Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Breakdown of Federalism

It is the breakdown of federalism from which nearly all the source of disdain and petty arguments over the role of the government arises. For in a true aggregation of states, it is not the central authority who says how it must be for all men, but the people within each state who say, "this is how it must be for me."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Danger of Positive Liberties and the Necessity of the Protection of Negative Ones

The great danger I see in the future of republics and democracies is the misplaced enthusiasm emphasized on the notion that the rights which the people have are, in fact, the rights which the government must provide to be “fair.” I am speaking, of course, of positive rights—those rights which are determined and interpreted by men and not by God. Such phrases as “everyone has a right to health care, the right to a decent wage, and the right to make informed decisions based on public disclosure by private entities providing services and goods to the public” all underscore the treachery of a world where governments are given tremendous authority to implement rights for one group by removing them from another. This is what it means when it is said governments “Rob Peter to pay Paul.” What should really be said is that it does not matter whether Paul deserved Peter's money merely because Peter was corrupt, unethical, or ruined people's lives in the process. Governments are not moral agents which distribute rights to ensure a level playing field. Quite the contrary, a good republic or democracy must do everything it can to never attempt to level the playing field on its own merit. We must not forget that it is not the role of governments to distribute the resources of the people, but merely to ensure that the resources which are acquired by each individual, whether ethically or unethically, are maintained. These are what we call “negative rights,” and they are the thing which republics and democracies ought really to be after.

Of course, we reach an odd predicament here. We have just concluded that the government ought not to be the moral judge of how one acquires one's resources, but that it must merely protect those resources. “But what,” says rightly the skeptic, “of those resources which are obtained by murder or thievery? Are we to protect the thief's resources, for in doing so we obviously did not protect the victim's resources?” And yet herein lies the great pillar of a republic or a democracy: if we do as we say, and we are blind in our justice in the protection of negative rights, the problem should arise less and less that we must protect the resources of the thief. The imprisoned lawbreaker's right to free speech, while unsettling to our stomachs to protect, must still be upheld. But if we are swift and just in our execution of justice, we should need to preserve them much less, for we would live in a society where men behave righteously or, at least, morally decent.

Notice that upon executing such justice, we return almost instinctively to negative rights. We do not speak of the prisoner's right to health care or to decent wages or to the right to public disclosure. We are more interested in the more fundamental rights: the right to property, the right to speak freely, and the right to live morally as he sees fit, so long as his rights to not infringe upon another's rights. It is fitting here that each of these negative rights be labeled as resources, for no tangible definition must be applied to a particular set of objects. Rather, the right of the man to possess any such resource, whether it be his belief in a particular God or his wish to own a plot of land, must be upheld.

What is the danger if they are not? We return again to positive rights. Any government which is leaning less and less on protecting negative rights will often tell you it is providing more positive ones. The one is being neglected for the healthy state of the other. I have not often seen a government in history which does well at both: providing for maximum liberty and maximum social services. Worst off of all is that government which is transitioning between one or the other. For the old post-Soviet Empire was notorious for its severe poverty and hunger, though perhaps more negative rights were being gained. Similarly, in the United States, we have not yet gotten serious about our obsession with positive rights. Therefore, we settle on compromises, such as “mandatory employer-provided health care” or “government aid to helping banks relieve and eliminate toxic assets.” The government never comes out right and says it shall now provide positive rights while at the same time removing the negative ones; it does the thing and then makes some vague motion on morality and decency.

Whether or not this trend towards positive liberties shall continue is yet to be seen. For all our sakes, and especially for the sake of freethinkers, it shall be a very dangerous thing if we should lose these negative liberties as the expense for the positive ones. For what does it really matter if we are publicly informed about who in government is killing innocent citizens if we are, in fact, powerless to speak out or to stop it? He who believes these things cannot occur simply because we are “in a republic” or “in a democracy” is malnourished in his consumption of history. All governments consist of men, and all men are influence in one respect or the other by power. Whether it is the drunken men who are driven to power or the drunkenness of power which drives men to drunkenness, I do not know. What is known is that, should such drunkenness continue, we shall arrive at a state where those liberties which we now enjoy cannot infinitely be assured, not even in these great States.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Brief Introduction to Fluent English

I've been toying around a while with the idea to modify the English language to fix some inconsistencies. I thought I'd briefly lay out some of the goals of what I call "Fluent English."

1. The overall purpose of Fluent English is to resolve the numerous inconsistencies in grammar of the current English language.

2. The purpose is NOT to influence any cultural or personal preferences on the language. In other words, I am not trying to force any particular "style" of writing on the language--merely grammatical changes.

3. I am striving to not change the vocabulary--most of the base forms of words should remain intact(with the exception of homonyms and homophones).

4. An additional "inconsistency" dictionary is to be completed after the grammatical rules of Fluent English are created. This involves listing the English form of inconsistent words and their corresponding corrected value in Fluent English.

I will try to post my ideas here about the language as I begin to structure it. I welcome any suggestions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yielding Lists in F#

I've been watching a great video tutorial on F# ().

One of the things that really interested me was how how easy it is to compose lists. Take the function below that can generate a list of files from a directory and any subsequent subdirectories:

open System.IO

let rec allFiles dir =
[for file in System.IO.Directory.GetFiles dir do
yield file

for subDir in System.IO.Directory.GetDirectories dir do
yield! allFiles subDir]

I'm essentially looping through every file and yielding it into the list. F# intrinsically knows to throw the data into a list because of the brackets. I don't have to worry about creating "objects" to store the data--I treat the data as a function. Also notice the "yield!" statement. The exclamation point tells F# that you want to yield the results of another list into the list. In this case, because I marked the function as recursive("rec"), I can simply recursively call each branch of the file directories until I reach the leaf node.

Here is what this function would look like in C#:

public static List getAllFiles(string dir)
var allFiles = new List();

foreach(var file in Directory.GetFiles(dir))

foreach (var subDir in Directory.GetDirectories(dir))
getAllFiles(subDir).ForEach(file => allFiles.Add(file));

return allFiles;

As you can see, F# is much more compact and fluent in expressing functions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Elegance of Python

Just finishing up a class at UAB that teaches an introduction to computer programming using media computation in Python. Although Python certainly is strange, I have to say that this simple Rotate 90% function using a framework called JES in Jython is somewhat beautiful and elegant in how little code it takes to generate. This would be much more messy in .NET.

def rotate90(image):
width = getWidth(image)
height = getHeight(image)
newPic = makeEmptyPicture(height, width)

for x in range(0, width):
for y in range(0, height):
pixel = getPixel(image,x,y)
color = getColor(pixel)
#switch x and y values for the new image,
#but flip on the x-axis to keep the
#image from flipping.
newPixel = getPixel(newPic, height - y-1, x)
setColor(newPixel, color)
return newPic

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Origin and Nature of Government

Governments, in their natural and healthy state, exist to provide military security to a group of individuals. As time progresses, however, and this security is sufficiently reached, it is the tendency of government to insist security in other means: economic and social safety. It is here that the concept of government begins to break down, for at this point government exists apart from its natural function. The military security it is meant to provide exists so that the individuals may freely live to collect resources. When the government extends its security into not only assuring the ability to gather resources, but actually going and gathering the resources for the individuals themselves, government has become the very thing it was defending against—a threat to an individual's liberty. Thus, the people, in whatever form, eventually either rise up and override the government until it has again reached its natural state, or an opposing collective of individuals or other government remove said government from power. Of course, there is always the chance that a worse form of government can override the previous one, but the overindulgence of this government will be such that it will fall fate to the same pattern as the previous government. On and on this cycle repeats until the people themselves restore a sound government from within. And yet, given sufficient time, this government too will erode its natural purpose. It is therefore reasonable to assume there exists a cycle—a limited lifespan of government just as is found in nature. It is not only the right of the people but the duty of the people to resolve their government to restore it to its original purpose.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Natural Tendency of Government

It is often believed that ancient man tended to gravitate towards monarchies. There were kings for many ages, and even before them there were tribal leaders. What is often neglected, however, is the fact that this tendency has not changed. Nations in crisis or that have faced recent collapse tend to invertently hover towards a central leader. Why is this? One must look at the main purpose of government--no, it is not to give us stuff we can't get ourselves. Government is a social contract between man and an organization, much like a business. Government is the bodyguard hired by a group of consenting men that pays out a little bit of freedom in exchange for security that they would otherwise have to manage themselves. And where does man naturally tend to devote his security? Into an individual. For man was created of God to rely upon God. Heaven itself is a monarchy, with absolute security and justice and order in the hands of one Being. When man rebelled against his Creator and drifted away from him, that innate biological and spiritual desire for a single holder of security did not go away. Rather, man placed it in the only place he believed he could--in man. It is much easier for man to blindly follow one leader rather than a group, for as the numbers of a group claiming rule increase, the complexity increases and the natural tendency of man to believe the greater the numbers, the greater corruption takes precedence. He follows his beloved leader, whom he idolizes to an unhealthy level. He worships him as he would worship God, but only because he does not truly follow God. In this man he devotes all his life. This is why men are often ready to die by the sword for their beloved king. This is the tendency of government.