Thursday, February 23, 2006

Limit Eminent Domain!

As I'm sure anyone who bothers to read this blog is aware of, the eminent domain issue has been very large in the news lately. I don't have time to write an extensive piece about it here, but I want to annouce that the initiative I will be supporting is moving forward. Petitions need signing. This is a grass roots effort; there is no "big money" behind it, so we'll need all the volunteer help we can get. Go here, download the petition and supporting documents, and just get out there and get some signatures!

From here on, there shall be a link in my sidebar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Bad of obsolete Law Retirement Committee

Here's something I think our (Republican) lawmakers could do to prove the devotion to a reduction in the size of government they claim to have during their campaigns.

There should be a committee established at the various levels (Congress, state legislatures, etc.) which has the purpose of proposing the repeal of various laws and acts. Their job would be to look for laws that seem either dishonestly established, ineffective in their stated purpose, or just plain obsolete, and propose that they be repealed. They would, hopefully, be able to do full research on the history behind an act, including the problem they were supposed to address, the arguments made in favor and against, the actual history of the enforcement of the law, the effects of said enforcement, the names of the yeas and the nays, and the lobbyists who backed the act.

They've got committees for every other purpose. Why not this? I think it would shed a lot of light on the actions of our government, and might actually have the effect of rolling back a certain amount of it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Justice: Absolute Restitution

One problem I think we have with our justice system is that people don't really think much about justice, as a concept. For most people, the government does what it does, and that's that. For those who actually encounter our justice system, it's more about vengeance, the desire to hurt the person they perceive as having hurt them. For some, it's about locking away people they feel threatened by. For others, it's about "rehabilitation."

I believe that justice, ultimately, is about restoring a balance that is disrupted by crimes of various kinds, committed by one against another. So far as it is possible, justice should be aimed at requiring the perpetrator to restore their victim to their original state. In situations in which this is not possible, it's about causing the same harm to the perpetrator, so that the victim can feel that, even if the situation is far from perfect, the criminal has been justly punished.

You'll notice that this definition explicitly excludes victimless crimes. I do not believe there should be any such thing defined by the state. The justice of the state should be purely a matter of mediation between individuals; the only crimes that should be prosecuted by the state are matters of treason, and possibly destruction of public property.

I think that our justice system would work better if all justice were thought of in terms of restitution. When one commits a crime against another, count that as a debt incurred. In the event that the debt cannot be paid, we could imprison them, but I doubt that would solve much. A lengthy period of indentured servitude would serve all of the purposes listed above. It would be a form of imprisonment, which would satisfy those that demand imprisonment. However, it would also put them to work, which would provide value to the party harmed by the crime. During that time, they would learn work skills, which would serve the purpose of rehabilitation. And because it would be individuals who profit from their labor who would be responsible for the servant, it would reduce our prison budget to almost nothing, allowing for lower taxes, allowing for higher employment, which would help reduce crime overall.

I prefer a period of seven years. On top of being the length of time specified in the Law of Moses (which would make it politically viable for Judeo-Christian fundamentalists), it would probably also be sufficient time to train a particularly bright servant in a high-value skill, while allowing time for the trainer to make a profit on the investment. Such a servant, once freed, would be unlikely to return to a life of crime.

Note that these servants would be transferable. The victim of a crime wouldn't find himself saddled with a person he really doesn't want around. He would, however, have the option to sell the perpetrator's servitude to another person or entity, possibly a business that makes its money getting the most out of such persons. The likely mode of operation would be to train them in the most economically valuable skill they can be trusted with, and collect the money until their term ends. The newly freed person would now have a valuable skill to live on.

In some cases, restoration is possible. In the case of theft, require the robber to pay back twice as much as he stole. In the case of vandalism, require the vandal to repair the damage, and pay again the expenses. Do the same for arson. For injury, the rule would be "an eye for an eye," though if the victim chose the eye, they would not have the opportunity to sue for medical expenses. They can either get the eye, or twice the expenses, but not both.

In the case of murder, the perpetrator would owe the victim's next of kin their life; the victim's family would literally have the right to kill the murderer.

For more dispersed wrongs, dispersed entities could be created to defend that particular resource. For example, groundwater pollution could be prosecuted by he who owned the groundwater, ie. a corporation owned by the people in a given area, managed by a board of directors elected by the shareholders.

The key element to note here is that at no point does the State become the plaintiff; it provides the judge and enforcement, but nothing more. Thus, if the victim decides that, for whatever reason, he wishes to forgive the perpetrator, or accept a lighter sentence, he would have the authority to do so. The state would not have the ability to continue a prosecution that could be settled more easily out of court. The victim would be firmly in the driver's seat, and while the law would define what they are entitled to, they would be free to accept other terms, assuming the perpetrator agreed.

Much fewer prisons, rehabilitation, strict enforcement, and an absolute concern for victim's rights. What more can you ask for?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Balanced Budget Amendment

We interrupt this bout of political science-fiction to bring you an idea I think would actually be a good idea to implement today. The passage I would amend reads as follows. The part in bold is the addition I would make.

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States in a time of war as declared by Congress;

To pay interest and principal on debts previously established;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Why would I take away the power to borrow money except in times of war? The reasoning is simple. We have seen during the twentieth century that a democratically elected government that has this power will abuse it, guaranteed. It is a dangerous power to give to an unaccountable multitide. The democratic political process is such that it encourages high spending and low taxes, and I do not believe it is wise to count on the "widson" of either elected leaders or the voters to restrain the use of this power. Thus, I think that in most circumstances, it is wisest not to permit Congress to borrow money.

However, it is a power that is needed in times of emergency, and the only emergency I think it proper for the government to respond to in this manner is a threat from without. An invading army would use all financial resources available to it, and thus, so should our government. However, I do believe that, if our debt is kept down, there will be even more money avaiable to be borrowed in an emergency. This amendment would make the power to borrow even more powerful, since it wouldn't be wasted on frivolous political matters.