Friday, June 27, 2008

What is wrong with unfettered gun ownership

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Where do the US presidential candidates stand on gun control? Well, John McCain has supported a Supreme Court decision overruling a District of Columbia handgun ban. Democrat Barack Obama sought to take the middle ground by saying he favors an individual's right to bear firearms as well as a government's right to regulate them. What does that mean? Does it mean he has no principles, or does it mean he believes it depends on the context? We don’t know. But since you asked, where do I stand on this issue.

I support the idea that people should have rights, but I do not think those rights are arbitrary dogma. The issue is not whether you should have a right to own a gun, but 'why' you should. People can have good or bad reasons for owning a gun, so should we not draw a distinction. So what would constitute a good reason?
1. A need to control feral animals or predatory wolves that kill farm stock
2. A soldier who needs to train for military action
3. A security officer who needs to protect the movement of valuable cargo
4. A police officer who has to apprehend people who are accused of initiating the use of force.

The implication is that there are good reasons for people to hold a gun. I would suggest that there a lot of people in America who hold guns because they have a right, but moreover they have an unhealthy purpose:
1. Protect themselves from street violence: This is a rationalisation. If you live in an area where violence is so bad, the solution is to move, not to hold a gun. A great many gun crimes arise from the disarming of people who control guns.
2. They want the power to respond to violence, eg. Meet force with force, such as street gangs. This is illegitimate because it is not the role of the general citizenry to enforce the law
3. They want to protect themselves. Guns will not protect you unless you are trained to use them. Why? They are more likely to be used by ‘break & enter’ people searching your home, and more than likely against the owner returning too early.
4. The argument is made that everyone should have the right to defend themselves. Well I think we do, in the sense that we support a police force and military. This is different from enforcing a person’s right to hedonistically pursue their own concept of justice. Everyone should be accountable for their actions, and not necessarily after the fact.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld Americans constitutional right to own guns and struck down the 32-year-old ban. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, heralded the decision as “a landmark victory for Second Amendment freedom”. Really? The arbitrary freedom to own a gun is the hallmark of a hedonistic state. It comes as no surprise that the USA has the highest levels of gun-related crime....because it recognises the ownership of guns as a legitimate right.

The next question is, having granted people a right to hold guns, how would you repeal it. The problem of course is that there are so many guns in the USA. It would be a huge task to remove them from the market, and a huge cost. Australia 10 years ago paid that price. It resulted in a lot of damaged guns being handed in. I guess it could be argued that even a damaged gun can be used to coerce people. I’m not aware of the impact it had on crime.

The difference between and libertarians is that they see guns as not imposing on people. I care to differ. People’s right to hold guns is an imposition on the community if they don’t recognise the need for community vigilance. Sport gun shooters should be able to shoot, but only in suitably secured shooting galleries where people sign a disclaimer so they can be shot at, and shoot at targets.
The problem I believe is that libertarians equate ‘political correctness’ as moral virtue. Just because a person has not been convicted of a crime does not mean they are suitably ready to possess a gun. Here is why:

1. A great many mentally ill people would be allowed to own guns since they need only evade being diagnosed as mentally ill. That is an easy rationalisation for parents and victims to make. Who wants that label?
2. Law abiding is far from the equal to moral virtue. We don’t allow anyone to be a policeman do we. Well maybe we do, but they should be required to demonstrate superior ethical principles. I dare say that lack of care is the reason why there is so much corruption in police forces around the world.

So when McCain talks of the “struggle against those who seek to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens”, I understand that he lacks objectivity and is really a supporter of unchecked, arbitrary ideas. He saids “We must always remain vigilant in defence of our freedoms”. No actually, we need to be vigilant against politicians who:
1. Don’t define their terms
2. Assert arbitrary rights – some of which can constitute claims on other people’s rights
3. Who support ideas out of context

But is this really what John McCain is about. Does he not recognise that there is a broader context. Afterall, I don’t he believes that American criminals should be allowed to own guns. So he does have some sense of reality.

There are those who want to outlaw certain types of guns like assault-style weapons, but I don’t see a need for a distinction on gun types. They are all lethal. People will make the argument ‘where will it end? Should be outlaw kitchen knives too’. The answer to that is that we need implements to eat, and that life requires some element of risk. We don’t endorse the use of (steel) knives in prisons for that reason because they have a good chance of being used as weapons. There is also less potential for a knife to be used as an instrument of mass murder. The perpetrator is likely to be apprehended. In these matters, the pros and cons of prohibition need to be assessed.

It must also be remembered that perpetrators are themselves products of the system. The extent to which we assert arbitrary political views, and in fact any ideas lacking objectivity, integrity and honesty, is the extent to which we are actually sponsoring crime against other people. Given the context of dubious social values, it strikes me as prudent that vigilance over weapons of mass crime be restricted. Need that vigilance be required in future under a rational social framework? We will not know for a long time. But eventually we embrace such a concept because rationality is exceeding practical when reason is the standard of value.

The next question is whether gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers should be responsible for any carnage perpetrated by their customers. I actually believe they should be responsible. Just as the police should be responsible for no properly training the police in use of weapons. This aspect of gun control would be particularly powerful. Gun owners whose weapon is not licensed, the serial number has been removed, or has not been properly secured, or whom do not report the stealing of a weapon should also be responsible.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 13, 2008

Paid maternity leave in Australia for small business

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The concept of paid maternity leave is under consideration in Australia. This benefit is already offered in a great deal of OECD countries, though what does it say when most of those countries are the European 'nanny states'.
The article by the Sydney Morning Herald makes the point that small business will be particularly punished by this policy. This is what happens when arbitrary government steps in and makes decision. So what is the solution. If we leave it to government a great many women will be discriminated when they go looking for jobs because they have a 'serious BF' or because they have 'child bearing hips'. Scared employers are likely to make such rash judgements because they will be discriminating if they even ask a 'wrong question'. It strikes me also as unfair on big business if small business is excluded from all these labour costs but they have to bear the burden. You could argue that big business gets other concessions, but wouldn't it be better if all concessions were placed on fair terms. The solution!

Paid maternity leave is a silly concept unless its offered as a package of benefits. Unless this is the case people are goning to be treated unfairly. At the job interview, an employer stipulates how much each benefit is worth to them, and the employee decides accordingly. An employer offers what they can, the employee takes the conditions that suits their future values.

For example, an employer contracts for child care services with a local provider, and in so doing determines their cost of providing this service. If they can't get the service, the employee makes up the difference. That is just one benefit they offer. A single male employee might prefer an extra weeks paid leave. At the end of the day, its not about giving workers more concessions, but giving them more flexibility to choose the concessions they want. If they dont end up having children, then they should be able to get paid holiday instead.

The government need not even be involved. The reason they are involved is that governments create burdens on people. Any benefit comes at anothers expense. Politicians creates a culture of victims and perpetrators. If the government established a concept of fair pay and gave people flexible ways of earning that remuneration package, and gave the market the power to determine the value of that package of benefits, I think you will find business will have a totally different perception of employee benefits.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 06, 2008

Are we any less humane?

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CNN has a story of a 71yo man in HARTFORD, Connecticut being knocked down by a car and people seemingly not attending to him. So was the story. Are we really so inhumane? Looking at the issue, it appears that police have blown the issue out of proportion. Lets consider the context:
1. Four people called '911' within one minute of the hit & run. Anymore calls could have just delayed others getting their emergency call attended to. Maybe we have a nice balance.
2. Hit & runs are not a new phenomena, its just that this one had bad video to reaffirm the point
3. There were pedestrians standing around, seemingly indifferent to the victims needs, or maybe they didn't know what to do, and were waiting for someone who could help to step up. Its understandable that people who seem helpless would be turning away from the victim and calling out 'anyone a doctor'.

Its worth considering what contributes to inhumanity. I think the following factors would give a victim of an accident less likelihood of being attended to.
1. A victim lived in a collectivist state where each individual was worth less than the state
2. The victim is responsible, ie. People rationalise that this incident occurred because of the victim. ie. By behaving carelessly or arrogantly. True or rationalisation
3. Bystanders could not relate to the values of the victim, ie. They had not been involved in an accident before, they were young and they had no old living relatives, etc.
4. The bystanders have a collectivist/nationalist identity, thus they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others
5. Their were other people around so each bystander felt less responsible, whether because they were less close so or didn't see it happen. People might be inclined to move away to diminish their sense of responsibility, maybe at the same time asking 'Anyone a doctor', and then stopping.
6. There was evidence to suggest that other bystanders were taking action, so we feel less need to participate
7. Bystanders might feel threatened if they attended to the victim, i.e. They dont want to place their own lives at risk.
8. Bystanders have more pressing personal issues so they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others. If own own lives are tough we are less inclined to invest in the lives of others.
9. Bystanders felt powerless to help because they had never been placed in his situation

So when we consider these factors in the context of this incident, it is apparent that some of these factors are valid.
1. This incident occurred in a poor neighbourhood where people are struggling with higher petrol prices, food costs, and a weaker outlook.
2. The US has one of the strongest traditions of individual rights, but fascism is slowly increasing, so people feel more apathetic and passive than ever
3. There were a lot of people around, so clearly people were reticent to act first, and seeing others act, they were more likely to just watch then obstruct or help those taking action.
4. Bystanders would have rationalised that they could do nothing because they had no medical training. What they could have done is at least controlled the traffic.

Is it any different in other countries? I was on a train in Japan in a half-full carriage. There was a drunken man on the train. The train came to a stop suddenly, and this man lost balance or consciousness. His head hit the floor like a billard ball - very hard. People just stood looking at him for minutes wondering what to do. Mostly people don't see a responsibility and they call the train conductor. The train waited for 20 minutes for help to arrive.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, June 02, 2008

Oh shit where is this going? Life in the Philippines

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After Brian Gorrell's exponential rise to notoriety, I am starting to get a bit worried. I actually have something to say about the Philippines having lived here for 18mths, and lived in several countries. I appreciate the positive feedback from some Filipinos,. But there has been negative feedback as well. I think from people associated with DJ Montano, but perhaps just other 'very proud' Filipinos. I also realise that there are idiots in every country, and in the Philippines people carry flick knives. It bothers me that my GF might be in danger, or that it might affect her job. Unlike Brian I am not identifying the people I critique. The intent is to change lives rather than destroy them. People will say that criticism doesn't change people, but it does if people are not defended by others who just want to avoid conflict. Some battles have to be fought. My GF can make up her own mind whether she wants to fight. I do it with words, but I know there are 'chest beatiing' cavemen out there who do it with flick knives, etc. I would prefer to live in a world where people are accountable rather than tolerated, but neither do I embrace a public lynching.
I think there will be those who will attack me because on the criticism and profile Brian Gorrell has gathered. Yes, another Australian. They dont fall too far from the same tree.
I'm not saying all Filpinos are bad. Mostly I spend my time with my GF, but otherwise I meet a lot of people who seem to be looking for some advantage or whom express dubious values. The feedback from my GF about what Filipinos (mostly middle aged women) say to her is pretty bad too. Its along the lines of 'what you can get from foreigners'. In a certain context it could be considered joking, but these are strangers we have met.
It was just this weekend that a women suggested to my GF that she should get pregnant to 'lock me in'. Three years ago on a holiday to the Philippines with my Japanese ex-GF, a Filipino women was gesturing to my her that she should 'use this' (pointing to her vagina) to lock me in so to speak. Very crude, very blunt, and for Westerners pathetic. Desperation comes with the territory. I'm not saying such thinking doesn't exist in the West, just less extreme.
In Australia, I've had materialistic women ask if I live locally (in a high class suburb), what type of car do I drive, and I guess asking 'what do you do?' is a universal question that might provide an indication of income. But this only occurs in the snobby suburbs and is often English girls from North England trying to lock in a 'worthy partner'. But what is surprising in the Philippines is the extent to which there is 'cultural acceptance' of this behaviour, and the blantant directness of the proposition. Westerners are much more subtle. I guess you could say Filpinos are more honest about it, but it says something that these people see no shame in it.
Like I say some of the nicest people I have met are Filipinos. I can recall some particularly real and sincere conversations with Filipino strangers I could never hope for with people from other countries. I love that openness of Filipinos. But I dont think honesty and sincerity need be lost for the sake of ethical standards. I dont see any dichotomy there.
A poster on another blog made the comment "U look at the person as a whole. Everyone has his own dirty little secret". I agree, but for the reasons I'm mentioned, there is something more unhealthy about the Philippines. But I would add that it is important for each of us to be the best possible person we can be, and not hypocrites. Its not because of poverty, though clearly desperation would make it easier for people to rationalise. A call centre owner gave an example of a Filipino agent who embezzled funds to finance his sick father's medical treatment. Its a big problem. This call centre owner said 'he doesn't trust any of them' - but I dont believe they mean that. There is no basis for saying its a universal, but it is a significant share of the Philippine population.
I disagree with 'shoeboxfame' who said "What others think about me is none of my business". In response I suggest 'people should judge and be prepared to be judged', but its clear in my mind that the world is just not ready for that. People are insecure, they don't reason well, so they resort to smearing. And to her last point - "either he's Australian or a politician", I dont think I am a typical Australian. I'm probably identify more with American values, but only 3% of that population if I was to judge. Dont consider myself a politician, though passionate about the topic. I could not engage in politics in a world where reason is not the standard.
Andrew Sheldon

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