Pharyngula

Kent Hovind: still in jail

Apparently, Kent Hovind filed for an appeal to the Supreme Court based on a claim that he really wasn’t trying to finagle his way past US tax laws by structuring all of his bank withdrawals to be under $10,000, therefore avoiding a trigger that would demand they be reported; it’s unfair to target withdrawals that way, and besides, they were all for his Christian ministry. Hovind also had another ace up his sleeve: he begged his readers to pray for him.

I guess God doesn’t like him: “Mr. Hovind’s appeal for a rehearing before the Supreme Court has been denied.”.

By the way, Kent Hovind is still putting up bizarre dialogs on his CSE blogs. He’s been having conversations with God, dead Egyptian priests, and Christian saints, who all reassure him about how clever and smart and good he is, despite being in prison for tax evasion. It’s pathetic and sad. There has to be a word for this: it’s a kind of mega-sockpuppetry, in which it isn’t just random strangers on the internet mysteriously popping up to back him up — it’s God and the saints and heroes of history who are all appearing as voices in his head to validate him.

Oh, I guess there is a word for that. It’s called “religion”.

(via Nathan Zamprogno)

Comments

  1. #1 Moggie
    January 12, 2010

    All religion is sock-theology.

  2. #2 Paul J.
    January 12, 2010

    And as Bertrand Russell said:
    “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.”

  3. #3 Michelle R
    January 12, 2010

    Heeheehee :D

    Damn, he really snapped this time.

  4. #4 black-wolf72
    January 12, 2010

    No wait, it’s a relationship, not a religion! See, these people are really there, but you can’t understand that before you’ve made yourself believe it. Yes I know that other people hear completely different voices after making themselves believe in them, but that’s different, they’re crazy. They don’t have an old book that gives the voices names, you see. (Just between us two, some of the voices are really demons, but we need to keep this to ourselves because the unbelievers will think that’s crazy, they just can’t SEE the TRUTH!)
    *takes meds*
    Where were we? Ah yes, well, I think I’ve said all that’s necessary, so please just believe, ok? You really don’t want my boss-voice torturing you forever, do you?

  5. #5 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl3TpOVyxxwCT5cVU3M80c_cpxoMBZmiOQ
    January 12, 2010

    Woah, his blog is creepy. Now my brains hurt.

  6. #6 bademart
    January 12, 2010

    Paul J And Bertie R : Mat 10:16 covers that.

    However, in agreement, Hovind is the reductio ad absurdum of instutional religion. Good that he is institutionalised.

    P.S. Before the flame war starts… I know for y’all any and all religion is a reduction ad absurdum. Pace with that.

  7. #7 summerwino
    January 12, 2010

    “Hi my name is Kent Hovind…..” STILL cracks me up.

  8. #8 Glen Davidson
    January 12, 2010

    Well I guess God’s intervention on his behalf showed those evilutionists.

    Oops.

    Doesn’t matter, like creationism/ID, only positive hits count, the negatives are all meaningless.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  9. #9 cms13ca
    January 12, 2010

    I wonder if Kent was given a psychological assessment over tax evasion. A New Hampshire man was convicted of weapons charges over a standoff. They both are loony.

  10. #10 Legion
    January 12, 2010

    We remember that pathetic post where Hovind talks to god about his incarceration and his desire to get out of the pokey.

    god obviously has other plans. Why doesn’t Hovind just accept God’s WillTM and do his time like a man?

    Seems to us that by continuing to beg for god to do what god has demonstrated he is unwilling to do is grounds for a smiting.

    Better watch out Kent. The big guy is known for his short temper and lack of impulse control.

  11. #11 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 12, 2010

    My arguments may have no clout,
    But God–Himself–GOD wants me out.

  12. #12 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    ha

    HA

    /Nelson

  13. #13 Berny G
    January 12, 2010

    I think this whole misunderstanding with Kent Hovind and his “ministry” could have been avoided if all religions were taxed like the businesses they are. That way Kent would have had no reason to hide his income.
    Some may say that separation of Church and State mandates we do not tax churches but since the churches broke that covenant (dare I use the word?) first by being politically active, I say let’s get at them.

  14. #14 Strangest brew
    January 12, 2010

    And yet the ‘clones’ still wet themselves to voice support for this imbecile.

    Sooner rather then later the penny must drop.
    The pompous prat is a lying jerk off hiding behind creationism in the forefront and religion in the back.

    A con man that conned a congregation then a fake diploma then a state then tried a con to far…now he is conning himself!
    Snake oil salesmen at least knew when to shut up shop and move on!
    Not so for Dr Dino…he seems blinded by his own inadequate mentality and his gross stupidity in not realising the fact.

  15. #15 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Hi my name is Kent Hovind

    Hi

    My name is

    My name is

    ‘wikka wikka wikka’

    Dino Shady

    —————————

    I will be in the corner, hiding under my comforter and trying not to be too embarrassed.

  16. #16 summerwino
    January 12, 2010

    If could be guaranteed a Dino them park, hell I’d claim all kinds of crazy shit too.

  17. #17 cypress
    January 12, 2010

    This one?s for Mr. Hovind, by his request:

    ?God: Hi, my name is Cypressgreen (well, not really, but you should know who I am), if by some miniscule chance you exist, may you carefully peer down at Kent Hovind.
    If he is guilty of the charges against him, may he receive all the jail time and ridicule he deserves and force him to give a formal apology for his sins.

    And while you?re at it, please make all the severed limbs of people everywhere grow back. Thanks, uh, God??

  18. #18 Rick Miller
    January 12, 2010

    It’s not called “religion”, it’s called “delusion”.

    Kent Hovind is obviously delusional. Unfortunately, tax fraud isn’t serious enough to justify an order to get psychiatric help. Unless he is deemed to be “a danger to self or to others” (either by an arresting officer or by at least two immediate family members), he will probably not get the help that he needs.

    He will probably go on defrauding his followers until the day he dies.

  19. #19 Iris
    January 12, 2010

    God, dead Egyptian priests, and Christian saints, who all reassure him about how clever and smart and good he is…There has to be a word for this…it’s God and the saints and heroes of history who are all appearing as voices in his head to validate him.

    I think this grandiosity is exactly the key to the religious mind. The idea that one’s thoughts and actions are not being continuously observed, recorded and validated by Someone Important is inconceivable to the believer, because it is inconsistent with the notion that one is Very Special, if not the center of the entire universe. Religion just seems to be a particularly ugly and pathetic strain of narcissism.

  20. #20 Knockgoats
    January 12, 2010

    bademart,

    Matthew 10:16 is:
    Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

    Setting aside the fact that snakes are in fact pretty stupid, this is certainly not in praise of intelligence in the sense Russell meant; rather, it reads as advice to be cautious or prudent in avoiding danger.

  21. #21 Rick Miller
    January 12, 2010

    Bernie G is totally right.

    If churches didn’t get special treatment, then Kent Hovind and his wife probably wouldn’t have gone to jail.

    I don’t have a problem with churches being non-profit organizations… as long as they are required to REPORT THEIR FINANCES just like all the rest of the non-profits.

  22. #22 The Tim Channel
    January 12, 2010
  23. #23 mumonjmk
    January 12, 2010

    While I agree with you about Hovind, I should point out that being in prison isn’t healthy even for criminals such as Hovind.

  24. #24 se-rat-o-SAWR-us
    January 12, 2010

    He’s been having conversations with God, dead Egyptian priests …

    Horus perhaps?

    Written in 1280 BC, the Egyptian Book of the Dead describes a god, Horus … Horus is the son of the god Osirus … born to a virgin mother. He was baptised in a river by Anup the Baptizer … who was later beheaded. Like Jesus, Horus was tempted while alone in the desert … Healed the sick … The blind … Cast out demonds … And walked on water. He raised Asar from the dead. “Asar” translates to “Lazarus.” Oh yeah, he also had twelve disciples. Yes, Horus was crucified first … And after 3 days, two women announced … Horus, the saviour of humanity … had been resurrected.

    And Bill Maher and Larry Charles even missed the bit about Horus’s mother having to flee to the Egyptian marshes to prevent the murder of her infant son.

  25. #25 NewEnglandBob
    January 12, 2010

    TypePad login did not work on Google Chrome. I went back to Firefox.

  26. #26 Zeno
    January 12, 2010

    @ #2: And as Bertrand Russell said:
    “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.”

    In Matthew 10:16, Jesus counsels his disciples to “be as wise as serpents.”

    Kent Hovind tried to take that to heart, but just didn’t have the chops for it.

  27. #27 Abdul Alhazred
    January 12, 2010

    In my opinion, religious institutions should pay corporate income taxes and real estate taxes like any other property owning entity.

    They should also be subject to the same consumer fraud statutes. ;)

  28. #28 MikeMa
    January 12, 2010

    Hovind is where he always belonged – in jail. He is a common criminal without much in the way of smarts outside of his religious confidence work. The fact that he needed to break the law in order to get access to more money than he could get legitimately from his ministry con job speaks to either his greed or his failure as a religious nutjob or both. I vote both.

  29. #29 Legion
    January 12, 2010

    Hmm, only 8 comments to his most recent blog post and the post has been up for a week.

    Wethinks the flock has written off poor Mr. Hovind and moved on because to consider the outcome of this affair is to acknowledge that despite all the praying, god is either incapable or unwilling to do diddly-shit about Hovind’s predicament.

    We wonder, might the facility in which Mr. Hovind is incarcerated be guarded by iron chariots? That would explain a lot.

  30. #30 PensiveGadfly
    January 12, 2010

    The man is talking to God, for Christ’s sakes! And all he wants to know is about his little problem? Ask about unified field theory! Ask about the big bang! Ask about something significant! Criminetly, what a wasted opportunity.

  31. #31 Knockgoats
    January 12, 2010

    se-rat-o-SAWR-us@24,

    I think the favoured xian response to such parallels would be that they act as even more evidence for xianity! You see, the fact that the Egyptians came up with a myth so spookily similar to the life and death of Jesus 1,200 years before his birth just shows that the whole thing is woven into the fabric of reality, or that God was showing trailers at the shrine of Ammon, or something like that.

  32. #32 Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology
    January 12, 2010

    I’m confused PZ. Are you saying that there are sockpuppets of God, priests, and saints that says he’s smart or are you saying that he actually hear voices? If it’s the latter, then I’m not at all surprised.

  33. #33 Sastra
    January 12, 2010

    bademart #6 wrote:

    However, in agreement, Hovind is the reductio ad absurdum of instutional religion. Good that he is institutionalised.

    A man who claims to talk directly to God — and who encourages others to do the same — is not a good representative for “institutional religion” — even if he has founded a church. I think Hovind’s a better example of what can happen when individualized spirituality and rugged individualism are taken to extremes.

  34. #34 Joffan
    January 12, 2010

    Shorter Kent: “You weren’t supposed to catch me cheating! Not fair!”

  35. #35 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    I’m not crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    You’re the one that’s crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    You’re driving me crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    They stuck me in an institution.
    Said it was the only solution.
    To give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself.

  36. #36 se-rat-o-SAWR-us
    January 12, 2010

    the favoured xian response to such parallels would be that they act as even more evidence for xianity!

    Plato’s Republic, 2.361e-2.362a, on the “just man”:

    such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified [see footnote 1]

  37. #37 David Marjanovi?
    January 12, 2010

    ha
    HA

    /Nelson

    Hhhhhaha!
    en:Nelson

    Haaahaaa!
    de:Nelson

  38. #38 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    Getting Kent Hovind for tax evasion is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion.

  39. #39 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 12, 2010

    Janine @ 35

    It’s not nice wishing that Kent Hovind should develop suicidal tendencies!

    ;-)

  40. #40 gorodgo
    January 12, 2010

    Actually, the word I was thinking of was “schizophrenia”

  41. #41 Ryan F Stello
    January 12, 2010

    Dead Egyption priests?

    Oh, I get it: Potipherah wrongly imprisoned Joseph.
    Hovind’s sense of self-importance is astounding.

    (And hey, another Hovind story! Continuing with tradition, let’s see what Creation Minute with Eroc Hovind is up to: Yep, nothing. Them’s some very expensive productions.)

  42. #42 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    You see, the fact that the Egyptians came up with a myth so spookily similar to the life and death of Jesus 1,200 years before his birth just shows that the whole thing is woven into the fabric of reality, or that God was showing trailers at the shrine of Ammon, or something like that.

    I can hear the narrator baritoning now: “If you believe in only one Messiah this millennium…”

  43. #43 thomas.c.galvin
    January 12, 2010

    Berny G @ 13

    Some may say that separation of Church and State mandates we do not tax churches but since the churches broke that covenant (dare I use the word?) first by being politically active, I say let’s get at them.

    I don’t think being “politically active” is a problem, as long as they aren’t advocating for particular candidates.

    The reason churches should be taxed is because they are not charities. Their primary purpose is not to feed the poor or care for the sick or what have you, it’s to put on a play for an imaginary deity. Society doesn’t benefit from their work, and there’s no reason, therefore, to give them special status.

    This is even more true for the “ministries” like Benny Hinn, et al.

  44. #44 Ring Tailed Lemurian
    January 12, 2010

    His “Stephen” blog actually made me feel sorry for the man.
    Way past “deluded”, well into “needs psychiatric treatment urgently”.
    Couldn’t read any more. (“Don’t mock the afflicted” etc)

    I was on an Old Bailey jury once. The defendant had (fatally) set his landlord on fire. (We weren’t being asked to decide if the defendant was guilty, but if he was fit to stand trial). His huge collection of notebooks were produced as evidence, and they were full of almost identical paranoid ravings. Same scripted layout too. Lots of chummy, morale boosting, chats with GOD (and lots of drawings of “Angels on Fire” in the margins).
    He was sent to Broadmoor for life.

  45. #45 heff.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    There should be a term for creating a sock puppet, calling it “God”, and putting self-praise in its mouth. Hmmm, non-Internet sock puppets are usually made from tube socks: “Tubris” :-)

  46. #46 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    I don’t think being “politically active” is a problem, as long as they aren’t advocating for particular candidates.

    Or particular legislation or lobbying.

  47. #47 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    I’m not crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    You’re the one that’s crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    You’re driving me crazy.
    Institutionalized!
    They stuck me in an institution.
    Said it was the only solution.
    To give me the needed professional help to protect me from the enemy, myself.

    Are you suggesting that all Kent wanted was a Pepsi?

  48. #48 bigmknows
    January 12, 2010

    FYI, the Bureau of Prisons maintains an Inmate Locator. You can view Kent Hovind’s listing here:

    http://is.gd/68PIn

    Currently at FCI Edgewood, he’s scheduled for release in 2015.

  49. #49 Walton
    January 12, 2010

    As much as I think Kent Hovind is a blithering idiot, I also think it’s entirely wrong for anyone to be imprisoned for tax-evasion. (This is one of my personal hobby-horses, and I apologise for the fact that it’s a little off-topic. Feel free to skip this post if you’re not interested.)

    The US criminal justice system vastly over-uses imprisonment. IIRC, the US prison population is something like 700 per 100,000, which is about ten times the average prison population in European countries. The rate of imprisonment keeps going up and up, despite the fact that imprisoning someone for a petty or non-violent offence substantially increases their chances of reoffending. Imprisonment is expensive, inefficient and counterproductive. Unfortunately, successive generations of politicians determined to appear “tough on crime” have insisted on more and longer prison sentences, despite the evidence that it doesn’t work. The only people who benefit are the (very lucrative) correctional services industry.

    I accept that imprisonment is probably necessary for the most violent and dangerous offenders, just to keep the public safe. But Kent Hovind, while he may be an idiot, does not pose a danger to the lives or safety of others. Yes, he defrauded the federal government out of some money; but the federal government has probably already wasted far more tax money keeping him in prison! He should have been fined, not imprisoned. The same goes for all non-violent offenders. I simply can’t see the point of locking him up; nor do I think it’s morally acceptable to deprive someone of their liberty when it isn’t necessary to do so.

  50. #50 rob
    January 12, 2010

    Sometimes Kent tries to do things, and it just doesn’t work out the way he wanted to.
    And he gets real frustrated and like he tries hard to do it.
    he like takes his time and it doesn’t work out the way he wanted to.
    It’s like he concentrated on it real hard and it didn’t work out
    and everything he does and everything he tries it never turns out.
    It’s like he needs time to figure these things out…

    …in jail

  51. #51 Celtic_Evolution
    January 12, 2010

    He should have been fined, not imprisoned. The same goes for all non-violent offenders. I simply can’t see the point of locking him up; nor do I think it’s morally acceptable to deprive someone of their liberty when it isn’t necessary to do so.

    The use of imprisonment is as much a deterrent as a punishment, Walton. Whether you agree with taxation or not, the law is the law. He committed theft from the American people. Like any thief, me forfeits his rights to liberty.

    In a larger context, I agree that the punishment system set up in this country is askew, to put it kindly, and I would more than agree that it needs a major overhaul, but I will not go so far as to say the all non-violent criminals should be immune from imprisonment… that would be wholly irresponsible.

    Where’s the deterrent from committing “non-violent crimes”? And don’t sell me “fines”. That’s stupid. If I knew I was never going to go to jail, I’d be a professional thief right now, and just make sure to steal enough to cover the fines.

  52. #52 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    Yes, he defrauded the federal government out of some money; but the federal government has probably already wasted far more tax money keeping him in prison! He should have been fined, not imprisoned.

    He defrauded ME and every other American out of “some” money.

    Whether the fed is wasting tax dollars has exactly zero bearing on whether he was breaking the law.

    Is it ok to steal from your neighbor if you know your neighbor is stealing from his uncle?

    That’s shitty logic Walton.

    But I do somewhat agree about prison sentences for these crimes.

  53. #53 Knockgoats
    January 12, 2010

    I agree with Walton that imprisonment should be a last resort. Whether I’d say it should be used only for violent offences… probably not. Consider, for example, a con-artist who repeatedly defrauds vulnerable old people of their life savings, or a non-violent stalker, or a collector of child porn: non-violent offences can make the lives of others intolerable, or motivate violence by others.

  54. #54 Celtic_Evolution
    January 12, 2010

    Clarifying…

    I’d welcome a discussion about the seemingly arbitrary and often contradictory nature of sentences…

    But removing the threat of imprisonment would be irresponsible.

  55. #55 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    I agree with Walton that imprisonment should be a last resort.

    In Hovind’s case, it was. He was found guilty of 58 separate counts of tax-related crimes, refused to pay, and refused to defend himself in court. There wasn’t much else they could do. Had he just cooperated, he wouldn’t be in jail.

  56. #56 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    Walton isn’t saying he didn’t break the law, or that he doesn’t deserve punishment. He’s saying he doesn’t like IMPRISONMENT if nobody was physically harmed.

    I’m not sure I agree, but his argument isn’t to let Kent off with no punishment at all.

  57. #57 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    I’m not sure I agree, but his argument isn’t to let Kent off with no punishment at all.

    I don’t see anyone saying it was.

  58. #58 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    I for one think every crime, no matter how minor, could with a sufficient amount of ignoring the consequences by the criminal, eventually result in jail time up to life without the possibility of parole. It may take 10,000 unpaid parking tickets for any jail time to start, or 10 counts of tax evasion. And it goes up from there. But, if jail is never an option, like Walton suggests, the non-violent criminal has no reason to change his behavior. There has to be some punishment that eventually gets their attention. If Hovind has even a modicum of intelligence, he is probably beginning to realize that he was wrong, and the IRS will be on his case for the rest of his life. So, he might as well pay the taxes, or he could end up back where he is.

  59. #59 tsig0
    January 12, 2010

    In five more years Ken will be yesterdays news and his son will have taken over the ministry.

    I look for schisms and lawsuits before it’s all over.

  60. #60 Celtic_Evolution
    January 12, 2010

    If Hovind has even a modicum of intelligence, he is probably beginning to realize that he was wrong,

    Poor bastard… likely to be in jail the rest of his life, in that case…

  61. #61 raven
    January 12, 2010

    Had he just cooperated, he wouldn’t be in jail.

    Hovind was cosmically stupid. He turned what would have been a civil case into a criminal case and put himself in prison for a decade.

    Among other things he resisted the feds and tried to claim standard tax protestor defences. IIRC, at one point he said he wasn’t really an American citizen but that didn’t matter because the federal government has no right to collect taxes anyway.

    The guy isn’t all that bright or sane. If he was, he would be a free person right now. There might be a creationist somewhere that is bright, sane, and honest. Few have ever seen it, must hang out with Bigfoot and Elvis or something.

  62. #62 raven
    January 12, 2010

    The other thing about Hovind was that he had a large cache of weapons. That and his erratic behavior and far right wingnut politics and religion probably led the federal agents to believe that he might end up violent and start shooting. This happens occasionally in the USA and sometimes it gets ugly. Ruby ridge and Waco come to mind.

    I suspect after dealing with him the prosecutors and feds decided it might be better if Hovind was removed from society.

    What in the hell does a xian minister need with a small arsenal anyway?

  63. #63 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    Well at least he didn’t rape any piglets.

  64. #64 Ewan R
    January 12, 2010

    “Well at least he didn’t rape any piglets”

    Allegedly

  65. #65 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    This happens occasionally in the USA and sometimes it gets ugly.

    There was a couple in New Hampshire who was convicted of tax evasion in absentia. They had a heavily armed compound, so the Feds just surrounded it and waited. Supporters brought things for them, and the Feds let them through. Eventually a couple of agents pretended to be supporters, got close, and got the drop on the couple. I see where the husband was just sentenced to 37 years.

  66. #66 nitramnaed
    January 12, 2010

    hey Hey HEY! People. That’s Dr. Hovind. Show some respect!

  67. #67 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    “Well at least he didn’t rape any piglets”

    Allegedly

    Although, it makes me wonder why he hasn’t denied these allegations. I mean, I don’t think he did, but you would think he’d deny it if he didn’t….

  68. #68 Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology
    January 12, 2010

    What in the hell does a xian minister need with a small arsenal anyway?

    To shoot at those Minions of Satan of course! He’s just getting read for the anti-Christ just in case God forgot to murder him the way he plans to murder True Christians ™ in mass.

  69. #69 Kel, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Well at least he didn’t rape any piglets.

    You’re meant to frame that in Glen Beck style. “Does Kent Hovind rape piglets, and if he’s released from prison are the nation’s piglets under threat from Kent Hovind’s piglet sodomy fetish? I’m just asking questions.”

  70. #70 IAmMarauder
    January 12, 2010

    That blog is disturbing – I too am wondering if he has been evaluated for a mental disorder.

    The other interesting thing is his “Knee-Mail” involing Potipherah (or PO as Kent calls him). I am not sure exactly why, but Dear Old Po seems to be a bit addled or confused.

    I mean, he hasn’t heard of Moses or Solomon because they won’t be around for a couple of hundred years, but he uses a form of currency (the piastre) that won’t be used for a couple of thousand years (the Egyptians adopted the idea from the Turks when Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire).

    Sort of makes it look like Kent is making this stuff up, doesn’t it? ;)

  71. #71 guav.dna
    January 12, 2010

    I like this lovely quotes from God here:

    “I know you can?t see it from your side, but it?s really precious when My children die for their faith.”

  72. #72 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    He was trying to get a Writ of Certiorari? Based on those arguments? His Lawyer must have laughed all the way to the bank after that consultation.

    Prayer doesn’t turn your argument into an argument on constitutionality, ya damn crackpot.

  73. #73 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    “I know you can?t see it from your side, but it?s really precious when My children die for their faith.”

    I notice the people extolling the virtues of dying for something are invariably not the same ones volunteering to do it.

  74. #74 SteveM
    January 12, 2010

    re Nerd of Redhead@58:

    It may take 10,000 unpaid parking tickets for any jail time to start, or 10 counts of tax evasion. And it goes up from there. But, if jail is never an option, like Walton suggests, the non-violent criminal has no reason to change his behavior. There has to be some punishment that eventually gets their attention.

    I think that more extensive use of “house arrest” (e.g. ankle bracelets) for the non-violent should be implemented. Only when that proves ineffective put them in prison. I agree that prison should be reserved for those who really need to be removed from society; typically the violent offenders.

  75. #75 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 12, 2010

    I agree that prison should be reserved for those who really need to be removed from society; typically the violent offenders.

    And the piglet rapists.

  76. #76 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    SteveM, I will agree that jail for non-violent offenders without a significant rap sheet or multiple convictions should not the first choice. I see a gradation from fines/community service, home arrest, and finally jail time. And the next level of punishment should be clearly spelled out at the sentencing, and be incrementally higher(say 6 months house arrest now, and 3 months jail for next offense). I could also see no way of getting significant jail time for parking tickets unless one is a repeat offender at 150 years old. Hovind, convicted of 58 counts, falls into the multiple convictions category, and if he wasn’t absolutely stupid, and had paid his taxes at any point during the process, he wouldn’t be in jail where he belongs.

  77. #77 Vashti
    January 12, 2010

    but he uses a form of currency (the piastre) that won’t be used for a couple of thousand years (the Egyptians adopted the idea from the Turks when Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire).

    Sort of makes it look like Kent is making this stuff up, doesn’t it? ;)

    Exactly. Plus why is PO so worried about Egyptians buying new camels with their piastres? Regardless of when the Egyptians became aware of domesticated camels, camels certainly weren’t common in Egypt until the Ptolemies.

  78. #78 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    Although, it makes me wonder why he hasn’t denied these allegations. I mean, I don’t think he did, but you would think he’d deny it if he didn’t….

    Technically, Ken Ham is the piglet rapist.

  79. #79 Walton
    January 12, 2010

    Talking about whether Hovind “deserves punishment” rather misses the point of what I was saying. Regardless of what Hovind personally “deserves”, I have a problem with the notion of the state arrogating to itself the right to “punish” its subjects.

    The state does have a duty to keep the public safe from physical harm, and so I don’t have a problem with serious violent offenders being locked up. But for a non-violent offence, the penalty should be the minimum necessary to redress the damage done and to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

    So, for example, a fraudster or con-artist should primarily be required to repay his ill-gotten gains to his victims (which could be achieved via a civil action for restitution, rather than criminal proceedings), plus additional sums in consideration of the cost of detecting the fraud and bringing it to court. In terms of additional punitive measures, those convicted of serious fraud could be barred from operating a business (either indefinitely or for a set period), and/or given a heavy fine.

    Similarly, Kent Hovind, as a convicted tax-evader, should simply have had to pay what he owed the federal government, plus the federal government’s legal fees and any additional costs involved in bringing the matter to court. If he still refused to pay, his assets could be seized, as with any civil debt. I also wouldn’t have a problem with a punitive fine being imposed. But sending him to prison – at vast expense to the taxpayer – is completely ludicrous, IMO.

    This is just part of the wider problem with criminal justice. In its current form, the whole system exists primarily to feed a populist desire for vengeance or retribution, rather than to serve any objectively useful social goal. The “War on Drugs”, and the consequent practice of imprisoning people for non-violent drug-related offences, is the worst manifestation of this stupidity; but Kent Hovind is another good example. Not to mention the periodic fits of lunatic hysteria about how the nation’s children are all at risk from “sex offenders”.

  80. #80 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    “Similarly, Kent Hovind, as a convicted tax-evader, should simply have had to pay what he owed the federal government, plus the federal government’s legal fees and any additional costs involved in bringing the matter to court. If he still refused to pay, his assets could be seized, as with any civil debt. I also wouldn’t have a problem with a punitive fine being imposed. But sending him to prison – at vast expense to the taxpayer – is completely ludicrous, IMO.”

    “In Hovind’s case, it was. He was found guilty of 58 separate counts of tax-related crimes, refused to pay, and refused to defend himself in court. There wasn’t much else they could do. Had he just cooperated, he wouldn’t be in jail.”

  81. #81 John Morales
    January 12, 2010

    Walton, your suggestions would be meritorious were all instances of law-breaking to be detected.

    In practice, I fear it would be a sound business model to pay the restitution and fines for the instances that are detected and (successfully) prosecuted, and $$$profit! on the remainder.

  82. #82 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    Also, for the record?

    Fines are not always enough to prevent folks from doing it again. That’s why the laws that prevent corporations don’t do so very well. A violation is just another business expense, and maybe jail time for the guy who specifically did it.

  83. #83 Joffan
    January 12, 2010

    raven said:
    The other thing about Hovind was that he had a large cache of weapons. That and his erratic behavior and far right wingnut politics and religion probably led the federal agents to believe that he might end up violent and start shooting.

    Unless and until having a “large cache of weapons” becomes illegal in the US (not any time soon), he shouldn’t get sent to prison simply for owning them. I could perhaps see it affecting parole decisions though.

    ——

    I think there’s a little overinterpretation of Walton’s position on prison use reduction going on, in that he hasn’t yet put parameters on when prison time would be appropriate. I think the point about overuse of prison is almost so obvious it’s beyond debate, except that it keeps getting worse.

    And there seems to be this grisly mindset that I encounter, thankfully not in this discussion, that rape is part of imprisonment. Almost part of the intended punishment. Crazy talk, yet common.

    ——

    Hovind seems to have done everything possible to make his legal situation as bad as possible. He would probably have found a way to end up imprisoned regardless of the threshold.

  84. #84 Kel, OM
    January 12, 2010

    In terms of additional punitive measures, those convicted of serious fraud could be barred from operating a business (either indefinitely or for a set period), and/or given a heavy fine.

    There are two problems that I see with what you’re saying Walton.

    Firstly, it’s that fraud is something that does harm individuals. Putting fraudsters in jail is a means to protect the population from being harmed in that way. It’s not about punishment so much as its about protecting people from further harm.

    Secondly, that fines and barring from practice are completely inadequate. Just look at how some of the “alternative medicine” quacks operate. Despite fines, despite being barred from advertising, despite restrictions on their business capacities – they find whatever loophole they can to continue to sell their quackery and cause harm to those who buy into it.

  85. #85 Feynmaniac
    January 12, 2010

    Walton,

    This is just part of the wider problem with criminal justice. In its current form, the whole system exists primarily to feed a populist desire for vengeance or retribution, rather than to serve any objectively useful social goal.

    The incarceration rate has increased dramatically since 1980. I think this increase has more to with the privatization of the prison system than with “populism”. With cheap prison labor and lucrative government contracts the business has become quite profitable.

  86. #86 WowbaggerOM
    January 12, 2010

    The incarceration rate has increased dramatically since 1980. I think this increase has more to with the privatization of the prison system than with “populism”. With cheap prison labor and lucrative government contracts the business has become quite profitable.

    I remember reading something that suggested that one of the biggest lobby groups weighing in on law & order legislation is the prison guard union – they work very hard to make sure as many crimes as possible are punished by incarceration, since that means their members are guaranteed jobs.

    That scares me more than a little.

  87. #87 Jadehawk, OM
    January 12, 2010

    The incarceration rate has increased dramatically since 1980. I think this increase has more to with the privatization of the prison system than with “populism”. With cheap prison labor and lucrative government contracts the business has become quite profitable.

    Incarceration rates go up in places that don’t have a burgeoning private prison business, too. The problem is the breakdown of a sort of community feeling in society, or social empathy.

    Basically, in societies that foster a communal spirit, there’s this sort of liberal empathy of “there, but for the grace of god, go I”, which leads to 1)fewer incarcerations for “victimless” crimes like pot-smoking etc.; 2)prison-alternative punishments for those who have committed non-violent crimes and 3)programs for rehabilitation of those who are incarcerated after all. These three things lead to fewer incarcerations, and a population that doesn’t WANT more incarcerations, either (thus, “populism” in such a place wouldn’t lead to more and harsher prison-sentences)

    On the other hand, in societies that have lost this community feeling, the prevailing sentiment is entirely distrustful of all others(since you’re not cooperating in a society, but competing with them for a better spot on the social scale), and thus leads to fear and punishment-based legal systems which emphasize punishment of all those that endanger a pre-determined status quo in which the relevant sections of the population feels they have the upper hand. this leads to punishment of low-status crimes disproportionately in comparison to high-status crimes; longer prison sentences; shitty prisons, which lead to increased rates of repeat offenses; an escalating fear and loathing-based “populism” that always becomes more punitive.

    the only minor exception to this is the libertarian position that instead of arresting people, we should be allowed to shoot them in the face the moment they step on our lawn uninvited, thus keeping prison populations low

  88. #88 Jadehawk, OM
    January 12, 2010

    erm, so anyway, I agree that putting that idiot Hovind in prison really doesn’t help anyone with anything. before this, he was living on tax-payer expense because he refused to pay his taxes; now he does so because he’s in prison. It serves nothing other than our feeling of vindication when a fraudster goes to prison; it certainly doesn’t help anyone he’s ever defrauded (and the same goes for all the other high-status fraudsters a la Enron, Bernie Maddoff, etc); having to pay replace the losses incurred by others because of their crime would be significantly more useful on the social level than just stuffing them in prison (even if that actually ever happened to high-level criminals).

    Hel, even having the state seize their ill-gotten gains and pump it all into actual retirement plans and other social safety-net programs (even when considering virtually any level of governmental waste and fraud itself) would be more helpful than imprisonment.

    Personally I feel the only solution to this specific case here is indeed to revoke the automatic tax-exemption of religious institutions and require them to apply for the status (and play by the rules of it) like any other non-profit charity.

  89. #89 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Feymaniac is right. The prison population has expanded, mostly due to the war on drugs. An additional contribution has been the three and out laws. People are being sent to prison for possession of marijuana. Our drug laws for possession are ludicrous, and in dire need of rational reformation. Like the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of drugs, and the placement of marijuana in the proper category.

  90. #90 Feynmaniac
    January 12, 2010

    Hovind seems to have done everything possible to make his legal situation as bad as possible.

    Yeah. Wikipedia: The Pensacola News Journal noted, “The saddest thing: Had they [Hovind and his wife] cooperated with the agents, they probably wouldn’t be worrying about prison sentences now.”

    I also lol’d at the fist part of the ‘Legal Problems’ section. Apparently Hovind spent $100,00 on a legal battle over a $50 building permit…. and lost.

    Incarceration rates go up in places that don’t have a burgeoning private prison business, too.

    I didn’t mean to imply that it was a necessary condition. I was just referring specifically to the current situation in the US.

    The problem is the breakdown of a sort of community feeling in society, or social empathy.

    That’s probably also a factor and why the prison industrial complex and the government have been able to get away with much of what they are doing.

    this leads to punishment of low-status crimes disproportionately in comparison to high-status crimes;

    Race also plays a factor. African Americans are both disproportionately imprisoned and, on average, receive harsher punishments than whites for the same crimes.

  91. #91 Jadehawk, OM
    January 12, 2010

    I didn’t mean to imply that it was a necessary condition. I was just referring specifically to the current situation in the US.

    I figured. And in any case, the U.S. is always off the charts in all ills caused by decay of the social contract; seems the entire society has developed to amplify the detrimental effects of social decay via additional and manifold negative reinforcement.

    it’s a fucking case study on how not to run a healthy society.

  92. #92 Joshua Zelinsky
    January 12, 2010

    Regarding Horus, yes there are some similarities. However, a lot of atheist literature has been uncritically repeating claims about Horus that just aren’t true. (Same goes for Mithra for that matter). So let’s be clear: There are no sources for a virgin birth of either Horus or Mithra. And Horus never died and came back from the dead, although his father did.

    Just because all sorts of religious people repeat urban legends to confirm their faith doesn’t mean that atheists should respond in kind.

    Oh, and more directly on topic: My favorite one of the Kent talks with someone was the one where he talked to Satan and Satan more or less said that Kent was completely correct. Given the entire theology, I would think that that would be a reason for Kent to be worried. If Kent were correct, wouldn’t Satan be trying to undermine him?

  93. #93 Miki Z
    January 12, 2010

    Satan would be gloating and taunting him, so this is just more confirmation that Kent is correct.

    If anyone manages to sneak Kent in a trumpet, expect the prison to tumble like the walls of Jericho.

  94. #94 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    Of course, if you add Osiris and his resurrection to Horus..

  95. #95 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Hairy Chris at #39, Chimpy at #47 and and Rob at #50. Those are some of the reasons why I love this blog.

  96. #96 steve
    January 12, 2010

    @66

    [hitchens] Doctor Hovind. If you gave Hovind an enema, he could serve out his prison term in a matchbox.[/hitchens]

  97. #97 Patricia, Queen of Sluts OM
    January 12, 2010

    WHAT!? Sweet baby jezus hasn’t *redeemed* Hovind?

    Clear the fainting couch, I’m shocked.

  98. #98 God
    January 13, 2010

    I will free Dr Hovind at my earliest whim.

  99. #99 pray11342
    January 13, 2010

    A small problem with restitution vs incarceration.

    In a hell of a lot of cases of fraud, there is nothing there to make restitution with.

    Why does anyone imagine these scumbags steal all that money and then invest it in shares of Microsoft or Berkshire? They don’t. They piss it away so fast that by the time anyone catches up with them, there is nothing left but second hand Rolls Royces, gaudy jewelry, and Christian or Dino theme parks left to auction off.

    People caught in these schemes are often greedy or dumber than a box of rocks, but they just won’t settle for “I’m sorry, and I won’t do it no more.” Can’t say as I blame them.

    These are not exactly victimless crimes, folks.

    I got no problem with “white collar” criminals that prey on society getting their sunlight strained through the bars for a few years.

  100. #100 kc5tty
    January 13, 2010

    So sad to see the Doktor still in jail.

    If you want to leave him a message of support (kinda like a virtual jockstrap) you could always drop a comment at CSE blogs.

    you could try the login of wwjdd with the password of wwjdd (go on …. you want to)

    I know it worked a few minutes ago.

    Its late and I could not resist.

  101. #101 Blind Squirrel FCD
    January 13, 2010

    kc5tty: I suspect Ken’s minions moderate comments or he would have been savaged by the Pharynguloids by now.

    BS

  102. #102 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    Feynmaniac and Nerd: I agree that the US’s drug laws (and those of most other nations, with a few exceptions) are completely insane. Especially regarding marijuana, a substance which is medically less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. The “War on Drugs” is a failed policy – but politicians still continue with it in order to appear “tough on crime”. In a more sensible world, drug addiction would be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one. Marijuana would be legalised and sold freely just like tobacco and alcohol; users of “harder” drugs would be offered rehabilitative treatment at state expense (which would be no more expensive than imprisoning them, and a lot more effective).

    Regarding the private correctional industry, I’m not especially keen on it, but I think they’re more of a symptom than a cause: the vast expansion in rates of imprisonment, owing to populist punitive policies, has created a huge market for private prison services. Of course, it does become a vicious circle at times, since CCA and other large prison companies have the clout to lobby for more punitive policies, therefore creating a “prison-industrial complex”.

    I just wish someone had the courage to stand for election promising to be less “tough on crime”. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be elected.

  103. #103 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    Jadehawk: I think you’re taking too much of a holistic view of this. Crime occurs in any society, and so does the corresponding public fear of crime and the populist desire for vengeance.

    Here in the UK, the current massive rate of imprisonment is primarily a phenomenon of the early 1990s, when governments decided to get “tough on crime” as a means of currying favour with the voters. But before that, there were still stupid policies – just different stupid policies. From the post-war era up until the 1970s, the prevailing line of thought was what criminologists called “penal-welfarism”. Policymakers saw crime, essentially, as a kind of disease; they believed that crime could be reduced or eliminated both through social engineering (welfare provision, housing projects and the like), and through individual “treatment” via prison rehabilitation. Of course, this was a complete failure, and the famous study published by Martinson in 1974, which concluded “nothing works”, more-or-less put an end to the rehabilitative project.

    What does seem to work, however, is liberalisation. The Netherlands and Portugal, having adopted less punitive policies when it comes to drugs, have far fewer problems with drug-related crime than the US or UK. It’s difficult, of course, to compare policies effectively between different countries with different cultures and social environments. We also need to recognise that “crime” is not a fixed and immutable concept; what constitutes “crime” differs markedly between different societies, and what we call “crime” today is the consequence of all sorts of political and ideological pressures. There is a tendency to over-criminalise; in the UK, there are now more than 8,000 criminal offences (the number having drastically increased since 1997); the majority of them are offences of strict liability (meaning that the prosecution does not need to prove intention), and most of them deal with purely regulatory matters.

    (The UK criminal law has other huge problems, too. As British Pharyngulites will have seen in the news, the government is using statutory anti-terrorist powers to ban the radical Muslim group “Islam4UK”, making it a criminal offence for anyone to be a member of this group. Again, they’re trying to curry favour with the voters; Islam4UK is very unpopular since they recently scheduled a protest march (which never took place) in Wootton Bassett, the location where British troops’ bodies are repatriated from Afghanistan. It’s frighteningly illiberal, however, that government can simply ban a group and criminalise its membership, disregarding freedom of expression and of assocaiation. This is more evidence, if any was needed, that the UK urgently needs a counterpart to the First Amendment. The ECHR does not have enough teeth.)

  104. #104 Strangest brew
    January 13, 2010

    #103

    “Islam4UK is very unpopular since they recently scheduled a protest march (which never took place) in Wootton Bassett”

    Islam4UK is disparate collection of fundamental clowns that actively and consistently agitate for Islamic Sharia law and the overthrow of legitimate western governments.

    Openly contemptuous of the society they live in and quite prepared to live off the benefit such society offers.
    When Anjem Choudary…the head honcho…was asked why it was that social security payments were accepted from the state even though that state is so obviously hated the glib answer was that he was accepting it from Allah!

    The by line they espouse is…

    ‘Go forth and proclaim Islam whether the disbelievers like it or not’

    They have been walking a very thin line for quite a while.
    Even when videoed with known terrorist activists they were not banned…but they went just one step further with their latest brain fart and the government acted to first ban the proposed march…on the the advice of the police because it raised questions of public order…and secondly the historical rhetoric of this group has been insulting, inflammatory and deeply offensive for far to long and enough is more then enough, even other Muslim organisations in Britain distrust, despise even hate the extremist views and the group these bunnies represent.

    If in America they would have been in Guantanamo acting as janitors a long time ago!

  105. #105 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    Islam4UK is disparate collection of fundamental clowns that actively and consistently agitate for Islamic Sharia law and the overthrow of legitimate western governments.

    Openly contemptuous of the society they live in and quite prepared to live off the benefit such society offers.

    Whatever loony ideas they advocate, they still have a moral right to freedom of speech. In a free society, civil liberties ought to apply to everyone, not just groups of which the government approves. I have a serious problem with any kind of advocacy group being banned, however repugnant their views are. I also have a problem with the UK statutes criminalising “glorifying terrorism” and “incitement to religious hatred”. It’s disturbingly illiberal that someone can be prosecuted simply for expressing a viewpoint.

    What we need in the UK is an entrenched written constitution, which should include a counterpart to the US First Amendment. The British judiciary need to have substantially more power to protect freedom of speech, religion and association from government interference, IMO.

  106. #106 Feynmaniac
    January 13, 2010

    Walton,

    Feynmaniac and Nerd: I agree that the US’s drug laws (and those of most other nations, with a few exceptions) are completely insane. Especially regarding marijuana, a substance which is medically less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. The “War on Drugs” is a failed policy – but politicians still continue with it in order to appear “tough on crime”. In a more sensible world, drug addiction would be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one.

    This may surprise you but the majority of Americans agree with you:

    By two to one, Americans describe drug abuse as a medical problem that
    should be handled mainly through counseling and treatment (63%) rather than a serious crime
    that should be handled mainly by the courts and prison system (31%).[ p. 6, Source]

    This study was also interesting:

    Respondents are asked to trade-off alternative crime prevention and control policies as well as a potential tax rebate. In a nationally representative sample, we found overwhelming support for increased spending on youth prevention, drug treatment for nonviolent offenders, and police. However, the median respondent would not allocate any new money to building more prisons and would not request a tax rebate if the money were spent on youth prevention, drug treatment, or police.

    This is why I am not really convinced that the cause large prison population is “populism”.

    46% also want to legalize marijuana (abcnews.go.com/images/PollingUnit/1089a6HotButtonIssues.pdf). Despite this, when asked about legalization of marijuana in a virtual town hall (one of the most popular questions) Obama merely laughed it off.

  107. #107 Andreas Johansson
    January 13, 2010

    Hovind was cosmically stupid. He turned what would have been a civil case into a criminal case and put himself in prison for a decade.

    I suspect he saw it as a win-win scenario of sorts – either Gunderscored helped him, providing a miracle to dazzle the masses with Hovind’s importance, or he became a martyr.

    Or maybe he just couldn’t imagine losing, so deliberately raised the stakes as high as possible.

  108. #108 Feynmaniac
    January 13, 2010

    I just wish someone had the courage to stand for election promising to be less “tough on crime”.

    If by that they meant they would change the inhumane and fucking unreasonable treatment against those who commit nonviolent/victimless crimes then I would want a public official like that as well.

  109. #109 Didaktylos
    January 13, 2010

    Personally, I think that if Hovind wants to get out of jail early he should either persuade a prison officer to complain that guarding him violates his health and safety or persuade his fellow inmates to complain that being in the same institution is cruel and unusual punishment.

  110. #110 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    What Walton said@105 – except that I think there is a case for banning “hate speech” which advocates, or explicitly or implicitly condones, murder on the grounds of race or religion. I know from a former partner who was the daughter of Jews who fled the Nazis that such speech causes real fear; no-one should have a right not to be offended, but there should be a right not to be threatened with violence – even if the threat is implicit, as in Holocaust denial.

    The sheer uselessness of banning organisations ought also to be mentioned. Anjem Choudary, the scumbag behind Islam4UK, has already said that the banned organisations’ names will no longer be used, but the message will not change.

  111. #111 Strangest brew
    January 13, 2010

    #105

    “they still have a moral right to freedom of speech. In a free society, civil liberties ought to apply to everyone, not just groups of which the government approves.”

    When does the moral right to freedom of speech become abuse of the principle?

    The point being they were not upsetting the government per se…they were however causing intense and prolonged distress to the families of servicemen and women that have died fighting for the right of free speech.

    Any right or any principle only maintains its unique quality when it used in the spirit in which it is meant.

    Espousing direct commitment to terrorize the state that supports that right and or principle violates the premise.

    No one has that right…no one!

  112. #112 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    The point being they were not upsetting the government per se…they were however causing intense and prolonged distress to the families of servicemen and women that have died fighting for the right of free speech.

    To clarify, I don’t have a problem with the government banning the protest march in Wootton Bassett (which was cancelled in any case), as it was a serious threat to public order.

    But I do have a problem with the banning of Islam4UK itself. They may be a repugnant bunch of religious lunatics, but they still have a right to freedom of speech and association. And, as Knockgoats points out, banning the group is also pointless; the members will continue to hold and express the same views, just under a different name.

    Any right or any principle only maintains its unique quality when it used in the spirit in which it is meant.

    Espousing direct commitment to terrorize the state that supports that right and or principle violates the premise.

    I completely disagree. The whole point of civil liberties is that they protect the state’s opponents – not just those who oppose the government of the day, but also those who oppose the entire constitutional order or the system of liberal democracy as a whole.

    Hence why, in the US, the ACLU went to court to guarantee the free speech rights of Nazis and Communists. And hence why Fred Phelps has a right to protest against homosexuality. The true test of a nation’s commitment to free speech is not how it treats “acceptable” or “moderate” political views, but rather how it treats radicals who advocate the overthrow of the state itself. Unfortunately, the modern UK is fast going down the road of using coercive force to suppress groups which it perceives as seeking to undermine the constitutional order. This road is one which leads inexorably to McCarthyism.

  113. #113 Coryat
    January 13, 2010

    I can see a link here!

    Hovind’s dissertation begins ‘hi my name is Kent Hovind’

    Jonny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, sung at Folsom prison begins ‘Hello I’m Johnny Cash’

    Surely some connection? Curious minds want to know!

  114. #114 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    The point being they were not upsetting the government per se…they were however causing intense and prolonged distress to the families of servicemen and women that have died fighting for the right of free speech. – Strangest Brew

    To claim that the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were “fighting for the right of free speech” is simply ludicrous. They are fighting to maintain a gang of corrupt warlords and drug barons in power, rather than a gang of religious extremists. That may be judged a good cause, but free speech is absolutely nothing to do with it.

  115. #115 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    To claim that the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were “fighting for the right of free speech” is simply ludicrous. They are fighting to maintain a gang of corrupt warlords and drug barons in power, rather than a gang of religious extremists. That may be judged a good cause, but free speech is absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Be fair – there is somewhat more freedom of speech in Afghanistan today than there was under the Taliban. Admittedly it’s still not great, considering that it’s still an “Islamic republic” with profoundly illiberal religious laws, and things have hardly changed in many rural areas. But it’s going in the right direction.

    The Karzai government may be corrupt and incompetent, but there has been progress. There are an increasing number of educational opportunities for women, for instance, and there are now women in senior political offices – something which would never have been tolerated under the Taliban.

    I do believe that British troops in Afghanistan are fighting for freedom – albeit the freedom of the people of another country, rather than our own. But I’m not a nationalist, and I do not believe that we should be concerned exclusively, or even primarily, with our own nation’s interests.

    This is a bit of a digression, though, so I’ll stop there.

  116. #116 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    it’s going in the right direction. – Walton

    Oh yeah? Violence up, civilian deaths up, resultant resentment of foreign troops up, increased instability in Pakistan, a complete farce of an “election”.

    I do believe that British troops in Afghanistan are fighting for freedom

    If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. Suppose (a highly unlikely supposition) that the Taliban are defeated and foreign troops withdraw. How long will it take for the “progress” you refer to to be reversed, to the extent that it has actually happened?

  117. #117 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    Meanwhile, as generally happens, the war is being systematically used to push through authoritarian legislation at home.

  118. #118 Strangest brew
    January 13, 2010

    Walton-#112

    “I completely disagree. The whole point of civil liberties is that they protect the state’s opponents – not just those who oppose the government of the day, but also those who oppose the entire constitutional order or the system of liberal democracy as a whole.”

    Yes I agree on the free speech article in principle, it is part of the very fabric of a civilised society.
    I do have a problem when free speech runs to homophobia, misogyny or just plain old hatreds based on a premise that is purloined from a not necessarily impeachable source.
    Recounting hearsay and fables as inviolable is not using free speech it is using at best wishful thinking and at worst outright lies.
    But fine…not a main criticism.

    But now you invoke ‘Civil Liberties’ and seem to conflate the two.

    Okay let us run with that concept a while!

    Is it Civil Liberties to actually recruit deluded and angry youngsters to fight in a theatre of war either as front line cannon fodder or sacrificial zealots to take the lives of their own countrymen…?

    One presumes that Muslims recruited thusly have indeed mainly British passports?
    And folks that present enough supporting documentary evidence and ‘proof’ of country-hood only are given this official British document as they are indeed proven to be British citizens…and they ask to be regarded as such and wish to present that ‘proof’ when required to prove that they are as such.

    That is a difference…they are NOT enemy combatants…they have the same rights as other British Citizens that hold such a document.

    In other words the recruited are committing treason against their home state…whether or not they recognise it as such is immaterial.

    Maybe something in the Geneva convention about that status…not sure…but ‘it is not really cricket!’

    Is that Civil…or just a liberty?

    Chowdry has stated time and time again that is his aim to radicalise the Muslim youth living in Britain to civil disturbance at the very least to outright participation on the war front.

    That was the whole idea of the march…to impress and radicalise Muslims to get them angry and disaffected.

    He is promoting the cover story about Muslim deaths in the war…but do you really honestly believe that is the main message?

    Okay further more does Civil Liberties cover usurpation of British sovereignty in the question of setting up an Islamic parliament that operates only on a section of the populace that has not requested it?

    That is also a chosen goal and Sharia is the law they will impose on that section of society.
    Not United Kingdom law but Islamic law in the United Kingdom separate and with its own results.

    To a certain extent that is occurring now in some enclaves…but they want it extended in reach to cover a society to the full extent of that system and with or without British Lawmakers approval.

    That was why the recent verbal diarrhoea from the A of C…Williamson was so misjudged and so utterly repellent.

    That is just a couple of points…when does Civil Liberties extend to the rest of the populace not to be victims either in word or deed to another ‘Citizens’ Civil Liberties?

    I understand the principle but not the execution of the principle in this case!

  119. #119 shonny
    January 13, 2010

    Posted by: mumonjmk Author Profile Page | January 12, 2010 10:49 AM

    While I agree with you about Hovind, I should point out that being in prison isn’t healthy even for criminals such as Hovind.

    At least he will have his haemorrhoids checked out at regular intervals, and also get to know what ‘suck this’ really means. Hopefully.

  120. #120 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    At least he will have his haemorrhoids checked out at regular intervals, and also get to know what ‘suck this’ really means. Hopefully.

    Ah. Another person who thinks prison rape is funny, and that it’s morally acceptable to wish it on one’s ideological opponents. Yay for humanity.

  121. #121 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 13, 2010

    “Here in the UK, the current massive rate of imprisonment is primarily a phenomenon of the early 1990s, when governments decided to get “tough on crime” as a means of currying favour with the voters. But before that, there were still stupid policies – just different stupid policies. From the post-war era up until the 1970s, the prevailing line of thought was what criminologists called “penal-welfarism”. Policymakers saw crime, essentially, as a kind of disease; they believed that crime could be reduced or eliminated both through social engineering (welfare provision, housing projects and the like), and through individual “treatment” via prison rehabilitation. Of course, this was a complete failure, and the famous study published by Martinson in 1974, which concluded “nothing works”, more-or-less put an end to the rehabilitative project. ”

    You forgot the other salient difference; They threw far fewer people into jail. No model of criminal justice has any strong evidence that it works. In the absence of any objective pointers, as well as the fact that a LOT of current arrests are drug arrests, I’d rather we get back to the most humane method, especially since druggies *are* better handled medically then through, well, being ‘tough on crime’.

    Also we didn’t have life in prison for stupid shit. Regardless of your viewpoint on them, I think you can agree that 3 Strikes Laws need amending. Going to prison for life, for stealing golf clubs, is ludicrous.

    “To claim that the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were “fighting for the right of free speech” is simply ludicrous. They are fighting to maintain a gang of corrupt warlords and drug barons in power, rather than a gang of religious extremists. That may be judged a good cause, but free speech is absolutely nothing to do with it.”
    If you’re going to be cynical about it, be better at it. Leaving it as drug barons and warlords isn’t even better for us, since it doesn’t provide a strong bulwark against the taliban in the future.

  122. #122 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    At least he will have his haemorrhoids checked out at regular intervals, and also get to know what ‘suck this’ really means. Hopefully.

    Of course I agree. As I’ve said, I think prisons should be reserved for the most violent and dangerous offenders. Sending people to prison for petty and non-violent offences (even repeated ones) is brutal, counterproductive, very expensive, and increases reoffending rates.

    In the absence of any objective pointers, as well as the fact that a LOT of current arrests are drug arrests, I’d rather we get back to the most humane method, especially since druggies *are* better handled medically then through, well, being ‘tough on crime’.

    I completely agree. As I clearly said above, I think drug use should be decriminalised. Drug addiction should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal issue. The “War on Drugs” has been a complete disaster in every respect.

  123. #123 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    Argh. My first blockquote at #122 should have been:

    Also we didn’t have life in prison for stupid shit. Regardless of your viewpoint on them, I think you can agree that 3 Strikes Laws need amending. Going to prison for life, for stealing golf clubs, is ludicrous.

  124. #124 Celtic_Evolution
    January 13, 2010

    Similarly, Kent Hovind, as a convicted tax-evader, should simply have had to pay what he owed the federal government, plus the federal government’s legal fees and any additional costs involved in bringing the matter to court. If he still refused to pay, his assets could be seized, as with any civil debt. I also wouldn’t have a problem with a punitive fine being imposed. But sending him to prison – at vast expense to the taxpayer – is completely ludicrous, IMO.

    Walton, this is idealogical baloney… once again I have to point out as I already have that it’s not just the punitive effect that imprisonment has for non-violent, white-collar criminals… it’s a detrimental effect.

    Were I prone to not feeling like I should have to work for what I earn and would rather just take from others instead, and knew full well that I would never go to jail for stealing, what would prevent me from just making sure I steal enough to always be ahead of the fines? What you’re proposing is unrealistically silly. Imprisoning serial thieves (note the distinction… I do agree that there needs to be some convincing cause for imprisonment in cases of non-violent crime) serves a punitive, deterring and protective purpose, and rightfully so.

    Again, though, I will totally agree that in this country we have gotten completely incarceration crazy to the point where too many people think that a government official who has imposed policies that increase jail populations is a good thing… which is just frighteningly backwards.

    If we spent half the time, money, and resources on actual rehabilitation and social outreach that we do on simply incarcerating everyone, we’d all be much better off.

  125. #125 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 13, 2010

    Walton, this is idealogical baloney.

    I’M SHOCKED

  126. #126 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 13, 2010

    @ Walton and all

    We don’t have constitutional freedom of speech in the UK. Blasphemy laws, for example, are still on the statute books. I think that you can also get busted for defacing pictures of the Queen in some cases with stamps and/or currency but I’m not a legal expert.

    HOWEVER you tend to find that unless speech is specifically threatening pretty much anything goes. Things like racism, anti-semitism and so forth don’t generally go down too well. There are some weird side-issues including arguments about whether folks from minorities can be racist themselves (yes, really) but that’s another issue.

    There are some downsides to this, including really screwy libel laws, but there are also positive aspects – one of which is that when people start shouting screwy shit it’s really obvious that it’s screwy!

  127. #127 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    We don’t have constitutional freedom of speech in the UK.

    Technically true, since we don’t have an entrenched written constitution at all. But the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, of which Article 10 provides for the right to freedom of expression.

    The HRA, unlike a written constitution, does not allow the courts to strike down incompatible primary legislation. Courts can, however, make non-binding “declarations of incompatibility” if they find an Act of Parliament to be incompatible with the rights guaranteed under the ECHR; and they are also required to interpret all statutes, as far as possible, in light of the ECHR. So freedom of expression is a part of British law, even if not a fully “constitutional” one.

    Blasphemy laws, for example, are still on the statute books.

    Technically, the offence of blasphemous libel was never “on the statute books”, since it was an offence at common law, meaning that it wasn’t created by statute. In any case, it was abolished recently by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

    I’m not a legal expert.

    I’m a third-year English law student, so in this particular area I do know what I’m talking about.

    HOWEVER you tend to find that unless speech is specifically threatening pretty much anything goes. Things like racism, anti-semitism and so forth don’t generally go down too well.

    The problem is that New Labour has enacted a whole raft of statutes criminalising various forms of “incitement to hatred” and “glorifying terrorism”. I oppose such laws entirely. People should be free to express whatever political views they wish, however repugnant, without state coercion or censorship. In the same way, I strongly oppose the anti-Holocaust-denial laws which exist in many European countries. It has to be said that this is one area in which the US has a better record than any European nation.

  128. #128 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    Blasphemy laws, for example, are still on the statute books. hairychris

    Only in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales. The last prosecution under Scottish law was in 1843.

    Here’s the offending matter in the last prosecution for blasphemous libel in the UK:

    ***

    The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name
    By James Kirkup

    As they took him from the cross
    I, the centurion, took him in my arms-
    the tough lean body
    of a man no longer young,
    beardless, breathless,
    but well hung.

    He was still warm.
    While they prepared the tomb
    I kept guard over him.
    His mother and the Magdalen
    had gone to fetch clean linen
    to shroud his nakedness.

    I was alone with him.
    For the last time
    I kissed his mouth. My tongue
    found his, bitter with death.
    I licked his wound-
    the blood was harsh
    For the last time
    I laid my lips around the tip
    of that great cock, the instrument
    of our salvation, our eternal joy.
    The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
    with death’s final ejaculation

    I knew he’d had it off with other men-
    with Herod’s guards, with Pontius Pilate,
    With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
    with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
    the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
    He loved all men, body, soul and spirit. – even me.

    So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
    lay together with him in his desolation,
    caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
    hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
    Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
    while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

    It was the only way I knew to speak our love’s proud name,
    to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
    something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
    his dear, broken body all open wounds,
    and in each wound his side, his back,
    his mouth – I came and came and came

    as if each coming was my last.
    And then the miracle possessed us.
    I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
    his spirit’s final seed within my hole, my soul,
    pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
    he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

    -This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
    same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
    They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
    one upon the other, till they dies of lust and pain
    within the horny paradise of one another’s limbs,
    with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

    Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
    of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
    But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
    They knew not what we had done, but felt
    no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
    and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

    And after three long, lonely days, like years,
    in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
    seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
    he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
    all others. And took me to him with
    the love that now forever dares to speak its name.

    ***

    So if I disappear from Pharyngula, you’ll know that the law in Scotland is not, as generally believed, a dead letter, and I’ve been hauled off to jail!

  129. #129 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    If you’re going to be cynical about it, be better at it. Leaving it as drug barons and warlords isn’t even better for us, since it doesn’t provide a strong bulwark against the taliban in the future. – Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Doom

    I didn’t say the war in Afghanistan was a good cause, I said it “may be judged” one. I don’t judge it as such, but one can agree with me that it’s nothing to do with freedom of speech while still believing it’s a good cause.

  130. #130 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    It’s not really a very good poem, is it? Nor is it anywhere near as blasphemous as the average open thread on Pharyngula. :-)

  131. #131 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 13, 2010

    I think you missed what I was objecting to. We’re fighting there for our own security. I won’t say we’re there for freedom of speech. Frankly, setting up friendly dictatorships is the best short term method of doing it (But not long term. See: Iran). But it’d ludicrous to say we’re ACTUALLY THERE to support warlords and drug barons who can be knocked back over by fundamentalist islamists who can set training camps back up.

  132. #132 Celtic_Evolution
    January 13, 2010

    to myself in #124

    it’s not just the punitive effect that imprisonment has for non-violent, white-collar criminals… it’s a detrimental effect.

    erm… I didn’t write that.

    What’s supposed to be there is:

    …it’s a deterrent.

  133. #133 aratina cage
    January 13, 2010

    Knockgoats #128. Interesting. It looks like the United Kingdom even had its own Maggie Gallagher/Anita Bryant in the form of Mary Whitehouse. Scary that she taught sex education to children.

  134. #134 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    But it’d ludicrous to say we’re ACTUALLY THERE to support warlords and drug barons – Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom

    What I said was:

    “To claim that the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were “fighting for the right of free speech” is simply ludicrous. They are fighting to maintain a gang of corrupt warlords and drug barons in power, rather than a gang of religious extremists.” [emphasis added]

    Policy-makers evidently judge that the warlords and drug barons are the only alternative to the Taliban – and they are almost certainly right: Afghanistan has been run by shifting coalitions of regional warlords ever since it came into existence as a state – so in practice, the soldiers most certainly are fighting to maintain the corrupt gang in power. If you think this either improves the lot of the Afghans, or helps western security, you may judge this to be worthwhile; I don’t, and by the sound of it, neither do you.

    BTW, who is this “we” who are in Afghanistan? I’m certainly not.

  135. #135 Coryat
    January 13, 2010

    Yes we’re well rid of Mary Whitehouse, c.f.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Whitehouse

    Amusingly there was once a porno mag named in her honour!

  136. #136 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 13, 2010

    Ah, cool, thanks… Didn’t know that it got pulled in 2008!

    As for the EU Human Rights legislation, well, yeah, it does supposedly overrule us but looking at the paper today and it’s headline story about Stop & Search being ruled as illegal but plod have been told to carry on regardless.

    For the record I loathe Blair, Brown and every Home Secretary that’s been in that role for as long as I remember. I fucking hate the Conservatives with a passion too which doesn’t really leave me with many people to like. LibDems are annoying which is a tad better I suppose.

    I’m well off the pace, but has the religious hatred bill been passed? That’s fucking retarded as well.

  137. #137 David Marjanovi?
    January 13, 2010

    I think lots of criminals are insane and need help (if we want to prevent them from doing it again, that is). Hovind obviously is one of those. He’s got a serious fraction of a Tc.

    This road is one which leads inexorably to McCarthyism.

    Then why hasn’t Austria arrived there yet? Or Germany?

    The slippery slope is a logical fallacy.

  138. #138 Knockgoats
    January 13, 2010

    I’m well off the pace, but has the religious hatred bill been passed? – HairyChris

    Yes, in 2006, but it was amended, against government wishes, to ensure it could not be used to suppress criticism of religions. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_and_Religious_Hatred_Act_2006.

  139. #139 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    As for the EU Human Rights legislation, well, yeah, it does supposedly overrule us but looking at the paper today and it’s headline story about Stop & Search being ruled as illegal but plod have been told to carry on regardless.

    [my emphasis] NO NO NO NO NO! This particular mistake is one of my pet hates. The European Convention on Human Rights, or ECHR for short, has absolutely nothing to do with the European Union. The ECHR is a separate international treaty, and has been ratified by several nations which are not members of the EU. The fact that they both have “European” in the title does not mean that they are the same thing.

  140. #140 Walton
    January 13, 2010

    By way of further explanation:

    The European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK ratified in 1953 (long before we joined the EU), is an international treaty which seeks to protect certain human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. It is not an EU instrument (though all EU member states are also signatories to the ECHR), and there are several signatories to the ECHR which are not members of the EU (for instance, Turkey, Switzerland and Ukraine). The ECHR is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (which should not be confused with the EU’s European Court of Justice, a completely different institution).

    Although the UK has been a party to the ECHR since 1953, the ECHR did not form part of British domestic law until the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 (known among lawyers as the HRA). This incorporated the rights guaranteed by the ECHR (with some exceptions) into British law, and made it illegal for a public authority to act in a manner inconsistent with the ECHR. However, seeing as the HRA is simply an ordinary Act of Parliament, it does not give the courts power to strike down Acts of Parliament which are inconsistent with the ECHR. As such, the UK courts still do not have the same wide-ranging powers to protect individual rights that their US counterparts have.

    (Addendum: Confusingly, there is now a separate EU Charter on Fundamental Rights, which was previously non-binding but has been made binding by the recent Treaty of Lisbon. But this is not the same as the ECHR, and differs in its content and purpose.)

  141. #141 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 13, 2010

    Knockgoats #128

    So if I disappear from Pharyngula, you’ll know that the law in Scotland is not, as generally believed, a dead letter, and I’ve been hauled off to jail!

    Say hello to Floyd Rubber for us.

  142. #142 Jadehawk, OM
    January 13, 2010

    Jadehawk: I think you’re taking too much of a holistic view of this. Crime occurs in any society, and so does the corresponding public fear of crime and the populist desire for vengeance.

    your inability to think of societies as systems with feedbacks and other dynamics affecting individuals and policy effectiveness is not my fault, but it certainly is a problem.

    The reason the richest country in the world has the shittiest infrastucture is not just because there’s no legislation to change that, but because “the common good” is virtually nonexistent in the public’s mind, while “individualism” is. conversely, societies that see themselves as a team have well-funded infrastructure, even when their governments aren’t any less corrupt and corporate-owned.

    the same goes for dealing with criminals. the mentality that spawns gated communities and harshly punitive legal systems and harshly enforced uniformity is a different mentality that spawns open, fearless societies where the SOURCES of crime are fought, being different isn’t criminalized, and even criminals are treated like humans.

    legislature doesn’t fix the problems within a society instantaneously. it can’t. but it can put a society on a course that either turns in into a more friendly, trusting, and humane society’ or it can send it on a course where everything and everyone not like you is scary and a criminal, and where the criminal system exists to punish rather than to do justice.

    liberalization of laws has to do with this, too, but not exclusively. motivation counts, too. Nevada has very liberal legislation on a lot of issues; so does california, for other things. neither of them is becoming less violent or has fewer criminals and people in prison. OTOH, societies like the Netherlands are more liberal in law and more progressive/community-based than most places; and there the liberalization of laws actually DOES correlate with less crime. but that’s because they’re both consequences of the same cause (a more communal, trusting, humane society); one isn’t caused by the other.

  143. #143 Walton
    January 14, 2010

    Jadehawk, I don’t know why you keep talking as though European countries are “healthier societies” than the US in every respect. I really think it depends both on the country and on the criterion of “health” you’re using.

    France, for instance, has serious racial tension and periodic riots, particularly in the Paris banlieue. There is a huge problem with racism, and with social and economic marginalisation of immigrant communities. The same is true in many other large European cities.

    There are a few European countries which are great places to live: Switzerland, for instance. But these are great places to live primarily because they are very wealthy, have a small population (giving them a high per-capita GDP), and don’t have any huge cities with pockets of extreme poverty and deprivation.

    The big difference, though, viz-a-viz penal policy, is that most European countries haven’t gone down the road of “dealing” with crime by locking everyone up indiscriminately. This is a policy which is very expensive and doesn’t work, yet the US seems determined to carry on with it, and the UK seems determined to follow in their footsteps. This is because both US and UK policymakers make the mistake of “listening to the people” on penal policy; and most of the public believe, thanks to the sensationalist media and their own general stupidity, that we are “under siege” from a rising tide of criminals and that they all need to be made to “suffer” with longer and tougher sentences.

  144. #144 Coryat
    January 14, 2010

    Switzerland is lovely if you’re a rich white christian. If you’re a muslim, even a European one that doesn’t wear the Hijab, well, not so great.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/29/switzerland-bans-mosque-minarets

    The down side of small population in little pockets is insularism and narrow-mindedness. I should know, I grew up in rural Wales. The Swiss villages get to vote on whether you can become naturalised or not http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_in_Switzerland

    which I would have thought was against your ideology Walton.

    Now Sweden on the other hand. THAT’S a good country!

  145. #145 Feynmaniac
    January 14, 2010

    Walton,

    Jadehawk, I don’t know why you keep talking as though European countries are “healthier societies” than the US in every respect.

    I think that’s a straw man. I won’t speak for Jadehawk, but I think that in many areas like social inequality or public infrastructure many European countries finish ahead of the US. If you are honest you look at the overall picture and judge by that rather than being selective.

    I really think it depends both on the country and on the criterion of “health” you’re using.

    In terms of actual health the WHO ranks many European societies ahead of the US. Criteria there included infant mortality, access, etc. As I mentioned before, in terms of social inequality many European countries finish ahead. If you care about the well-being of human beings these factors should matter greatly.

    France, for instance, has serious racial tension and periodic riots, particularly in the Paris banlieue. There is a huge problem with racism, and with social and economic marginalisation of immigrant communities. The same is true in many other large European cities.

    I would agree that in terms of race relations the US probably finishes ahead of many European nations (needless to say it is far from perfect though). Paradoxically, this due to the extreme racism of the past which caused much activism.

    But these are great places to live primarily because they are very wealthy, have a small population (giving them a high per-capita GDP)

    Th US is an extremely rich country. The only European nations that have higher GDP per capita are Luxemborg, Norway, and Liechtenstein. The rest finish below the US.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29_per_capita

    In addition, the US is extremely large (twice the area of the entire EU) and as a result has a lot of resources.

    The big difference, though, viz-a-viz penal policy, is that most European countries haven’t gone down the road of “dealing” with crime by locking everyone up indiscriminately. This is a policy which is very expensive and doesn’t work

    Agreed.

    This is because both US and UK policymakers make the mistake of “listening to the people” on penal policy; and most of the public believe, thanks to the sensationalist media and their own general stupidity, that we are “under siege” from a rising tide of criminals and that they all need to be made to “suffer” with longer and tougher sentences.

    Sigh, did you read my comment @#106? I don’t know how things are in the UK, but you can see that the US public prefers with using treatment over incarceration of drug users by a margin of 2 to 1. If US policymakers were “listening to the people” then 55% of Federal prisoners wouldn’t be in jail for a drug offense.

  146. #146 Walton
    January 14, 2010

    In terms of actual health the WHO ranks many European societies ahead of the US. Criteria there included infant mortality, access, etc. As I mentioned before, in terms of social inequality many European countries finish ahead. If you care about the well-being of human beings these factors should matter greatly.

    The WHO criteria, and the weighting given to each criterion, are highly controversial. The two most widely-cited statistics – infant mortality and life expectancy – are problematic. Infant mortality is measured differently in different countries (some nations, including the US, count stillborns and very premature babies in the infant mortality rate, whereas many European countries don’t). And life expectancy is affected by a range of factors, including diet, physical environment and the prevalence or otherwise of smoking, which are not within the direct control of government. So we shouldn’t accept differing WHO rankings as conclusive evidence that one nation is “healthier” than another, or that one nation’s government policies are more successful than another. The US comes out very well on a number of metrics – survival rates for certain cancers, for instance, and number of physicians per capita.

    And social equality is important, but it’s not the decisive factor in a society’s fortunes. Greater equality makes things better up to a point: obviously a society where 5% of the population were immensely wealthy and lived in lavish palaces, while the other 95% lived in hovels and scratched a living on the poverty line, would not be a great place to live. But among developed countries, more equality is not always better. The UK in the 1970s was more equal, in income terms, than the UK today, yet it was a profoundly sick society in almost every respect; it was economically stagnant, industrial relations were horrifically bad and there were frequent strikes, and key national industries were failing and having to be propped up by government. It was described as “the sick man of Europe”. The UK today, by contrast, has plenty of problems, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was 30 years ago.

    Rather than equality for equality’s sake, we should focus on raising everyone’s living standards to a decent level. This can be achieved partly through economic growth, and partly through provision of government services that facilitate social mobility, such as education. And there should also be a move to liberalise criminal justice systems; drug use should be decriminalised, and the use of imprisonment should be drastically reduced. The money saved by reducing rates of imprisonment could be spent on providing drug rehabilitation clinics instead, which would be much more useful.

  147. #147 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    January 14, 2010

    @ Walton 139 – Aha, OK, thanks for clearing that up. If anything that makes our treatment of it worse. Oops.

  148. #148 John Morales
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    [1] Infant mortality is measured differently in different countries [2] (some nations, including the US, count stillborns and very premature babies in the infant mortality rate, whereas many European countries don’t).

    1. Apparently so.

    2. <citation needed>

  149. #149 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    The UK in the 1970s was more equal, in income terms, than the UK today, yet it was a profoundly sick society in almost every respect

    Total garbage. I was there, you’ve just read the Thatcherite lies. To mention just a few ways in which it was better than the UK today: we still had significant manufacturing industry (and before you bleat that its loss was inevitable, look at Germany), there was near-full employment, seeing a beggar in the street was a rarity, many of the key socially libertarian reforms we would agree on were enacted, binge drinking was far less prevalent, imprisonment levels were about half what they are now.

    And social equality is important, but it’s not the decisive factor in a society’s fortunes.

    Yes it is – a decisive factor, at any rate. I refer you once more to the copious empirical evidence that I know you will once again ignore out of ideological blindness: The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett. The many advantages of greater equality they demonstrate are shown across US states as well as across countries. Whether they had inter-state figures for infant mortality I can’t recall (I don’t have the book with me), but the correlation with inequality held between European countries as well as with the US.

  150. #150 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Knockgoats,

    So, you think the “Winter of Discontent” was a sign of an economically healthy and sustainable society?

  151. #151 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    Your lie (and I can’t really call it anything else) was that the UK was “a profoundly sick society in almost every respect”. I notice you have no response to my reference to empirical evidence – because when this threatens your ideology, you simply ignore it.

    So, you think the “Winter of Discontent” was a sign of an economically healthy and sustainable society?

    So you think the crash of 2008, the reliance for “economic growth” on inflating asset values, and the fact that the City is preparing to pay out 40bn in bonuses are signs of an economically healthy and sustainable society?

  152. #152 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    Sorry, @151 I was inaccurate: the City will by now have paid these bonuses.

  153. #153 Feynmaniac
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    So we shouldn’t accept differing WHO rankings as conclusive evidence that one nation is “healthier” than another, or that one nation’s government policies are more successful than another.

    I’m not asking that you accept it absolutely. However to dismiss it out of hand entirely because some of the factors aren’t perfect is just as ridiculous.

    Infant mortality is measured differently in different countries (some nations, including the US, count stillborns and very premature babies in the infant mortality rate, whereas many European countries don’t).

    The CDC recognizes this but found that:”it appears unlikely that differences in reporting are the primary explanation for the United States? relatively low international ranking”.

    The US comes out very well on a number of metrics – survival rates for certain cancers, for instance, and number of physicians per capita.

    I don’t know where you are getting your data but the US actually finishes below Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and the UK in physician per 1000 people.

  154. #154 negentropyeater
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    Jadehawk, I don’t know why you keep talking as though European countries are “healthier societies” than the US in every respect. I really think it depends both on the country and on the criterion of “health” you’re using.

    Not in every respect, but in almost every :

    check the “succesful societies scale” in this link:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/poor_uneducated_obese_and_reli.php#comment-2134963

    The USA comes out worse than any other developped nation on the following factors :
    Homicides /100K
    Incarceration /100K
    Under 5 mortality /1K
    Gonorrhea 15-19Y /100K
    Gonorrhea other ages /100K
    Syphilis 15-19Y /100K
    Syphilis other ages /100K
    Abortions 15-19Y /1K
    Births 15-17Y /1K
    Marriage duration
    (before last on divorce rate)
    Income inequality
    Poverty index

  155. #155 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    So you think the crash of 2008, the reliance for “economic growth” on inflating asset values, and the fact that the City is preparing to pay out 40bn in bonuses are signs of an economically healthy and sustainable society?

    In no way can it be said to be worse than the situation in 1978-9.

    As to City bonuses: how a private corporation chooses to spend its own money is none of my business, or yours. The only exception to this is where taxpayer money is involved; those banks and other companies which have received public-sector bailout money should certainly not be paying bonuses.

  156. #156 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    In no way can it be said to be worse than the situation in 1978-9.

    You really are completely loopy, aren’t you? Unemployment was lower, government debt was lower, manufacturing industry still existed. Those are three respects just to start with. Without the massive international government intervention you opposed IIRC, things would have been far, far worse.

    how a private corporation chooses to spend its own money is none of my business, or yours.

    Oh yes it bloody well is. Inequality has dire social effects, therefore measures that increase it are an attack on society, and on me as a member of that society. Don’t you fucking well start telling me what I may or may not be concerned about on the basis of your creed of selfishness and greed.

  157. #157 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Knockgoats,

    Your lie (and I can’t really call it anything else)

    I thought we’d got over this level of personal hostility. On issues other than economics, you and I quite frequently agree (examples of this can be found on this very thread). The fact that I am not a socialist, and that I appreciate the virtues of the free market, does not make me a liar. I may be wrong (or, equally, you may be wrong), but being wrong is not evidence of dishonesty or malice.

  158. #158 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    being wrong is not evidence of dishonesty or malice. -Walton

    It is when you spew out garbage such as that to which my designation applied.

  159. #159 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Inequality has dire social effects, therefore measures that increase it are an attack on society, and on me as a member of that society.

    So, you harbour so much envy that you feel personally “attacked” by the sight of other people being paid large salaries? How is this different from a religious fanatic feeling “attacked” by the existence of atheists?

  160. #160 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Don’t you fucking well start telling me what I may or may not be concerned about on the basis of your creed of selfishness and greed.

    In a society with freedom of expression, you’re entitled to be concerned about whatever you like. It does not follow from this, however, that you are entitled to impose your concerns on other people through the use of state intervention.

  161. #161 negentropyeater
    January 15, 2010

    The only exception to this is where taxpayer money is involved

    Well that “exception” pretty much includes every large financial institution in the developped world. Especially when you consider that for instance the billions used to bail out AIG ended up to cover their liabilities vis a vis other firms which didn’t receive bail out money directly.

  162. #162 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    So, you harbour so much envy that you feel personally “attacked” by the sight of other people being paid large salaries?

    This just confirms your dishonesty. There is no way what I said can justify this accusation: I do not want to live in a highly unequal society because of the effects on society, and hence both on me, and on the members of that society. It is, however, one of the prototypical right-wing lies that anyone opposed to inequality must be motivated by envy. As it happens, I earn well above the median in a job which provides considerable autonomy and satisfaction, and I fully recognise my good fortune.

  163. #163 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    …on the basis of your creed of selfishness and greed.

    I do not subscribe to a “creed of selfishness and greed”. I do, however, believe in upholding others’ right, in a free society, to be selfish and greedy with their own time and labour if they so choose.

    In exactly the same way, I do not subscribe to the creeds of Marxism, Nazism, or religious homophobia; but I do subscribe to the right of Marxists, Nazis and Fred Phelps, in a free society, to express their opinions.

    There is a crucial difference between believing that something is right, and believing that others have the right to do something.

  164. #164 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    I do not subscribe to a “creed of selfishness and greed”. – Walton

    Yes you do: your market-worship and support of inequality.

  165. #165 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    There is no way what I said can justify this accusation: I do not want to live in a highly unequal society because of the effects on society, and hence both on me, and on the members of that society.

    Fair point. I apologise if I mischaracterised what you said.

    However, the fundamental problem still stands. If people use their own time and labour on a given endeavour, and if other people are willing to pay them large sums of money for that endeavour, is it right to use the coercive power of the state to confiscate part of that money for public use? To a limited extent, the answer is clearly yes; everyone, except anarchocapitalists, believes that a state of some kind is necessary, and it must have the power to tax in order to perform its functions.

    But when the state starts confiscating people’s earnings, not to fund a specific service which cannot be provided effectively by the market, but rather for the sole purpose of making the rich poorer and the poor richer, we run into a moral problem. By instituting redistributive taxation, we are essentially telling people that their time and labour are not their own, but are the property of society; and that the wealth they create therefore belongs to society, and can be taken away from them in whatever amount the state thinks fit. We are, in other words, subordinating the individual to the collective. Even if that achieves a desirable social goal, it is still a morally problematic endeavour.

  166. #166 Matt Penfold
    January 15, 2010

    Walton,

    Have you ever stopped and considered why people in the City of London, and other financial centres, get paid so much ?

    The usual line is that large salaries and bonuses are needed to motivate the staff, but if that were the case why are large salaries and bonuses not more prevalent in other sectors of the economy ? Why are nurses, for example, given bonuses many times their salary based on how the department they work in met its targets ? The fact that the financial services sector is alone in paying such large salaries and bonuses tells us that claims they are needed to motivate staff are simply not true.

  167. #167 Stephen Wells
    January 15, 2010

    Walton, anyone who lives in a functioning society benefits every day from things like the rule of law, transport infrastructure, education, national defence; as such, what we produce is never entirely “all our own work”.

  168. #168 Matt Penfold
    January 15, 2010

    Walton, anyone who lives in a functioning society benefits every day from things like the rule of law, transport infrastructure, education, national defence; as such, what we produce is never entirely “all our own work”.

    That applies especially to the financial sector where it is clear that many of those working in it were reckless in taking risks, in the knowledge that no government could afford to let the banks collapse.

  169. #169 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Matt Penfold: I don’t know the answer to that, but it is irrelevant. It’s not my business to tell a private corporation how it should pay its staff; it’s a matter for that company’s directors and shareholders, in negotiation with its employees. There is no reason why I, or society as a whole, should have a say, since it’s not our money which is being spent.

    Nurses in the NHS, on the other hand, are being paid taxpayers’ money – and if bonuses work to improve performance, then by all means they should be paid bonuses. The NHS, as a public institution, has a moral responsibility to all taxpayers to use its funds as efficiently as possible; as such, the public in general have a legitimate interest in how it is run. Private companies, conversely, owe their moral responsibility to their shareholders, not to the public; and since I am not a shareholder of any financial institution, it is none of my business how such institutions pay their staff.

  170. #170 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Walton, anyone who lives in a functioning society benefits every day from things like the rule of law, transport infrastructure, education, national defence; as such, what we produce is never entirely “all our own work”.

    True. Which is why I did not argue for the abolition of taxation.

  171. #171 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    By instituting redistributive taxation, we are essentially telling people that their time and labour are not their own, but are the property of society – Walton

    Crap. We are telling them property rights are not absolute – which they should not be. They have no right to use their property in a way that damages others.

    it’s a matter for that company’s directors and shareholders, in negotiation with its employees. There is no reason why I, or society as a whole, should have a say, since it’s not our money which is being spent.

    Yes, there is such a reason, because it affects us.

  172. #172 Matt Penfold
    January 15, 2010

    Matt Penfold: I don’t know the answer to that, but it is irrelevant. It’s not my business to tell a private corporation how it should pay its staff; it’s a matter for that company’s directors and shareholders, in negotiation with its employees. There is no reason why I, or society as a whole, should have a say, since it’s not our money which is being spent.

    Yes it is our business. The banking collapse came about at least partly as a result of the short-term push for profits engendered by the way bankers are remunerated. The way they got paid has directly affected everyone, and cost the tax payer billions. It is simply idiotic for you to claim it has nothing to do with us.

    Nurses in the NHS, on the other hand, are being paid taxpayers’ money – and if bonuses work to improve performance, then by all means they should be paid bonuses. The NHS, as a public institution, has a moral responsibility to all taxpayers to use its funds as efficiently as possible; as such, the public in general have a legitimate interest in how it is run. Private companies, conversely, owe their moral responsibility to their shareholders, not to the public; and since I am not a shareholder of any financial institution, it is none of my business how such institutions pay their staff.

    The NHS has a duty to provide the best healthcare possible. If we follow the logic used in the City then it would have a duty to pay large bonuses, since otherwise staff would not be motivated to do their best. The motivation argument either applies to every employee, no matter where they work, or it does not apply at all.

  173. #173 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Addendum to #170, since I hit “Submit” too soon:

    While it is true that what we produce is never entirely our own work – and that we rely on public services, which we can therefore be legitimately expected to fund – it is also true that some of what we produce is our own work. I would therefore suggest that there is an upper limit to the morally permissible amount of taxation. A 90% marginal tax rate, for instance, would clearly exceed the amount that a person can legitimately “owe” his or her society.

  174. #174 Feynmaniac
    January 15, 2010

    But when the state starts confiscating people’s earnings, not to fund a specific service which cannot be provided effectively by the market, but rather for the sole purpose of making the rich poorer and the poor richer, we run into a moral problem

    As opposed to the current strategy, which is focused solely on making the rich richer (and if the poor get poorer, then so be it). Echoing what neg said in #161, corporations benefit immensely from the government. Through subsidies, bailouts, and by scientific/technological research funded by the public.

  175. #175 Walton
    January 15, 2010

    Echoing what neg said in #161, corporations benefit immensely from the government. Through subsidies, bailouts, and by scientific/technological research funded by the public.

    I agree. Which is why I’m strongly opposed to corporate subsidies, and have said so very clearly on numerous occasions. Farm subsidies for large agri-businesses are particularly indefensible.

  176. #176 Knockgoats
    January 15, 2010

    A 90% marginal tax rate, for instance, would clearly exceed the amount that a person can legitimately “owe” his or her society. – Walton

    No it wouldn’t. There should, indeed, be a maximum as well as a minimum income, with everything above that taxed at 100%.

    Which is why I’m strongly opposed to corporate subsidies

    Then since these reached hitherto unprecedented levels in the banking bailouts, you must consider that the UK is now worse in that respect than in the 1970s.

  177. #177 David Marjanovi?
    January 15, 2010

    France, for instance, has serious racial tension and periodic riots, particularly in the Paris banlieue.

    Yeah, once every few years.

    I live in the banlieue. Not in the worst part by far, but still. It’s completely quiet. What I hear of US downtowns is several orders of magnitude worse.

    And life expectancy is affected by a range of factors, including diet, physical environment and the prevalence or otherwise of smoking, which are not within the direct control of government.

    Many of them are under fairly direct control of government ? via taxes.

    The US comes out very well on a number of metrics – survival rates for certain cancers, for instance, and number of physicians per capita.

    Interesting that you name just these two.

    Cancer survival rates depend to some degree on the sheer amount of available money (for research and expensive apparatuses). That’s exactly where I’d have expected the US to come out ahead.

    A high number of physicians per capita, never mind comment 153, is completely useless if those capita are uninsured and can’t afford to visit a physician till the ER has to take them?

    But when the state starts confiscating people’s earnings, not to fund a specific service which cannot be provided effectively by the market, but rather for the sole purpose of making the rich poorer and the poor richer, we run into a moral problem. By instituting redistributive taxation, we are essentially telling people that their time and labour are not their own, but are the property of society; and that the wealth they create therefore belongs to society, and can be taken away from them in whatever amount the state thinks fit. We are, in other words, subordinating the individual to the collective. Even if that achieves a desirable social goal, it is still a morally problematic endeavour.

    Even if you think of it as an investment?

    We pool our money together to get the beggars off the street??

    We pool our money together to prevent people from becoming so poor they start considering pickpocketing and mugging?

    We pool our money together to make sure no talent goes to waste?

    Get the entire concept of “the state” out of your head when it comes to taxes. You are the boss, and the Prime Minister is your employee. He’s the CEO of the company you own.

    And for the record, I don’t care if the rich get ever richer. If Bill Gates finds it fun to be a trillionnaire, let him. I just care if the poor get richer.

    China abolished the bourgeoisie. Sweden abolished the proletariat. Sweden won, bigtime.

    A 90% marginal tax rate, for instance, would clearly exceed the amount that a person can legitimately “owe” his or her society.

    Andrew Carnegie still came out ahead, didn’t he.

  178. #178 David Marjanovi?
    January 15, 2010

    There should, indeed, be a maximum as well as a minimum income, with everything above that taxed at 100%.

    Why?

  179. #179 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    Matt Penfold asked Walton :

    Have you ever stopped and considered why people in the City of London, and other financial centres, get paid so much ?

    The straightforward answer to this question is because financial services entities make so much profit.

    Did you know that until the 1980s, financial services businesses reaped a bit less than 10% of all profits of all businesses. In 2007, that ratio was as high as 46% !

    Let that just sink in for a while : banks and other financial institutions made about as much profit in 2007 as ALL other businesses combined (from McDonald’s to Boeing to Microsoft to Walmart to the small Pap’and Mom’ shop around the corner). In 2008 of course, they made more losses than all other businesses combined, but that got spread onto the tax payer.

    Walton answered :

    I don’t know the answer to that, but it is irrelevant. It’s not my business to tell a private corporation how it should pay its staff; it’s a matter for that company’s directors and shareholders, in negotiation with its employees. There is no reason why I, or society as a whole, should have a say, since it’s not our money which is being spent.

    This is so stupid an answer on multiple degrees. Walton, this really shows how your dogmatic free-market ideology gravely damages your thinking abilities.

    First, to say it’s “irrelevant” is unbelievably moronic : you don’t even try to ask yourself the question why they have managed to reap so much profits. It doesn’t interest you ?

    Banks and other financial institutions are granted a very unique right by us, the community : that of creating money through fractional reserve banking.
    Each time a bank or other financial institution issues a loan (whether to buy a house, or on your credit card, or to a hedge fund to gamble on the markets), it creates money, and makes a profit from this activity via the interest paid by the borrower.

    Now you might say that it is normal that it makes a profit from this, but as it us, the community, that grants this enitity the right to do this, we have also the right to regulate the level of profit they make from it.
    The only reason why profits from financial institutions have exploded over the last 30 years is because we let it happen via deregulation by lawmakers who are supposed to represent us, the people, and not the powerful financial lobbies.

    Whilst the total output of the economy (grossly measured by its GDP) was growing at an average rate of 3.5% per annum, the amount of loans outstanding (total debt) was growing at a rate of 10% per annum. Now obviously, if you have the output of the economy doubling every 20 years, and the debt, on which financial institutions make a profit, doubling every 7 years only, it is clear that the profits made by banks is going to explode relative to the overall economy.

    So not only do financial institutions make undue profits solely because we let that happen, but also we, the community, bail them out when their losses are so huge that they can bring the overall economy to a stand still : they are literally taking society for hostage, and we will not be free from those chains until we push our lawmakers to change this amoral system.

    For you to say that it is not relevant just shows how brainwashed you have been by the banking lobby. Unfortunately, you are not alone.

  180. #180 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    David Marjanovi?@178,

    Because of the evil effects of economic inequality.

  181. #181 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    Get the entire concept of “the state” out of your head when it comes to taxes. You are the boss, and the Prime Minister is your employee. He’s the CEO of the company you own.

    Except that, if I’m not satisfied with the company, I can’t choose to sell my shares and opt out. I can, of course, attempt to migrate to another state (though this depends on other countries’ immigration laws), but I can’t choose to opt out of the control of states altogether.* And the state, unlike a company, also has the power to imprison me (and, in the case of many countries, to kill me) if I don’t comply with its commands. So that analogy really doesn’t work very well.

    (*Note: I’m not saying that a person should be able to opt out of the control of states. I’m just pointing out that the state – being, fundamentally, a coercive entity – is different in character from a private corporation.)

    I agree, though, that the state does have a fiscal responsibility to its taxpayers which is analogous to the fiscal responsibility a company owes to its shareholders.

    And for the record, I don’t care if the rich get ever richer. If Bill Gates finds it fun to be a trillionnaire, let him. I just care if the poor get richer.

    I completely agree. Indeed, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying. But Knockgoats seems to think it’s somehow evil or harmful for the rich to be rich, whether or not it impacts adversely on the poor.

    A rising tide lifts all boats. In my view, the important thing is to encourage maximum economic growth, so that everyone – poor and rich alike – gets richer. This has worked for Western society for some time (and has also been immensely successful in several non-Western countries, like Taiwan and South Korea). The only problem with this formula is the danger of running out of environmental resources, which is why I do believe that governments have an essential role to play in environmental protection and resource management.

  182. #182 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    And for the record, I don’t care if the rich get ever richer. If Bill Gates finds it fun to be a trillionnaire, let him. – David Marjanovi?, OM

    Great inequalities of wealth cause great inequalities of power, specifically the power to undermine democracy. Hence they are a great evil in themselves. Of course, Walton wants the rich to have the power to entrench their position. Do you?

    Cancer survival rates depend to some degree on the sheer amount of available money (for research and expensive apparatuses).

    They also depend, in a purely statistical fashion, on early diagnosis. Suppose a disease for which there is absolutely no useful treatment is diagnosed earlier in one country than another. Since survival rates are measured as proportion surviving x years from diagnosis, that country will appear to be doing better.

  183. #183 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    Knockgoats, let me try and understand your argument. You seem to be saying that it is inherently harmful for some people to be substantially richer than others, regardless of the absolute material wealth of the people involved.

    So, on your view: let’s say Jane and her neighbour John, two average citizens – salespeople, let’s say – are both earning $40,000 a year. Suddenly, Jane gets a lucrative new job, and increases her income to $120,000 a year. John is still earning $40,000 a year. In material terms, John has lost absolutely nothing; he has the exact same amount of disposable income, and the same living standard, that he had before. But you seem to be arguing that he is worse off, on some level, simply because Jane has become richer.

    I realise this is a microcosmic view, and that you’re talking about this trend on a societal level rather than between individual people. But societies are made up of individual people; and so, if you’re arguing that people like John become worse off simply because their neighbours have become richer, there must be some reason, whether material or psychological, for this.

    Of course, it’s possible that John does see himself as worse off. Perhaps he’s envious of Jane’s new wealth. Perhaps he sees himself as more competent than Jane, and believes he should be earning more money than her. Perhaps he’s a misogynist, and doesn’t like the idea that a woman can be more successful than he is. But none of these are legitimate reasons to take money away from Jane, simply to keep John happy.

    You say that more equal societies do better in a number of respects, such as health statistics and levels of happiness. But this may well be a correlation-cause confusion; there may be a number of characteristics common to societies which are both successful and equal. If you want to argue that inequality actually causes harm to people, you need to posit some sort of causal mechanism. You need to explain how John is actually harmed by the fact that Jane is suddenly earning more than him. And if it’s just envy or jealousy on the part of John, then I don’t see that this is a legitimate reason to deprive Jane of her earnings.

  184. #184 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Knockgoats seems to think it’s somehow evil or harmful for the rich to be rich, whether or not it impacts adversely on the poor. – Walton

    Since there is abundant evidence that it does (and not only the poor: the effects apply far up the socio-economic scale), to which I have many times referred you, this is simply dishonest.

    In my view, the important thing is to encourage maximum economic growth, so that everyone – poor and rich alike – gets richer. This has worked for Western society for some time

    Another lie: both redistributive taxation and trade union power were essential to reducing extreme poverty in rich countries: those in which these operated to the greatest extent have come nearest to eliminating it.

  185. #185 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Walton, stop being so fucking dishonest. I have laid out the essence of the argument so many times even I am tired of it: economic inequality increases insecurity, increases inequalities of power, decreases social solidarity, and hence leads to multiple social pathologies. Your stupid attempt to reduce this to “John and Jane” is contemptible. Read the fucking evidence and respond to that in detail or shut the fuck up.

  186. #186 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    And for the record, I don’t care if the rich get ever richer. If Bill Gates finds it fun to be a trillionnaire, let him. I just care if the poor get richer.

    When resources are constrained, this doesn’t work anymore.
    Within a decade or two, there simply isn’t going to be enough petrol left for each and everyone to consume as much as they’d like. Then the question will be, why should we allow the billionaire to consume so much oil with his yacht or his personal jet when there isn’t enough for everybody ?

  187. #187 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Incidentally, having The Spirit Level in front of me, I can confirm that infant mortality does correlate positively with income inequality across US states as well as across countries.

  188. #188 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    Walton,

    In my view, the important thing is to encourage maximum economic growth, so that everyone – poor and rich alike – gets richer. This has worked for Western society for some time

    If we continue with 3.5% growth per year (as we have in the past decades) for a hundred year, we’ll end up consuming 16 times more resources as we do today.

    Walton, do you REALLY think this is not going to be a problem ?

    What has worked in the past (to a certain extent), will not work in the future. To assume that it will will only lead to wars, misery and desolation.

  189. #189 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Another incidentally: since publication of the book, Wilkinson and Pickett have found that number of patents per capita is higher in (rich) countries with less income inequality.

  190. #190 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    …economic inequality increases insecurity…

    How? How does it make me “insecure” to know that other people are richer than I am?

    …increases inequalities of power…

    Inequalities of power are a fact of life, both under a capitalist and a socialist system. You’re quite right that there is a close link between wealth and power. In a capitalist system, therefore, the largest corporations – especially those with monopolistic control of an industry – enjoy considerable power. Hence why I’m in favour of competition laws to prevent one company dominating a vital market – Tesco in the UK has too much control of the food industry, for instance – and anti-lobbying laws to limit the influence of large businesses in the political process.

    Conversely, in a socialist system, wealth is controlled effectively by state officials, who manage the nationalised industries and decide how to distribute tax funds; as such, the state officials are the ones who monopolise power. It is no answer to this to say that the state officials “work for the people” through democracy, since, as you well know, the people who control the wealth and power in any society also have considerable influence over the political agenda and public discourse.

    …decreases social solidarity…

    Explain to me what “social solidarity” means. If it means “concern with the welfare of others”, then there’s plenty of that in unequal capitalist societies; Americans are far more generous per capita, in terms of private charitable giving, than their counterparts in most other nations.

    …and hence leads to multiple social pathologies.

    Prove to me that it leads to those pathologies. The unequal societies you have cited mostly have other problems which go some way towards explaining their various social ills. For instance, many of the problems in the American Deep South can be ascribed to the history of racism and racial conflict, and to the prevailing conservative religious culture. Ditto for other highly unequal societies, such as South Africa with its history of racism and violent conflict.

    Conversely, among the societies which you cite as more equal and more successful, there are other factors at work for which you cannot control; culture and social norms, in particular, are likely to play a large part in the prevalence or otherwise of social ills. I would speculate that more liberal societies, where conservative religion is less prevalent and where diversity and difference are more accepted, tend to be happier. (This could certainly explain the relative success of Scandinavia and of the north-eastern American states.)

    And how about Singapore? It’s a strange combination – highly unequal in economic terms, and extremely authoritarian on social issues. Yet it has among the best health statistics in the world, including a high life expectancy and low infant mortality rates, and a very successful economy. (Note: I’m not praising Singapore. A friend of mine who’s been there says that the level of state surveillance and authoritarianism is very scary, and it’s certainly not somewhere I would ever want to live. But it illustrates the falsehood of your thesis that inequality necessarily leads to social pathologies.)

  191. #191 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    If we continue with 3.5% growth per year (as we have in the past decades) for a hundred year, we’ll end up consuming 16 times more resources as we do today. – negentropyeater

    That’s probably an overstatement, since efficiency gains in the use of resources can reduce this to some extent – however, capitalism has never, anywhere, managed to stabilise, let alone reduce, resource use. In another way you’ve been understating the environmental case against inequality, since it’s already true that the rich use far more than their share of the planet’s ability to deal with waste products, notably greenhouse gases. Moreover, more equal countries recycle a higher proportion of their waste (guess my source).

  192. #192 David Marjanovi?
    January 16, 2010

    Because of the evil effects of economic inequality.

    Except that, if I’m not satisfied with the company, I can’t choose to sell my shares and opt out. I can, of course, attempt to migrate to another state

    There’s that, and there’s the fact that you can influence the laws of the state you live in.

    A rising tide lifts all boats.

    Except those with holes!

    First make sure that all holes are repaired. Then raise the tide. Otherwise you’re drowning people.

    This has worked for Western society for some time

    Many Western countries introduced a social safety net in the early to middle stages of industrialization, in the late 19th century. Without this, the German “economy miracle” of the 1950s would have left tens of millions of people poor and uninsured, as happened in the USA.

    Great inequalities of wealth cause great inequalities of power, specifically the power to undermine democracy.

    I haven’t studied this kind of thing, but I imagine it depends on a couple of things, such as:

    • The absolute levels on which this is happening. If the lower end of the scale consists of people so poor they can’t save money because they have to spend it on food, those people are going to be run over. If the lower end of the scale consists of a Western middle class (excluding the US middle class which is up to an NBA player’s neck in debt), how much can the rich do?
    • Theory and practice of the law and its enforcement. If lobbyism is easy, as in the USA, the parliament will be bought by the richest people, little matter how much richer they are than the poorest. If not…

    I do get the impression that Walton has neglected all these issues. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be circumstances under which being ludicrously rich is harmless.

  193. #193 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 16, 2010

    Walton, Ever hear of Willie Sutton over there on the other side of the pond? Willie was a bank robber back during the Great Depression. One time somebody asked him, “Why do you rob banks?” Willie replied, “‘Cause that’s where the money is.”

    The entire economy is like that–it produces to meet demand where there is the means to purchase, and that means it concentrates on producing what is in demand by those who have money. It only makes sense. If you are going into business, you want to aim where the money is. If you are lending money to someone starting a business, you want to know that’s where they are aiming.
    The result is that even in a society like the US where the poor have substantially more purchasing power than even the middle class in a poor country, the poor wind up being neglected. This is why there are no grocery stores in poor areas of cities and why small, agricultural towns in America are dying. Everyone wants to have their businesses where they can serve the yuppies in their McMansions in the exurbs.

    So, yes, great disparities of wealth tend to distort the economy in a way that is most unhealthy for the anyone in the lower quartile. What is more, it is very difficult to do something about it, as politicians also tend to go where the money is. This is why an increasing part of the tax burden has fallen on the upper middle class than on the super-rich. Ultimately, the upper middle income folks also revolt and voila, you see the decaying infrastructure, soaring debt and refusal to address fiscal policy that now characterizes US politics.

  194. #194 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    David Marjanovi?,

    If the lower end of the scale consists of a Western middle class (excluding the US middle class which is up to an NBA player’s neck in debt), how much can the rich do?

    Buy up the mass media. Hire the best lawyers. Corner markets. Fund front organisations such as “think tanks”. Threaten to move their assets abroad, or actually do so. Sit on the boards of each others’ companies and wave through vast pay rises and bonuses for the top layer. And that’s without any actual corruption as legally defined. The US is far from alone in seeing vast increases in inequality, and many of the social pathologies that go with it (burdensome debt included), over the last three decades. This has been a highly successful class war by the rich on the rest of us.

  195. #195 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    If we continue with 3.5% growth per year (as we have in the past decades) for a hundred year, we’ll end up consuming 16 times more resources as we do today

    Not really an interesting argument, since finite resources being depleted at a fixed rate can only last for finite time, with or without social inequality.

    I have laid out the essence of the argument so many times even I am tired of it: economic inequality increases insecurity, increases inequalities of power, decreases social solidarity, and hence leads to multiple social pathologies.

    “Insecurity” over wealth is about as indefensible as “insecurity” over homosexuals. “Inequalities of power” is unfortunate, but it is possible in principle that this could be brought under control, and nothing in your analysis suggests otherwise. Loss of “social solidarity” — well, you could say that about the partitioning of society into any arbitrary or non-arbitrary groups.

  196. #196 David Marjanovi?
    January 16, 2010

    Within a decade or two, there simply isn’t going to be enough petrol left for each and everyone to consume as much as they’d like.

    Then either billions of people will die, because petrol fuels most of modern agriculture.

    Or we’ll find some kind of replacement(s) (together with ways of saving energy), and the solar barons will get rich or whoever.

    Rationing oil is a completely different question from letting Scrooge McDuck build a money bin.

    Conversely, in a socialist system

    <sigh>

    This is a continuous variable. Stop treating it as a discrete one.

    Americans are far more generous per capita, in terms of private charitable giving, than their counterparts in most other nations.

    Fat lot of good that does. Have a look at the endless thread: Lynna just had a transient ischemic attack and says she’s very lucky she doesn’t seem to have any lasting damages, so she doesn’t need to spend thousands of dollars she doesn’t have on an ER. Has no health insurance, can’t afford it.

    This is negligent manslaughter, Walton, and it can only be prevented at the societal level. Individual generosity is completely useless.

    Prove to me that it leads to those pathologies.

    I think it’s a vicious circle.

    capitalism has never, anywhere, managed to stabilise, let alone reduce, resource use

    Capitalism is like natural selection: it can lead to astoundingly efficient solutions, but it has no foresight, and people die in the process. Best used in moderation. :-)

  197. #197 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    That’s probably an overstatement, since efficiency gains in the use of resources can reduce this to some extent

    Yeah, but we most certainly won’t achieve decoupling between economic growth and use of resource if we follow Walton’s preferred strategy, ie maximizing economic growth.

    So far, the only countries that have achieved some level of decoupling are the mixed economies of Western Europe and Japan, and that has been achieved with a great deal of government planification and command, at the cost of maximum economic growth.

  198. #198 David Marjanovi?
    January 16, 2010

    Buy up the mass media. […] Corner markets. Fund front organisations such as “think tanks”. Threaten to move their assets abroad, or actually do so. Sit on the boards of each others’ companies and wave through vast pay rises and bonuses for the top layer.

    This is covered by my second point. Ideally at least.

    The part I cut out can be influenced by messing with how much the quality of a lawyer can influence a process. The education of judges comes to mind.

  199. #199 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    Not really an interesting argument, since finite resources being depleted at a fixed rate can only last for finite time, with or without social inequality.

    That wasn’t an argument for social equality, that was in response to Walton’s “what works is maximizing economic growth”.

  200. #200 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    That wasn’t an argument for social equality, that was in response to Walton’s “what works is maximizing economic growth”.

    My mistake. However, your reasoning, even still, seems incomplete. Are you proposing that we ration resources among not just ourselves, but future generations too? If so, how many future generations do you think there will be? (If there are infinitely many, and you wanted to share resources evenly, we would each be entitled to precisely zero resources.)

  201. #201 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 16, 2010

    Yawn, Hyperon is still an idjit troll. Nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. Some things never change.

  202. #202 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    If it means “concern with the welfare of others”, then there’s plenty of that in unequal capitalist societies; Americans are far more generous per capita, in terms of private charitable giving, than their counterparts in most other nations.

    That might have something to do with churches. In terms of foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, the US is actually below the world average.

  203. #203 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    Hyperon,

    I’m just saying that maximizing economic growth won’t work for much longer, as whatever government planification and regulation we put in place to use resources more efficiently will always go at the cost of economic growth.
    Be it a combination of rationing, higher taxes on critical resources, higher public investments on public transport systems or green electricity generating and distribution systems, waste recycling, localized production instead of centralized etc… all those are not conclusive for maximizing economic growth but should enable a more sustainable form of developement which is what we should be aiming for.

  204. #204 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    Negentropyeater,

    That sounds reasonable. In fact, it seems elementary that global warming itself is enough to prevent maximimum economic growth (in all nations that have some common sense). What does Walton think about this?

  205. #205 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    “Insecurity” over wealth is about as indefensible as “insecurity” over homosexuals. -Hypermoron

    No it isn’t, because of the clear evidence that inequality leads to social pathologies

    “Inequalities of power” is unfortunate, but it is possible in principle that this could be brought under control, and nothing in your analysis suggests otherwise.

    So fucking what. I know you don’t live in the real world, Htpermoron, but for those of us who do, what might be possible in principle is less important than what happens in practice.

    Loss of “social solidarity” — well, you could say that about the partitioning of society into any arbitrary or non-arbitrary groups.

    I see. So because you might die of a heart attack, cancer is nothing to worry about.

    How does it make me “insecure” to know that other people are richer than I am? – Walton

    Jesus wept. If society is more unequal, fear of slipping down the socio-economic scale is greater.

    Conversely, in a socialist system, wealth is controlled effectively by state officials

    All the societies W&P talk about are capitalist, you dishonest fuckwit.

    Explain to me what “social solidarity” means.

    The degree to which people trust each other, feel that others have similar concerns to them, can put themselves in each others’ shoes.

    Prove to me that it leads to those pathologies. – Walton

    Read the fucking evidence Walton, like I keep telling you. You won’t, because you’re a dishonest, cowardly ideologue. Income inequality is correlated with multiple social pathologies, across both countries and US states, there are plausible mechanisms which I have outlined, and many of the social pathologies have also increased as inequality has increased. Moreover, only those health and social problems which have an intra-societal social gradient (i.e. being more common among the poor) correlate with inequality levels across societies. The evidence overall is about a s strong as you can get in social science. You won’t accept it simply because it contradicts your vile ideology.

    culture and social norms, in particular, are likely to play a large part in the prevalence or otherwise of social ills. I would speculate that more liberal societies, where conservative religion is less prevalent and where diversity and difference are more accepted, tend to be happier.

    Just how stupid are you able to be when it suits you, Walton? Do you really think culture and social norms are unaffected by the degree of income inequality? More unequal societies are also more religiously conservative.

    And how about Singapore?

    Read the fucking evidence, Walton, read the fucking evidence. Singapore does badly on: trust, life expectancy, and rates of imprisonment; the only other measure on which W&P had figures was violence, where it is about at the median (it has very strict gun control laws).

  206. #206 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 16, 2010

    Walton #181

    I’m just pointing out that the state – being, fundamentally, a coercive entity – is different in character from a private corporation.

    Walton, if you remember, I’ve already shown that corporations are more coercive than governments.

  207. #207 Feynmaniac
    January 16, 2010

    Walton,

    Inequalities of power are a fact of life, both under a capitalist and a socialist system.

    Yes, but at least one tries to minimize it.

    It is no answer to this to say that the state officials “work for the people” through democracy, since, as you well know, the people who control the wealth and power in any society also have considerable influence over the political agenda and public discourse.

    It of course is by no means perfect, but it’s better than the corporate structure where business “works for the shareholders”. Employees are little better than serfs. They take orders, follow them, or are fired. Citing the fact that they chose to work like that is no answer since an individual employee has no leverage over a giant corporation and all games in town operate like this. The only real chose they had was accept this or be unemployed. Unions, which got together employees and gave them at least some say in where they work, were all but completely dismantled in the US.

  208. #208 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    More unequal societies are also more religiously conservative. – Me

    Footnote to this. Utah and Nebraska, which are both religiously conservative but have (for the US) low income inequality, do very well among US states. Inequality kills people, but of course the likes of Hypermoron and Walton don’t give a shit about that.

  209. #209 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    No it isn’t, because of the clear evidence that inequality leads to social pathologies

    At best, the evidence you refer to will establish a correlation between inequality and “social pathologies”. Trivially, correlation does not imply causation. I said “At best” because correlations in the opposite direction are at least as strong. For example, the Soviet Union and East Germany had far greater material equality than the West. Hunter-gatherer tribes have greater equality still, and yet in most such tribes the probability of death due to male violence is many times greater than in any modern society.

    I see. So because you might die of a heart attack, cancer is nothing to worry about.

    No, I’m just pointing out that lots of things (such as multiculturalism) might arguably undermine “social solidarity”. It’s a rather lame rationalization, in my opinion, and its presence here seems evocative of straw-grasping tactics.

    Inequality kills people, but of course the likes of Hypermoron and Walton don’t give a shit about that.

    A clear misrepresentation. I believe in minimum wage laws, a strong welfare state, public healthcare, and various other measures designed to counteract poverty, and I take it so does Walton. The issue here is whether inequality necessarily has deleterious causal effects.

  210. #210 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    For example, the Soviet Union and East Germany had far greater material equality than the West. Hunter-gatherer tribes have greater equality still, and yet in most such tribes the probability of death due to male violence is many times greater than in any modern society. – Hypermoron

    Those were much poorer and/or less technologically advanced societies. That’s why Wilkinson and Pickett make comparisons across rich societies, across which these health problems and social pathologies do not correlate with per capita income, but do correlate with inequality. Read the fucking evidence, Hypermoron, read the fucking evidence. Moreover, the former Soviet Union actually supports my case, as social pathologies soared and life expectancy crashed with the restoration of capitalism and consequent huge growth in economic inequality.

    It’s a rather lame rationalization, in my opinion

    Your opinion is worth precisely fuck-all since you are not only ignorant, but evidently determined to remain so.

    I believe in minimum wage laws, a strong welfare state, public healthcare, and various other measures designed to counteract poverty

    These measures, of course, together with the redistributive taxation necessary to pay for them, reduce inequality.

  211. #211 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 16, 2010

    What I’m about to write is simplistic but illustrates a point that Walton and the rest of us should consider.

    Among the direct causes of the French Revolution was a massive financial crisis caused by France’s enormous national debt, the government’s lavish spending, and an archaic system of taxation. The tax burden was primarily on the Third Estate (essentially the bourgeoisie), while virtually ignoring the First Estate (the clergy) and the Second Estate (the nobility). Successive attempts at reforming the system had proven fruitless in the face of opposition from the First and Second Estates.

    Supposedly the First Estate was tax free because they were providing for the country’s spiritual needs. The Second Estate was supposed to provide defense of the realm. In medieval times the king would call on the nobility to provide soldiers. The nobles had to recruit or conscript the men, arm them, feed them, and otherwise support them. So at one time the First Estate was paying taxes in kind rather than in money. By the middle of the 17th Century the French army was a Royal Army, with the national government doing the recruiting, arming, feeding, etc. of the soldiery. Nobles were officers in the army (in fact, only nobles could be officers) but were not otherwise providing any support for the army. This state of affairs was bitterly resented by the Third Estate, who saw themselves as supporting the First and Second Estates who weren’t doing anything in return.

    We are reaching a similar situation in the US and UK now. The governments have enormous debts and are running at a deficit. The Second Estate wealthy are actively resisting having more of the tax burden put on them. The populace is beginning to notice that things like Ross Perot paying less income tax than his secretary and is starting to resent this.

    Unless this situation changes, there’s likely to be a backlash. I don’t know how this backlash will show itself, but I definitely see signs that it’s building.

  212. #212 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    The issue here is whether inequality necessarily has deleterious causal effects. – Hypermoron

    No, it’s whether there is good evidence that it actually does so, so that policies designed to decrease inequality can be expected to reduce them. There is.

  213. #213 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    That’s why Wilkinson and Pickett make comparisons across rich societies, across which these health problems and social pathologies do not correlate with per capita income, but do correlate with inequality.

    Again, correlation does not imply causation. If the US adopted Sweden’s welfare system, public healthcare, and free education, then the pathologies you refer to would presumably be to a great extent curtailed. Presumably also, the US would retain over 300 billionaires, and thus high inequality. I’m inclined to believe that actual policies are what is important here, not nebulous abstractions such as “inequality”.

    . Moreover, the former Soviet Union actually supports my case, as social pathologies soared and life expectancy crashed with the restoration of capitalism and consequent huge growth in economic inequality.

    I don’t know enough about this to hold forth, but it seems suspect to me that amid the general chaos prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, “inequality” was the dominant cause of anguish.

  214. #214 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    I believe in minimum wage laws

    reduces profits to the owner of capital : reduces inequality

    a strong welfare state, public healthcare, and various other measures designed to counteract poverty

    how do you pay for it without increasing taxes on the wealthy ? reduces inequality

    The issue here is whether inequality necessarily has deleterious causal effects.

    Marie Antoinette also didn’t believe it…

  215. #215 https://me.yahoo.com/a/KtrH9g4llpHui8s2.0ezzjBOheU0WpQaoHA-#ab4e8
    January 16, 2010

    Hyperon,

    Why do you refuse to even consider the mountains of evidence which actually does exist right now?

    I’m far too busy to train you to think and have no great urge to do so but try this diagram.

    Now, the onus is on you to come up with a better explanation than the ones already offered to you. Or read a book, even.

  216. #216 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Hypermoron,

    Again, correlation does not imply causation.

    True, but when the correlation is found over two spatial scales, for multiple measures and over time as well as across countries, when other correlations that you might expect but which would not support the hypothesis do not show up, there are plausible causal mechanisms, and there are no viable competing explanations, it gets pretty convincing – certainly enough to justify policies aimed at reducing inequalities. Tell me, what evidence would be sufficient for you?

    I’m inclined to believe that actual policies are what is important here, not nebulous abstractions such as “inequality”.

    It’s not nebulous, fuckwit. It’s measured, after-tax income inequality. W&P say that they tried several ways of measuring this, all gave very similar results. Moreover, it doesn’t seem to matter how greater equality is achieved. Japan, which has low taxation levels and poor welfare provision but very low (comparatively) inequality in gross income, does very well, as do countries such as Sweden and Norway, with larger pre-tax differentials in income but highly redistributive taxation and welfare systems. So no, “actual policies” do not appear to be crucial.

    I don’t know enough about this to hold forth

    Then why not shut the fuck up until you do? Read the fucking evidence, Hypermoron, read the fucking evidence.

  217. #217 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    I don’t know enough about this to hold forth, but it seems suspect to me that amid the general chaos prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, “inequality” was the dominant cause of anguish.

    Not then, but the irrepressible growth of social inequality is clearly one of the most urgent problems facing Russian society today.

  218. #218 Hyperon
    January 16, 2010

    …and there are no viable competing explanations, it gets pretty convincing – certainly enough to justify policies aimed at reducing inequalities.

    I’ve already offered a “viable competing explanation”. It is plausible that minimum wage laws, welfare, education, and the availability of healthcare, bear direct causal relationships to the social pathologies you talk about. They are, in turn, correlated negatively with social inequality.

    It’s not nebulous, fuckwit. It’s measured, after-tax income inequality. W&P say that they tried several ways of measuring this, all gave very similar results.

    It’s nebulous if you use it at a common English word, without first mentioning the technical definition you have in mind, fuckwit. Are you talking about standard deviation, or range, or concentration of wealth in the top 1%, or what? Are these very different senses of inequality all equally reprehensible? If you’re not driven by a nebulous concept of inequality, what induces you to believe that the various disparate possible technical definitions are actually connected?

  219. #219 Knockgoats
    January 16, 2010

    Hypermoron,

    It is plausible that minimum wage laws, welfare, education, and the availability of healthcare, bear direct causal relationships to the social pathologies you talk about.

    AS I’ve noted, how inequality is reduced does not appear to matter. Moreover, the across-country differences apply across the entire socio-economic range, so far as this can be measured – i.e., even wealthy people in more unequal societies fare worse than their counterparts in less unequal ones. Again, as I’ve already noted, among the societies W&P look at, absolute levels of per capita wealth, which would be expected to affect the same things as the measures you mention, do not correlate with the social pathologies they look at.

    It’s nebulous if you use it at a common English word, without first mentioning the technical definition you have in mind, fuckwit.

    I have referred repeatedly to the source of my evidence, fuckwit. I have also repeatedly urged you to read the fucking evidence.

    If you’re not driven by a nebulous concept of inequality, what induces you to believe that the various disparate possible technical definitions are actually connected?

    As I have already said, fuckwit, Wilkinson and Pickett looked at several ways of measuring income inequality and found that the correlations were robust across all of them. Now, read the fucking evidence, or STFU. You can find some of it at The Equality Trust – as you would have found if you had googled the book title I gave above: The Spirit Level. My initial dispute was with Walton, whom I have referred to this book more times than I can count, and who should therefore be well aware that I was referring specifically to income inequality. I can’t be constantly repeating myself for fuckwits like you who won’t take any notice of evidence or argument anyway, as I know from previous experience with you here.

  220. #220 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    We are reaching a similar situation in the US and UK now. The governments have enormous debts and are running at a deficit. The Second Estate wealthy are actively resisting having more of the tax burden put on them. The populace is beginning to notice that things like Ross Perot paying less income tax than his secretary and is starting to resent this.

    I don’t get why people keep making assertions like this. As I understand it, in the US, the top 1% of income-earners contribute 25% of all tax revenues. The figures in the UK are similar. It’s the wealthy, not middle- or low-income earners, who contribute the lion’s share of government revenue.

    (There was a news story about this which I cited somewhere else, but I can’t find it at the moment.)

  221. #221 negentropyeater
    January 16, 2010

    Walton,

    please note that total federal income tax revenue represented in 2008 only 8.1% of US GDP when the total government (federal+state+municipality) expenditure represented close to 4 times that amount at 30% of GDP.

  222. #222 Jadehawk, OM
    January 16, 2010

    France, for instance, has serious racial tension and periodic riots, particularly in the Paris banlieue. There is a huge problem with racism, and with social and economic marginalisation of immigrant communities. The same is true in many other large European cities.

    and the U.S. is a racial paradise? whatever. Granted, it’s now LEGALLY less of a nightmare, but even that is only true, as someone else already said, because there was an organized popular movement to MAKE it more so, sparked by the abysmal racism of the pre-civil-rights era.

    The big difference, though, viz-a-viz penal policy, is that most European countries haven’t gone down the road of “dealing” with crime by locking everyone up indiscriminately. This is a policy which is very expensive and doesn’t work, yet the US seems determined to carry on with it, and the UK seems determined to follow in their footsteps. This is because both US and UK policymakers make the mistake of “listening to the people” on penal policy; and most of the public believe, thanks to the sensationalist media and their own general stupidity, that we are “under siege” from a rising tide of criminals and that they all need to be made to “suffer” with longer and tougher sentences.

    are you this dense on purpose? Other countries “listen to the people” about penal policy to the same degree as the US does. The difference being that certain societies have social dynamics conductive to scare-mongering campaigns about “them”, and certain other ones do not.

    Yes it is – a decisive factor, at any rate. I refer you once more to the copious empirical evidence that I know you will once again ignore out of ideological blindness: The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett. The many advantages of greater equality they demonstrate are shown across US states as well as across countries. Whether they had inter-state figures for infant mortality I can’t recall (I don’t have the book with me), but the correlation with inequality held between European countries as well as with the US.

    they do. The pattern holds. And the pattern holds in an international comparison even when you only look at European countries. There’s a strong correlation between infant mortality and inequality, both internationally and among U.S. states.

    And more to the point I was making in regard to the sort of society that can be scaremongered into the sort of clusterfuck-y penal policy the U.S. and now the U.K are pursuing, there’s also a strong correlation between inequality and trust (where trust here is defined as how trustworthy one thinks a stranger is); and societies with high trust levels, i.e. the most equal ones, usually have the most lenient penal systems, while the least trusting ones, i.e. the least equal ones, usually have the most pointlessly draconic ones. This is because in the least equal societies, “the other” is an enemy, a danger to one’s own health and wealth, and therefore needs to be kept away at all costs. And so, campaigns against candidates who are “weak on crime” work. They do not work like that in societies where “others” aren’t automatically considered a threat to ones livelihood.

    It’s not my business to tell a private corporation how it should pay its staff; it’s a matter for that company’s directors and shareholders, in negotiation with its employees. There is no reason why I, or society as a whole, should have a say, since it’s not our money which is being spent.

    please Walton, stop rambling and do as SC has told you many months ago and start learning a bit history befre you start spouting such bullshit. Specifically, in regard to that above quote, you should study the business practices and politics of the Gilded Age. Maybe then you’ll stop saying such completely idiotic, ignorant things.

    And life expectancy is affected by a range of factors, including diet, physical environment and the prevalence or otherwise of smoking, which are not within the direct control of government.

    and once again, your inability to look at societies as systems rears its head. didn’t we already establish in a previous thread that there is no walking infrastructure in the US? this is DIRECTLY under the control of government!
    In addition to that, diet, exercise, smoking and similar habits are not individual choices, but develop from the context of a society; in the case of the U.S. this would be a society that considers its poor invisible and lets them fight for their well-being by themselves, thus resulting in food-deserts, shitty infrastructure, high-stress levels (thus smoking, in many cases), etc.

    These things you listed are consequences of an unhealthy, unequal society that isn’t invested in the well-being of all its members. You may not exclude them from an evaluation of a society’s health-status just because you don’t like them, and the government doesn’t have a direct, mandated influence over some of them.

    The US comes out very well on a number of metrics – survival rates for certain cancers, for instance

    now I know that you’re doing this on purpose. discussions of the “survival rate” metric are plenty on Pharyngula, but you have chosen to ignore them altogether. So I’ll tell you once more: survival rates are high because cancers are discovered so early, that those who will die from them will often die after the time period used to measure survival rates. what you want to be looking at are death rates, which show you how many people diagnosed with cancer die from it. and there, the U.S. does not look so good at all.

    But Knockgoats seems to think it’s somehow evil or harmful for the rich to be rich, whether or not it impacts adversely on the poor.

    liar. inequality’s bad effects on society as a whole, and the poor in particular, is well supported by evidence. So don’t fucking go around claiming he thinks it’s bad “whether or not it impacts adversely on the poor”, because it always does. Also, I’m fucking sick of the tide-phrase. It’s not only fucking stupid, it’s not even true within the saying itself. a rising tide does not lift all boats; only the ones on the half of the body of water that is having the rising tide; and there are no rising tides without ebbing tides on the other side. And amazingly enough, THAT is a very fitting metaphor for society.

    Walton, do you REALLY think this is not going to be a problem ?

    oh, he knows it’s a problem, he just doesn’t care. on the Endless Thread, he actually said he isn’t going to do shit about the social collapse he admits is more than likely. His sole “contribution” is not breeding.

    The absolute levels on which this is happening. If the lower end of the scale consists of people so poor they can’t save money because they have to spend it on food, those people are going to be run over. If the lower end of the scale consists of a Western middle class (excluding the US middle class which is up to an NBA player’s neck in debt), how much can the rich do?

    David, the debt-levels of Americans are a symptom of this disenfranchisement of people, not some strange exception to the rule. this disenfranchisement doesn’t happen precisely because Europe has systems that make it impossible to inequality to rise to American levels. If you ever have the time, read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s a relevation.

    What I’m about to write is simplistic but illustrates a point that Walton and the rest of us should consider.

    I love you :-)

    I’m inclined to believe that actual policies are what is important here, not nebulous abstractions such as “inequality”.

    and another moron who doesn’t understand societies as systems. The entrenched wealth inequalities are the reason the U.S. is not likely to have a functioning universal health-care system in the forseeable future, because the societal basis for it does not exist: there is no social solidarity, there’s fear of “the other” cheating you out of your wealth, there’s a fertile ground for scaremongering, etc.

  223. #223 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    Jadehawk, you might well be right. I don’t know. I don’t have enough direct experience of societies other than the UK; visiting a foreign country is not the same as living there, and subtle differences in socio-cultural attitudes are not always instantly easy to discern.

    But you seem to view a society’s health as a single whole. If I understand you correctly, you’re arguing that a “healthy” society is one with a generally community-oriented socio-cultural outlook, where citizens see themselves as responsible for one another’s welfare; that societies with this healthy social attitude tend to have more social welfare provision and relatively low levels of socio-economic inequality; and that this healthy social attitude also leads to less fear of crime, and less demand for harsh/punitive penal measures. Thus, on this view, the problems in the US and UK with populist punitivism, and with the consequent stupidity in penal policy, cannot be separated from the underlying inequality and the individualistic, self-centred social attitudes prevailing in those societies.

    What I, as a (sort of) libertarian, would like to do is to separate these factors from one another. I want an individualistic society, where people are free to compete and to keep the proceeds of their own gain. Yet I also want a society which is broadly liberal in its socio-cultural outlook, which respects the right of citizens to live how they choose, and that doesn’t see “deviant” behaviour as something to be met with punitive force. In other words (to put it very crudely), I want a society with both “European-style” social freedom and “American-style” economic freedom. This is why I would view my outlook as neither left-wing nor right-wing.

    You seem to be saying, however, that this is not possible, and that a healthy, liberal and tolerant society cannot be achieved without greater socio-economic equality. For obvious reasons, I hope that this is not true – since it would mean that my entire political ideology is simply a fantasy. It would also mean that there are only two real political ideologies – those who support greater social equality, and those who don’t – and that a realistic person must choose between one or the other.

  224. #224 Jadehawk, OM
    January 16, 2010

    What I, as a (sort of) libertarian, would like to do is to separate these factors from one another. I want an individualistic society, where people are free to compete and to keep the proceeds of their own gain.

    IOW, you want to genetically re-engineer humans to stop being a social animal. got it.

    and no, I don’t view society as a “single whole”; it’s a system, not a single anything.

    In other words (to put it very crudely), I want a society with both “European-style” social freedom and “American-style” economic freedom. This is why I would view my outlook as neither left-wing nor right-wing.

    You seem to be saying, however, that this is not possible, and that a healthy, liberal and tolerant society cannot be achieved without greater socio-economic equality. For obvious reasons, I hope that this is not true – since it would mean that my entire political ideology is simply a fantasy. It would also mean that there are only two real political ideologies – those who support greater social equality, and those who don’t – and that a realistic person must choose between one or the other.

    this is quite literally wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. you’re ignorant and/or naive if you think that your political ideology is NOT a complete fantasy. For that matter, most all ideologies are by definition fantasies of sorts. I’m far more pragmatically interested in actual human well-being to care much for ideologies.

  225. #225 Walton
    January 16, 2010

    Jadehawk, I apologise for the fact that my last couple of posts didn’t make much sense. I’m not thinking straight this evening, for some reason.

  226. #226 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 17, 2010

    Walton #220

    As I understand it, in the US, the top 1% of income-earners contribute 25% of all tax revenues. The figures in the UK are similar.

    In 2007, the last year I could find numbers for, the top 5% of US income earners paid over half of the federal income tax revenue. The top 1% of income earners paid 25% of the total income tax revenue. However, did you notice two words in those two sentences? They were income earners. The top 10% of income earners make $110,000 or more per annum. The top 5% had incomes of $165,000 or more. The top The top 1% had incomes exceeding $250,000.

    What you’re ignoring is that the truly wealthy aren’t income earners. Rather their wealth comes from capital gains. Do you know what the US tax rate is for capital gains? It’s zero. So Bill Gates makes over a billion dollars per year but, since it’s not salary but capital gains, he pays no tax on that billion plus. Ross Perot, with a net worth estimated at $5 billion, pays less tax than his secretary, whose principal source of income is a salary.

    It’s the wealthy, not middle- or low-income earners, who contribute the lion’s share of government revenue.

    In the US the upper middle class (a group I fall into) has the highest tax burden.

  227. #227 https://me.yahoo.com/a/KtrH9g4llpHui8s2.0ezzjBOheU0WpQaoHA-#ab4e8
    January 17, 2010

    Walton,

    All these percentages and deciles and whatever can only take you so far. They are numbers attempting to categorise life rather than being real life as actually experienced.

    Take me, for instance. I live comfortably on two thirds of my country’s median income but only because while at work I was able to assemble enough bed linen, cutlery and other boring necessities to last at least another decade, probably longer. Not everyone manages to do that, sometimes from generation to generation.

    At the same time I am in the top 5% of income if we look only at pensioners!

    No one figure could possibly explain a life, not even if you cared how real people actually live and I am beginning to believe either that you have been on the KoolAid again over the break or that, in truth, you don’t give a damn about anyone but yourself.

  228. #228 Mr Cooke
    January 17, 2010

    GLENN BECK

    RUSH LIMBAUGH

    You’re Next.

  229. #229 Walton
    January 17, 2010

    ‘Tis Himself,

    If I understand it correctly, the US does have a federal capital gains tax; however, since 2003, “long-term” capital gains (those arising from assets held for one year or more) are taxed at a lower rate of 15%, rather than at ordinary income tax rates. But I recall reading that this provision is set to expire relatively soon (having been extended once in 2006), after which capital gains tax will be charged at a higher rate.

    But obviously the very wealthy tend to pay very little tax anywhere in any case, since they tend to have the resources and expertise to move their money to offshore tax havens. I therefore wasn’t talking about the likes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, but about the much larger number of people who are substantially wealthier than average but not super-rich (say, those with incomes exceeding US$150,000 per annum).

  230. #230 Knockgoats
    January 17, 2010

    Walton,

    You seem to be saying, however, that this is not possible, and that a healthy, liberal and tolerant society cannot be achieved without greater socio-economic equality.

    Exactly; very well put; and the evidence for this is freely available – you know where.

    For obvious reasons, I hope that this is not true – since it would mean that my entire political ideology is simply a fantasy.

    Of course it is. Although in anger I sometimes accuse you of various evils, in my calmer moments I regard you as a young man in love with an absurdly idealised and completely unscrupulous mistress (in the chivalric sense) who has no interest in you other than what she can get out of your naivete, and will certainly not provide as much as a satisfying fuck, let alone return your love. In your case, that mistress happens to be Ms. Free Market.

    It would also mean that there are only two real political ideologies – those who support greater social equality, and those who don’t – and that a realistic person must choose between one or the other.

    No, that’s an exaggeration. To speak only of those who do support greater socio-economic equality, there are certainly left authoritarians, whom I oppose as fervently as I do the right – as you’ll have noticed on the rare occasions some Maoist loony has turned up here. Even among what could be called the broadly libertarian left, there are liberals, democratic socialists and anarchists.

  231. #231 Walton
    January 17, 2010

    Knockgoats,

    Of course it is. Although in anger I sometimes accuse you of various evils, in my calmer moments I regard you as a young man in love with an absurdly idealised and completely unscrupulous mistress (in the chivalric sense) who has no interest in you other than what she can get out of your naivete, and will certainly not provide as much as a satisfying fuck, let alone return your love. In your case, that mistress happens to be Ms. Free Market.

    That’s a rather odd metaphor. Insofar as it’s appropriate to anthropomorphise “the free market”, I’d say that I owe the free market a lot. In material terms, I have a much more comfortable and prosperous life than the vast majority of my ancestors (as do you, and most of the other people reading this thread). This is due, in large measure (though certainly not in its entirety), to the fact that global capitalism provides a plentiful supply of cheap consumer goods.

    No, that’s an exaggeration. To speak only of those who do support greater socio-economic equality, there are certainly left authoritarians, whom I oppose as fervently as I do the right – as you’ll have noticed on the rare occasions some Maoist loony has turned up here. Even among what could be called the broadly libertarian left, there are liberals, democratic socialists and anarchists.

    Yes. But what I was referring to is the claim of orthodox libertarianism to be “beyond left and right”, and to advocate social goals which combine traditionally “left-wing” and traditionally “right-wing” elements. If I understand you correctly, you think that this is a fantasy and that such a society is unattainable.

    But I would like to provide a counterexample: New Zealand. After a range of free-market reforms in the 1980s, it’s one of the more capitalist countries in the world. Unlike the US and EU, it doesn’t have agricultural subsidies (which, as you know, I strongly oppose; the EU CAP and the US farm bill are nothing more than legalised corruption). It’s prosperous in economic terms, and it is also, by all accounts, a relatively socially liberal and tolerant society. So it is possible to have a society which combines a free-market capitalist economy with social liberalism.

  232. #232 John Morales
    January 17, 2010

    Walton:

    In material terms, I have a much more comfortable and prosperous life than the vast majority of my ancestors (as do you, and most of the other people reading this thread). This is due, in large measure (though certainly not in its entirety), to the fact that global capitalism provides a plentiful supply of cheap consumer goods.

    Gotcha.
    Cheap consumer goods → comfortable and prosperous life.

    Social, medical and technological advances presumably account for that tiny measure not covered by cheap consumer goods.

    Oh, how much better my life would be with that automatic expresso machine!

    (sigh)

  233. #233 Walton
    January 17, 2010

    JM, I’m talking about things like refrigerators, ovens, central heating, computers, and the like; not to mention the availability of food and other products from around the world, all year round, thanks to sea and air transport. Yes, these are technological advances – and don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge supporter of science and technology – but it took consumer capitalism, and the profit motive, to make them available and affordable to the ordinary citizen.

    The Soviet Union had plenty of scientific and technological advances. But because the economy was controlled by the state, innovation was directed towards what the state wanted – that is, greater military might, more weapons, and projects for national glorification such as the space programme. The scientific ingenuity of the Soviet Union was not, therefore, reflected in improved living standards for its people. Compare this with the West’s consumer economy, and the number of technological innovations we now use and enjoy on a day-to-day basis.

  234. #234 David Marjanovi?
    January 17, 2010

    David, the debt-levels of Americans are a symptom of this disenfranchisement of people, not some strange exception to the rule. this disenfranchisement doesn’t happen precisely because Europe has systems that make it impossible to inequality to rise to American levels. If you ever have the time, read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s a relevation.

    I won’t get that time anytime soon. Could you summarize those systems in brief?

    If I understand you correctly, you’re arguing that a “healthy” society is one with a generally community-oriented socio-cultural outlook, where citizens see themselves as responsible for one another’s welfare

    Maybe she is arguing that (haven’t bothered to check that in detail), but that’s not even necessary. What’s necessary is that citizens recognize that what could happen to others could also happen to them. The ulterior motive for health insurance, taxes, the entire existence of a government at all is naked selfishness.

    Community? I don’t live in a community. I don’t even really have friends in meatspace. None of that is necessary to understand that an “I got mine, fuck you” attitude will get you fucked over sooner or later.

  235. #235 David Marjanovi?
    January 17, 2010

    Compare this with the West’s consumer economy, and the number of technological innovations we now use and enjoy on a day-to-day basis.

    Fine, but… is there anyone here who argues for a planned economy, or even for countries to possess things like steel-producing corporations (as Austria did up to the early 1990s)? As far as I can see, we’re only arguing about how free a few particular parts of the market should be.

  236. #236 Jadehawk, OM
    January 17, 2010

    But I would like to provide a counterexample: New Zealand.

    counterexample fail. NZ might look all pretty and sniny from halfway around the world, but in a comparison between Western European countries, Israel, Japan, Canada, the USA, Australia, and NZ on social health, NZ does in many ways just as shitty as the UK and US do:

    on the UNICEF index for child wellbeing, it scores 2nd worst, after the UK;

    it has the 4th largest percentage of individuals with mental illnesses (after Australia, the UK, and USA);

    2nd highest rate of drug use, after Australia (and tied with the UK);

    2nd worst (or worst, if you want to exclude the USA) infant mortality rate, tied with Portugal;

    3rd highest rate of teenage pregnancies, after the UK and the USA;

    4th highest rate of imprisonment (i.e prisoners per 100000), after Israel, Singapore, and the USA (IOW, the rates are WORSE than in the UK!)

    in total, if you combine various metrics for health and social problems, NZ comes in 5th, after Greece, the UK, Portugal, and the USA (and yes, that does mean NZ does averagely well in some other things not listed here right now)

    so yeah, it’s not precisely the paradise you’d like it to be. Not even in the context that started this discussion, i.e. imprisoning too many people.

  237. #237 Jadehawk, OM
    January 17, 2010

    Community? I don’t live in a community. I don’t even really have friends in meatspace. None of that is necessary to understand that an “I got mine, fuck you” attitude will get you fucked over sooner or later.

    Neither do I; that wasn’t the argument I was making. What I meant by community is simply that you don’t feel threatened by others; they’re not your enemy, just other members of the society you live in. They’re humans, like you.

    Here in the U.S.A., others ARE the enemy. Everybody is out to get you, you can’t trust anyone, and everybody is trying to cheat you out of something.

    Not a healthy way to think of the people you share the same geographical location with, and an impossible environment to enact any sort of social program (because someone, somewhere, might use your tax money to make their lives easier); it sometimes verges on the proverbial cutting your nose off to spite your face :-/

  238. #238 Walton
    January 18, 2010

    Jadehawk, I don’t really know whether you’re right or not regarding the difference between European and American social attitudes. I’ve never lived in continental Europe or the US; I’ve only lived in the UK, which is basically half-way in-between as far as socio-cultural outlook goes.

    FWIW, of the places I’ve visited in Europe, Austria and Switzerland seemed the nicest. But I realise that, as a tourist, I didn’t get real “experience” of what living in those countries is like.

    I think the real lesson here is that we all have things we can learn from other countries. On the one hand, many European countries have a much healthier and more sensible attitude to penal policy, drug use and social mores than the US. On the other hand, there are areas where the US is better:

    For example, most continental European countries have a centralised national police service which provides law enforcement across the nation. (Germany is an exception, since most policing there is provided at the state level; but it’s still more centralised than in the US.) By contrast, in the US, most policing is carried out by city police departments and county sheriffs which are under the control of local government, not the central government. Since an excessively powerful/efficient police force is inevitably a threat to liberty, it’s a lot healthier, IMO, to have 18,000 separate small police forces (as the US does) than to have one big centralised one.

    To put this in personal perspective: in Oxford, my local police force is “Thames Valley Police”. This polices several counties with several million inhabitants, and has a couple of thousand police officers. By contrast, Professor Myers’ local police is the Morris Police Department, which, according to their website, has seven officers and serves a population of about 6,000. He is also, of course, served by a county sheriff’s department, the Minnesota State Patrol, the FBI and a range of other law enforcement agencies; but this multiplicity of different agencies provides balance, since no one agency is able to take away his civil liberties on its own, and most of them are accountable to local politicians for whom he can vote. I think this is very important. My local police, by contrast, aren’t accountable to a mayor or sheriff who I can vote for, but to an unelected “police authority”.

  239. #239 Jadehawk, OM
    January 18, 2010

    Since an excessively powerful/efficient police force is inevitably a threat to liberty, it’s a lot healthier, IMO, to have 18,000 separate small police forces (as the US does) than to have one big centralised one.

    please tell me you didn’t mean it the way this sounds… because if you don’t think U.S. police is “excessively powerful/efficient”, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. Maybe you need to read Dispatches From The Culture Wars more often.

    This BTW has nothing to do with centralized vs. not (other than the speedtrap-towns and similar); just pointing out that that sounded really ignorant.

    As for the rest of that post… you rather effectively talked past every point I tried to make, but I can’t deal with that right now.

  240. #240 https://me.yahoo.com/a/KtrH9g4llpHui8s2.0ezzjBOheU0WpQaoHA-#ab4e8
    January 18, 2010

    David Marjanovi?,

    Here’s the Guardian’s review of Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimedworth reading at some stage.

    You stick with the thesis, though! We’re going to have some cyberparty when you get that double doctorate.

  241. #241 Walton
    January 18, 2010

    please tell me you didn’t mean it the way this sounds… because if you don’t think U.S. police is “excessively powerful/efficient”, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. Maybe you need to read Dispatches From The Culture Wars more often.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignorant of the fact that there’s plenty of abusive policing in the US, as there is in most countries.

    But my point is this. If Professor Myers is unsatisfied with the conduct of the Morris Police Department, he can complain to his local mayor and city council. If they don’t do anything about it, he can campaign to vote them out at the next election – and since he lives in a small community, his vote will really count. I, by contrast, can’t do this with Thames Valley Police – because they don’t report directly to local elected officials, and because they’re a massive force covering several counties.

    And on a macro-level, there’s also less risk of authoritarianism. Even the highly authoritarian Bush administration did not succeed in turning America into a police state – and not just because they were thwarted on occasion by the courts. The fact is that, however much a US President might want to exert control over the population, he simply doesn’t have enough law-enforcement personnel under his command to do so, since the vast majority of police in the US work for state or local authorities. (He has the US military, of course; but the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits military personnel, except the Coast Guard, from being used for civilian law-enforcement duties.) The same considerations do not apply in the UK, or in any European country.

  242. #242 Stephen Wells
    January 18, 2010

    For pity’s sake, Walton, firstly have you considered what the nice friendly local Morris police department do as soon as the implications of any crime go beyond the confines of Morris itself? They have to deal with the state police or the FBI. Secondly, if you have actual (rather than theoretical) complaints about the Thames Valley Police go here:

    http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/contactus/contactus-complaint.htm

    You seriously need to actually spend some time in countries other than the UK; you have a tendency to complain about UK institutions by comparison to others of which you have no actual experience.

  243. #243 Walton
    January 18, 2010

    I don’t have any complaint about the Thames Valley Police; I’ve never had any involvement with the police at all. But if I did have such a complaint, there is no direct route of accountability. The Chief Constable is not elected, nor accountable directly to an elected body (only to an unelected Police Authority), and I can’t vote to fire her if I don’t approve of the way she’s doing her job.*

    It used to be better; until the 1960s, there were a much larger number of small police forces in England organised at the county and borough level (so there was an Oxford City Police, Oxfordshire Constabulary, and so on). But these were amalgamated in the name of “efficiency” and are now highly unaccountable to the public.

    (*I use the female pronoun because the current Thames Valley Chief Constable is a woman, Sara Thornton.)

  244. #244 Jadehawk, OM
    January 18, 2010

    I’m too ill to deal with this thread in depth, but I need to point out something else Walton doesn’t seem to grasp about police as it works in the U.S.

    Namely, that the localization of police control works as well as the localized control over education, especially when you are, for example, an atheist in the bible belt: i.e. not at all, and at great risk to your personal well-being.

    Personal example: boyfriend was stuck in jail over night for not having his insurance papers on him when driving (usually you’d get told to walk home at worst, usually they just make you confirm you have insurance by calling the insurance people and let you drive home with a minor fine); in the padded cell no less, because he had “that kind of look” to him *rolleyes*

    and it’s even worse in those small towns that operate as speedtrap extortion rackets, because then usually either the judge or the mayor, or both, are in on it; and then good luck trying to stop them from robbing random passersby.

  245. #245 Walton
    January 18, 2010

    Jadehawk, sorry to hear that you’re ill. Get well soon. :-)

  246. #246 God_is_real_you_idiots
    April 24, 2010

    I hate to say this but it needs to be said. You guys are a bunch of idiots. You don’t even know what it is your mocking. I guess all I can say is enjoy your 90 (benefit of the doubt) years on this earth…. cuz thats all you got… right? When you die you can blame Darwin for making such a dumb theory, or maybe blame yourself for being such suckers and believing it. either way, enjoy it. Id rather you forsake it but i know what the chances of that are. Why do you hate kent hovind so much anyways? in fact why do you hate so much in general? is this your idea of natural selection? the thought is laughable. here check out this site. it has quotes you might find useful: http://www.soulwinners.com.au/8.html

    One last thing before I go. just a good ol quote from a friend of yours. “Often a cold shudder has run through me and I have asked myself whether I may have devoted myself to a fantasy” (Darwin 299). That was Darwin speaking about his evolution THEORY. source: Charles Darwin. Life and Letters. 1887. vol. 2 p. 299

  247. #247 John Morales
    April 24, 2010

    God_is_real_says_idiot: Your hatred is noted and laughed at.

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