mneme: (Default)
I wrote a thing in a FB comment. Since FB comments are fragile and temporary, it's pretty much necessary that I repost it if I want to keep it.

I was asked (when I said that I think federal voting reform would be entirely appropriate, and we could even throw Republicans a bone with national -funded- Voter ID; ideally, guarantee that all adult citizens are automatically registered to vote and have or can -trivially- get identification proving it; along with establishing standards for polling places and voting machines throughout the nation such that a national popular vote for President is a real possibility; oh, and abolish the Electoral College), whether I thought there shouldn't be artificial barriers to all our rights.

Well, I do think that in general there shouldn't be artificial barriers to our rights; the government should put up artificial barriers to things only when it has a compelling interest in doing so. However, I don't think all rights are of equal value--and our rights need to be balanced against the rights of others.

Of the highest level are the rights that allow a democratic society to function at all: Free political speech (and press, and association), voting, equal protection from the law as it affects self-government. Also sitting here is the right to, as long as our government is republican, not simply pure democratic, ensure the government answers to the people and we are protected from corruption.

One level down from this is the right to life and freedom from undue imprisonment; the right of fairness under the law. Here lies general equal protection under the law, protection against torture and other methods of imprisonment and intrusive search without a plausible indicator of guilt, etc. Here also lies an obligation that the state protect our personal freedom from threats both external and internal, just as the first set of rights obligate the state to protect our rights to think and vote and debate free of external constraint.

On a third tier are rights of personal autonomy--the right to be left alone. Here lies the right to have consensual sex with anyone you want, to undergo any medical procedure you wish that doesn't harm other people, own whatever property you are given by others, hold and practice any religious views you profess, and, yes, practice whatever martial arts and use and own whatever objects you can and do accquire and make (including weapons).

These rights are tiered--they are not of equal importance; nor can they be. So while I honor weapon use as a matter of personal autonomy--the right to be left alone--just as I do the right to abort an unthinking fetus, it must yield (to an extent) to the right of others to live; reasonable background checks are entirely appropriate, as are restricting weapons of mass murder. On the other hand, voting and speech rights are utterly central; one simply cannot make decisions as a free society without them, and it is hard to justify any restrictions on them that are not similarly ensuring the fairness and incorruptibility of elections.

FWIW, I don't think this style of tiering is particularly in-obvious or controversial. Of course, people disagree vociferously on which categories appear in -- some people think that a 5 day old foetus is covered in tier #2 (which would cause its rights to trump it's mother's tier #3 rights), which I can't agree with, and there are some people who think personal weapons ownership is still part of tier #1 (which, um, sorry, but I can't agree with that). But as long as we agree that not all rights are equal, there is still some room for discussion.
mneme: (Default)
I'm not particularly closed about being a life-long Democrat.

That said -- having come this morning from voting a party-line Democratic ticket...my politics are a lot more complex than "I vote for the Democrats, no matter what." If anything, it's more "the weaknesses of the Democratic party are ones I care about somewhat less than my utter repugnance for some of the goals of the Republican party, and I'm not interested in voting for candidates with no chance when I believe there's a difference." So in light of that, a bit about what I actually think.

1. I don't want to be hurt, and support governmental things that protect me. I like laws against theft and murder and fraud, and police and fire departments, and a plausible and effective army, because one of the things the government does is protect people from accidents and other pepople (one of the primary things, in fact). I extend "me" to anything sentient, within limits of authority (whether or not it's human). I don't extend "me" to anything non-sentient (whether or not it's human -- and whether or not it -could- become sentient at some later date).

2. I think that overall, people deserve to be left alone and allowed to do what they want (assuming it doesn't voilate #1)--and that government isn't fundamentally a good tool for shaping/reshaping society, but -is- a good tool for enforcing agreements among people. So I think the government has a role in helping enforce contracts (including marraige contracts) but I don't think the government should be defining what people and how many should be involved in a contract (including a marraige contract) -- much less deciding what people say, what sexual acts they engage in or what (if anything) they pay for them, what substances they injest or inject into their bodies, or anything else as long as it doesn't directly impact on someone else (sin taxes on tobacco = bad -- for more than one reason; laws saying that non-smokers can practically avoid smoke while going about their business = good, within limits; laws about 32 oz soda = crazy).

3. I'm pretty well convinced that geopolitics is complex. So while I don't like the idea of killing people, much less torturing them (and on a -practical- level will accept that torture doesn't work), I won't accept a flat-out "war is bad" policy. This stuff is complex, and while I'll certainly take into account "this person's foreign affairs are nuts" vs "this person's foreign affairs seem to be reasonable" into account, there's only so much weight I'm willing to give her as it's effectiveness, not just principles, that matter here.

4. As a secondary function, I think that government can be effective and is useful at providing "collective good" services -- and that, in fact, it is our responsibility, where possible without interfering in society adversely (which I think it is) for us to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves -- and provide a safety net for to make sure that people do not unecessarily and unreasonably come to harm. This includes social services like medicare and food stamps, unemployment services/funds, publically provided education and the post office (which is, in fact, in the black, but that's another topic), providing a source of education, etc--and that often, the government is going to be more efficient at these topics than private industry (although it's good to have a give and take, as private industry will usually be less efficient but more inovative).

5. I think that in order to fund its primary and secondary functions, it's reasonable for the government to tax people. That said, I think that taxation should take a greater percentage from those most able to bear the cost (that is, I support progressive taxation and disdain regressive taxation). This also means that I hate and would love to abolish/make progressive all currently regressive taxes -- including sales tax, sin taxes (see above), and social security taxes -- all of which hit lower income people for a greater percentage of their income than they hit higher income people. I do understand that progressive taxes can have negative effects (both on the system as a whole and in causing people to officially "move" somewhere else) but think that they also have positive effects (partially countering the way that concentrations of wealth can be significant inefficiencies and sources of harm), that most negative effects can be avoided by not going overboard (no Carter-era 75% marginal tax rates) and that while migration is a serious problem (given that in general, high mobility is a good), that this isn't as much of a problem as it could be and that it's possible that something radical (I could even consider taxing land or property, rather than income) would work as a solution here.

6. I think that people should be able to make money by engaging in creative work that doesn't produce physical goods (hell, I do that, though it's programming, not trying to make money from my writing or whatnot). But that, contrary to where far too much global thought has considered intelectual property a source of wealth, I consider it a qualified evil -- a granted monopoly that actively hurts everyone except the grantee far more than it helps the grantee (or encourages the grantee to make stuff) most of the time. This is my starting point--I don't necessarily call for the repeal of all intellectual property (although it's one option, and I'm pretty confident, given that people like getting new stuff, that there would continue to be large markets for creative stuff and that, at least after the shakedown, authors and painters and musicians would not, in fact, starve--they'd be freeer to create based on whatever influences went past their (our) eyes and people would figure out a way to pay them to make cool stuff), but our current system is insanely out of hand.

7. For the most part, my life is not enriched by spending large amounts of time talking/writing about politics. So I don't.
mneme: (Default)
An acquaintance recently bought an Android phone and complained that accessing that using Gmail from the browser on the phone, while it worked, interacted badly with multitasking; if he switched applications while composing an email, on his return the email in progress would be gone.

When you get down to it, I think this comes down to a big conceputal difference between the modern ultraportable device (a smartphone or similarly speced out web tablet) and a general use device (a desktop down, to most netbooks (as they usually run laptop/desktop OSes).

and I go on on this topic for a while )

tl, dr: Use the browser on netbooks and better, but use apps on phones.

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mneme: (Default)
Joshua Kronengold

February 2017

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