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Proposition 8 and Voter Rights
JohnH
An interesting side issue in the trial regarding the legality of proposition 8 (the prohibition of same sex marriage) in California is when do the rights of a minority supersede the rights of voters.

Clearly some minorities adversely affect the majority to the extent they must be suppressed. Sexual predators or born killers are obvious examples of minorities to which this would apply.

A more subtle question is should a certified native american tribe be allowed to buy a property in a community and then build a casino without formal public approval.

This is a difficult question. Democracy is supposedly based on the will of the majority. The will of the majority is not always correct. How does a democratic country understand when the majority has exceeded its authority.

The obvious answer is that in the u.s., theoretically, the courts will temper the mistakes of the majority by reference to the constitution. In fact, the courts tend to lag the population particularly in regards social issues. The decisions in the specific case of the current trial should be understood in light of the fact that the presiding judge is homosexual. If this trial makes it all the way to the supreme's there may be a different end. With the exception of the Earl Warren court no supreme court, in my life, has made decisions that have been in front of the public on social issues. I also see the continued controversy over abortion as an example of when rights are based on judicial decisions that they remain at risk. I do not trust the court system to protect us from majority mistakes.

So, how does a democracy temper the will of the majority when it infringes on inherent minority rights. I suppose more importantly how does one recognize what are inherent rights.
 
catman
The right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" would seem to apply here. The will of the majority should not become the tyranny of the majority. To state that gay marriage diminishes the value of hetero marriage or the institution of marriage itself is specious.
 
Bob of QF
I agree with Catman, and will add this:

Unless secular, non-religious evidence can be presented showing gay marriage harms anyone, then it should be permitted among adults.

Lest we forget, prior to the Civil War (oxymoron-- it was anything but civil...) the majority in the south favored slavery.

Since it is easy to demonstrate slavery harms someone, it's also easy to show it's wrong, in spite of the majority opinion.

Same goes for sexual predators.

It seems to me, that 'harm' is a reasonable yardstick to use.

Robert Heinlein in the novella "Coventry" wrote about that specific idea, and imagined a society based specifically on "harm".

Worth a read-- it's short.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
JohnH
Odd you mention Robert Heinlein. "Stranger in a Strange Land", for personal, political and emotional reasons, actually turned me off to science-fiction.

I understand that the notion of harm could be a reasonable definition for what is allowed and what is not. The problem is what is the definition of harm.

Harm to an individual could be not allowing that individual to increase the size of their house. Harm to the community could be that the existing storm drains would be overloaded if too many people increased the size of their house.

I remain uncertain about how a democratic society polices itself regarding unfair treatment of a minority, or an individual.

I am in agreement with the decisions in this trial. I believe that it is an infringement on the rights of same sex couples to refuse them to marry. It is how does one identify what is unfair treatment of a minority that I am uncertain of.

I, for example, believe there is white privilege in our society and do not want it. I do not believe that many here will accept that belief. This comment is not meant to elicit responses but to illustrate the fact that the majority may have problems understanding exactly how the minority is harmed.

edited because of excessive use of a specific word.
Edited by JohnH on 08/14/2010 07:37
 
Bob of QF
"Stranger..." was/is a very weird book. Best read as an adult, with a cynical point of view, IMO.

In "Coventry", they (Heinlein) recognized that the nebulous word "harm" in and of itself was not enough.

They went as far as specifically defining what exactly constituted "harm"-- physical harm (a punch in the snoot, for example), and direct economic harm (stealing your stereo).

All other definitions of "harm" were ignored as without sufficient definition.

This is from memory-- it's been several years since I read it-- I'm waiting for an E-book version, first.

Smile
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
catman
I read it about four decades ago, but I thought it was great. I should read it again.
 
seeker
Funny, I tend to think of a lot of Heinlein's work as adolescent fantasy. Maybe that's because I read them as an adolescent and they tend to have a certain puerile quality.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Bob of QF
seeker wrote:
Funny, I tend to think of a lot of Heinlein's work as adolescent fantasy. Maybe that's because I read them as an adolescent and they tend to have a certain puerile quality.



A lot of his books **were** juvenile-- deliberately so. He often penned stories for the magazine Boy's Life, in fact.

But, Heinlein being Heinlein, none were free from his political and life observations.

I can probabily list all his juvies from memory, and I've re-read most as an adult and still found them quite readable. Among my favorites is "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel", which I've returned to time and again, even though few people realize the name is a play off of an old 1960's TV vintage western series, 'Have Gun, Will Travel'.

Some were re-printed not that long ago, in an unabridged version-- without all the edits to make them fit. Podkane of Mars is one such.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
JohnH
That is it Seeker, I want you banned from this board. Far too many times have you forced me to the dictionary (Webster's Second) to confirm I understand a word you have used. Good thing I did in this case since I had a slightly different notion of what puerile meant than what the dictionary has. I always felt the word also has a connotation of childish sexuality which is not what the dictionary says.

It was too many years ago (before 1970) when I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" to exactly express why I did not like the book. All I can remember now is that it seemed like an older man's masturbation fantasies expressed on paper. I also remember that I did not like then nor have I ever agreed that "great" people can transform society in a dramatic and positive way.
 
JohnH
Bob of QF, I think it would be easy to agree that harm to others is a good start to how a democratic society can look at it's actions and determine if they are damaging to others. But as in all these things the devil is in the details and too simplistic a use of terminology can lead to difficulties. I can think of many obvious examples of where harm, particularly economic, to individuals or corporations is in fact in the best interest of the general public.

It is differentiating between where the public good outweighs individual freedom or economic activity that is difficult. And, in this specific case where the will of the majority must be suppressed because it inhibits a minority.
 
seeker
Bob - No disagreement from me. The problem is that when you bury serious observations in such fluff the observations tend to be lost.

John - Much as I try I find that simpler words often just won't do.

The word 'puerile' is much like the word 'intercourse' in that the connotation almost transcends its actual meaning.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Bob of QF
JohnH wrote:
Bob of QF, I think it would be easy to agree that harm to others is a good start to how a democratic society can look at it's actions and determine if they are damaging to others. But as in all these things the devil is in the details and too simplistic a use of terminology can lead to difficulties. I can think of many obvious examples of where harm, particularly economic, to individuals or corporations is in fact in the best interest of the general public.

It is differentiating between where the public good outweighs individual freedom or economic activity that is difficult. And, in this specific case where the will of the majority must be suppressed because it inhibits a minority.


There are obviously degrees of harm, and one must perforce weigh out the lessor of whatever conflict is found.

By eliminating all nebulous, non-measurable "harm" and concentrating on specifics: physical harm, economic harm, you eliminate much of the shit that bogs down our system now. Pornography, for example: so long as the actors are volunteers, it constitutes zero physical and/or economic harm. The ideas of "moral harm" are ludicrous at best-- worse, "religious harm" is even more unquantifiable.

In your example? If, by "economic harm" to the corporation, you alleviate or reduce similar harm to the general population, then you must choose to "harm" the corporation. But-- it has to be quantifiable harm to the general population-- easy enough, in the case of toxic waste [for example]-- that constitutes direct physical harm to any individual coming into contact with it, so you cause economic "harm" to the corporation, making it be responsible in how it disposes of the toxins.

Same would go for surgery: clearly, that is harming the patient, but just as clearly, doing so removes or reduces a greater harm, and so would be permitted.

All of the above also fails to recognize that in the "Coventry" society, voluntary harm to one's self was **never** prohibited-- it was assumed that an adult person is well able to choose to partake in such activity if desired, thus tattoos would be allowed, as well as purely cosmetic surgeries. Both of these clearly cause physical harm, but both would be voluntary, and thus not prohibited.

Also included: if a person chooses to donate $$ to something-- that clearly causes him economic harm-- but as it's voluntary, it's not prohibited.

But coerced 'donations' would be, as would fraudulent donations.

Which brings me to religion, which Heinlein ignored in the story, but religions would **have** to demonstrate that the promises they made would have to be demonstrated true-- else, they could be accused of causing economic harm to donors in a fraudlent way.

Obviously, the donors could donate voluntarily, not prohibited. But the religions would be responsible for any promises they made-- which would pretty much destroy the majority-- what appeal do religions have, if they cannot promise mumbo-jumbo?

Very, very little--but they could still work-- look at the Universalist Unitarian religion-- many of these congregations do not actively promote mumbo-jumbo, but manage to do quite well.

But your fundie hell/torture/sin shit-stuffers? They'd be in a world of hurt, the first time anyone calls them on their empty promises....

Smile
Edited by Bob of QF on 08/16/2010 20:01
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
JohnH
Damn you Bob of QF, now you have forced me to the dictionary too. Fortunately, I was in your case just confirming that I was correct in understanding your word use. I still must say perforce this, punk.

I have some comments on your response, none of which are in great disagreement. But frankly it will take me a bit to get together a response so I will later.
Edited by JohnH on 08/16/2010 21:48
 
JohnH
Bob of QF, you hit on one of my own complaints about the legal system, the incredible complexity of the law. I know, for example, that a non-trained person cannot understand the tax codes, codes that affect every person in the US. I also have had experience with totally inappropriate application of toxic waste codes because their specificity required it. I agree totally that we have hobbled ourselves with overly complex legal systems that allow those in the know to circumvent what could be called appropriate behavior.

I must say that being too comfortable with something like pornography is somewhat risky. Like prostitution it may basically be non-threatening to the general population, however many of the employees in both businesses are harmed significantly. This is clearly a problem for application of labor standards but as long as the general population is either offended by or disinterested in the particular professions proper labor standards will not be imposed. To me this is a clear example of where the will of the majority is detrimental to a minority. It reflects back on my original question.

As to Heinlein I do not know “Coventry” but reading your post I was (if I remember correctly) reminded of another reason why I disliked “Stranger”. To my mind in “Stranger” he was positing a quasi religion to supplant the religions in place. This religion contained the same things that I find offensive in the religions that exist. The primary one being the existence of an important person or symbol to which one must offer their own person in order to achieve, in Heinlein’s case not salvation but, understanding.
Edited by JohnH on 08/17/2010 19:44
 
Bob of QF
Re: porn.

Actually? The #1 driver of the internets is porn--it has the highest gross income on the net.

So I think that in spite of feigned disgust and/or disinterest? There is far more so-called hidden interest than it would at first blush, appear.

I think the risk only stems from exploitation-- and if it was all legal, then there would be less incentive to exploit the workers.

What drives it into the 'back closet' is the mountain of idiotic "morality" laws on the books-- those ought to all be done away with.

All in all, I like the simple ideas presented in 'Coventry'-- and would happily move there if such a thing existed.

But, alas, it depends on rational people-- too few of those.



Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
JohnH
I would caution against any statistical evidence about the consumption of porn on the internet. For example do the figures for revenue include those from on line marketers. Marketers where the revenue is not from content but goods shipped. Is the cost per item included in the mix, I would assume a juicy movie would cost much more than a single cut mp3.

I say this partly because statistically people in Utah are the heaviest users of porn on the net. It turns out this statistic is based on per internet connection. If one considers the whole population the percentage of users drops way off. I can imagine many reasons why people in Utah would be forced to the internet to procure porn. One of the best stocked, per square foot, liquor stores I have ever been to was in Nevada very near the border with Utah.

I will agree completely that pornography and prostitution (with obvious exceptions) should be legal. I still cannot imagine a politician running on such a platform. Even in states like California where prostitution is De facto legal, proper standards are inhibited by law. This is, again, to me a classic case where a majority (perhaps in name only) imposes unnecessary and damaging restriction on a minority.

I hold out hope for social evolution. I agree there are far too few rational people. I do not expect this to change in my life or even my great-great-grandchildren's life. I still believe that gradually we will change as a species. It just is slow and difficult.

 
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