Archive for January, 2010

Emergency Powers of the Temporary, Quasi-Temporary, & Permanent Varieties

Posted in Law, Poli-ticks on 20100124 by Avenging Sword

Rod Dreher asks the following question:

Under what circumstances does a government gain power and then voluntarily relinquish it?

…and receives several variations on this answer:

Historically this has never happened. While individuals have voluntarily relinquished power, governments never have.

Having nursed an on-and-off interest in emergency powers over the years, I figured I’d offer a few thoughts. Continue reading

In Re RepRap

Posted in Econ on 20100121 by Avenging Sword

This was supposed to be a comment on Geoff G’s RepRap post, below; but it got long enough that I decided to make a post of it instead.  These are my first reactions to the concept:

1.  Final effects depend, to some extent, upon the optimal size of individual RepRaps.  This, in turn, will depend upon the costs (both amortized capital cost & operating costs) of a given RepRap unit, as compared with the resultant savings in labor & transportation costs.

2.  Unless $700 RepRaps are the garage-sized, I doubt we’ll see the complete demise of manufacturing.  Something the size of a cabinet or a closet could probably handle most smaller consumer goods (anything CDs to PCs to books, clothing, computers, tupperware); but larger stuff (e.g., furniture, appliances, cars) would probably keep manufacturing on indefinite life support.  The degree of localization among remaining manufacturers would depend on the factors mentioned in #1.

3.  Raw materials:  Given the increased recycling made possible by RepRaps, I could see raw materials consumption decreasing; but I’m not sure by how much.  Don’t see any reason for increased localization of the remaining raw-materials production, however.  RepRaps wouldn’t affect the distribution of iron or titanium or uranium ore one bit.

[Note:  insofar as RepRap-induced recycling reduces US dependence upon raw materials imported from unstable and/or hostile areas, this strikes me as a good thing.  One less reason for foreign entanglements.]

4.  Transportation Effects:  Ultimate effect on the transportation industry, at first cut, would be proportional to RepRap-induced recycling’s effect upon raw materials industries.  Assume, arguendo, that such recycling is negligible.  (This would probably not be the case; however, such an assumption is necessary to show the dependence of post-RepRap transportation industry upon demand for raw materials.)  In such an instance, even assuming the complete demise of manufacturing, there’d still be demand for the raw materials consumed by RepRaps.  Though there might be some net reduction owing to decreased usage of containers, the amount of _mass_ moved by the transportation industry wouldn’t change by much; instead of moving a mass of finished goods, the industry would be moving the same mass of raw materials.  Net volumes transported probably would decrease, since presumably raw materials would be less bulky than finished products.  Whether (and if so, how much) this would reduce demand for transportation is unclear to me.

5.  Energy Effects:  These would depend on RepRap’s effects on Nos. 2-4.  WRT manufacturing & raw materials, RepRap’s net effect depends on its efficiency relative to current methods of manufacturing & raw materials extraction/refining.  A RepRap-induced decline in transportation would correspondingly reduce energy consumption.  2006 US oil consumption was ~42 EJ (*), of which freight transportation accounted for 6 EJ (**), or 15%.  An improvement, but not revolutionary.

6.  Agriculture:  Unless there’s a food-preparation version of RepRap (ala ST:TNG), I’m not sure why RepRap would lead to increased localization of agriculture.  Regardless of whether the current dominance of factory farming, agribusiness, etc., is the result of regulations & subsidies; or of simple economies of scale; such factors strike me as largely impervious to RepRap’s effects on manufacturing.

7.  Employment Effects:  I’d characterize these as “moderate” (relatively speaking).  According to Table 740 of the 2010 Statistical Abstract, total 2007 US employment was ~213 mil.  Of these, 6.2% worked were in manufacturing, 3% in wholesale, 7.3% in retail, & 2.1% in transportation/warehousing.  Even assuming the complete demise of these sectors (something that, for reasons mentioned above, I think unlikely), we’re still talking about “only” ~20% of the workforce.  Yes, that’s significant; OTOH, ISTM RepRap proliferation would still leave the vast majority of us employed.

And now back to reading about the Emancipation Proclamation….

(*) See Energy Information Administration, “2008 Annual Energy Review”, Table 1.3.

(**) Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “National Transportation Statistics”, Table 4-5.

Modest Health Care Proposals, and for other purposes….

Posted in Links on 20100115 by Avenging Sword

This morning, while haunting perusing Jerry Pournelle’s blog, I came across this Modest Proposal:

The simplest solution to the problem of health care costs is morphine as the only publicly paid for treatment for those 75 years of age and older. I haven’t actually worked the numbers, but from the generalities I have heard on costs of care in the last year of life, that would allow the present health care system to work fairly well. Older people who could afford it might opt for real insurance that they pay for, or pay for their own expenses while their expectant relatives fumed at the expenses — it would make for some good detective stories. The resultant savings — some 35% and more of Medicaid expenses are paid out in the last year of life — would pay for a lot of the health care dilemma.

This brings to mind Christopher Buckley’s recent Boomsday satire, wherein

One generation is pitted against another in the shadow of a Social Security crisis. Our protagonist, Cassandra Devine, is a 29-year-old public relations maven by day, angry blogger by night. Incensed by the financial burden soon to be placed on her age bracket by baby boomers approaching retirement, she proposes on her blog that boomers be encouraged to commit suicide. Cassandra insists that her proposal is not meant to be taken literally; it is merely a “meta-issue” intended to spark discussion and a search for real solutions. But the idea is taken up by an attention-seeking senator, Randy Jepperson, and the political spinning begins.

Of course, both of these were anticipated by a political cartoon I encountered a couple decades back, which proposed controlling Social Security costs by appointing Jack Kevorkian Surgeon General.

In other news:

How to use a starter pistol to protect your cameras.

I’m not a photographer, but I still find this hilarious.

HAMP Modifications & Due Process.

IMHO, something like this was inevitable, given that welfare benefits are already protected by due process.

Why panic about Obama’s Interpol order is overblown.

The current concerns about the Obama Executive Order are about the dangers of unaccountable international police operating in the United States. These concerns are without merit. Interpol staff do not even carry guns, and they certainly do not engage in policing in the United States.

Voluntary manslaughter & the Tiller case.  “It’s only murder when innocent people die.”

Abortion Sentencing & Second-Class Citizenship

Posted in Law, Poli-ticks on 20100105 by Avenging Sword

Some of you may recall that, in 2006, South Dakota passed an ill-fated law[1] aimed at banning virtually all abortions.  Though the scope of the intended ban,[2] as well as its later demise in a statewide referendum,[3] garnered the most headlines, one aspect I found interesting was its penalty provision:

Section 2. That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

No person may knowingly administer to, prescribe for, or procure for, or sell to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being. No person may knowingly use or employ any instrument or procedure upon a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being.

Any violation of this section is a Class 5 felony.[4]

Recall that, for those on the prolife side, abortion is morally equivalent to murder.[5] It is therefore noteworthy that, had the aforementioned law actually taken effect, it would have established abortion as the most lightly-punished homicide on South Dakota’s books.  The penalty for violating that law would have been far less severe[6] than that associated with murder,[7] manslaughter,[8] or vehicular homicide.[9]

One might be tempted to argue that this relatively light punishment is the best that can be accomplished given America’s decades-long experience with the “culture of death”, and that a return to the pre-Roe days wherein abortion was punished as murder will take a great deal of time.  This argument fails, however, when one examines pre-Roe statutes:  While these provisions frequently authorized punishments comparable to those authorized by the South Dakota abortion law, they rarely (if ever) punished abortion as murder.  Consider that, in 1961:

  • In 25 out of the 51 states (including DC), the maximum penalty for criminal abortion was similar to the aforementioned South Dakota ban:  I.e., maximum of 5 years in prison, and/or fine of no more than $10,000.[10]
  • In 14 other states, the maximum penalty was 10 years’ imprisonment.[11]
  • Nine jurisdictions deemed abortion “manslaughter”,[12] but classified it as “murder” only if it resulted in the death of the mother.  Eight others also deemed abortion “murder” when the mother died as a result of the procedure.[13]

It would appear that there was no pre-Roe consensus equating abortion with “murder”.  On the contrary, while abortion was indeed a crime, it was a crime that was only occasionally deemed “manslaughter”, let alone murder.  That many states punished abortion as murder only when the procedure resulted in the death of the mother also argues powerfully that the law did not equate abortion & murder.

The degree of punishment assigned to crimes isn’t solely about deterrence & crime prevention; it also has important symbolic value.  If crimes against a certain class of persons (Class B) carry lesser penalties than identical crimes persons from Class A, such lesser penalties send a strong signal to the populace at large that those in Class B are second-class citizens (de facto if not necessarily de jure) less valuable than those in Class A.  By way of illustration, consider this hypothetical:  we revise the criminal law so that anyone who kills a white man gets automatic execution; but anyone who kills a black man gets no more than a month’s jail time & a $100 fine.  Would this not send a not-so-subtle message about the relative worth of blacks vs. whites?

If all persons – born and unborn – are equally deserving of life, and of the protection of the law, then the law should reflect this fact.  If the law fails to do this – if it punishes some premeditated killings (e.g., of born human beings) more seriously than others (e.g., of unborn human beings) – it sends an important (albeit implicit) message:  That the lives of some people (e.g., the unborn) are less important than the lives of others (e.g., the born).  Contrariwise, if abortion is punished less harshly than first & second-degree murder, the clear implication is that the unborn are merely second-class citizens, whose lives are less important than other people’s.

In light of the above, I find myself wondering about the “end state” sought by prolifers:  Is their ultimate goal a world wherein abortion really is treated like premeditated murder (i.e., a high-level felony, with women who procure abortions being prosecuted for conspiracy to commit murder)?  Or are statutes like the South Dakota abortion ban the end that they seek, and not merely a way station?  And if the latter is so, how do prolifers reconcile such statutes’ relegation of the unborn to second-class citizenship with the prolife argument that, because the unborn are “persons” equally-deserving of rights, abortion is therefore morally equivalent to premeditated murder?


[1] South Dakota Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act, H.B. 1215, 81st Legislative Session (SD 2006), available at http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs//abortion/sdabortionlaw06.html.

[2] South Dakota bans most abortions, CNN, Mar. 6, 2006, available at http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/03/06/sd.abortion/index.html.

[3] Monica Davey, South Dakotans Reject Sweeping Abortion Ban, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 8, 2006, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/us/politics/08issues.html.

[4] South Dakota Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act, H.B. 1215, 81st Legislative Session, §2 (SD 2006), available at http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs//abortion/sdabortionlaw06.html (emphasis added).  I am indebted to Douglas A. Berman for originally drawing attention to this provision.  See Douglas A. Berman, Sentencing provisions of South Dakota’s new abortion ban, SENTENCING LAW AND POLICY, Mar. 7, 2006, available at http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2006/03/sentencing_prov.html.

[5] See, e.g., Stephanie D. Moussalli, Abortion on Second Thought, FIRST THINGS, Dec. 1991, at 12, available at http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/003-abortion-on-second-thought-5.

[6] Regarding the classification of felonies in South Dakota, see S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-6-1 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-6-1 (listing penalties associated with various classes of felonies).  Though South Dakota does criminalize “fetal homicide” as a Class  B felony, this provision specifically excludes “acts…committed during any abortion, lawful or unlawful, to which the pregnant woman consented.”  See S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-6-1.1 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-16-1.1.

[7] S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-16-12 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-16-12 (“Murder in the first degree is a Class A felony. Murder in the second degree is a Class B felony.”).

[8] S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-16-15 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-16-15 (“Manslaughter in the first degree is a Class C felony.”); also S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-16-20 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-16-20 (“Manslaughter in the second degree is a Class 4 felony.”).

[9] S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 22-16-41 (2009), available at http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-16-41 (“Vehicular homicide is a Class 3 felony.”).

[10] These were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, & Washington.  See 14 ALA. CODE §9 (1940), reprinted in Eugene Quay, Justifiable Abortion – Medical and Legal Foundations, 49 GEO. L.J. 395, 447 (1961); ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 13-211 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 448; ARK. STAT. ANN. §41-301 (1947), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 449; CAL. PEN. CODE § 274 (1961), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 450; COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 40-2-23 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 452; CONN. GEN. STAT. REV. §53-29 (1958), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 453; 11 DEL. CODE ANN. §301 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 455; HAWAII REV. LAWS § 309-3 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 463; IDAHO CODE ANN. § 18-601, reprinted in Quay, supra, at 464; IOWA CODE 701.1 (1946), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 470; ME. REV. STAT. ANN. § 9 (1954), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 477; MD. ANN. CODE, ART. 27, § 3 (1957), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 478; MINN. STAT. ANN. § 617.18 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 485-486; MO. REV. STAT. § 599.100 (1949), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 489; MONT. REV. CODE ANN. § 94-401 (1947), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 490; NEV. REV. STAT. § 200.120 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 492; N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 595:12 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 493; N.M. STAT. ANN. § 40-3-1 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 498; N.Y. PEN. LAW. § 80 (1961), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 498; N.D. REV. CODE § 12-2501 (1943), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 503; 21 OKLA. STAT. ANN. § 861 (1958), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 504; S.D. CODE § 13.3101 (1960), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 512; TENN. CODE ANN. § 39-301 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 513; TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. ART. 1191 (1960) (), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 513-514; WASH. REV. CODE § 9.02.010 (1951), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 517.

[11] These were DC, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, & West Virginia.  See D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-201 (1960), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 456; ILL. REV. STAT. § 3 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 465; LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 14:87 (1950), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 476; MASS. GEN LAWS ANN. §19 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 480; MISS. CODE ANN. § 223 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 488; NEB. REV. STAT. § 28-404 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 491; N.C. GEN. STAT. § 14-44 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 502; OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 2901.16 (1961), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 504; 18 PA. STAT. ANN. § 4719 (1945), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 506; R.I. GEN. LAWS. ANN. § 11-3-1 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 509; UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-2-1 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 514; 13 VT. STAT. ANN. § 101 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 515; VA. CODE ANN. § 18.1-62 (1960), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 516; W. VA. CODE ANN. § 5923 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 518.

[12] These were Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, & Oregon.  See ALASKA COMP. LAWS ANN. § 65-4-6 (1949), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 448; FLA. STAT. ANN. § 782.09 (1944), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 457; KAN. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 21-409 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 473; MICH. STAT. ANN. § 28.554 (1954), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 482; MISS. CODE ANN. § 2222 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 488; MO. REV. STAT. § 559.090 (1949), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 489;  NEV. REV. STAT. § 200.210 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 492; N.Y. PEN. LAW. § 1050 (1961), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 499; N.D. REV. CODE § 12-2502 (1943), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 503; 21 OKLA. STAT. ANN. § 714 (1958), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 504; ORE. REV. STAT. § 163.060 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 505.

[13] These were Colorado, DC, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, & New Mexico.  See COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 40-2-23 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 452; D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-201 (1960), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 456; GA. CODE ANN. 26-1103 (1933), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 459; ILL. REV. STAT. § 3 (1959), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 465; KY. REV. STAT. ANN. 435.040 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 474; MISS. CODE ANN. § 2223 (1956), reprinted in Quay, supra note 10, at 488; N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 585:14 (1955), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 494; N.M. STAT. ANN. § 40-3-2 (1953), reprinted in Quay, supra, at 498.