They co-evolved with us. They are unknown to mankind, and have our external physical appearance, with one difference: They phase from one gender to the other, as part of their reproductive cycle, seducing unwitting humans of both genders. Their continued survival as a species depends on taking their offspring from duped human mothers and in regarding mankind as a useful tool. They call themselves “Intermediates”. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XB7RKSS/
When Toby and Laura decided that only one of them wanted children, divorce seemed like the only answer. But, current technology provided another solution. Toby’s older and old-fashioned sister, Jennie, never liked it. Ten years later, Laura’s career has changed, bringing her closer to her husband -but can Jennie accept the change when she barely accepted their decision to separate marriage from parenthood in the first place? (About 16,000 words.) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCS41PT
Hugh looked up the length of the pipe. From his position, it really could be considered “up” because centripetal acceleration was at a maximum here. The pipe was a uniform two meters in diameter, and it ran from where he stood, on the inside of the outermost wall of the crew habitat, all the way to the engine. The crew habitat of the interplanetary space ship Maine was like a large, circular bicycle wheel with a long metal cylinder, about a fourth its diameter, running through and perpendicular to its center. The crew habitat spun relative to the cylinder, which was the unmanned, fusion-powered engine of the Maine. One end of the pipe Hugh was in terminated when it reached the engine cylinder. The other end of the pipe terminated in the irsing door that Hugh currently stood on. When the Maine was in “dry-dock” for engine repairs, and the crew habitat wasn’t spinning, the pipe could give quick access to an entry hatch on the engine. When the crew habitat was spinning relative to the engine, the entry hatch could periodically be seen by an observer inside the pipe as it passed over the hatch, but it would be impossible to open in the short time it was in proper position.
While the ship was traveling in space, the pipe Hugh was in served a less glamorous function. All along the pipe were small openings that allowed the material collected from the ship’s human-waste-removal units to empty into it. Centrifugal force and air pressure than forced the waste material towards the irising door, which was periodically opened to empty the material into space. It was Hugh’s job to see to it that the tunnel remained clear of obstructions and clogs. Every Tuesday, Hugh would clean a different section of the pipe, 15 meters ahead of the section he had cleaned the previous week. By custom, all of the apprentices on ship were supposed to take turns at this weekly duty, but the Junior Crewman in charge of making the duty roster each week had decided that Hugh would always clean the pipe. The J.C. had a grudge against Hugh because his father had once been laid off by the company Hugh’s father used to own, before the Chinese Prosperity Alliance Space Expeditionary Force had annexed the Earth’s moon and nationalized all non-C.P.A.-owned businesses.
(Read More: judgingMen-2017)
In 1960, Ayn Rand published an essay called “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World”. At some point around 1995, I read the essay in a book called “Philosophy: Who Needs It”. It asserted that “faith and force are corollaries”:
“I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduced mankind –a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: ‘It’s so, because I say so,’ will have to reach for a gun sooner or later.” (https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Who-Needs-Ayn-Rand/dp/0451138937/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489794988&sr=8-1&keywords=philosophy%3A+who+needs+it)
I suspect the essay was likely written more as a response to Communism, since Rand regarded the philosophy of “materialism” as “neo-mysticism”. However, the essay applies equally to major world religions, which is what I want to focus on here. (We can leave aside the issue of whether Rand’s description of materialism as neo-mysticism is true or false here.)
In 1995, I found this essay to be very powerful. It made a mental connection for me that I had never even considered. (This often happened when I read Rand.) This connection later gave me a perspective on the events of September 11, 2001 that I have carried forward to today.
What I would like to do now is provide additional context to the following generalization: Faith and force are corollaries, and mysticism, when adopted by enough people, will always lead to the ‘rule of brutality’. (If you don’t like “absolute” statements, then I’m satisfied if you read this and think that mysticism, with a “high degree of probability” will lead to the rule of brutality.)
Before I begin, I want to note who this is written for. It is not written for someone who believes that there actually are revelations from some other realm that is not reality. I don’t expect to persuade the believer in Christianity, Islam, or any other religion not to believe with this essay. It’s not my purpose. (This becomes more apparent when I define “faith” below.)
This essay is aimed at people who generally already have a “secular” outlook on the world, but who tend not to believe me when I say that a very religious society, regardless of its religious content, is a society that initiates a lot of physical force -either institutionally, through government, or by the acts of individuals. It is aimed at people who haven’t grasped the logical connection between “faith” on the one hand and the “initiation of physical force” on the other. (I say “initiation” of physical force because I am referring to people who start the use of force to gain a value or to destroy a value held by another person who wants to live, as opposed to the use of force in self-defense or to stop a criminal from committing further crimes by putting them in jail.)
At root, I think Rand’s argument is that there is a connection between the “psychological phenomena” of “faith” and the initiation of physical force. By “psychological phenomena”, I mean the actual mental processes going on inside the mind of a person acting on “faith”. How do I define “faith” for purposes of this article? First, I’ll say that there is, in fact, no supernatural realm that is giving people divine flashes of insight. I’m not going to argue that point here. (Which is why this is not aimed at the “believer” –there are plenty of works arguing for atheism, and I’ll leave it to the reader to research them.)
If there is no supernatural realm giving people flashes of revelation, then where are people who claim to be acting on faith getting their “commandments from god”? “Faith” is usually defined as the belief in something without proof or sensory-evidence. What does the psychological phenomena/process of “faith” consist of, if there is, in fact, no supernatural realm? That psychological process is a reliance on one’s <b>feelings</b> as guides to knowledge, or a belief that one’s feelings are the fundamental basis of knowledge as opposed to sense experience or logic derived from sense experience. An idea simply pops into the faithful’s head, probably coming out of their subconscious, and they decide that it feels right, and that is it. Or, someone tells them, either orally or through a book, that an idea is right, and they simply accept it because they feel that they have to accept what this person has told them.
With these terms defined, how can you reach the conclusion that faith and the initiation of physical force are corollaries? In other words, how do you reach the conclusion that routine and systematic use of the psychological process of “faith” will lead, with some degree of necessity, to the act of initiating physical force against others? (Obviously, I don’t want you to take what I say on faith.) I think the only way to arrive at this conclusion is to look at enough examples and try to see if you can find a pattern. I will provide you, the reader, with a few hypotheticals, and then leave it to you to come up with more:
Example 1: Your religion says that you aren’t supposed to keep certain types of meats stored together. You cannot store meat A and meat B together. You enter into a contract with a truck driver who is not of your religion to transport meat A to you in a truck, and you pay him money in advance for that.
When the truck driver arrives with the delivery, it turns out that he has unknowingly stored meat B in the truck along with the meat A he is delivering to you. (The truck driver had another customer and he was going to deliver meat B to the other customer after stopping off at your house.) You say that you cannot accept the meat because it was stored with meat B, and you want your money back. The truck driver says you’re “off your rocker” and refuses to give you your money back or pay “damages” for this alleged “breach of contract”.
A secular court system would say there is no scientific basis for your belief about storage of meat A and meat B together. Your breach of contract lawsuit would be dismissed. You can either discard the meat you paid for, or discard your religion, but in a secular system of government, you cannot have both.
You cannot use rational persuasion to convince the truck driver to give you your money back because he thinks your religion isn’t true. The temptation would be to resort to “self-help” in order to recover your money from the truck driver. This is an initiation of physical force. Your faith has led to the initiation of physical force. If there is a court system that is based on your religion that has jurisdiction, then it will get you your money back. But, this is an initiation of physical force, since the use of physical force can only be justified in self-defense or to recompense someone whose right to life has been violated in some way. Either way, if you act on your religious principles about storing meat A and meat B together, and take it seriously, you are led to the initiation of physical force against the truck driver that doesn’t hold your religious beliefs.
Example 2: Your religion says that a particular piece of land is holy, and is not to be used for any human purpose. According to your religion, the land is just to be left as it currently is. Someone owns the land who doesn’t ascribe to your religion, and decides he’s going to build his house on it. If there is a secular legal system, you will not be able to prevent the house construction. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to build the house, because your belief isn’t based in reason. If you try to point to your holy text, he’s going to say it’s baloney, and he doesn’t believe it. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him. Combine this with the fact that any “interpreter” of your religion (priest, imam, rabbi, or whatever), going off of his feelings, can suddenly claim that god has told him that a particular land is “holy” and belongs to members of your religion, and this is a recipe for constant conflict with the non-believers who want to use land for actually living their lives in the here and now. Then combine this with a multiplicity of religions, all claiming some tract of land as “holy” and you get the crusades, the 30-years war, or the conflict in Israel.
Example 3: Your religion has a “holy animal” that is not to be eaten or harmed. Someone who doesn’t ascribe to your religion routinely shoots and eats the “holy animal”. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to eat your holy animal, because your belief isn’t based in reason. Once again, he’s just going to say your religion is false…and he’s hungry. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him.
The more all-embracing one’s faith is in their mind, that is, the more they rely on ideas based in nothing but their feelings, and the more they take such ideas seriously, the more they will end up in irreconcilable conflicts like the three examples above, that can only be resolved by either not taking the “holy text” seriously, or by the initiation of physical force against non-believers. There will be a multiplicity of instances like the three outlined above.
My point here isn’t concerning the content of particular directives and commandments contained within any religious doctrine. I’ve made up these particular examples for purposes of illustrating my point, and I don’t even know if they are part of any actual major world religion. My point here is that the religious doctrine is insulated from any sort of ability to resolve a dispute with followers of other religious doctrines or those who embrace a secular view-point because it will create insoluble problems with those who don’t follow the creed, or those who interpret the creed differently.
A follower of a creed based in faith, will be left with the choice of either: (1) separating himself from those who don’t believe. This is probably why you see “religious ghettos” when people of one religion move into a country with a majority that doesn’t ascribe to their faith. These minority religious groups just separate out and live in their own special areas of a city. Or, (2), the believer will use force against non-believers to the extent necessary to ensure that his doctrine based on faith is respected by the non-believers.
Additionally, note that I have made no mention of examples from actual religions concerning directives or commandments that say either: (1) kill the infidels/sinners, or (2), say something that could easily be interpreted as “kill the infidels/sinners”.
For instance, the Bible talks about killing adulterers: (“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10) The Koran talks about killing infidels: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone….” http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx
This is because my analysis of “faith” and how it necessitates the initiation of physical force doesn’t rely on the content of any particular religious doctrine. The psychological process of faith itself necessitates the initiation of physical force against others to resolve the conflicts that will occur.
However, when you start looking at the content of actual world religions and some of the things they say regarding how the “sinful” are to be dealt with, and then combine those words -that religious content- with a method of “thought” (faith) that provides no means of dealing with non-believers because reason is jettisoned, you can see why it can be a potent psychological cocktail motivating the initiation of physical force.
Why are the countries in Europe and North America relatively peaceful and free compared to countries in the Middle East? After all, America, and, to a lesser extent, Europe is full of church-going people who believe. I think the difference is the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. If you’re atheist and you talk about religion and science with even the most religious Westerner, he will probably, eventually, say something along the following lines: “There is a place for faith and there is a place for reason.” I suspect this represents a sort of centuries-long compromise or rapprochement between religion and secularism in the Western World. It has sufficiently delimited faith in important areas of human life, especially in the realm of politics, and allowed for the creation of a (generally) secular legal system. I suspect that most Western intellectuals do not realize how “all-encompassing” faith is in the mind of the average Middle Easterner, because we haven’t been there ourselves for centuries. It is why Western politicians and intellectuals tend to describe Islam as “ideology” rather than as religion. For instance, a Dutch politician has noted:
“Let no one fool you about Islam being a religion. Sure, it has a god, and a here-after, and 72 virgins. But in its essence Islam is a political ideology. It is a system that lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every person. Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life. Islam means ‘submission’. Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy, because what it strives for is Sharia. If you want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies.” (“The Lights are Going Out All Over Europe”, by Geert Wilders, emphasis added, http://www.truthprovider.com/?app=articles&id=155 )
Christianity once was a system that laid down detailed rules for society and the life of every person too –we just haven’t seen it for about 500 years. As a result, people who take religion that seriously seem strange to the average Westerner –you would have to look to what would widely be regarded as a “cult” here in the West to find a similar mindset. (For instance, the “Branch Davidians” in Waco, Texas.) This is why I believe the average Westerner has a difficult time thinking of Islamic terrorism or the theocracy of a country like Iran as being based in religious faith. Faith is just not as all-encompassing in the mind of even the most religious Westerners.
After the November 2015 attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were murdered, I saw comedian Bill Maher ask, in a not so comedic mood, “Why do they hate us?” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/14/bill-maher-on-paris-attacks-why-do-they-hate-us/ )
Based on what I’ve said above about the mind of someone who operates primarily on the basis of faith, this is my theory on why so many in the Middle East seem to hate us:
Part of the reason is examples like 1, 2, and 3 above. In these instances, the non-believer doesn’t even know he’s done something that violated their religious faith. I think this is going to enrage a member of the faith, not just because of what the non-believer is doing, but because the non-believer, rightly so in my opinion, doesn’t care about their religion. The non-believer wants to live. The Westerner, with a much more delimited view of religious faith, will take numerous actions to live his life, all of which are offenses against Islam. This lack of concern for religious rituals will tend to infuriate the faithful, and is a spur to violence.
People in the West will tend to think there is some secular reason for the faith-based mind’s antagonism. They will look at factors like “US bombing in the Middle East” or “poverty” or anything besides the terrorist’s proclamations of fidelity to Islam. This is because people in the West have trouble conceiving of a mind that is that “faith-based”. Westerners assume there must be some secular reason that is the “real” reason planes are getting blown up, journalists are getting their heads cut off, and innocent people on sidewalk cafes are being shot. The reality is that they hate us because we aren’t just ignorant of their religious tenants, but because, on some fundamental level, they know we don’t regard their dogma as having any basis in reality. They hate us because we want to live this life, which is the only one we’re going to get.
The philosophy set forth in the fiction and nonfiction of
Ayn Rand establishes an underlying intellectual framework for a
free society. Rand was like a physicist who deals with broad
abstractions about the nature of reality. The engineer then takes
these ideas and builds, among other things, the automobile.
Also like the physicist, Rand the philosopher dealt with the
underlying ethical principles of a free society, but left many of
the details of how a government should be “constructed” to
future intellectuals in the field of law and jurisprudence.1 The
aim of this paper is to help fill in some of the details as to how a proper government should be constituted. Specifically, this
paper deals with the issue of governmental financing in a free
society. (Read More: Corporations as Contract and Government Financing in a Free Society)
I recently said to a friend that any form of “gun control” is an initiation of physical force, and that allowing even a little initiation of physical force abrogates the entire principle of individual rights to life, liberty and property. When I thought about this some, I realized that the question might actually have been this: “Why act on principle at all? Why can’t you occasionally violate a principle without throwing it out altogether?” This is a good question, even if my friend wasn’t actually asking it, so I will endeavor to give an explanation to something he may or may not have actually been asking.
First, what is meant when we speak of a “principle”? I will start with an example and then move from there to a definition. Let’s consider the principle of respecting the property rights of others. I’ll reduce this to the following maxim: “Do not take the property of others without their consent.”
But, why shouldn’t I just occasionally steel when I can get away with it? For instance, when I go to the grocery store, I could take a few items and walk out without paying. If I stuck to stealing food, I might get away with this indefinitely. So why don’t I?
If I’m going to start stealing from the grocery store, I need to develop a methodology to maximize my chances of success. Lets take a look at my “game plan” for stealing from the grocery store:
When I go into the store, I have to check for security cameras.
I have to wait until employees aren’t watching. Once I’ve stolen the items, I’ve got to casually head outside, still checking to see if employees, store customers, or the manager have noticed me stealing from the store. These people are now all potential enemies to me –a threat to my existence- so I cannot trust any of them. I would constantly have to be “looking over my back”, checking to see if anyone noticed me stealing.
I have to develop a plan prior to going in, as this will reduce my chances of getting caught. So I will spend some time working it out. This is time I could have spent doing other things.
I probably want to go in beforehand, and scope out the store, but this could look suspicious -going in, looking around and then returning soon thereafter. So, maybe not?
What will be my “take” from stealing from the grocery store? I can only steal small items, so probably my “gain” will be less than $50.
There are also the penalties involved, if I’m caught. If I steal less than $50, then I am only looking at a fine in Texas, but the fine is up to $500, plus the store can sue me for treble damages and attorney’s fees. If I steal more than $50 of merchandise, I’m looking at anywhere from six months to a year in jail, plus big fines, plus the store suing me.
I think it’s legitimate to consider the government-imposed penalties like this in my analysis since I am not an anarchist -I actually think one of the major ways the government protects rights is by imposing sufficient “pain” or “cost” on the person committing the crime that they won’t want to do it. Criminal laws have a “deterrent effect”. (This isn’t the only reason for criminal penalties, however, they also serve as a “restraint”. For instance, locking up a murderer prevents him from committing more murders.)
Additionally, many jobs will be unavailable to me if I’ve been convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude” like theft. Many employers won’t hire you with a criminal record for theft or fraud.
After any particular episode of theft from the grocery store, I might get $50 to $100 in merchandise, if I don’t get caught. I also stand to loose up to a year of my time in jail, plus all of the fines and civil penalties. That seems like a very “bad bet” to me. All of these “costs” associated with such a life of crime will also add up to feelings of anxiety about getting caught. Anxiety is not a pleasant emotion to feel on a chronic or long-term basis. (I also suppose I could eliminate the anxiety by refusing to think or consuming a lot of alcohol, but that means I’m really likely to get caught if I don’t think about how to get away with it.)
You should also consider the long-term risks of a policy of theft. You might get away with theft once or twice, but the more you do it, the more likely you are to get caught. It hardly seems worth all that pain for $50 of “free” stuff from the grocery store.
I’ve shown that stealing isn’t actually “free”, in terms of your effort and thought. There is actually a “cost” associated with every time you steal. There is the cost of all the mental energy and labor you expend executing your thefts successfully. There is the cost associated with the risk you’ll get caught. Furthermore, the greater the value of the things you are stealing, the greater the risk, because you will face more severe criminal and social penalties. More people will be watching, the more the valuable items, so the more effort you must expend. For instance, it’s a lot harder to steal from a jewelry store than a grocery store because everything is under glass. That means additional labor, time, and energy goes into a jewelry heist.
It seems easier to me to just work a legitimate job, and earn the money I need to buy things at the grocery store. Then, when I walk into the grocery store, I can just get the stuff I want, pay for it, and then walk out.
Additionally, as we saw, if you start stealing from the grocery store, you will wind up “juggling” in your mind, so many variables in trying to pull off a grocery store theft that it will overload your mind’s capacity to deal with all of them at once. This actually points to an important purpose that a “principle” serves. A “principle” is a sort of concept. A concept is a mental summation of relevant observed facts into a generalized “mental tag” -a word and/or a definition. (Although a “principle” is more of a “proposition” –a series of words.) It allows your limited mind to deal with many aspects of reality simultaneously, which would otherwise overwhelm it. You can deal with three or four concrete items as individuals in your mind at one time, but any more than that, and you cannot hold it all successfully. Your mind disintegrates into mental chaos without concepts, and when it comes to concepts of action, which is all I think a “principle” is, your behavior will become equally chaotic.
Given all of this discussion, I will define a “principle” as: “A consistent standard of action you use in the face of a particular set of factual circumstances.”
For instance, “Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is a standard of action that I use whenever I face a particular set of facts. When I see a man-made thing that doesn’t occur in nature, and I didn’t produce it with my own effort, I do not physically appropriate it for my own purposes without the owner’s consent.
Can there be “exceptions” to this principle? For instance, if you break into a cabin when you are stranded in a snow blizzard in the mountains, have you taken the property of the owner without his consent? I believe this isn’t actually an “exception” to the principle, because “factual circumstances” are different from the grocery store example. You can articulate facts that make the situation different from going into the grocery store and taking groceries without the owner’s consent. The primary factual circumstance that is different is that you are willing to compensate the owner of the cabin at a later date for any loss, so it isn’t likely to be without his consent. (This also gets into the issue of what “consent” is, and whether the owner’s consent has to have a rational basis, but I leave that for another discussion.) Another “factual circumstance” that is different is that it is a “life and death emergency”, which means it is an extremely low-probability event that isn’t likely to occur very often –it is “life boat ethics”. (Remember, that part of the reason you don’t steal from the grocery store is you have to hide it, and the more times you do it, the more likely you are to get caught one of those times.)
By thinking of enough concrete scenarios like the grocery store theft example, I eventually decided that stealing just isn’t worth it. It’s better to adopt a general standard of action in my mind: “Don’t take the property of others without their consent.” I leave it to the reader to think through other examples of general standards of action such as “Don’t kill those who haven’t initiated physical force against you,” (i.e., don’t murder), “Don’t misrepresent facts to gain things from others,” (i.e., be honest), “Judge others according to a rational standard, and treat them accordingly,” (i.e., be just), etc.
How does my definition of “principle” compare to the “socially-accepted definition”? If you perform a “define: principle” search on google.com, you get some of the following definitions (as of 11-10-2016):
“…fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”
“…a rule or belief governing one’s personal behavior…”
“…morally correct behavior and attitudes…”
“…a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field…”
“…a natural law forming the basis for the construction or working of a machine…”
These definitions are all essentially, compatible with mine, I believe. For instance, regarding the principle “Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” it is a “fundamental truth” that human beings must produce the material values necessary for their survival, because most of what we need to survive or flourish does not exist in nature. It is also a “fundamental truth” that human beings must use their reasoning minds to produce those material values, and that if you want to live with others they must respect your desire to live and you must respect theirs. (It’s also a “fundamental truth” that human beings are not omniscient, so they need an impartial system of laws and an institution with the socially-recognized exclusive right to the retaliatory use of physical force to protect rights.)
“Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is also “…morally correct behavior…” If one wants to live, and if one’s life is the standard of the good, then, in order to live peacefully with others, you must recognize the property rights of others.
“Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is also a “natural law” in the sense that it recognizes that the human mind functions by persuasion, not coercion. It is a “natural law” in the same sense that the law of universal gravitation is a “natural law”. If you want to build a rocket, you must take the law of inertia into account, because “nature to be commanded must be obeyed”. Similarly, if you want to have a functioning society, it must respect property rights.
Tying all of this back in, why would any form of “gun control” be an abrogation of the principle of individual rights? What is meant by “gun control”? Does it merely mean: “Prohibiting the possession of a weapon with an intent to commit a crime”? The intent to use a weapon to violate others rights is the start of an initiation of physical force, and, if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it can and should be prosecuted by the government. Taking any physical steps towards the eventual goal of force being used to destroy the values of others is an initiation of physical force, and therefore a violation of the principle of individual rights. Anyone who has ever seen a John Wayne movie recognizes that you don’t have to wait for someone to actually shoot you in the gut before you can defend yourself. When the bad guy “goes for his gun”, John Wayne shoots him, and that is self-defense, not an initiation of physical force.
An example of an rights-respecting gun law is something like the statute found in the state of Vermont:
“A person who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, with the intent or avowed purpose of injuring a fellow man,…shall be imprisoned….” (See http://ago.vermont.gov/divisions/criminal-division/gun-laws.php, emphasis added, last accessed on 11-12-2016.)
This is a perfectly acceptable and appropriate law regarding the possession of a firearm. It only prohibits carrying a weapon if the person can be shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have the “intent” or “avowed purpose” of injuring a fellow man. (Presumably, “injuring a fellow man” here means injuries of one’s fellow men other than for purpose of self-defense.)
This, by the way, is why the government could investigate someone who built a weapon of mass destruction in their backyard. Such a device would not be necessary for self-defense. If you walked around with a nuclear bomb strapped to your back for self-defense, even a “low-yield” device, you’d blow yourself up as well as the mugger -and half the city. Your possession of such a device would create the suspicion that you planned to use it for violating the rights of others. There is no likely or probable need for such a device if you are an individual. Now, you might ultimately be able to show that you had an innocent reason for possessing a WMD, but you’d have to go before a court, and the government’s “prima facie case” of an illegal intent is probably satisfied just by showing that you have no business interest in building such a device. For instance, you aren’t engaged in the business of building nuclear bombs for the US military or some sort of mining or industrial concern. After the government makes its “prima facie showing”, the burden can rightly be shifted to you at court to show some reason that doesn’t involve violating the rights of others. (Additionally, you could face civil liability if you create a “nuisance” that invades or imminently threatens the property of others, which a nuclear bomb probably qualifies as.)
But this isn’t what the left means when they speak of “gun control”. What is generally meant by “gun control”, as that expression is used by most members of the Democratic party and the political left, is the following: The government will initiate, or start, the use of physical force against someone for mere possession of a device, in this case, a devise that uses a controlled explosion to release a metal projectile through a tube by means of an explosive material, such as cordite. The government will initiate physical force against such persons even though they have no intent to use the device to violate individual rights. The initiation of physical force by government takes the form of actual or threatened use of force, and, it will continue to escalate the use of physical force until you comply with its commands, or die -whichever comes first.
Here is how government works: If you break a law, you’ll be arrested (force). If you resist arrest, more cops will come to restrain you (more force). If you use a weapon to resist, the cops will use weapons to stop you (deadly force). Ultimately, all laws follow this pattern: “Do not do X, or you will ultimately be killed.” If the government says: “Do not murder, or you will be killed,” then this is fine because murder violates the rights of others. If the government prohibits things like guns and marijuana, then it says: “Do not own a gun or you will be killed,” or “Do not smoke a joint or you will be killed.” At that point you are being threatened with a violent death despite the fact that you are not violating the rights of others. (Like I said, possessing a gun with intent to commit a crime is different, just as smoking a joint and deliberately blowing the smoke in someone’s face is different.)
So what’s wrong with a little governmental initiation of physical force? You face the same sorts of problems that you face with the example of stealing from the grocery store, but this time it’s on a society-wide level. For instance, if the government says you cannot own a gun to defend yourself from a criminal, when there is no time to call the police to protect you, then the government is implicitly saying: “We’re willing to risk your life in order to satisfy a bunch of soccer moms who have an irrational aversion to guns.” How will this be distinguished from other people’s irrational desires that would involve violating your right to life?
Since no one wants to say: “Government officials can arbitrarily murder some people whenever they feel like it,” the legislature and courts will need to come up with some sort of principled distinction between the prohibition on the ownership of a gun for emergency self-defense and any other number of actions you might take to maintain your life. This is why our legal code has become so “Byzantine” with all sorts of “loopholes”, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions. Our legal code is mostly unhinged from any principles distinguishing what should be prohibited and what shouldn’t be because we no longer follow the principle of individual rights.
Additionally, once the principle of individual rights is discarded, the legislature will be constantly bombarded by individuals, and groups of individuals, all trying to appropriate the property of others. It becomes a system of constant “pressure group warfare”, a “cold civil war”, if you will, with a particular political faction gaining power and stealing from some to give to others. They will hold onto power, handing out political favors to their cronies, until some other faction takes over the levers of government and imposes their will on others for a bit.
As I said, a “principle” is a sort of concept, which is a mental summation of relevant observed facts into a generalized “mental tag” -a word and/or a definition. It allows your limited mind to deal with many aspects of reality simultaneously, which would otherwise overwhelm it. You can deal with three or four concrete items as individuals in your mind at one time, but any more than that, and you cannot hold it all successfully. Your mind disintegrates into a mental chaos without concepts, and when it comes to concepts of action, which is all I think a “principle” is, your behavior will become equally chaotic. When society-wide principles like individual rights to life, liberty, and property are disregarded, that society will become chaotic. Eventually the “cold civil war”, of political factions fighting in the legislature, will disintegrate into an actual, shooting, civil war, and people will form gangs fighting one another for the scraps of what is left of civilization, or a “strong man” will take over and the country becomes a dictatorship, with his gang appropriating the property of all. Either way, life will become nasty, brutish, and short without the principle of individual rights to guide us.
A “logical fallacy” is an error in logical reasoning. An error in logic can occur because of some “formal” flaw such as Affirming the consequent ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirming_the_consequent ). An error can also occur because of the use of a common method of argument that may be widely used but is actually irrelevant. I thought these were called “informal fallacies”, but I cannot find confirmation of that on the Internet now. (http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H2)
Most of these informal fallacies have Latin names. For instance, “ad hominem” means “to the person” or “against the man” and involves making an irrelevant attack on the arguer and suggesting that this attack undermines the argument itself. For instance, if a medical doctor is trying to convince his colleagues that they should vaccinate their patients at age four instead of age two, and someone responds that he is having an extramarital affair, so he shouldn’t be listened to, that is clearly irrelevant to his argument.
I want to address a particular type of argument that is similar to argument ad hominem, but has its origin in a particular, mistaken, view of the nature of the concept of “rationality”.
I found an example of this while doing keyword searches on the Internet for “Black Lives Matters”. The article quoted a popular musician I am fairly unfamiliar with named Sean Combs. The article quoted Mr. Combs as saying:
“‘For the last couple of months we have experienced a lot of injustice and wrongdoings to a community. But there is a flip side,” wrote Diddy. He continued, “Yes #BLACKLIVESMATTER ! But no one will respect us if we as a people don’t have any respect for our own black lives. We are committing genocide on ourselves. We are always looking for scapegoats.’” (http://www.theroot.com/blog/the-grapevine/diddy_on_blacklivesmatter_black_people_are_committing_genocide_on_ourselves/2/ , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)
The article then went on to say:
“Diddy added, ‘We as a people hurt ourselves more than anyone has ever hurt us. That makes no sense. We as a people including myself have to take accountability and do whatever we can do individually or together to stop the madness and realize that we are KINGS and QUEENS AND Must love ourselves and each other. I know I’m rambling a little bit’” (http://www.theroot.com/blog/the-grapevine/diddy_on_blacklivesmatter_black_people_are_committing_genocide_on_ourselves/2/ , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)
Essentially, what Mr. Combs seemed to be referring to is the fact that a black person is more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than they are to be unlawfully killed by a cop. This can be confirmed by looking at the statistics on the number of people killed while interacting with cops where the killing is classified as a “homicide” versus the murder statistics kept by the FBI. I have referenced this in previous blog posts.
What is the author’s response to Mr. Comb’s verifiably correct factual assertion that a black person is more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than to be unlawfully killed by a cop?
“It must be nice to be black, rich and oblivious to issues that plague society.” (http://www.theroot.com/blog/the-grapevine/diddy_on_blacklivesmatter_black_people_are_committing_genocide_on_ourselves/2/ , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)
In other words, Mr. Combs is wealthy, therefore he is mistaken.
The author of this article could be saying one of two things here:
(1) Sean Combs has some sort of interest in either lying or presenting only part of the facts (presenting half-truths). That his desire to acquire or keep wealth is serving as a motive for him to lie. This is what we would normally call “bias”. But, Sean Combs is correct that more black people are unjustifiably killed by other black people than they are by cops, and the sources of this information seem reliable. (FBI crime statistics.)
(2) Although Sean Comb’s factual assertion is correct -that black people are more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than by a cop- his *argument* is flawed because he is rich.
Since I don’t see any evidence to refute the fact that black people are more likely to be unlawfully killed by black people than by cops, then I think it is safe for me to assume that the author of this article means the second: that Sean Comb’s argument is flawed simply because he is rich. That his argument, while logical, is flawed because of his status as a rich man.
Argument “ad homenim” is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. The author of this article is making a sort of “argument ad homenim” against Sean Combs. She does this by: (1) Stating that he is rich, and (2) by saying his “…rhetoric [is] similar to that of conservative voices.” (http://www.theroot.com/blog/the-grapevine/diddy_on_blacklivesmatter_black_people_are_committing_genocide_on_ourselves/2/ , last accessed on 10-22-2016.) The author implies that since political conservatives make this argument, then Sean Combs use of the same argument is incorrect. But the author never bothers to address the argument of conservatives on this topic, or to show that it is mistaken.
So, this is probably argument ad homenim, but I want to address another, subtler point, aside from that. “Ad homenim” means “against the man”. Why is it “against the man” to say that Mr. Combs has wealth and wants to keep and acquire wealth?
Wealth, i.e. material values, are necessary in order to maintain your life. So, this is ultimately an argument that Mr. Combs’ desire to live is distorting what would otherwise be “objective truth”. The author believes there is a conflict between the interest to live and rationality or objectivity.
Before proceeding any further, lets discuss the concept of rationality. If you type the words “rationality” “logic” and “reason” into an Internet search engine, you will get some definitions of these terms:
“rationality” -> “based on or in accordance with reason or logic.” (define: rational on google.com, 10-22-2016)
“logic” -> “reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.” ( define: logic on google.com, 10-22-2016)
“reason” -> “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.” or “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” (define: reason on google.com, 10-22-2016)
“Rationality” means something along the lines of: to conform your mind to reality by the use of a systematic methodology (logic). This is somewhat seen in the definition of “reason” above, when it says that “reason” is a “cause” or “explanation” “for an action or event”. (Although all of these Internet definitions are somewhat “circular”.) In other words, you make some sort of mental connection in your mind that explains why something you observe happens the way it does.
Here is an example of using a systematic methodology to build concepts or ideas from observations: If you see that when you give a plant light, it grows, while when you put the same type of plant in a dark closet, while keeping all other factors the same, it dies, then you recognize that light is a “cause” of plant growth. It explains the “action or event” of a plant growing. Furthermore, you have used some sort of system or method to determine this. Specifically, you took two plants, and put one in the sun while the other one you put into a dark closet. You tried to keep all other factors the same. You gave them the same amount of water and soil, and otherwise tried to control all other variables and make them the same for the two plants. This is because you recognize that if you are going to be able to say that light is a “cause” of plant growth, you had to keep all other variables or factors the same. This is a “methodology”, the “scientific method”, which is a type of “logic”. All logic is ultimately based on the principle that all things have a specific identity, and that they act in accordance with that identity. (Which is “causality”.)
However, when we speak of “rationality”, we can also mean something slightly different. We can also mean that an action achieves a particular goal. “Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality , last accessed on 10-22-2106) “Rationality” means that you conform you actions with your “reasons for action”. In other words, you conform your actions to achieve your goals. Ultimately, this is not a different definition of “rational”, since you are still recognizing reality, and acting in a systematic way in accordance with the nature of reality. For instance, if you want to eat, you must recognize that plants grow in a certain way, and that if you want to grow enough to eat, you have to give them sufficient food, water, and sunlight in order to grow them. If you want food to eat, you must work to grow crops. The goal of eating, means that you must recognize reality and act accordingly. If you want to have good health, you must eat certain types of food, you must exercise, take vitamins, etc. If someone wants to have good health, but they shoot up heroin, eat only red meat, never exercise, and chain smoke cigarettes, then their rationality will be questioned. Their rationality is questioned because they are not recognizing the principles of good health, or at least are not acting in accordance with those principles of good health, and they are not likely to achieve their goal.
If your ultimate goal is to live, you must take certain actions to achieve that goal. This is because life cannot be achieved without taking certain actions. You must grow crops, you must hunt for food, you must build shelter, you must avoid dangerous animals and dangerous people, etc. By contrast, if you do not want to live, then no particular systematic action or methodology is necessary. You don’t need to recognize reality if you don’t want to live. You don’t have to act in accordance with the methods of logic if you don’t want to live. What this points to, or suggests, is that, ultimately, “rationality” means conforming your mind and actions to the nature of reality in order to maximize your chances of living.
Now, there is another conception of “rationality” that is disconnected from the concept of “life”. This is a conception of “rationality” based in the idea that there is some sort of “pure knowledge” in some other realm that has nothing to do with the desire to live. Plato is the oldest example of this view of “rationality”.
“…Platonism can be said to have in common is an intense concern for the quality of human life—always ethical, often religious, and sometimes political, based on a belief in unchanging and eternal realities, which Plato called forms, independent of the changing things of the world perceived by the senses.” (See https://www.britannica.com/topic/Platonism , last accessed 10-22-2016.)
Platonic philosophy suggests that there is a basis for knowledge not connected to reality and the desire to live. It suggests that knowledge, “true knowledge” exists in the “forms” in some other realm. “Rationality” then becomes psychologically or mentally disconnected in the Platonist’s mind from the desire to live or the requirements of living. In fact, for the Platonist, reality and the requirements of life, will be seen as a “distorting factor” towards “pure” or “genuine” understanding and “genuine” logic or reason.
There’s just one problem with this “Platonic rationality”. There is no evidence, in reality, for another world of “forms”. There can be no evidence for anything other than that which exists –so belief in another realm outside reality is a nonsense belief. When someone claims to have some sort of “intuitive” or “mystical” insight regarding some sort of “world of forms”, they are simply acting on emotional whim.
People who tend to hold the Platonic view of rationality will tend to disdain any desire to live as a disqualifying or “distorting agent” keeping you from “true rationality”.
Wealth is important because human beings require material values -food, clothing, and shelter- in order to live. The more wealth you have, the better you are able to live. Think about it in terms of personal health. A very wealthy person can afford to have a personal doctor that follows him around, which, other things equal, is going to promote his life. A very wealthy person can have a personal bodyguard to protect him from criminals, which also will tend to enhance and lengthen his life. At a mass level, we can see a difference in life spans between people living in the first world versus those living in the third world. This is because people in the first world are wealthier (on average).
The desire to live for the “Platonic rationalist” is a “distorting agent”. The desire to live means a focus on reality and acting systematically to achieve one’s goal of life. But, to the “Platonic rationalist”, true knowledge is based in some other realm, and has nothing to do with promoting your life. The desire to live, for the Platonic rationalist, is therefore a “distorting agent” preventing one from being “entirely rational”.
Mr. Comb’s argument is dismissed in the article because he is rich, but anyone can be criticized with this sort of argument “ad homenim” by those who hold the Platonic view of rationality. Because ascetic self-deprivation is the key to this Platonic view of rationality, and no one still alive can completely deprive themselves of everything. So long as one wants to live at all, and makes any effort to live, then they can be criticized as somehow “biased”. Mr. Combs is being criticized as biased because he wants to live.
The connection I am making here between “rationality” and “life”, with the “purpose” of rationality being the maintenance of one’s life, raises an interesting question. Is there such a thing as “bias”? What does it mean to say that someone is “biased”?
“Bias” generally means someone is either not telling the truth or is only telling half-truths, when it comes to reciting the facts. For instance, a witness in court is “biased” if he lies or only tells half the facts because of some “interest” he has. This “interest” doesn’t have to be *self* interest. He could be an altruist, and believe that he is serving that cause by lying. For instance, an environmentalist might believe that he is saving the planet by lying as a witness in a trial having to do with pollution. He isn’t lying because of any self-interest he has. He is lying because of his interest in saving others –in this case the environment.
Another example of “bias”: A news paper can have a “left wing bias” in that it reports only facts that serve its agenda while leaving out essential facts that would give a proper perspective. In both cases, we are talking about the reporting of facts, not logical argument. To say someone is “biased” is to say they are misreporting the facts, they are lying, to serve some interest. If someone is making a purely logical argument, and you agree with the facts they are using to make that argument, then you cannot say they are “biased”. You must refute the logic of their argument –assuming you agree with the facts and don’t believe there are any additional facts that need to come out to provide a more complete picture.
So, if the author of the article about Mr. Combs had said he was biased as a result of the facts he was reporting, about how black people are mostly being murdered by other black people, not cops, then perhaps the author could say he is “biased”. But, the author doesn’t seem to dispute the facts on homicide and murder rates. The author certainly didn’t present any additional facts, or show that that FBI and government statistics are wrong. The author simply said that his argument is flawed because he is good at acquiring wealth -i.e., because he wants to live. This is to claim that the desire to live and rationality are somehow at odds, but we are rational because we want to live.
How do we tell when it is proper to speak of someone as “biased”? Only when they are reporting factual observations. We say that they have some interest or motive that causes them to lie or to tell half-truths. But, if you agree with the facts they are reporting, and only disagree with their logical argument based on those facts, then I don’t think it is ever proper to claim they are biased. In such a situation, you are engaging in some sort of argument ad hominem. Furthermore, if you criticize someone’s logical argument because they want to live, or are successful at living, then you aren’t just engaging in argument ad hominem, you are implicitly accepting the “Platonic rationalist” view of reason, and are claiming that the desire to live is a distorting agent when it comes to reasoning. You are mentally severing rationality from it’s goal -which is life.
There is an aphorism that I find helpful when deciding what to focus my time and energy on. It’s the expression: “Pick your battles.” In my mind, it basically means you shouldn’t get caught up in minor conflicts and should focus on the “big picture” objective you are trying to achieve. You want to focus your time and energy on things that will most effectively achieve your overall goal.
I see something similar happening with white “liberals” and black “civil rights” groups that express concern over the “problem” of unjustified killings of black men by police. Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But, I suspect that the vast majority of cops are hard-working professionals. Are black men sometimes shot by police without legal justification? I’m sure that also happens. Everyone agrees that the unjustified killing of people in America, and the world, should be reduced to zero. But, what is the most effective method of achieving that goal? And, what does it reveal about a political movement when they seem unable or unwilling to recognize the most effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people?
The “Black Lives Matter” web site is fairly short on specifics, in terms of what their goals are. They make a lot of claims but they back few of those claims up. For instance at “http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/” we are told:
“How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.
How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.
How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.
How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.
How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.
How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.” (see http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016)
I couldn’t find any actual proof on the web site to back up any of these assertions. The biggest “head-scratcher” for me was: “How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.” Exactly what wars and conflicts are they talking about? What do they mean black girls are used as “negotiating chips”?
The Black Lives Matter web site does discuss why they were formed:
“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.…#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. ” (See http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
There are numerous dubious assertions made here, but I’ll focus on the last one. The assertion that black people are “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The assertion here isn’t just that black people are accidentally or unintentionally being killed due to certain bad government policies. An example of an unintentional death due to bad government policy would be something like this: The state highway commission passes a regulation requiring roads to be made out of a certain type of asphalt, and it turns out that asphalt is more likely to cause cars to skid off the road and wreck.
“Black Lives Matters” is asserting that black people are being “…systematically and intentionally…” murdered -intentionally killed without justification. Since “Black Lives Matters” tends to focus on black people who die while interacting with the police, which is why they tend to use terms like “state violence” and “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police”, it is the assertion that black people are intentionally targeted by police for murder.
To be clear, intentional murder by the state has happened before. It happened during the “rein of terror” in post-revolutionary France in the late 1700’s. It happened during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 when forced collectivization of farms by Stalin killed millions. It happened in Rwanda when the Hutu-controlled government ordered the slaughter of ethnic Tutsis in 1994. But are black people being “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise…” by one of the fifty states or by the Federal government? It seems highly unlikely, and I think the burden of proof lies with “Black Lives Matter” on that assertion, and they haven’t met their burden of proof. It sounds more like a “conspiracy theory” than reality.
The belief that the major problem facing black people in America is the death of black men during law-enforcement encounters has led to the rise of an associated “Black Lives Matter” group, “Campaign Zero”. (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/, last accessed 9-5-2016; see also, http://reason.com/blog/2015/08/21/black-lives-matter-activists-release-pol, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
This group says:
“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America. Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless “quality of life” behaviors or mental health crises. This year is no different. There have only been fifteen days this year when the police have not killed somebody. Last month alone, the police killed 100 people. This must stop. We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country.” (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/problem/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
This group offers the following policy solutions:
(1) End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses
(2) Community Oversight
(3) Limit Use of Force
(4) Indepenently Investigate and Prosecute
(5) Community Representation
(6) Body Cams/Film the Police
(8) End for-profit Policing
(10) Fair Police Union Contracts (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/#solutionsoverview, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Without going over all of these policy solutions in detail, I will note that some of them are worthy of consideration. For instance, requiring police officers to wear body cameras could be useful for both the officer and the civilians the officer encounters. However, there is clearly an issue of cost involved. Body cameras cost money, and the government’s funds are limited. So, the question is this: Is it worth the cost? Are we as taxpayers prepared to pay for body cameras for all police officers? Is this the best use of that money? I do not know the answer to this question, and this is why we have legislatures to help make a determination as to how to spend limited taxpayer money in a way that most effectively achieves the goals of government.
Is the major problem facing black people today the fact that some black males are killed by police? Even assuming for the sake of argument that some police officers are committing murder and intentionally killing black men for no legally justifiable reason, is this the major problem facing black people today?
This question is important to ask because, as I’ve alluded to already, resources are limited. Given the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people, is the best use of time, money, and energy, on things like additional training of police officers in use of force and not to engage in racial profiling when they pull black people over on the road? If we spend money on things like body cameras for cops will that most effectively reduce the number of unjustified black killings in America, given our government’s limited funds? How are most black people who are illegally killed in America killed? Is it at the hands of cops or someone else?
First, we should ask the following question: How many people are killed during a law enforcement encounter? The government tries to collect these statistics:
“After the passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began collecting data on deaths that occurred in the process of arrest.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
“From 2003 through 2009, BJS obtained reports on 4,813 such deaths through its Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program. About 3 in 5 of these deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel. The remaining 2 in 5 deaths were attributed to other manners, including suicide (11%), intoxication deaths (11%), accidental injury (6%), and natural causes (5%). In three-quarters (75%) of homicides by law enforcement personnel, the underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Since 2,931 deaths from 2003 to 2009 during an “arrest” were homicides by law enforcement, this means that approximately 489 people per year were killed by police over 6 years, where the killing was a “homicide”. A “homicide” is not necessarily an unlawful killing. Killing someone in self-defense is classified as a “homicide”, and it appears that these statistics include both legally justified and unjustified killings by police. (The “…three-quarters…of homicides…underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense…” language suggest this.) But, even assuming that all of these homicides were unjustified police killings, that is 489 killings of people (of all races) per year by cops.
Lets compare these 489 killings per year, of people of all races, by cops to the murder statistics.
In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls,last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the 489 persons per year killed by cops from 2003 through 2009 were black, and also assume that all of those 489 persons per year were illegally killed by a cop, as opposed to a police shooting in self-defense or pursuant to the cop’s legal right to enforce the law. How does that compare to the fact that in 2013, 2,245 black people were murdered by another black person? 2,245 divided by 489 equals 4.59. A black person is at least 4.59 times more likely to be murdered by another black person than he is to be unjustifiably killed by a cop. (Keep in mind, it’s actually much higher, since I made the “generous” assumption that all of those 489 people per year killed by cops between 2003 and 2009 are black and that all of those killings were unjustified.)
If you were betting on a team that was almost 5 times more likely to win than another team, you’d want to put your money on that team. It would be foolish to spend a lot of money betting on the team that is 5 times more likely to loose, and if you did so, people would question your motives and rationality.
So, why do “Black Lives Matters”, and white “liberals”, focus so much time and energy on the much less likely incidence of unjustified killings by cops rather than the much more likely incidence of unjustified killings of black people by other black people? I have a few possible theories:
(1) They are unintelligent. They simply cannot see the truth because they aren’t very good at making logical connections. There is no shame in this. Some people are just smarter than others.
(2) They are ignorant of the facts. They simply haven’t studied the issue in sufficient detail or have never been presented with the evidence. There is no shame in this, as long as one is willing to continue learning. Nobody is omniscient, and it’s impossible to know everything.
(3) They are irrational. They are deliberately, mentally, evading facts and refusing to make logical connections because it satisfies their unexamined and unquestioned emotional whims. There is great shame in this. Irrationality is a major vice. (It’s actually the major vice, but that is for another time.)
(4) Their actual goal isn’t reducing the number of black people unjustifiably killed. (This is actually just another version of theory #3.) Their goal is to find a scapegoat for the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of crime being committed by black people, and that most of that crime is aimed at other, peaceful, law-abiding, and respectable, black people. It’s a way for the “civil rights” movement to divert the attention of law-abiding and good black people onto something other than the fact that they are the victims of crime primarily at the hands of members of their own race. It’s also a way for white “liberals” to focus their attention and outrage on something that is more “politically correct” than the fact that black people commit a disproportionate amount of the crime in America, and that most of that crime is aimed at other black people.
I hasten to add, that with any group or movement, especially one with ill-defined goals and methodology like “Black Lives Matter”, different people within that movement can have different reasons for being involved. That means these theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The movement can be made up of some mixture of people with mental states and goals that match all four of my theories above. It’s also possible there are other reasons, that better explain the facts, and I just haven’t thought of them. (I am certainly open to suggestions.)
A person’s time, money, and energy is limited. He or she should pick a cause that maximizes his or her goal. If your goal is truly to reduce the number of black people being unjustifiably killed, then you should focus most of your time, money, and energy on reducing black on black crime like murder.
How do we best reduce the number of black people being murdered by other members of their own race? I don’t have all of the answers, but I suspect many of them are not political solutions, which is probably why politicians don’t like to spend too much time on the subject –they cannot even appear to be doing anything to solve it if the problem must come from within the “hearts and minds” of individuals in society.
Some possible solutions that I see are:
(1) Ending the cycle of dependence and single-motherhood caused by the welfare state. That means ending welfare and requiring people to live with the consequences of their own choices, or to seek private charity if they truly are impoverished through not fault of their own.
(2) Changing attitudes about sex and birth control. Both the “left” and the “right” have some solutions that make sense on this front. (I also think both political groups share blame when it comes to educating young people about sex and when to have it, but that is for another time.) Young women should be encouraged to use birth control if they are going to have sex. (The “liberal solution”.) However, young women should also be encouraged to be more selective regarding the men that they sleep with, and to only have children with men they are married to. (The “conservative solution.”) If young unmarried women do have accidental pregnancies they should be encouraged to either (a) have an abortion, or (b) give the baby up for adoption. Although it is the subject of debate, it appears that there is a connection between being raised by a young single mother and becoming a criminal later in life. (See http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-real-complex-connection-between-single-parent-families-and-crime/265860/ ) It would also seem to make sense that a young boy without a reliable father-figure to model himself on is going to be more likely to make bad choices.
(3) Encouraging young men and young women to educate themselves and to instill “bourgeoisie” values of hard work and thrift.
There are others possible solutions I can think of, but that’s not really the focus here. I also tend to think that inner cities need more police patrolling, not less. But, I am uncertain. I suspect, but cannot currently prove, that a large portion of people, both black and white, are murdered by a friend or family member, and I don’t know how much additional police presence in inner cities is going to change that.
It’s not entirely clear in my own mind how to reduce the unjustified killing of black people by other black people, but it is clear to me that focusing on the relatively low occurrence of unjustified police killings of black people in America is an effort to direct attention away from a much bigger problem. The title of the blog entry is a reference to George Orwell’s short novel “Animal Farm”. At the end of it, the pigs who have taken over the farm declare that while “All animals are equal”, as the revolution had initially declared, “…some animals are more equal than others.” “Black Lives Matter” activists apparently believe that the lives of people like Michael Brown matter more more to the “civil rights” movement and white “liberals” than the lives of people like Jamyla Bolden, and there are a lot more of the later than the former.
My purpose here is simply to look at the numbers and see if the murder rate in the US is proportional to what it should be, given the white population versus the black population. I do so without trying to theorize about the reasons why murder rates break down the way they do between the races. In a subsequent blog post, I plan on using this analysis to discuss the so-called “Black Lives Matters” movement and to attempt to determine if they are focusing time, energy, and taxpayer money into areas that will most effectively reduce the unjustified homicide rate of black people in America.
In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.
How does this compare to the proportions of population? Blacks make up roughly 13% of the US population. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_United_States, last accessed 9-5-2016.) Whites make up about 73% of the US population. 5,496 people who were either black or white were murdered in 2013. (This is adding together the number of black people and white people murdered according to the FBI, see https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
The total US population in 2013 was about 317 million people. Therefore, the chance that a given person chosen at random from the US population in 2013 was both “black” and “a victim of murder” is 2,491 divided by 317 million times 100 which is 0.00079% . The chance that a given person chosen at random from the US population in 2013 was both “white” and “a victim of murder” is 3,005 divided by 317 million times 100, which is 0.00095%. In other words, the chance that one was both “white” and “a murder victim” was about 1.19 times greater than the chance that one was both “black” and “a murder victim”. (because 1.19 times 0.00079 = [roughly] 0.0009401)
This 1.19 times number doesn’t show the whole picture, however, Thirteen percent of the total US population is black, which means there are about 41 million black people in the US. There are 232 million white people in the US in 2013. As already discussed, 90% of all black people murdered are murdered by other black people and 84% of all white people murdered are murdered by other white people. So, 2,245 black people murdered by other black people means that a black person’s chances of being murdered by another black person are 2,245 divided by 41 million times 100 percent is 0.0055%. 2,509 white people murdered by other white people means that a white person’s chances of being murdered by another white person are 2,509 divided by 232 million times 100 percent: 0.0011%. A black person is five times more likely to be murdered by another black person than a white person is to be murdered by another white person (0.0011% * 5 = 0.0055%)
Since 2,245 intra-racial murders were committed by blacks and 2,509 intra-racial murders were committed by whites, the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites combined was 2,245 + 2,509 = 4,754. So, out of the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites combined, the percentage committed by blacks was: 2,245 divided by 4,754 times 100 = 47%. Out of the total intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites, the percentage committed by whites was 52%.
Since blacks make up only 15% of the population compared to whites (who make up 73%), this means that if the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks were proportional to the population, it would be 15% of 4,754 intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites, or 713.6 intra-racial murders committed by blacks in 2013. Since it was actually 2,245 intra-racial murders committed by blacks in 2013, then the number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks was 3.15 times higher than it should have been given the proportion of the black population to the white population.(See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
The Bureau of Justice Statistics sets forth the percentage of homicides committed by blacks and the percentage of homicides committed by whites between 1980 and 2009. These figures can be found at page 12, Table 7 of “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008”, where it said that of all homicides committed in the US, 45.3% of offenders were white and 52.5% were black. (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Once again, since blacks make up only 15% of the population compared to whites, who make up 73%, this means that of all murders committed in the US, which was 5,723 in 2013, then if the homicide rate were proportional to the different racial populations, the number of murders committed by black people should have been 858.45 (0.15 * 5,723). But, the number of murders actually committed by blacks in the US in 2013 was 2,698.This means that in 2013, the proportion of murders committed by black people was 2,698 divided by 5,723 * 100 = 47%. Forty-seven percent of all murders in 2013 were committed by black people, despite the fact that they are only 15% of the population. The number of blacks committing murder in 2013 was about 3.13 times (2,698 divided by 858) higher than it should have been if the murder rate were strictly proportional by racial groups. (See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls, last accessed 9-5-2016. The 5,723 number of murder victims in 2013 was obtained by adding together “race of victim” numbers found in the far-left “total” column: 3,005+2,491+159+68=5,723. The 2,698 number of blacks that committed murder number was obtained by adding together the “Black or African American” numbers in the “race of offender” grouping: 409+2,245+27+17=2,698.)
As I said when I started, I am not looking to analyze the causes of this or suggest what this should mean in terms of government policy. I am simply crunching the numbers in order to see what they are. I will save my analysis for another blog posting.
I’ve decided that I have a “love/hate” relationship with Robert Heinlein’s fiction. I read “Tunnel in the Sky” the summer after eighth grade, and thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read. It was about a student in the future who takes a wilderness survival class, and the final exam is to be transported to another planet via teleportation to survive for a week -but something goes wrong and he and other students are trapped there indefinitely. At the time I was really into wilderness survival and science fiction, so I loved that book.
The “Door Into Summer” is a great novel about a brilliant inventor whose ideas are stolen, and his use of cryonics and time travel to get back what is his, as well as to meet the love of his life. It was a touching novel that almost moved me to tears.
“Orphans of the Sky” is about a “generation star ship” where the inhabitants have forgotten they are on a star ship and think that the “universe” consists of just the ship. The main character learns the truth, but the others don’t believe him -similar to Galileo. Also a great book about human institutions and superstitions in conflict with the facts of reality.
However, two of Heinlein’s books are quite possibly some of the most vicious science fiction novels I’ve ever read. First, there is “Stranger in a Strange Land” -arguably Heinlein’s most popular novel, but I absolutely hate it. It involves mysticism, non-monogamous “free love”, cannibalism, and some sort of mystical epistemology (“groking”). Heinlein said he wrote it to challenge every central tenet of Western Civilization. It was Charles Manson’s favorite novel with good reason, and, from what I’ve heard, Heinlein refused to take any responsibility for intellectually “aiding and abetting” that deranged mind.
“Waldo” is a shorter novella, and at the end of it I thought: “I’m not sure I want to believe Heinlein meant what I think this novella stands for.” Basically the main character is a misanthropic genius who is severely, physically disabled. At the end, he discovers some mystical power that lets him become physically fit again, and then slowly has pieces of his brain removed and becomes a vapid “every man” who gets along with everyone. What I took as the theme of the novel was: “You can either be intelligent, miserable, and physically deformed or you can be happy, stupid, and physically fit -but not both.” It seemed like a complete “mind-body false dichotomy” to me.