Dancing on an empty grave.

I’m happy that we don’t live in E.J. Dionne’s fantasy world. Yet. Because Dionne is trying as hard as he can to reduce our world to his fantasy. He starts with the premise that capitalism is dead and then pretends that the pomp surrounding his pronouncement is enough to distract from the missing body. The whole column is a mess, amounting to little more than Dionne mooning anyone who doesn’t believe that government is benevolent, productive, and wise.

I don’t want to spend too much time mucking around in that. Allow me to offer one example and then I’ll move on. Writing on how conservatives now understand the need for regulation, he writes:

Bernanke said the Fed needed more authority to get inside “the structure and workings of financial markets” because “recent experience has clearly illustrated the importance, for the purpose of promoting financial stability, of having detailed information about money markets and the activities of borrowers and lenders in those markets.” Sure sounds like Big Government to me.

Or I could read Mr. Bernanke’s statement that “having detailed information” means better disclosure, not a call for government management of financial markets. Oversight is not control. Words have meaning.

The rest of the essay is the same boring appeal to authority when facts are inconvenient. Any argument that relies on an emotional appeal from an individual whose credibility is supposed to be based on facts – “A cozy boardroom back-scratching operation offends me.” – is not an argument worth entertaining longer than the time it takes to suggest the debater grow up.

There is no free in prevention.

This article about serious side effects possibly related to Gardasil is mostly speculation. Point conceded, so I won’t use it as fact. Instead, it’s worth considering the ethical questions. The (doctor) father of one teen believes Gardasil caused the medical problems his daughter now faces. (Correlation is not causation, of course.) He said:

One thing that’s different about Amanda’s case than some of the others is that both of her parents medical doctors who didn’t think twice about having their daughter get the shot – but are now second-guessing themselves. They call their daughter’s illness after Gardasil “a very sobering experience.” Amanda’s dad says, “as the father of three girls, I’ve had to ask myself why I let my eldest one get an unproven vaccine against a few strains of a nonlethal virus that can be dealt with in many more effective ways. It’s not like they are at high risk. It was the regrettable acceptance of the vaccine party line that [mis]led me.”

Don’t get distracted by “unproven vaccine” or “nonlethal virus”. They’re important in both the medical and ethical evaluation, but “can be dealt with in many more effective ways” should be the focus.

Merck, which makes the vaccine, the CDC and the FDA all say it is safe, effective, and important. Speaking of more than 8,000 adverse event reports and more than a dozen deaths, the CDC told CBS News, “we have found no connection between these deaths” and Gardasil. “We still recommend the vaccine and feel it is an important vaccine for the health of women. There are about 20 million people currently infected with HPV. Women have an 80 percent chance of developing HPV by the time they are 50. HPV is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. Because the vaccine is a preventative and not a cure, it is important that the vaccine be given prior to beginning sexual activity. About 11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,600 will die. This vaccine prevents four viruses that account for about 70 percent of cervical cancers.” [emphasis added]

The CDC ignores the necessary caveats. It is important to give the vaccine prior to beginning sexual activity if the female will engage in risky sexual behavior and/or weighs the risk of infection greater than the risk of possible adverse reactions to Gardasil, among many factors in the decision. Parents can’t know the answers. They can assume, but assuming involves risk greater than they should impose. The threat of HPV is serious but infection is neither automatic nor inevitably deadly. Waiting involves additional risk. But risk involves rights. That can’t be forgotten.

If there is a better private system, this is not it.

I’m a libertarian because maximizing individual liberty is the primary goal of collective human action. Whatever the means, achieving maximal individual liberty is the end.

The question is, of course, by what means? I’ve toyed with the idea – to be honest, not seriously – of no government. I understand and accept the idea that private processes would develop in the absence of a formalized government. The protection of rights present¹ in our current system of government would largely remain. However, given human nature, there is too great a threat to individual liberty inherent in no formal government. A monopoly on force is dangerous, but no such monopoly is not automatically better for the individual. A government with limited, stated powers designed to protect the rights and liberty of all its citizens is, I believe, the ideal.

That is the ideal. We don’t live in libertopia, though. Such a government must exist with its limited powers explicit and limited only to protecting rights. I use the term collective human action above to express this narrow, rigid concept of legitimate government. We act together specifically so that we may be free from each other generally.

Since a government’s objective is to maximize liberty, I’m interested in minimal restrictions on individuals. The valid test for restricting an individual’s free action is objective, unrequested harm. Where an action causes such harm, a government’s power to restrict the action is legitimate. Beyond that boundary, any government action is a violation of the powers granted to it by its organizers.

(There is a large, important gray area concerning subjective harm. Although it must be explored to develop a complete political philosophy, I leave that discussion alone for my purposes here. It’s pointless to consider the subjective before settling the objective. It is also unnecessary because I wish to consider only objective harm here.)

So, circumcision.

A recent string of Free Talk Live episodes discussed circumcision in the context of how far states should go in preventing child abuse. The show’s hosts generally take an anti-state position, relying instead on the expectation that private systems will fill the void if we dismantle the state. In many cases I’m sympathetic to this view. Particularly with economics and all the ways in which our government seeks to improve our world, the state makes obvious, large mistakes because it must plan rather than rely on ever-changing needs to direct the market. But in matters of protecting rights, I am not sympathetic to this view. The state is a means to protecting rights and achieving individual liberty. This function is necessary in any society, and the properly-constrained state is the least bad option. “Properly constrained” is the key, of course. I do not foresee a private market in force being any more properly constrained than the state yet still undertaking the necessary task of protecting citizens.

From the June 11, 2008 episode (approximately 1:26:45 in):

Mike (Caller): So I think we’ve all agreed that at three or four years old, a child cannot make a rational decision.
Ian: I would certainly agree with you. No doubt about it. And here’s what I would suggest. You should go and live on a piece of property that has deed restrictions or private law, whatever you’d like to call it. You can call it deed restrictions, you can call it private law. Then, you know, in that world of private law, you can construct and create whatever sort of rules you want to as far as the behavior of your neighbors is concerned. And if you want to ban things like mutilation, or hitting children, or whatever it is that you consider anathema to your belief system, it would not be allowed by punishment of whatever it is that you determine the punishment should be.
Mark (Host): And before one moves to that community, they have to agree upon those rules.
Ian: Right. Then you wouldn’t have anyone around you that was doing those awful things and you wouldn’t have to be concerned with it. And then those who wanted to mutilate their children, or whatever, could go and live together in their own little, you know, their own little society.

Being anti-state is the wrong way to approach this issue as a libertarian. Certain rights are inherent and universal to all humans. Do the children in the latter community not have the same rights they’d possess if born in the former community? Children would not choose these community rules as adults would, so the protection of rights become merely the will (or whim) of the strong. Suggesting this as a viable option towards maximizing individual liberty treats children as property. What is it worth to be free of force from the state if you are not free of force from your parents?

Maximizing individual liberty requires limiting an individual’s liberty to the extent that his unfettered actions would infringe on another individual’s liberty. Doing so in that limited manner protects individual rights. We can argue whether the state or some other method is the best way to maximize individual liberty by protecting the rights of all individuals, but there is no valid argument that this should not be the primary goal of any society.

On June 16, 2008, a caller continued the discussion on circumcision (approximately 17:40 in):

Dan (Caller): Hi, Ian. Umm, a couple weeks ago, or maybe it was last week, I’m a podcast listener, so I get times mixed up.
Ian (Host): Okay.
Dan: There was a gentleman who called in, actually, a couple Christians who called in talking about how they don’t want to force their morality on people but, you know, if people are, you know, abusing their kids and you’ve got to do something, you’ve got to have the government around to do something. And I just wanted to submit that in a totally free society where you have, you know, where people have the liberty to basically do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else, you’re still going to have people hurting each other, but it’s no different than today. My point was going to be that, uh, why can’t the kids, if they have a case that they’ve been abused, uh, why can’t they just sue in retrospect?
Ian: They should be able to.

That continued after a commercial with a restatement (approximately 20:04 in):

Dan: Ok, um, I was talking about how there have been some Christian libertarians who have been calling in talking about how, you know, they they just can’t accept the idea that we have to allow everyone full liberty to raise their children how they want to, you know, because, you know, what if, well what if they’re, you know, doing something like, you know, they brought up female circumcision or something like that.
Ian: Yeah.
Dan: And what I was saying is why, you know, the burden of proof should be on the accuser. So why don’t we allow people to do, to, you know, to raise their kids as long as there’s no clear signs of abuse, and if the children are damaged by it, sue in retrospect. That rather than having the burden of proof constantly on the parents so they have to prove to this government that we have constantly that they’re not abusing their children.

Proposing a post facto process for recourse in the event of harm is a no-brainer. (What system of mediation, if not the state’s legal system?) We have a system for this today that covers all sorts of offenses that are also a crime. Obviously harmed individuals have a claim to compensation against those who harmed them. Offering that as a substitute for prohibition avoids the real issue of rights violations. We prohibit certain assaults despite having options for restitution after the assault because protecting the right of every individual to be free from harm is at the core of liberty.

Unfortunately the typical libertarian approach to hypothetical questions seems to revolve around the assaulted being able to pull out his concealed weapon and stop the assault, hence
no need for the state. I exaggerate wildly, even though my hyperbole is useful in hypotheticals because adults have some ability to defend themselves, whether through brains, muscles, or technology. There is merit to the argument of self-defense. But we’re not discussing adults. Many, if not most, minors lack sufficient resources in these defense mechanisms. Infants lack all resources. Yet, as citizens with equal, natural rights, all minors must be treated as more than inconvenient obstacles to extending hypotheticals into real world rules. The notion that children complicate libertarian political philosophy – or worse, that libertarianism does not apply to children – is a failure of application, not the underlying principles of liberty and rights. The reasonable concept of proxy consent matters because parents are the proper decision-makers where necessity demands it, but proxy consent does not matter most. No adult has a legitimate claim to violate those rights merely because he or she is the child’s parent.

Permitting parents to surgically alter the healthy genitals of their (male³) children grants them an illegitimate liberty interest in altering – and harming – the body of another at the expense of his legitimate liberty interest in self-ownership, a right that includes his foreskin. Endorsing that because it precludes state involvement, even with a post facto compensation system in place, turns antipathy for the state into a fetish, at the expense of individual liberty. Being oppressed in private is still oppression.

The debate continues (I’ve omitted an inconsequential bit):

Mark: Ok. Yeah, absolutely true. Umm, I think that, uh, people that have been, you know, harmed by their parents in some way should be able to sue and umm, I would think in the case of a female circumcision that likely they would, uh, you know, a jury would find for them. Umm, male circumcision, maybe not so much. You know, pervasive morality matters in a, in a society, and if you’re going to get a jury of your peers, you know, they’re probably not going to find that you were harmed significantly by a male circumcision. Maybe they will, I’m not sure.

It’s a strange kind of libertarianism that places the “pervasive morality” of the majority before the protection of individual rights and objective standards of harm.

Continuing, with omissions for space:

Ian: You mean Dan’s idea?
Mark: Yeah, Dan’s idea would be, would take care of it relatively quickly because, well, people don’t want to be sued.
Ian: Well, right, because, uh, if there was a judgment against the parents in that particular case then, uh, then the other parents that were considering doing that would have to think twice.
Mark: Absolutely. And of course social ostracization would, uh, keep these types of things from really cropping up within private, voluntary societies so you’d have private arbiters, you’d have parents who, and uh uh and new new parents who would already have signed on to the rules. And, uh, man, if they broke those rules, they would not be able to prosper, and they would be hit pretty hard financially.

There is some merit in this argument, but as it applies to doctors, not parents. That’s already starting in the U.S. It will have more impact as the courts become more sympathetic to the proper inclusion of medical ethics into unnecessary genital cutting.

With parents, we’re back to being stuck with the pervasive morality of the majority at the time of the circumcision, and parents already ignore what their son may or may not want in favor of what they think he wants, or worse, what they want. That misses the point. A male can later make the case that he was harmed, but this solution relies on two faulty assumptions. First, it assumes the male minor’s (obvious) rights aren’t worth protecting while he is a child, perhaps merely because his parents circumcised him rather than a stranger. Their liberty is more equal than his liberty. This can never be correct.

Second, it assumes that money will sufficiently compensate him for his lost foreskin. Not all men would accept that trade-off. Not all parents will be able to fund a judgment against them. And if they don’t expect to have the resources in the future, would the parents be concerned enough about a possible future judgment to not circumcise? Nor will all parents with the financial means to fund a jury’s punishment value the lost dollars more than whatever value they place on the act of circumcising their sons. Remember, all tastes and preferences are subjective. Just as the evaluation of the foreskin’s worth will vary by individual, the evaluation of the worth of a dollar (or a million or a billion) relative to pleasing God/a perceived reduction in HIV risk/avoiding the “ick” factor/etc. will vary by parent(s). There simply is no reliable way to predict what individual’s will do. Incentives matter, but not everyone responds the same way to the same incentives.

This hypothetical system also ignores the extreme cases where the harm to the boy is greater than the typical circumcision outcome. It seems reasonable to suggest that the rare boy who dies from circumcision will not be satisfied by the possibility of money he can’t collect.

We’re left with individual rights as the only defensible guide for what system should be in place. I can’t make this point enough. Every individual, regardless of age, has the same natural rights. An age-based inability to defend one’s own rights does not render those rights subject to the will of another, even a parent. What system will protect those inherent, equal rights? If you value liberty, that is the discussion. If you value only the dismantling of the state, understand what your position entails. Don’t wrap it in talk of liberty and pretend you’ve found an intersection that bypasses the state. You haven’t because compensating the violated after an identifiable, predictable violation rather than protecting before the violation has nothing to do with liberty.

I’ll end with a concise statement of the philosophical consideration at hand, from D.A. Ridgely at Positive Liberty (from a different context):

The quintessentially libertarian position, in any case, is that the burden must fall on the state not before it permits some exercise of individual freedom but before it prohibits it. It is, by contrast, the quintessentially conservative position (of the Burkean variety) that tampering with long established traditions and institutions is so inherently risky that we must apply the social equivalent of the precautionary principle before proceeding.

I’m arguing the quintessential libertarian position. I’m not willing to concede that parents have an absolute right to make medical decisions for their children. Such a right assumes the option to make objectively stupid medical decisions for another. I’m thinking of parents who let their children die while waiting for prayer to save them. Still, parents deserve at least first – and great – deference to their judgment. The burden falls on the state to prove that it may prohibit the circumcision of minors. Where direct medical need is absent, as it is absent in ritual/social circumcision, the objective infliction of harm on the child to achieve subjective benefits valued by the parents, however well-intentioned, is sufficient proof that state prohibition is not only legitimate, but a requirement to protect rights and maximize individual liberty for everyone. Imposing routine/ritual circumcision is not a medical decision, so the decision deserves no deference. Whatever system is in place must recognize that and protect the child. The private system proposed by Free Talk Live is unacceptable because it fails to embrace liberty for all.

¹ Admittedly, our representatives disregard this duty. This is a flaw in e
xecution, not design. But it’s presence in our government is a significant, complicating issue.

² By force, I mean objective harm. The state does not have the constitutional power to cut your genitals at the discretion of its representatives, at least not without due process. (Also, see footnote ¹.)

³ The distinction permitting only the circumcision of male children demonstrates our unprincipled, unequal understanding of the rights of children.

Ivan Drago, Civics Teacher

I tried reading The Corner for a short period of time, last year I think. I couldn’t take the absurdity, so I now let others do the heavy lifting for me. This time, via Andrew Sullivan, Kathryn Jean Lopez offers a prime example of what I can only hope is an attempt at witty sarcasm. I fear it’s self-parody.

A totally crazy Saturday-morning thought: Wouldn’t George W. Bush make an awesome high-school government teacher? Wouldn’t it be something if his post-presidential life would up being that kind of post-service service? How’s that for a model? Who needs Harvard visiting chairs and high-end lectures? How about Crawford High? (Or wherever?) Reach out and touch the young before they are jaded, or break them of the cynicism pop culture and possibly their parents have passed down to them. Whatever you think of President Bush, he’s a likable guy in love with his country with some history and experience to share.

Forget the insane part, if you can. Rather, consider what this says about her understanding of conservatism as it should be practiced in America today. Family matters most, it’s the building block of society, etc. We don’t want (liberal) propaganda from our educators replacing teaching in the home. Oh, wait, except where teaching in the home strays from what family should teach, as defined by… Kathryn Jean Lopez. Then it’s good to have Right knowledge pushed on our children by someone more knowing. If we can farm out that work to George W. Bush, it’s a win-win all around.

Post Script: By now the title should be obvious, but if our teachers must break our children, I guess we’ll need a cage match between George W. Bush and Rocky Balboa to find out who is best qualified to be Civics-Teacher-in-Chief. Since they’re both superheroes, they’ll, of course, duel to a tie. That leaves Drago with the chutzpah to take charge.

(Comments are closed. Cross-posted at Publius Endures, where comments are open.)

Is this an M.D. from a correspondence school?

When public health officials say voluntary, adult, …

The soldiers in the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) will be the first men to benefit from a government policy to use male circumcision as a tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to senior health officials.

… The voluntary circumcision programme is expected to start in August.

“We will use the military as role models for the rest of the population – they are adult enough to give consent, and if young men see that soldiers are willing to suffer the pain of circumcision, they will also get the courage to do it,” said Dr Agnes Binagwaho, executive secretary of Rwanda’s national AIDS commission (CNLS).

… they never mean voluntary, adult. Never.

“After the military we will concentrate on students and, finally, on the general population; eventually we hope to move on to circumcising new-born babies, as long as research proves that it is advantageous and cost-effective to do so.”

Want to bet research will prove that infant circumcision will be advantageous and cost-effective, in spite of reality that Rwanda has “only one doctor for every 50,000 people”? Should it skew the analysis against infant circumcision that the rate of HIV infection in Rwanda is higher in circumcised men than in intact men? Of course, but it won’t. It’s so much easier to blame the foreskin than the male attached to the foreskin.


Also, should we put trust in Dr. Binagwaho when she couldn’t pass a basic statistics class?

“People must be made aware that although circumcision is beneficial, there is still a 40 percent risk of HIV transmission, so they must know that it must be used in conjunction with another HIV prevention method, such as condom use,” she said.

I expect those unfamiliar with statistics to make such a mistake. Is it too much to expect a doctor to be familiar with statistics?


Post Script: Based on the article’s closing paragraph about funding for Rwanda’s circumcision plan, I feel confident that I will eventually be able to remove my updated qualification from this entry. The plan outlined in the article is stated in Rwanda Fiscal Year 2008 Country PEPFAR Operational Plan (COP). We will continue throwing money at this ignorance.

Pitting anecdote against anecdote ignores reason and logic.

There is much to commend in this article, but like all attempts to be unbiased on a topic where introducing subjectivity is the only method for achieving balance, the conclusion veers into scare tactics.

[Opponents] declare [circumcision] mutilation.

But there is another side to the story.

Dave, who didn’t want his full name used to protect the privacy of his circumcised 19-year-old son, objected to the practice after his son’s birth.

“I went through it, and I didn’t want him to go through it,” said the 48-year-old electrical engineer from Chantilly in Northern Virginia. “They cut millions of nerve endings that would be nice to have.” [ed. note: thousands of nerve endings]

But, as his son grew, he couldn’t pull the foreskin back far enough to clean it without significant pain. He stopped cleaning, and infection after infection of the penile head and foreskin ensued, turning his penis beet red.

“We ended up doing the circumcision when he was 5,” Dave said. “It was awful. For years after, he got into the bathtub only gingerly, putting his hand over those parts the whole time.”

Now, Dave advocates having the procedure done as soon as possible after birth.

“My son suffered by not being circumcised early,” he said. “And I wonder what long-term impact that has had on him.”

This is not another side to whether or not it’s appropriate to circumcise healthy male infants/children. This is an emotional appeal to a child’s ability to remember surgery and the unlikely-but-possible risks of life. Even a cursory look at circumcision statistics in other Western countries will confirm this article’s anecdote to be devoid of any merit as a defense in favor of imposing surgery on healthy children to avoid risks later.

It should be clear that I understand some males will need medical intervention on their genitals if left intact. (And if circumcised.) That is not then justification to circumcise children. Many females (and some males) will eventually need some kind of medical intervention for breast cancer. We do not see that as a defense for removing the breast tissue from infants because we are not irrational on that front. Apply a speck of reason and the similar excuse for male child circumcision fails.

To the anecdote directly, I can only speculate. It is not unusual for the foreskin of a five-year-old boy to at least partially adhere to his glans and inner foreskin. Pulling the foreskin back further than it can easily retract is bad and can cause pain. (Almost as bad as forcibly separating the foreskin from the penis prior to circumcision.) Perhaps that occurred here. I’ve certainly heard of parents being aggressively determined that the foreskin should retract fully before it naturally separates. This can lead to problems.

But, again, I’m only speculating. Speculating is pushing limited facts into a preferred narrative. Dave speculates to the reporter. (Circumcised males get infections.) I’m speculating here to illustrate the process. I don’t need speculation to defend my position. I’m willing to concede that Dave’s anecdote is exclusively an example of the risk of being intact. It happens, unfortunately. But where his stance needs speculation and anecdote, I have reason and evidence:

“… And, urinary tract infections are so rare in baby boys that the increased risk of it isn’t significant,” [pediatrician Roxanne Allegretti] said.

Anecdote of the “my best friend’s cousin’s first-grade teacher’s next-door-neighbor’s driving instructor once had <insert problem here> with his foreskin, leading him to get circumcised at <insert age here>, and he definitely remembers the horrible pain” is not a compelling reason to perform surgery on healthy children. Healthy and surgery are mutually exclusive for those who can’t consent.

The ability to reason includes recognition of gender-bias.

Ignorance can speak truth, even when ignorance doesn’t intend something so broad (emphasis added):

… I feel that “female circumcision” gives this practice a veneer of respectability to hide behind. Uninformed people likely know that male circumcision is done mainly for hygienic or religious reasons and has nothing to do with sexual pleasure or causing other problems down the road, as mutilation may cause with menstruation and childbirth. Circumcision is pretty much the opposite of mutilation as far as having an effect on a person.

So “female circumcision” sounds kind of like a benign minor medical procedure, while “female genital mutilation” tells it like it is. I don’t think calling the practice circumcision will fire many people up against it – it almost sounds like a P.R. phrase for genital mutilation, designed to mask what really happens.
This practice has also made its way to the United States, through immigration.

I don’t think calling the practice circumcision will fire many people up against it – it almost sounds like a P.R. phrase for genital mutilation, designed to mask what really happens. Indeed. It’s almost as if Americans embrace that mentality with our treatment of male children. Almost, of course, because only They&#153 engage in immoral actions. We&#153 are always correct, never to be questioned again.

I will be using that quote frequently in the future.

We need to stop using oil, but it shouldn’t cost too much.

Better to control through blunt force than through individual receptiveness to economic pain, right?

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.

Will that be broken out by make and model? Will we next proceed to mandatory speed limits built into cars sold in America? Does it matter, as long as Congress gets to Do Something?

Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.

Is it reasonable to assume that motorists will drive at or below those speed limits? Not to get too anarchist, but as a motorist, every successful, traffic-free experience I have on the highway involves a spontaneous order, with some optimal speed above the limit “magically” appearing to smooth the flow of traffic. If Congress imposes a national speed limit, we’ll have one of two realities. Motorists will ignore the speed limit, or states will allocate more police enforcement. What is the net effect of saving a few pennies on gas if we spend a few pennies to enforce that savings? And what of the extra court costs? Insurance premium spikes?

Or we could consider something else:

The [Department of Energy’s] Web site says that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly when traveling faster than 60 mph. Every additional 5 mph over that threshold is estimated to cost motorists “essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs,” Warner said in his letter, citing the DOE data.

Maybe we can assume that motorists are capable of deciding how willing they are to pay an additional 30 cents per gallon. And maybe the market is capable of slowing drivers down when the price of gas is “too high”. But why let the market work when Congress can interfere?

Politicized patriotism is not the spirit of independence.

Senator Obama is on his patriotism tour this week. Fine, politicians do that. But there is something vital missing from his call to service:

“We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”

He added, “When you choose to serve — whether it’s your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood — you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That’s why it’s called the American dream.”

What if I choose to serve myself? More directly, I’d posit that “being” – in whatever form one chooses – is connection to the fundamental human ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nor is it prudent to forget that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are among certain unalienable Rights. That’s semantics, mostly, but when Sen. Obama omits the individual, a bit of semantics is necessary.

Worse, this:

“Loving your country shouldn’t just mean watching fireworks on the 4th of July,” he said. “Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it. If you do, your life will be richer, and our country will be stronger.”

Loving my country means embracing the truth that all individuals are created equal and seeking to continue the government instituted among Men based upon this principle. Loving my country means rejecting rules and laws based on subjective ideas like equality of outcome or that democracy is an ideal to be honored. Loving my country means striving to perpetuate principled structures for governing that protect rights, not endorsing the will of the people. The only thing I must do is refrain from infringing the rights of others. It would be nice if Sen. Obama (and every other politician) did the same.

State Lotteries, Round 2

In response to my entry on state lotteries continuing scratch-off games after the top prize is awarded, this response from David Z. at no third solution.

Although I concur that the State shouldn’t be in the gaming business, I think the rest of Tony’s analysis is wrong.

If I could excerpt just one bit to give you the full idea of David’s rebuttal, I would. But really, excerpting the whole thing hardly qualifies as fair use, even among friends. Go read his response. I’ll wait.

Ok, done? Good.

I think the devil is in the assumptions. David assumes that players play only for the top prize. (And that there is only one prize, but he uses that assumption for a different reason.) I assumed that they play to win, preferably – but not exclusively – the big prize. One of us is right, since those seem to be the two reasonable possibilities. I wasn’t convinced when I wrote my entry that it was me, and I’m not convinced it’s me after reading his response.

Still, the question of fairness rests solely on how the game is marketed, I think. If, as I barely-sorta implied, the State is running commercials or promoting the game after the top prize is awarded, that’s shady at best. If not, I don’t think this is a problem in the context of the game. Should selling tickets be automatically considered marketing with an intent to imply the top prize is still available? Again, one’s assumption is critical here. I tend towards mine because, as my original anecdote suggests, I know many people who habitually return their winnings to the state for more tickets. It speaks to an acceptance that winning something has value. It could also mean just an expectation that turning the winnings into more tickets might mean the jackpot. That’s probably the reason. That, and addiction.

But I still come back to the contract. There has to be some expectation that the customer will read the fine print if it matters to him. Also, as I closed my original entry, the available prizes are listed on the lottery website for each game. I don’t know how quickly this is updated after prizes are redeemed, but the availability of the information matters. How much, I’m not sure, but disclosing this information suggests that gamblers can make a determination. Maybe real-time game information available at each point-of-sale would be better?

Also for consideration, this at Hit & Run, which calls the same defense I offered “weak”, but without the effort to explain why that David offered.