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Walter E Williams on What's Rule of Law

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Baseball Gets It Right, Unlike the US Government

 

A pretty good analogy using the game of baseball to help draw parallels to the rule of law.

 

His summarizes the section on baseball:

 

The reason baseball games end peaceably — with players and team owners satisfied with the process, whether they win or lose — is that baseball rules (law) are applied equally to all players. They’re fixed, and umpires don’t make up rules as they go along. In other words, baseball rules meet the test of “abstractness.” They envision no particular game outcome in terms of winners and losers. The rules that govern baseball simply create a framework in which the game is played.

 

 

The baseball game he described was set up to parody various aspects captured in these violations put forth in his concluding paragraph:

 

Let’s look at our country and ask whether we live under rule of law. Just about every law that Congress enacts violates the requirements for rule of law. How do we determine violations of rule of law? It’s easy. See whether the law applies to particular Americans, as opposed to all Americans. See whether the law exempts public officials from its application. See whether the law is known in advance. See whether the law takes action against a person who has taken no aggressive action against another. If one conducts such a test, he will conclude that it is virtually impossible to find a single act of Congress that adheres to the principles of the rule of law. The supreme tragedy is Americans do not want rule of law.

 

I think the tragedy is that Americans do not understand rule of law in these sort of essentials. Education is far too important to be left in the hands of government.

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If baseball rules were modified to reflect today's rule of law, games would be played something like this:

 

1) Team managers would have substantially better security and healthcare than the players,

2) Players with higher salaries would be required to compensate players with lower salaries,

3) Runs would be awarded to losing teams to prevent an unfair scoring advantage,

4) The press would only cover player injuries - the game would be considered unnewsworthy,

5) Fields would be carefully surveyed for ants, worms and pottery shards to prevent environmental or archaeological damage,

6) Stadium vendors could only sell small portions of carrots and celery,

7) The seventh inning stretch would be declared a public holiday for everyone but the players,

8) Stadium entrances wouldn't be monitored and anyone discovered sneaking in would be given front row seats, and

9) Fans who booed would be publicly denounced for being mean spirited and creating a hostile playing environment.

 

Play ball!  But don't win too much and don't ever call the other team "losers".  Score challenged, perhaps... 

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Elizabeth Warren could probably agree with #1 and #7.

And Mrs. Obama might allow #6, providing there were a limit of one portion per customer imposed.

When I said Warren could agree with #1 and #7, I meant she could agree with Devil's Advocate that these are bad things in our society.

"1) Team managers would have substantially better security and healthcare than the players," ... this is meant to criticize income inequality between lower-level and higher-level employees in businesses. Many conservatives and even many libertarians agree with Warren that rich people do not really earn their higher pay, but are unjustly milking a system of cronyism and privilege.

"7) The seventh inning stretch would be declared a public holiday for everyone but the players,"... I assume this is a reference to that fact that retailers stay open during the holidays and so the lowest-paid in the economy (supposedly the "players") have to work while the rich folk stay home and enjoy themselves.

Both populist points. And, the fact that GOP folk, and people like Warren, and even some libertarians can agree on this world-view is a key cause of why this country has all sorts of redistribution-by-law.

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The school lunch programs that Mrs. Obama has been championing, complimented Devil's Advocate's point #6. This goes hand in hand with the Obama care in that in addition to mandating the insurance options, mandates of what vendors can offer along with the portion's are being managed. This puts a foot in the door to move toward mandating other areas, such as exercise. Implicit is that folks are not competent, they are not to be left to determine what is right for themselves, Becoming a government official somehow corrects this incompetency and turns them into our benevolent overseers.

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When I said Warren could agree with #1 and #7, I meant she could agree with Devil's Advocate that these are bad things in our society.

"1) Team managers would have substantially better security and healthcare than the players," ... this is meant to criticize income inequality between lower-level and higher-level employees in businesses. Many conservatives and even many libertarians agree with Warren that rich people do not really earn their higher pay, but are unjustly milking a system of cronyism and privilege.

"7) The seventh inning stretch would be declared a public holiday for everyone but the players,"... I assume this is a reference to that fact that retailers stay open during the holidays and so the lowest-paid in the economy (supposedly the "players") have to work while the rich folk stay home and enjoy themselves.

Both populist points. And, the fact that GOP folk, and people like Warren, and even some libertarians can agree on this world-view is a key cause of why this country has all sorts of redistribution-by-law.

 

1) This was meant to point to the disparity between the cost and quality of insurance for government employees and private sector employees.

 

7) This is a reference to the disparity between the amount of paid holidays for government employees and private sector employees.

 

And I'm not aware of a world view shared by GOP folk/libertarians and people like Warren regarding the redistribution-of-anything...

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1) This was meant to point to the disparity between the cost and quality of insurance for government employees and private sector employees.

 

7) This is a reference to the disparity between the amount of paid holidays for government employees and private sector employees.

Got it!

And I'm not aware of a world view shared by GOP folk/libertarians and people like Warren regarding the redistribution-of-anything...

Interesting.

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How so?  The world view of GOPers and Libertarians avoids the redistribution of property and the world view of Democrats is quite the opposite.  Are you suggesting otherwise?

We don't want redistribution, some libertarians say, we simply want our rights. Today, they say, we don't live under capitalism; the driving force is cronyism... rich bankers and industrialists are stealing us blind by enacting legal ways to take our money.

As for the GOP, ... the typical GOP person supports almost every welfare program. They have this attitude that its all good, but we should just have a little less of it.

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OK, I think there's a bit of the tail wagging the dog in that, but I can see the similarities you're pointing to.

The reason the U.S. economy is hindered by all the laws we complain about is that there is solid voter support for the underlying principles. The GOP voter is to blame for this, just as much as the Democrat. And, when they create memes that imply that they're somehow free-market, they're compounding the problem. The typical GOP voter is getting all upset about "common core", or wants to move toward more vouchers, but does not want to break the basic premise where one person subsidizes education of another. Redistribution... just, more efficient, and with more choice.

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Well if you're complaint is that we don't really have free markets (let alone laissez-faire capitalism), I agree.  But if subsidy (as a form of redistribution) is the bur under your saddle, couldn't you make the same argumet against security, i.e., force?  Consider the drag on the economy of maintaining a standing military and peacekeepers.  Why should one person subsidize the security of another??

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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The premise of public schools is an old one, and I think valued for reasons similar to that of public safety. A republic is made secure by education too because an illiterate mob is dangerous to any society.  Looking back to the American roots of the premise of one person subsidizing the education of another, I found:

 

"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." ~ John Adams, 1785

 

You've got me thinking now, and I'll probably run amok, but isn't public education as valuable as public security?  And if so, or nearly so, then it seems to me that the argument for a government role in education follows naturally from the government role to maintain security, not only from aggression but from ignorance; the latter being a real danger to society that left unchecked will exacerbate the former.

 

What say you? 

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The premise of public schools is an old one, and I think valued for reasons similar to that of public safety.

People make the same argument for welfare, don't they? They say that we the poor will rise up if we don't have a basic degree of redistribution.

Education is a good thing and I'm happy if my fellow-citizens are educated, and when they use that education to produce values, people will pay them for doing so. Security is different. It is a value, but that is not the reason we want government involved. Rather, the argument is that we need a third-party government that is created by rule of law, to act as the ultimate arbiter. 

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Walter Williams mentioned that President Obama brought up rule of law, and his (Walter's) observation was that most folk don't know what it is. Public education is how most folk are educated. The lack of understanding of what rule of law is, I have to ask, as it relatives to public education - is this a feature or a bug?

Edited by dream_weaver

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People make the same argument for welfare, don't they? They say that we the poor will rise up if we don't have a basic degree of redistribution.

... 

 

Teach a man to fish...

 

...

Education is a good thing and I'm happy if my fellow-citizens are educated, and when they use that education to produce values, people will pay them for doing so. Security is different. It is a value, but that is not the reason we want government involved. Rather, the argument is that we need a third-party government that is created by rule of law, to act as the ultimate arbiter. 

 

Is security so different? I wonder...

 

The role of a final arbiter is to settle disputes as a ultimate judge of judgment. But it's objective rules that provide the real security, isn't it? Force is ceded to a government (of educated citizens) so that disputes can be resolved according to known rules, however the legitimacy of governance is also held accountable to known rules, and in that respect the (educated) citizens are the final arbiter.

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Walter Williams mentioned that President Obama brought up rule of law, and his (Walter's) observation was that most folk don't know what it is. Public education is how most folk are educated. The lack of understanding of what rule of law is, I have to ask, as it relatives to public education - is this a feature or a bug?

 

In terms of programming it is both...

 

Public safety has also been called into question by protesters recently.  Is that a feature or bug of ceding force to a public security agency?  That government has a "monopoly" on force doesn't prevent individuals from obtaining additional security provided by private agencies.  Education may also be obtained additionally and privately. As a parent, I monitor the education of my children and work to "alter or abolish" those forms of public education that fail to provide what I'm paying for.

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A private security agency is not competing with government's monopoly on the use of force. The private agency offers their services as a supplement to, but still fall under the jurisdiction of a rightful governing body.

 

When I said education is too important to be left in the hands of government, the question is one of how much say-so, and in what areas of education should a rightful governing agency have. Would privatized education be sufficiently policed by its consumers, i.e., parents selecting an educational program where the least amount of "altering or abolishing" the forms of thought taught is required.

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A private security agency is not competing with government's monopoly on the use of force. The private agency offers their services as a supplement to, but still fall under the jurisdiction of a rightful governing body.

 

...

 

Which is why I said "additionally and privately", and not "in lieu of".

 

...

 

When I said education is too important to be left in the hands of government, the question is one of how much say-so, and in what areas of education should a rightful governing agency have. Would privatized education be sufficiently policed by its consumers, i.e., parents selecting an educational program where the least amount of "altering or abolishing" the forms of thought taught is required.

 

I think the relevant question in terms of education is, what kinds of knowledge (like security) are objective, i.e., suitable as objective rules?  If certain forms of security can be identified and ceded to government for the purpose of establishing a monopoly on a socially acceptable use of force, why not the same for knowledge, e.g., reading, writing, arithmetic, for the purpose of establishing a monopoly on socially acceptable knowledge?

 

For example, the kind of knowledge every citizen needs to know in order to fulfill the task of "altering or abolishing" rogue forms of government.  Literacy might be helpful don't you think?

 

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Which is why I said "additionally and privately", and not "in lieu of".

I think we are in concurrence on this.

 

I think the relevant question in terms of education is, what kinds of knowledge (like security) are objective, i.e., suitable as objective rules?  If certain forms of security can be identified and ceded to government for the purpose of establishing a monopoly on a socially acceptable use of force, why not the same for knowledge, e.g., reading, writing, arithmetic, for the purpose of establishing a monopoly on socially acceptable knowledge?

 

For example, the kind of knowledge every citizen needs to know in order to fulfill the task of "altering or abolishing" rogue forms of government.  Literacy might be helpful don't you think?

 

If the question boils down to how to ascertain if knowledge is objective, regardless of the subject matter, it is epistemology that investigates that. If the sole purpose of government is to uphold and protect individual rights - education is important to facilitate that understanding.

 

To harken back to your reply to sNerd "Teach a man to fish", in response to what is being taught "They say that we the poor will rise up if we don't have a basic degree of redistribution." I think we both know which view is being propagated. From the standpoint of what gives rise to individual rights, individuals have the right to determine what educational principles are the correct principles to live by and be taught to future individualists, in so far as they do not violate the rights of others. Does ceding the criteria for perpetuating this understanding to government create a conflict of interest?

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... Does ceding the criteria for perpetuating this understanding to government create a conflict of interest?

 

The conflict is inherent in the desires of the servant to become the master.  Whether we arm the servant, or allow the servant to educate our children, there's always the risk that our trust will be betrayed.  But I think the conflict only arises when the master allows the servant to entertain delusions of grandeur.

 

When we forget who is running the house, we lose control of it.

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I think my point in positing that education is far too important to be left in the hands of government is that we shouldn't be allowing the servant to control the education of our children, to couch it in this terminology.

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Citizens control the content of education; public servants deliver that content.  The fact that citizens of a republic have it within their power to allow, alter or abolish government actions, the remedy for any particular concern is to work for political reform.  With regard to public safety, our concern for security is certainly no less important, such that after arming the servants we ought not be ever vigilant to insure they are following the rules we sanction.

 

My challenge to you and softwareNerd is to explain why a 3rd party provider of education is any less desirable than a 3rd party provider of security.  It seems to me that arguments for and against are essentially the same for both services; either you trust the servant to perform their duty, or you don't.

--

For clarity, I'm focusing the premise of subsidized delivery of objectively defined rules as they relate to security and education, e.g., due process, literacy and fundamental math skills.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Usually, I try not to raise issues I'm not prepared to address, and with that caveat, I'll try to address some of this as best I know how.

 

I would advocate a privatized, unsubsidized education system with a separation of education and state. Whether this starts out with mom and pop schools, or Montessori franchises, or conglomerates systematize various means of turning out successful products, I'm not sure on the details that would move things from how they are now to how it might be.

 

I've come across some articles that discuss the rise of home-schooling, which suggests to me that there are parents out there that are discouraged with the current offerings and are willing to take matters into their own hands. Under the current system, a parent that desires to send junior to a private school or home-school them, does so at the added expense of paying for a service they are objecting to by either choice of action. This ties into one of the issues that arise in the context of coercive taxation.

 

With regard to public safety, or what is required for the security of a free state, - the usurpation of education, managing roads, regulating utilities, etc., at what point does it start to remind you of the company towns?

 

I should probably clarify as well, this is not an official Objectivist position that I am aware of.

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