User:JRSpriggs

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I am James Richard Spriggs of Kensington, Maryland USA. I am a mathematical logician with a Master's degree, specializing in Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory and ordinal notations. I am also interested in: physics (especially general relativity); economics (especially monetary policy); how society could be restructured in accordance with the Objectivist ethics; manga and anime; logic puzzles (including sudoku); science fiction; detective fiction; and Go (a board game popular in east asia). I collaborated on one paper with my faculty adviser (whose Erdős number is three). I have worked as a computer programmer in: Fortran, HP1000 assembly language, C, Basic, Prolog, G2, and Visual Basic.

Me at my computer

This user page has survived one attempt to delete it.

Recommended websites[edit]

Wikipe tan wearing a bikini by Kasuga39.svg

Non-contradiction[edit]

Contradictions do not exist in reality. If you reach a contradiction in your thinking, then you have made a mistake — either one of your premises is false or one of your inferences is invalid. You should try to identify and correct the error. If you fail to do so, then you may commit the same mistake again and thus the results of your reasoning will be unreliable. If you allow your thinking to degenerate in this way, then you might as well stop thinking and live as a brute animal.

No mercy, but karma[edit]

I believe in karma, that is, the law of cause and effect. Your actions have consequences which affect you. What goes around comes around. The chickens come home to roost. If you do good things (whether you know it or not, intend it or not), it will tend to benefit you. If you do bad things (whether you know it or not, intend it or not), it will tend to hurt you. The hard part is to figure out which acts are good and which are evil.

Karma needs no one's help to achieve its effects. And trying to shield another from them will only bring bad karma upon you. Lying creates bad karma. If telling the truth is unacceptable, then remain silent. Silence should not be interpreted as implying agreement, disagreement, or any other thing.

Laissez faire capitalism[edit]

A free economy based on private property tends to correct itself by the process of natural selection. Any attempt by a government planner to manage the economy will necessarily be misguided due to his limited knowledge and the destructive force necessary to attempt such management. Invariably the attempt will damage the economy and work against the interests of everyone including the intended beneficiaries.

All entitlement programs (obamacare, social security, medicare, medicaid, welfare, etc.) should be repealed immediately because they are: outside the proper functions of government, promoters of dependency, too costly, and unsustainable.

Government decision making[edit]

Officers and employees of the government should take care not to do anything which violates natural rights or is otherwise unethical, even if legally commanded to do so. Ethics takes precedence over positive law. It is better to resign one's position than to become an accomplice to official criminality.

Legislators should not support a bill which would harm an innocent person regardless of the benefits provided by the bill.

In elections for a single position (e.g. president, governor, mayor, attorney general), approval voting should be used to maximize the proportion of the voters who are satisfied with the result.

To improve government, we need to improve our elected officials. To improve our elected officials, we need to improve the voters. How do we select more rational voters? Possibilities include: making sure that they take their vote seriously by requiring that they pay a poll "tax"; and testing their intelligence, perhaps by seeing whether they can solve hard Sudoku problems with just paper and pencil.

The secret ballot should be abolished, it is an invitation to fraud and it tends to defeat the purpose of elections which is to get a transparent measure of the strength of the two sides without a civil war.

The Constitution should be amended to make it easier to repeal laws than to enact new ones.

Government financing[edit]

Governments with their agencies, officers, and employees should be judged by the same standards applied to private businesses and ordinary people. The same laws should apply to both.

Taxes are payments which are extorted from people by threatening to deprive them of their natural rights if they fail to pay. Taxes should be abolished. Instead government should be financed by voluntary user fees, that is, payments which are made as a condition for receiving a service from the government which it is not otherwise obliged to provide.

Taxes (which should be abolished) include: the personal income tax (including the alternative minimum tax, capital gains tax, etc.), the corporate income tax, the payroll tax (FICA and self-employment taxes which support Social Security), excise taxes (e.g. on gasoline and cigarettes), death taxes, gift taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes, business licensing fees (when a license is required to do business, which it should not be), tariffs on imported goods, etc.. In Europe and other places where it exists, the value added tax (VAT) should be abolished.

Permissible types of user fees include: tolls for driving on government owned roads, tuition for attending government owned schools (but truancy laws should be repealed), court costs when suing another, a poll "tax" for voting in a government election (like membership dues), a stamp "tax" for treating a contract as enforceable by the government (stamp applied to contract at signing), fees for connecting to government owned water or sewer systems, fees for any special police protection or investigation you request, etc..

The recent economic depression[edit]

The recent economic depression was caused by an over-burden of debt. To reduce that debt, we should: make large permanent cuts in the top marginal tax rates and simplify the tax code; stop the Fed from monetizing debts (either public or private) and instead monetize commodities and equities (see /Optimal monetary policy); greatly reduce government spending, especially by terminating most programs; and reduce regulation of businesses. The government should stop promoting housing and liquidate the housing GSEs. Allow free trade with other nations.

Contrary to popular belief, spending per se is not good for the economy. Spending is only good for the economy when the money is spent by the person who earned it in order to sustain or increase his ability to continue the productive activities which earned it. Other spending competes with such proper sending and thus harms the economy.

Applying ethics to law[edit]

Generally, we already have too many laws. New laws are almost never the solution. Usually when there is a problem, either nothing can be done at the governmental level to improve the situation or else the thing which can be done is to stop doing something which the government should not be doing. Anything constructive which can be done through government can also (and more effectively) be done through the private sector. Government's only advantage is its overwhelming brute force, which is only good for suppressing the initiation of force by others.

There are two things I look for in trying to formulate a public policy: (1) The policy should not foreclose any options from people who understand what they are attempting and are willing to accept the risks, provided that it does not directly injure any third party. (2) And it should not create a moral hazard by rewarding bad behavior or by punishing any harmless action or inaction.

Humanity continues to undergo Darwinian evolution which proceeds much faster than most people realize. This must be considered when predicting the effects of any policy.

The baseline (zero-level) from which the ethics of action should be measured is non-existence (death). So inaction is always neutral. Action which creates values (sustains or increases human life) is positive (good). Action which destroys values (tends to kill people) is negative (evil). See The Virtue of Selfishness.

A business firm or other property exists only for the benefit of its owner(s). Any direct benefit to another person is merely a side-effect to which he has no right without the owner's consent.

Rights: substantive and procedural[edit]

Rights may be divided into two categories: substantive and procedural.

Your substantive rights protect what is yours: you may not be killed; your body may not be damaged; your movement may not be obstructed except to prevent you from touching the person or property of another without his consent; your property may not be altered; and you may not be tricked into harming your interests. There are two kinds of exceptions: (1) you may consent to an action by another person which would otherwise violate your rights, if you believe that in doing so you will achieve a greater value; and (2) if you violate another person's rights or attempt to do so, then force may be used against you to compel you to cease and desist and to repair any damage you did.

Procedural rights (rights to due process) are summarized in the fourth through eighth amendments to the Constitution of the United States. These limit what the government can do to enforce the law in pursuit of exception (2) above. Contrary to what many people believe, the purpose of procedural rights is not to protect criminals (except from excessive punishment in the eighth amendment). The purpose of procedural rights is to protect innocent people who may be caught up in the legal system due to an accident, such as mistaken identity, or to malicious accusations by enemies or authorities just looking to close cases by any means.

All these rights protect non-citizens as well as citizens because the purpose of granting such rights applies equally to both. "One has rights not by virtue of being an American, but by virtue of being human." — Harry Binswanger.

In war or insurrection, some of these protections must be relaxed because the legal system may not be able to safely and effectively separate the guilty from the innocent when many people are violently opposing its actions. In particular, the right to a speedy trial (in the sixth amendment) may be set aside temporarily by an act of Congress suspending the writ of habeas corpus until the emergency has passed and the courts are able to function again. Similarly, injunctions against military activities may be disallowed in war or insurrection.

An improper procedural "right"[edit]

In the sixth amendment, it says "the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor". This sometimes requires the government to violate a potential witness's substantive rights. Thus it should be repealed. Neither the prosecution nor the defense should be able to force a person to testify against his will. However, a person who declines to testify should be disqualified from any position of public trust. Also, the common practice of forcing people to serve on juries violates their rights and should be stopped.

Confessions[edit]

Using confessions as direct evidence of guilt is problematic. Sometimes authorities extract confessions from innocent people using torture, trickery, or intimidation. Sometimes innocent people are moved to make false confessions by mental illness. Sometimes authorities twist an accused person's statements to mean something which he did not intend. Thus I would prefer that confessions not be used as direct evidence of guilt. A confession might properly be used to provide leads which could result in finding other evidence of guilt (if the person is actually guilty). Also a confession might be used to impeach the testimony of the defendant, if he chooses to testify and provided that the defense is given complete video tapes of all interrogation of the defendant to provide context for the confession.

Evaluating ways of cutting taxes[edit]

From the best way to cut taxes to the worst:

  • Repealing an entire tax.
  • Making the methods of collection or enforcement less harsh.
  • Removing a feature from the tax which adds to the amount, such as abolishing the alternative minimum tax or entirely excluding dividends from the individual income tax.
  • Reducing the marginal rate of taxation in the highest bracket.
  • Reducing the tax rate in lower brackets or shifting some taxpayers into lower brackets. Increasing the amount of the personal exemption or standard deduction.
  • Removing exclusions from deductions, such as removing the subtraction of a portion of one's gross income from the amount deductible as medical expenses.

Tax refunds are actually government spending. They should be replaced by treating the over-payment as part of one's tax payment for the next year. Then the tax-payer could reduce his withholding or his estimated tax payments.

Simplifying the legal code[edit]

The United States Code has become so long that it defies human comprehension. This is due, in part, to a ratchet effect in the legislative process. To break the ratchet and allow the law to be simplified, I suggest that to remain a law, a statute should have to have continuing support from both houses of congress. For example, the constitution could be amended as follows:

1. Without action by the Senate or the President, the House of Representatives may repeal any statute or portion of a statute.
2. Without action by the House of Representatives or the President, the Senate may repeal any statute or portion of a statute.
3. The repeal of a statute shall not be construed to re-enact any previous statute. When necessary and appropriate, common law shall apply.

Discrimination[edit]

Discrimination means making a distinction between one thing and another. "Discrimination" has come to have a bad connotation because it is usually used now to refer to invidious (irrational and unfair) discrimination between people. But rational discrimination is a necessity of life. Invidious discrimination is harmful to those who engage in it, and so it will tend to disappear naturally.

Congress passed laws against discrimination by private entities, justifying them as protecting the historically oppressed from invidious discrimination. However, these laws also restrict some rational discrimination. Further, it is not possible to force people to be rational. So the effect of these laws is harmful and they should be repealed.

Ironically, one cannot enforce the anti-discrimination laws without discriminating. How can one determine whether discrimination is occurring without classifying the affected people and comparing the proportions in each class of those receiving favored treatment with those receiving disfavored treatment?

Equality is not a value. Enforced equality is incompatible with: justice, freedom, prosperity, and even life itself. Equality is just a poor substitute for the principle that every action should serve a purpose.

Civil Rights Act of 1964[edit]

Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit private entities from engaging in discrimination in public accommodations and employment respectively. These parts of the act should be repealed. Although such discrimination is usually invidious, a person has the right to choose not to associate with another person even if his choice is irrational and unethical. Also Title VII has been used to blackmail businesses who have unbalanced work forces through no fault of their own.

Other issues[edit]

  • The political left desperately wants to get credit for having good intentions, but without the bother of actually doing good things.
  • When USG's debt is at or near the debt ceiling, war-related military spending, spending for programs which pay for themselves by earning revenue, and debt service should continue without delay and in full. All other authorized and appropriated spending should be delayed (in sequence) until sufficient additional revenue (beyond that needed for the above priorities) is available to fund it without borrowing beyond the debt ceiling. Congressmen should oppose any deal to increase the debt ceiling unless it includes language to implement these priorities and does not raise taxes.
  • Focusing on the national government's budget deficits is a mistake, because the deficit is merely the difference between spending and taxes, both of which are bad. Both spending and taxes should be reduced. Instead of a balanced budget amendment, the United States should adopt a cap on spending.
  • "Reform" is an ambiguous word, so do not use it.
  • The controlled substances act should be repealed so that people can buy any medicine (or addictive substance) without a prescription. Poisoning people without their knowledge and consent should still be illegal.
  • Any possible benefit from reducing global warming is far outweighed by the economic cost of the policies which would be necessary to achieve it. Government should not intervene in the production, distribution or use of energy whether from fossil fuels or otherwise. In particular, I oppose: "cap and trade", mileage requirements on automobiles, the ethanol mandate for gasoline, and limitations on off-shore oil drilling.
Limiting voluntary emissions of carbon into the atmosphere would not be effective, because wild fires will eventually allow any carbon stored in the biosphere to enter the atmosphere. Only restrictions on extraction of materials containing carbon (such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, peat, and limestone) from below what was the natural surface of the ground would be effective, for example, a tax on the amount of carbon extracted plus a tariff on importation of carbon from countries lacking such taxes.
  • Businesses should not be required to bargain with unions. Repeal the National Labor Relations Act. It is the responsibility of individual workers to avoid working under what they consider unfair conditions.
  • Laws restricting immigration should be repealed. Everyone has the right to live anywhere he pleases, so long as he respects the private property of other people. However, neither immigrants nor others should receive any subsidies from the government.
  • Abortion is self-defense, if the mother is unwilling to carry the child. Government should neither regulate nor subsidize such abortion. However, abortion forced upon the mother by a third party is murder of the unborn child.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an instrument of censorship and should be abolished. Network neutrality is a form of censorship. Freedom of expression belongs to those who own the resources used to express the ideas in question. So it is absurd to say that one person's freedom of expression requires forcing another to provide the means to do so.
  • The Transportation Security Administration should be abolished. Airlines should be free to establish their own policies on security — to search their passengers as a condition of being allowed to board the aircraft or to not search. The type of search would also be up to the airline. However, the airline should be liable for any injury suffered by third parties as a result of failure to adequately search their passengers.
  • The right of a person to defend himself and those he cares about should be respected. People should not have to depend on the police to protect them, especially since the courts have ruled that the police have no enforceable obligation to provide such protection. The police are seldom around when they are needed; and, even when they are, they may lack understanding of the situation.
  • Pet owners should be liable for any damages caused by their pets. More generally, any damage caused by a piece of property is the responsibility of its owner.
  • Funding of scientific research by government tends to corrupt such research and leads to fraudulent studies and publications.
  • So-called "intellectual property" (patents, copyrights, and "rights" to privacy and reputation) is incompatible with liberty and actual property rights (to places and objects). However, some protection for trademarks may be justifiable since the alternative may be fraud (identity theft).
  • While all taxes are bad, the sales tax is even more dishonest than most because it pretends to be a tax on buyers, but is actually a tax on sellers. It distorts the market by making prices seem lower than they actually are. Now Congress (at the behest of some tax-hungry politicians and big-box stores trying to suppress competition) is in the process of enacting the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act which would allow states to tax businesses in other jurisdictions in violation of 'no taxation without representation'. This would make business via the internet virtually impossible and destroy many small businesses.
  • Why is anyone surprised by Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA spying? Clearly, with the advances in computer technology, the technical ability existed to collect all meta-data, telephone calls, e-mails, and text messages. Those people who work in secret are immune to punishment for their actions, and will thus seize as much information as they can get, i.e. all of it. The only limitations on what they can do are: the difficulty of extracting the important information from the enormous amounts of chaff, and the fact that using the information may reveal that they have it.
Any orders to firms which store or transmit the information of others to reveal such information to the government should be narrowly tailored to cases where there is a reasonable belief that the affected persons have committed a crime. Such orders should be made public after a brief period.
  • Religion is harmful because it discourages people from thinking for themselves.

Muhammad's war against Mankind[edit]

Muhammad is waging a war against all Mankind. We should vigorously defend ourselves against it.

According to the Washington Post (8/22/2010 page A8), radical Somali imam Abdulrahman Abdullahi declares (in a DVD) that "Our religion calls on us to kill everyone who does not believe in Allah and his Prophet Muhammad deeply.". People who promote such a religion are committing a crime — procuring murder.

Muslims say "Islam" means submission to God. But God does not exist. What "Islam" really means is submission to Muhammad's words (the Qur'an) and example (the Hadith). By depriving Muslims of the option of thinking for themselves, he is interfering with their ability to live in the real world. Muslims should abandon Islam and accept atheism.

Non-Muslims are victimized by laws forbidding apostasy and blasphemy. Forcibly imposing shariah (Islamic religious law) on anyone is wrong.