Saturday, June 20, 2009

Major trade decision coming up for the administration

The Steelworkers' union has succeeded in their petition to a US trade body to determine that Chinese tire exports are hurting our domestic tire industry. What remains is for President Obama to approve the request for relief, which would result in quotas and/or tarriffs on Chinese tires, or to reject it. Bush rejected all four such petitions that he received during his Presidency.

While this is a major decision, I don't see it as a particularly enlightening example of Obama's thinking on the issue, whichever way he comes down. We do not have a free trade agreement with China. China is a very protectionist nation and likely wouldn't be interested in the first place. While I am a big supporter of free trade, I believe it must be on the basis of mutual agreements with our trade partners. Since we don't have an agreement with China, I don't really think it makes Obama a protectionist if he grants the steelworkers' union relief and imposes tarriffs on Chinese tires.

Now if it was a complaint about Mexican tires, I'd be throwing a hissy fit on this blog.

The Osbourne decision

The Supreme Court recently ruled, 5-4, that a person in prison does not necessarily have a constitutional right to potentially expulcatory DNA evidence. The voting broke down along ideological lines, with the conservatives maintaining no constitutional right and the liberals dissenting.

Many liberal blogs are attacking the decision and taking a swipe at conservative jurisprudence in general as always favoring prosecution over defense, corporations over the little guy, etc.

Hate to say it, but it's true. But the solution isn't the one liberals favor: more liberal justices. While liberal judges are excellent on issues of criminal justice, and have established extremely important precedents on search and seizure, legal representation, and the rights of the accused, liberals have a big blind spot: they favor the powerful over the weak when the powerful is the government.

While this decision is troubling, it's not nearly as far-reaching as two cases decided in the last few years: Kelo and Raich:

The Kelo decision allowed state governments to take private land under eminent domain in order to transfer the land to another private party. An extremely broad reading of the "public use" clause. That case was also decided along ideological lines: the liberals plus Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, chose government power over individuals.

The Raich decision stated that the federal government could regulate medical marijuana use, even though the marijuana was not part of interstate commerce and was being grown only for personal use. This decision was handed down 6-3, with Scalia joining the liberal bloc and Kennedy. O'Connor and conservative justices Thomas and Rehnquist dissented. Another case of government being favored over the little guy, courtesy of liberal jurisprudence.

What we need are Alex Kozinski and Randy Barnett on SCOTUS. Glenn Reynolds and Douglas Ginsburg. Justices who will interpret the powers of the government narrowly, and the rights of the people expansively.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A theory of religion and morality

Liberals love to post studies about how religious people are more likely to get divorced, have kids out of wedlock, etc. Well, a new study now shows that girls who attended a religious school are more likely to have abortions than girls who did not.

But statistics have little meaning if you can't figure out the "why". Why do religous people tend to be less moral, assuming the statistics are correct?

First, you have to distinguish between different types of religion. I'm not talking about Christianity vs. Islam, or Judaism vs. Buddhism, but levels of religious devoutness. Lots of people go to church. Different churches have different levels of devoutness among the congregations. A mainstream Baptist church is going to have a different congregation than a born again church like Cavalry Chapel.

Here's my theory: it's all about the commitment in your beliefs, not necessarily what you believe. Atheists tend to be the least likely to be criminal, tend to be the most educated, yada yada. But although I can't back it up with statistics because no one has ever asked the right question, so are those Christians who are born again, who have freely chosen the faith and are motivated to live by it. You just can't compare someone who has a belief system based on what they were told to believe by their parents, and someone who considered the matter themselves and came to a certain conclusion.

So, to put this in the most offensive, non-PC way possible, those individuals who are nominally Christian or Jewish or whatever, who occasionally go to church and have a passing familiarity with the Bible, are the ones most likely to fall into moral decay. They don't have a set of morals because they probably don't really think about morals much. Spending time thinking about what you believe is inextricably linked to thinking about what constitutes moral behavior. If you've never given your religion any thought, you probably haven't given your morals much thought either. Very few people are born atheist. They arrive at atheism through a lot of soul-searching and thinking. Neither are people born into some of the less mainstream churches. They freely choose to abandon the sect of their parents and go to the new church, which they feel is more true to Scripture. A person who was born a Baptist or a Catholic and remains one without thinking much about what it all means or even whether it's valid given what they know about Scripture probably also hasn't thought about right and wrong much.

Atheists tend to have a very humanist perspective. They tend to have a firm moral grounding based on not doing harm to others, accepting differences, and recognizing that this life is all you get, so don't screw it up for yourself or other people.

Devout religious followers tend to have a firm moral grounding based on God's law(or whatever applies to their religion). As long as their beliefs about what God requires aren't nuts, which can happen with some religious fanatics, they will lead a moral life. Because they love and fear God.

But people who are not devout, who just practice churchianity or go to the synagogue primarily for social networking, what is their moral basis? They sorta believe in God, but it's not reflected in their actions because the belief isn't firm. They just fall into narcissism.

Now of course this doesn't mean that all soft religious believers are immoral. I think it just explains why members of mainstream denominations are more likely to fall into immorality than atheists or devout believers.

Everyone should subject their beliefs to rigorous analysis. that doesn't mean abandoning faith. You can't prove certain things, such as the existence of God. But if your pastor says one thing, and the Bible says another, you might be in the wrong church. And if you've never given it any thought, but just accept wrong teachings, then you probably also allow yourself to be convinced that lying, stealing, cheating, fornication, etc. are okay. After all, if your pastor says divorce is a-okay despite Jesus saying the exact opposite, then it doesn't take much at all for a friend to convince you that it's okay to snort cocaine.