constitution doesnt need to be a really old outof date document. It can be fixed, and should be fixed on a regular basis to allow it to adapt to our changing society. The reason we should give it deference is because it is the law. If congress and the president can disregard or manipulate an interpretation of the constitution to fit their current desires, what is to protect us when their desires infringe on our rights (see patriot act).

Arfanser said...

I guess the best way to sum up my argument would be, I think we need to respect the concept behind the constitution, that the federal government has explicit and limited powers contained in the constitution, not the current set of powers contained in the constitution.

Fishfrog said...

"Should the government be forced to fund research into my idea of how to cure diseases assuming I can make a credible case. That is ludicrious. The government should be able to fund what it wants."

In the context of the stem cell debate, the problem is that the president, by executive order, put a moratorium on federal funding of stem cell research. Congress recently passed legislation that would have reversed that order, but Bush vetoed it.

I guess I see your point about obeying the constitution and using the methods provided for altering it. But I still have a general unsatisfaction with having to abide by the Constitution. And the process necessary to change it often makes it impossible to protect minorities who haven't the muster to mount a campaign to amend it. Sometimes the majority is wrong. Sometimes it is a moral issue.

P.S. I admit I got a little off topic in the gay marriage and stem cell issues. But I actually think the religious arguments are the strongest in support. The secular dependence on "tradition" and the "fabric of society" are bogus and simply beg the question. So I don't pick out the religious angle because it's the easiest to tear down, but because it offers the only defensible position. As such, under my learned interpretation of the Constitution (and the Federalist Papers), any law prohibiting gay marriage or limiting scientific research should be declared unconstitutional under Amendment 1.

Fishfrog said...

"I guess the best way to sum up my argument would be, I think we need to respect the concept behind the constitution, that the federal government has explicit and limited powers contained in the constitution, not the current set of powers contained in the constitution."

I think you put it well here, and I wuold agree with everthing until "not the current...." I disagree with that last part.

Arfanser said...

I dont understand what you mean in your last sentence, and in reading what I wrote I see that wasnt clear either. What i meant in the "not the current..." language was merely that this argument for me has nothing to do with what those explicit powers are. That I am not passing judgment on what is actually contained in the constitution.

As for the gay marriage and stem cell debates, I am happy to engage you on the merits of those topics, but on a different post. Maybe on your blog next time. But since you have a wider readership maybe on mine after all.

Finally, I never addressed your poor people comment. I think that you are right that it doesnt matter enough to them to move and that is why they dont. Under our current system I dont think there is any great incentive to move. I do take issue with your comment that they would all move to the state with the best medicaid, that presumes that they want to be on medicaid and have no intention of going off of it. I dont think that is true, but maybe I think too highly of people :)

Fishfrog said...

"But since you have a wider readership maybe on mine after all."

I think our readership is about equal. Roughly 5 people.

And based on my experience, people like handouts, and once you've gotten some handouts from the government, there is less incentive to work unless the government takes that money away. But that's just based on some anecdotal evidence.

Fishfrog said...

Having thought about your post for much of the day (nothing to do at work), I think it's worth saying that your post made me think of two distinct questions: 1) Should we have a powerful centralized government or a weak centralized government with each state having a lot of individual power; 2) Does the constitution even allow us to have a strong centralized government or does it require leaving most decisions to the state.

As to the first one, as I may or may not have made clear, I think we're better off with a strong centralized government. I think when states get to decide every issue independently, it leads to excessive state nationalism and fractures the country as a whole. I just don't think Missouri is that different from California or Idaho or Florida or Maine. Sure there are some differences, but they seem pretty superficial.

As to the second question, it may be too big of a question to answer. Do I agree with Raich? Wickard v. Fillburn? I'm not sure. My gut reaction to both was, "Are you kidding me?????" But maybe that reaction was just due to my support for the losing side on the merits of what they were doing. Do I think there is a right to privacy in the constitution? Well, I've read Pierce and Meyer, Griswold and Eisenstadt, Roe and Lawrence, and I kind of think there is a right to privacy. Now, it's no suprise that I think there SHOULD be a right to privacy, but I honestly think there is enough in the constitution to support the Court's decision in Griswold.

Admittedly, nowhere in the bill of rights does it say "The peoples' right to privacy shall not be infringed." And maybe the founding fathers wouldn't have supported it. But it doesn't really matter what the founding fathers thought. We're not bound by their thoughts, we're bound by what they wrote and what the citizens voted for. And the fact that it is not explicitly in the BOR, I think, is answered by Griswold, Eisenstadt, and Lawrence.

So maybe I should've said this earlier instead of rambling on about gay marriage. Oh well.

Arfanser said...

"but I honestly think there is enough in the constitution to support the Court's decision in Griswold"

What? And does that sentence by itself blow away the concept of a government of enumerated powers?

Arfanser said...

Sorry, that question should be what in the constitution is enough, not WHAT?!?!?!

Fishfrog said...

No, my one sentence dosn't do a whole lot of anything except shows that a lot of time, life is a bit ambiguous. An "enumerated" right to privacy need not be explicitly enumerated. Unless, I guess, you also think that only Congress is precluded from passing any law that abridges the freedom of speech. And although not written by the founders, the 14th amendment's "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," certainly doesn't explicitly do much of anything. The fact is, the enlgish language is not always particularly clear. Saying the federal government can only exercise "enumerated" powers simply begs the question of what is enumerated. It seems to me that this is an appropriate place for the courts to step in.

Arfanser said...

OK so you told me that there is other parts of the constitution that are also unclear. By now you should have realized that I am in favor of amendments to the constitution. But you still didnt tell me what in the constitution supports your claim that it contains a right to privacy.

Fishfrog said...

Well, you see the 1rst, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th amendments create a penumbra in which is contained the right to privacy. Also the 14th amendment gives us a right to privacy in it's due process clause.

Arfanser said...

So much for enumerated powers. Do I think there should be a right to privacy in the constitution, well it depends on wording, but yes for the most part I do. Does that mean that judges should create one and say it is kind of in all of these here? No. That is the job of the legislature. I understand fishfrog that judges should interpret, but interpret does not mean creat out of thin air. I think we all want some form of the right to privacy, the problem with this penumbra crap is that the interpretation does not have to be based on the right, because the right was never written down. It becomes whatever the majority of those 9 people want.

Fishfrog said...

I disagree that it was created out of thin air. I would have been more comfortable if the court had relied on the 14th amendment instead of the penumbra thing, but even the penumbra thing has textual support. The fact is that the 14th amendment has very broad language, through which a majority of the population has given the courts the power to interpret the broad language. After all, by the time it was ratified, it was clear that the court would exercise its power to interpret laws. By enacting such broad language that, without interpretation, is near meaningless, a majority of the states have given the courts the power they exercise.

Or something like that.

Arfanser said...

I see and understand your argument, I just dont like it.