Friday, February 23, 2007

Academic Decisions

I've recently realized that I would seriously consider going back to school and getting a PhD in economics after working as an engineer for a few years after I graduate. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me because in the past, I have been pretty set against going to engineering or computer science grad school. I don't think I would enjoy going to grad school and doing research for either engineering or computer science, but I had not even considered economics. I think economics is attractive to me because I already spend a pretty significant amount of time thinking about economics and politics, and because (I'm going to be pretty arrogant and a bit naive here) I really think I might have something to contribute.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Habeas Denial for Guantánamo Detainees

CS Monitor reports that the federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act, which denies Guantánamo detainees the right to legally challenge their detention (Habeas Corpus). The majority decision talks about how striking down the MCA would be to "defy the will of congress," but that's not the issue here. No one claims that congress doesn't want to limit court access to detainees, the MCA makes that abundantly clear, but the constitution also makes it abundantly clear that congress can't suspend the right of Habeas Corpus except in times of rebellion or invasion. The constitution recognizes that the right of Habeas Corpus is fundamental to a fair and even justice system. Maintaining a fair and open system of justice is the primary function of government. There is no way that phrase can be interpreted as not limiting the power of congress to suspend Habeas Copus, but if it could, congress doing so is still a major disservice to the people congress represents because it sets a terrible precedence, ripe for abuse, and because it makes it orders of magnitude easier and more likely for the people to violate the rights of detainees through the government. Whether or not congress can constitutionally deny the right oh Habeas Corpus to detainees, doing so delivers a major blow to the justice system as a moral force and drives the government further away from serving the people into ruling the people.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What are your rights?

Most libertarians believe people have a certain set of 'natural rights.' Usually these are: life, liberty and property. This set of rights seems somewhat vague to me so, after quite a bit of thinking, I've come up with what I think is a more rigorous set of rights.

For the sake of completeness, I will include the corresponding duty associated with each right.

There are two natural rights and one meta-right:

Right #1: The right of property. Individuals have the right to 'use-and-exclude' their property. They have the right to use their property how they see fit, and they have the right to exclude others from using their property. The corresponding duty is to respect the use and exclusion from other individual's property.

Right #2: The right of contract. Individuals have the right to make mutually binding agreements with other individuals. The corresponding duty is to abide by the agreements you are part of.

Meta-Right: The meta-right is the right of individuals to enforce their other rights by force, and to extract compensation for violations of their rights.

I should expand a little bit on 'property.' First, you can only own well-defined, scarce resources. Second, there are a few 'natural ownerships'; resources that people naturally own. For example, people own their own body. Also, people corporately own fluid resources that they share direct access to. This gives people ownership over resources like the atmosphere they breathe.

I don't pretend that this set of rights are objective or anything; I just assume them. I would love to hear any criticisms of these rights or additions to them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freedom To Marry Week

February 12-17 is Freedom To Marry week, started by the organization Freedom To Marry, during which groups around the country have parties, host debates, write op-ed pieces and collect signatures on the Marriage Resolution which states:

Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual choice,
RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage.

I went out with the Libertarian group at the UW and to collect signatures. We bought a ton of cheap after-Valentine's day candy and had a tabling event on the HUB lawn. Astrid and I even made a pretty banner with hearts that said "Freedom To Marry week; Liberty Requires Tolerance," but it was really windy so we couldn't put it up. We collected a TON of signed resolutions, and we had a good time. Two groups of Mormons were out, one tabling and one on mission. We talked to them and tried to get them to sign the resolution, and they seemed surprisingly amiable to it. The tabling group read the proposal, and talked a little bit about how the Prophets didn't really say anything about the issue but they didn't seem very interested in the issue and didn't sign the resolution. Later, we talked to the guys on mission, and they said they couldn't sign it while they were on mission, but gave us a thumbs up on the issue. There was also a Muslim guy who came to talk to us who said it would be lying if he signed it since it was against his religion, but I pointed out that the resolution wasn't about religious marriage, just civil marriage so he said he did support that, and ended up signing the resolution. Yay!
A bit on my position on marriage:
While I don't think that the government should sponsor the marriage relationship, I realize that it is not going to stop any time soon. If the government is going to sponsor marriage, then I think it has to do it evenly, and not discriminate. Hence my support for Freedom To Marry.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Letter to the Editor

The Daily is the local school newspaper at the University Of Washington, where I go to school.
About a week ago, I was upset at this really bad article on why sex should be within marriage only they published. It is notoriously difficult to get conservative writers to write for the paper, so I can understand that they have to go with what they get, but this was a particularly bad article. I wrote this letter to the editor in response:

Last week's article "Marriage is the right way for sex" by Brandon Dennis was so bad it was almost self parodying. There are good conservative writers with intelligent things to say and well thought out arguments, but Mr. Dennis is not one of them. I have to wonder whether Dennis has spent much time thinking about his positions or if he just writes about them.

Dennis makes the strange claim that people are "built with an innate desire for marriage." Without religious reasoning, this is a pretty weird notion. People have a genetic desire to participate in one particular social institution? Give me a break. He makes a half-hearted attempt to support his claim, but ends up just restating his

At one particularly silly point in the article, Dennis cites the Declaration of Independence, and seems to suggest that perhaps people don't have the right to engage in casual sex because it is not the pursuit of happiness since it doesn't make people happy.

Even the strongest argument made in the article, which is that it is possible to get hurt by having sex outside of marriage, is pretty lame. It's possible to get hurt in any type of romantic relationship, including marriage; about one half of American marriages end in divorce. He seems to argue that if it's possible to get hurt by doing something then you shouldn't do it at all, which is ridiculous.

His article doesn't make any credible arguments against sex outside of marriage so I don't know why Dennis thinks it is bad idea, and I suspect he doesn't know either.

I am not a conservative by any measure, and I realize that it is difficult to find local credible conservative voices, but I think the Daily does a disservice to its readers when the only conservative viewpoint presented is so difficult to take seriously.

I would have liked to respond some more, but it's supposed to be under 250 words and it's already 300+