Jim Henry - comments on TC#255-256

Reply to Bernie on subsidizing housing and so forth (TC #256 p. 13-14)

I'm bemused at being characterized as "you socialists". I consider myself more libertarian than 90% of the people in the Republican party - I favor repealing prohibition of various drugs, and making the FDA a labeling rather than forbidding/permitting authority, for instance. Obviously I'm not libertarian enough for the Libertarian Party, because I think we need a safety net such that no one starves, freezes to death, etc. because they can't get work, and I am not against the government having a role in coordinating the various parts of this safety net. I would want to see the government's present role reduced.

Freedom has several aspects; political or legal freedom, not being arbitrarily forbidden to do stuff that doesn't hurt others, is the LP's strong suit. But someone who has no property, no margin of safety in the event of losing their job, is unfree in the degree to which they are subject to their employer. A wider distribution of property would mean that more people are truly free in their relations with actual and potential employers, and not wage-slaves. I don't favor draconian measures for attaining such a distribution; the progressive property tax I outlined in TC#256 is about as far as I care to go.

I have a counter-proposal to yours: the government could designate a large subset of the 501(c) charitable organizations, those that directly help the poor with some large proportion of their budget, and legislate that any increase in the sum of private donations to all those organizations relative to a baseline year will cause an equal reduction in the appropriations for government bureaus that intend to help the poor directly. A simple way to implement that might be to allow donations to such organizations as a tax credit, rather than just a tax deduction as at present. The amounts people claim under that credit could be readily summed by the IRS, and the result subtracted from the budgets of various government bureaus intended to help the poor. We might follow the same scheme for phasing out government funding of pure research, art infrastructure, and so forth.

Questions for Bernie on Coventry

Could you show us a map of Coventry in some future issue? Where all did the residents of Coventry immigrate from? What languages are most spoken in Coventry? How many newspapers are published there, in what languages?

Comments for Filthy Pierre on weeks (TC #255) and various TCers (TC #256) on time systems

In Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap, by Jeremy Campbell (Simon & Schuster, 1986) - a popular science book on biochronology - I read that there are some bodily functions with a seven-day, or circaseptan, rhythm. They are of low amplitude compared to circadian rhythms, so probably they could not have been experimentally discovered by ancient physicians; but it may be that an intuitive self-consciousness of a seven-day cycle led the Babylonians, Hebrews et alia to a seven-day religious week.

The seven-day cycles were discovered in experiments where a researcher locked himself up with no (visible) clocks or windows. He ate, slept, etc. when he felt like it, and punched buttons to record when he did things (without him ever seeing a clock dial). This is similar to the experiment Bernie proposed in TC#256, p. 12, but with only one or two people involved, if I recall correctly.

The seven-day cycle is a harmonic, a multiple, of the month, and a division, a subharmonic, of the day, so that by frequency division or frequency multiplication circaseptans are in a definite mathematical relation to the major periodicities of the earthly environment. They are a sort of biological artifact, evolving internally by means of the harmonic laws.     (pp. 132-133, paperback edition)

On the other hand, maybe the Babylonians just picked 7 because it divides into the 28-day month evenly.

Abigail mentioned A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge; an interesting aspect she did not mention is the future humans' use of metric time based on kiloseconds (about 17 minutes), megaseconds (about 11 Earth days), and gigaseconds (31 Earth years). This makes the star travelers' clock and calendar independent of the rotation and orbit of any particular planets they visit in their trade route. I believe they used a standard "day" of 100 kiloseconds, or 27.8 hours. (There is also a hint that their clocks still use the Unix epoch of January 1, 1970, and that this is legendarily confused with the first human landing on Luna - just five months off, a small error in ten thousand years.)

I sort of like the Discordian calendar, which is the only one I know of that uses the prime factorization of 365 to get five seasons of 73 days each. But it starts on the Gregorian January 1, which seems odd.

Certainly if governments and corporations agree on a simplified civil calendar for work, tax, accounting etc. cycles, the Catholic and Orthodox churches would go on using the Gregorian and Julian calendars respectively. Probably many other Christian groups would go on using the Gregorian calendar as well, though I'm not as sure of that. I expect Orthodox and probably Conservative Jews would go on using their traditional calendar. Having different civil and religious calendars might not be a vastly greater source of confusion than the immemorial combination of solar and lunar calendars such that the number of days between Christmas and Easter varies based on how long after the spring equinox the next full moon occurs. On the other hand, if employers switch to a five or six or ten-day "week" it would be difficult to ask for all Sundays (or Saturdays) off work - e.g., with a 5-day cycle you'd have to ask for firstday this week, thirdday the next, fifthday the following week... That could be a serious problem for observant Christians and Jews. It might also cause unforseen psychomedical problems; our seven-day work/rest cycle probably entrains our internal circaseptan clocks in a way that could get messed up if we adopted a 5 or 10 day cycle.

Comments for Stephen Frey on the Supreme Court and "victimless crimes" (TC #256 p. 5)

The idea behind federal judges serving for life ("during good behaviour", U.S. Constitution III.1) was, I believe, to insulate them from political pressures. In various Executive departments, there's nearly always a total turnover in the upper management when a presidential election gives power to a different party. The Founders wanted to stop that from happening with the judiciary. Similar reasoning was probably behind the long staggered terms of Federal Reserve Board members. Insulating officials from political pressure has both good and bad effects; I don't see how a ten-year term would get rid of the bad effects of life tenure (arrogance) while keeping the good effects (objectivity, impartiality). Think: do you want the Supreme Court to be more like the Federal Reserve Board? Do you see a major difference in their conduct?

My grandfather had an interesting proposal a few years ago, in the wake of one of the Supreme Court nomination inquisitions. He proposed, to insulate the nomination process from partisan political controversy, that the retired judges of each state (in alphabetical order) would take turns to nominate and elect Federal judges. So the next vacancy after this amendment is adopted would be filled by the retired judges of Alabama, the next by the retired judges of Alaska, etc. The alphabetical order would tend to even out any regional bias. The retired judges would hopefully be more likely to nominate and elect candidates based on their judicial qualties rather than political ideas.

I think the main problem we have re: the Supreme Court readily approving laws against consensual acts is that the fashions in legal and political theory have changed over time, and most of the Supreme Court justices, like most of the legislators, were educated at a time when it was fashionable (it still is, I guess) to interpret the Constitution far more broadly than libertarians and conservatives like to interpret it. I don't think there is any quick fix for this. We need to make false ideas unfashionable, and true ideas fashionable, in order to eventually get a pool of judge candidates we like and a set of politicians in power who would nominate and confirm them. Changing the prevalent ideas is a long-term process.

To mention abortion offhand in a list of "victimless crimes" is a classic example of assuming what you should be trying to prove. It is not self-evident that abortion has no victim; you have to prove that the obvious victim of the abortion is in some way unreal, if you want others to accept abortion as a "victimless crime". It is important, in thinking about whether any given crime has a real victim, to think deeply and clearly about everyone involved in a situation - try to get beyond words and see things themselves. We must also examine our motives for thinking what we think; are we guilty of self-deception for motives of self-interest?

I prefer the term "consensual crime" to "victimless crime". I agree with you that our drug prohibitions are wrong, so I'll take them as an example to discuss the difference. In the real world there is no such thing as "a drug"; that is a word, not a thing. In the real world we find specific quantities of specific substances like wine, vodka, tobacco, marijuana, or LSD, ingested or smoked or injected by particular people on particular occasions. To argue that "drug use is a victimless crime" is more or less equivalent to arguing "no drug use ever hurts anyone". This is a broad negative generalization that is impossible to prove, because it's false. Using too much of a particular drug (more than is appropriate for the situation) is going to hurt the person using it, and may indirectly lead to him hurting other people around him. To argue that "drug use is a consensual crime", on the other hand, is simply to assert the positive proposition that the people who use particular drugs consent to use them.

To return to your list, I would say that producing and consuming pornography is consensual except when it involves child or slave labor, and except when it is broadcast in a way that people who don't want to see it can't easily avoid doing so. It is not necessarily victimless even when consensual, because it often if not always hurts the people involved (authors and readers) psychologically and spiritually. Abortion is not consensual because the person being killed doesn't consent.

Comments for Filthy Pierre on promoting The Connection

When I eventually post the review article on the Mumford and Jacobs books to my web site, I will add a note saying "this first appeared in The Connection #254" and give contact and subscription info. I'm buying the TC index diskette and plan to put those files on my site, if they're not so huge as to use up my space quota. I have a book reviews page; I get several emails a year from people who want more information about the books and authors I mention, so obviously some people are reading it.

This first appeared in The Connection #257.

To my home page.