Of late there seems to be a willingness to label anyone arguing that a program is violating the public process a “bully”. Of course the very fact that the srgument is made in fact to empower the public not only renders the labeling nonsensical, it illustrated the use of projection; the ad hominem is being employed in fact to bully the public advocate into ceasing their advocacy.
The essence of bullying is forcing another to engage in conduct not in the other’s interest. Arguing against governmental action, especially where that action may be problematic, is not bullying in any sense of the word.
Then there is the claim that any public argument is bullying as it seeks to bend another to the arguer’s will. Of course that posits that the other is vulnerable, helpless, or incompetent. How do we make the marketplace of ideas safe for those not equipped to deal with adult conversation? It also chills completely public discourse – and that of course is the intent of such ad hominem.
This kind of attack is most perfidious when used as one of two favored responses by public officials to marginalize or discredit competent evidence. The other, potentially more effective, is simply to ignore the issue in the hope that it wint generate enough public interest to warrant any response.
The public process is just that. In a heterodox society the oublic process is there to resolve conflicting public interests. Insisting that public assets be managed through a public process is all about protecting those whose voices are not being heard from bullies who want what they want and reject the concept that someone who is not insane disagrees.
Way too many words
And myriad syllables
Saying, “much ado…”
If I say that our use of the 85th%ile rule is killing people (and I think the data shows that it is – a point I think the NTSB has acknowledged), is that “aggressive and argumentative”? Does that allegation render some space “unsafe”? That would appear to be the claim of the new acting head of AMATS, the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation metropolitan plan organization.
Let’s face it, all I am pointing out is that our planning and design concepts from the foundations up are in fact the reasons people die on our highways. While many have known and argued this for years, it is particularly illuminating when traffic engineers like Charles Marohn are attacked professionally over it.
No area of study predicated on the premise that humans act rationally can ever be seen as rational or science-based because we have oodles (that’s oodles in the scientific sense) of evidence that this IS NOT the case.
So, would you say that someone arguing for streets to be “safe spaces” being called out for making “unsafe spaces” by way of his requests, “double speak” ? Is it intended to lead to “double think” ?
I recently chatted with a DOT employee who was asking why I would suggest that local municipal ordinance mandates the planning department collaborate with community councils on any plans, and that municipal staff working with AMATS who refuse so to do are violating the spirit as well as the letter of the law (not to mention the offense it does to the bylaws of community councils that were forced upon them by ordinance). Don’t you find it strange that despite the clear language about the roles of community councils in developing plans at all stages, that folk involved in metropolitan planning should questioning efforts to engage councils?
A conversation with a municipal employee about disagreeing agreeably brought the matter into focus for me. Aside from the mathematical impossibility of agreeing to disagree (yes, there IS a peer reviewed paper on that ) my question is how to be agreeable over something like the implications of the 85th%ile rule, or claims made when records requests show no basis for the claims. If I say, “Well Donald, your statement is demonstrably inaccurate based on these well documented facts”, why should Donald get upset?
I want people to stop dying on our roads. The NTSB has made it very clear that people are dying on our roads because of poor planning, design, and enforcement. How does my municipality, any municipality deflect that? Well, in large part we dissemble (some suggest that is the polite way to argue mendacity); we don’t adequately enforce, we don’t properly plan, and we design and construct with reckless abandon. While whinging against corporate personhood when it comes to rights, we seem happy the avoid any personal responsibility by blaming all on the corporate body.
Offering our state DOT staff a challenge; I agreed that if their engineers would run all the roundabout crossings of one of their roundabout highway intersections (2 roundabouts and numerous crosswalks) without stopping or slowing down I would cease carping about roundabout safety. Of course no one took me up on the challenge as it would not be safe, and yet the same agency prints materials claiming that those self same crossings are safe. You just can’t have it both ways.
People should be safe from terrible bodily injury sustained on our roads and streets. That injury is in no small part the result of the actions of AMATS staff. That may be disagreeable and uncomfortable, but it is true. That should make one feel unclean, not unsafe. I suppose the contra argument AMATS makes is “we only plan; we don’t design”. The unfortunate parallels to those claims are too low hanging to bear repeating here.
One of the guys who actually gets our roads and trails maintained and I frequently meet, and he, like some others, thanks me for calling and encourages me to continue despite the fact that I suppose I AM very critical. What do you think is the differential between someone like that and someone who claims to be afraid to talk to me via zoom?
Having been told that words hurt, let me suggest they don’t hurt as much as getting hit by a truck.
How about a collaborative effort to actually propose an objective decision matrix for re-opening face to face in person instruction?
We can of course use quantitative gates as well as qualitative gates. For example, no ventilation and filtration data is an absolute stopper, while available data could indicate that certain kinds of usage would be available.
PPE can be scored. Gowns, PAPRs, gloves and decon unit all prepped with staff practiced in full usage? Full marks! No PPE? Well, no score.
And in no case does an ASD administrator get to input a subjective score (a la the mess presently known as the current matrix,lol!)
You put it ALL in a publicly available tool (like Google sheets) so everyone can see the various inputs and how they are analyzed and evaluated.
Et voila! Instead of hot air we have a hard function.
You’d think the district having already done tens of hours of the most advanced study (sounds just like Trumpettes, doesn’t it) that such a tool would be at hand, and the fact that we have to start from scratch should tell us a thing or three.
So what is the greatest impediment? Here are my case notes:
Case No. 2020-576/b
Mark Stock on Objective Criteria
Mendacious Mark was at the top of his game at this week’s Board meeting, talking down to, well everyone, because they could not understand that it was impossible to adopt an objective criteria for school opening.
Of course, he was putting on airs because most everything he said was false.
In fact just a few weeks ago ASD had a very workable objective matrix that everyone fully understood and which worked just fine.
What Mark was really arguing is that objective criteria would prohibit his boss Dr. Deena, “the DeVosserRaptor”, from engaging in arbitrary and capricious conduct that could get thousand killed and who knows how many subject to as yet unknown long term disabilities.
Indeed, we could develop a very effective and transparent objective decision matrix pretty quickly. But that would of course mean that the Administration would have to come back to the community every time they wanted to deviate from it, AS WELL THEY SHOULD!
While Stock is a bloviating hack and could be expected to do what he was hired to do (did you notice the cute little game he and Deena played at the Board meeting referring to each other as Doctor – like watching the 3 Stooges) what is inexcusable if watching the Board get buffaloed
All modern transportation design guides addressing urban transportation, in an attempt to protect all persons of “all ages and abilities” while maintaining “flexibility”, require the use of cycletracks where there is an arterial or “connector” and the speed of the vehicles is over 30 miles per hour. That’s a lot to unpack. What we are really saying is that when you have car volumes as you see in most major urban locales for connectors, and those cars are moving at over 30 mph, it is critical that bicycle users on such roads be physically protected from automobiles.
Cycle tracks are, in gross terms, bicycle lanes that are protected from motorized traffic by physical barriers. The barriers could be lanterns, bollards, curbs (continuous or or not) etc. Painted “buffers” are not cycletracks, although many design apologists argue they provide “protection”, hence the rise of so much confusion as to what anyone might mean by “protected bike lanes”. The best practice is to use the terminology found in the design guide you reference. Hence the use here of cycletrack, which is the term employed by NACTO.
Confusion is further engendered because design apologists have suggested that if a road is posted 30 mph, it needs no cycletrack. Those folk have missed the “fine print” as it were, in that even the FHWA points out that the speed relied on in addressing the appropriate infrastructure is operating, NOT posted speed. So what do they mean by operating speed. In most cases they mean 85th percentile speed of all traffic. The 85th percentile marks the speed at which 85% of the traffic is doing that speed or slower. By way of example. If you have 100 motorists on a street, and 85 of them went 40 mph, 10 of them went 45 mph, and 5 of them went 50 mph, the 85th percentile would be 40 mph. Let’s assume that this street is posted at 30 mph. We can then see that 100% of the traffic exceeds the speed limit. 85% of the traffic traveled at 133% of the speed limit, and the 85th percentile is at 133% of the speed limit.
The fact is that most people do NOT travel at or below the speed limit. Indeed, it is rare that you don;t find someone traveling at least 5 mph over, in no small part because everyone figures that no officer is going to give you a ticket for going 5 mph over the speed limit. Historically traffic engineers RAISED speed limits to match the 85th percentile, and, as a result, the speed limit on Northern Lights was raised from 40 to 45 (though we saw numerous cases of people losing control of their vehicles at 40 mph). Soon thereafter the speed of traffic on Northern Lights rose, and now we see traffic moving along Northern lights at 60 mph (133% of the posted speed limit).
Is that 133% some magic number? Is the 85 percentile speed always going to be the speed of 85% of the vehicles? No. In quite a few cases where the posted speed is 30 mph we see speeds of 150%, and typically the less traffic the fewer cars are going to have synchronous speeds. But it seems that most people have no problem doing 45 on a connector, or 60 on a street to be divided highway like Northern Lights. It’s typically a matter of the driver’s perception of what is appropriate in the circumstances, as opposed to a driver’s compliance with signals.
Indeed, that is one reason why traffic engineers keep raising speed limits; they know that since people do not comply, the only way to keep people within any reasonable approximation of speed limits is to constantly raise the limits. This is not true everywhere. In places like Finland traffic speeds have been reduced to 50 km on connectors and 30 km on residential streets and speed limits are ENFORCED. More and more places are using “day fines” (fines based on the individual’s daily earnings so that no one is left with the feeling that speeding is just a matter of paying a nominal fine). Finland has all but eliminated death or injury from motor vehicles.
The NTSB indicated that the most effective ways to address injuries to bikers and pedestrians is infrastructure properly designed (something we, in Alaska, have NEVER DONE), and ASE (automated speed enforcement), which Anchorage has historically viewed as an unwarranted intrusion on the freedom to kill and maim.
In Anchorage, the common wisdom is that traffic signalling is advisory only. As a result, there being virtually no enforcement, the only way to implement appropriate traffic design to protect bicyclists on roads where traffic exceeds 30 mph is physical barriers. Unfortunately, though local designers give lip service to “Vision Zero” and the like, we have no cycletrack. In fact even the sidewalks are designated as snow storage. And while northern cities in North American and Europe seem to manage snow and cycletracks just fine, you will not see any cycletracks in Anchorage because designers will make sure they are never built. Apparently, they argue, we are not quite ready to stop killing and maiming pedestrians and bicyclists.
I posed that question to the Assembly here once. How many bodies do we need to count until we do something about this. They would not give me a number, and mumbled something about how unfortunate it is. They then essentially patted us on the head and told us to go back and play in the traffic.
The Anchorage Park Foundation (APF) is on the warpath yet again. Last month they released a Google Forms petition that asked just about everyone (but elected officials) to spend money to create something already there (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfYlTdg36Z0ttJ2DAwemCgVp7IROOHni-2xBEh7GizRIHaH3Q/viewform), and I’d like to spend a few of your moments addressing why this is another bad idea.
Who and What
The petition is not addressed to elected officials, but to various MOA staff and to AMATS, which underscores probably the biggest problem we have with transportation infrastructure in Anchorage: planners are not accountable to the public. Specifically, the petition is addressed to
* Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS) Policy Committee
* Anchorage Project Management and Engineering
* Anchorage Parks and Recreation
* Anchorage Traffic
* AMATS Staff
and, after some self-aggrandizement (more on that below) the petition makes the following request:
We urge you to allocate funding for a public process to determine a preferred alternative for a safer crossing at this important intersection and work together on a wayfinding plan to make this unique and lovable trail system a destination for all.
One small problem…
A Crossing Already Exists
Yes, a safe crossing has been in place there for decades. A block and a half south of where the creek flows under Lake Otis Blvd is a tunnel. Yes, a nice wide tunnel, much nicer than anything one would see down by Westchester Lagoon. And that raises a handful of very important questions! Questions nowhere visible in the petition!
It gets better, of course. It turns out that the tunnel lies on a line between where the trail comes from and where it goes to; in other words, the trail goes out of its way to a crossing that will never exist, as opposed to taking the route that would employ the existing tunnel.
But take heart!!! Though things would have been simpler to align all those years ago, it is still relatively easy to fix the problem. And yes, I intend to keep you, Reader, hostage as long as I can.
So why would someone design a trail that eschewed the only viable crossing? There are a number of possibilities, but most of them reflect the kind of critical view that most in government are allergic to, so let’s look at giving the question a more positive spin, and that suggests two possibilities.
The first is that at the time no one saw multi-use trails as transportation corridors (lame, yes, but not as negative as most explanations…). Arguably the Campbell Creek Trail would be just that: a narrow band of asphalt that would run the length of Campbell Creek. Of course, who would have expected that another trail following a major water course would be so popular that we would spend almost $1,000,000 redoing it (but not making it any wider over much of its course). Well, the truth is LOTS of PEOPLE understood that the design was inadequate, but who listens to the public???
The second argument, I suppose, is the “build it and they will come” magical thinking bit that we bought in the movie theaters. The trail followed the creek, and eventually the MOA would have to widen the bridge over the creek to included a bike trail (as money was no object…). Yes, there are such tunnels in some locations, but though the nearby corner has been rebuilt over, and over, and over, and over again, and though we opine mightily about “non-motorized plans” and supporting non-motorized users of our municipal infrastructure, “they came”, but without the buckets of cash needed to build a bridge, or another tunnel.
The truth is that we are never going to build a bridge over Lake Otis at the Creek, and with all the other demands on diminishing (already gone?) funding, who in their right mind would build ANOTHER tunnel under a six lane highway? Can you spell BOONDOGGLE? But what, you ask, is wrong with APF trying to hustle a little interest?
Undermining the Public Process
One of the biggest problems here is that once again APF is subverting a complex and comprehensive process whereby communities feed their capital improvement project requests through the municipal system. Indeed, what APF “does best” is bypass all that by getting a direct appropriation from the State, and thereby making a virtual mockery of the all the work that all the “little people” invest in trying to push their respective projects forward. But, you exclaim, APD is a private, non-profit, non-membership corporation, so how does it have such an outside effect on government? Well, the answer to that is the partnership scheme that was brought to bear for Parks in Anchorage, which makes partners more important than the public. Money talks.
Yes, I can provide multiple examples of how APF has tried to run roughshod over the public, but since I am trying to keep this short, and some Assembly members get positively red in the face when Ms. Nordlund’s name comes up, we can set that aside for now. But I am happy to appear at any Assembly or Administration work session to discuss such matters…
But back to Moose. People have been riding the loop around Anchorage for years. As part of their little self-promotional branding efforts, APF started calling the loop, The Moose, and started promoting an “initiative”, which in part also celebrated APF accomplishments, while issues that APF does not want to address “under the carpet” (e.g. “celebrating” Pine St., which has accomplished nothing, while ignoring Boniface and RJSP – safer routes needing extensive work but ignored for decades).
What can be done (to address the crossing issue)? Well, for starters, we can ignore APF’s rhetoric and misdirection. We can inexpensively address the current access to Folker from Campbell Creek trail, and create a sharrow to 52nd and the tunnel on the East side of Lake Otis. On the West side we simply need to create a sharrow down Waldron to Cache. And at the tunnel itself, we need only remove the stairs and existing ramp and replace with shallower ramps on both sides. All told the few trail tweaks and the ramps would run substantially less than $50K and does not need “study” so much as some nitty gritty design work: design work that should have been done decades ago and a bit of engineering.
Most importantly, with all the critical infrastructure needs we have, these fixes are NOT critical. Period. I rode the path described above last week and it is MUCH better than a good deal of the “Moose” not being complained of! Let me be blunt: NOT NOW. Identify the fixes, put them in a plan and pass it about for comment – and then put it on the CIP list somewhere near the bottom.
Yes we need wayfinding, but APF and P&R ignored public comment on wayfinding, and as a result the little bit that is in place is disappointing and substandard. The truth is, as I noted above, that while we provide everyone with lots of Opportunities to be heard, no one ever actually listens to anything said, nor does anyone ever make any changes as a result of any testimony on any project. Indeed, on a recent project where State funding was killed because APF made such a shambles of the grant (the public DID try to make suggestions, but APF and P&R simply ignored every suggestion made), an MOA Assembly member thereupon ran about claiming that I killed the project off. Really? Considering how much pull I have with you lot, you know how pathetic such an allegation is, but there you go.
No, I could not address everything there is to say about any of this here. But lucky you, if you want to hear more all you need to do is ask. No, the various persons/parties being petitioned won’t ask, because they don’t see that as in their brief. They don’t “solve”problems, they kick them down the high speed, incredibly dangerous (and unresponsive to NTSB or FWHA guidance) roads…
With the rise of self-anointed spirituality and the sudden caché of “Buddhism”, discussion of compassion is all the rage. I have often pondered the possible obligations of “compassion”. I don’t see compassion as mandating the provision of another’s desires. Nor does compassion mandate I interfere in another’s “just desserts”. As I see it:
- wishing is foolish,
- celebrating another’s misfortune is not compassionate, but acknowledging they deserve their present circumstances does not reflect a lack of compassion, and
- the whole karma/dharma thing is religious nonsense.
It is clear that there is a divide of sorts between Buddhist views of compassion and some more “romantic” Western notions. 1 A discussion of compassion by Jenniger Goetz 2 points out the “cold” nature of compassion as viewed by Buddhism.
The more one reads Buddhist writings, the more one realizes that Buddhist compassion is similar to lay conceptions of compassion in name only. While lay concepts of compassion are of warm feelings for particular people in need, Buddhist compassion is not particular, warm, or even a feeling. Perhaps the most succinct and clear mention of this is in the discussions of the Dalai Lama and Jean-Claude Carriere (1996, p. 53). A footnote explains in refreshingly plain language that compassion in the Buddhist sense is not based on what we call “feeling”. While Buddhist’s do not deny the natural feelings that may arise from seeing another in need, this is not the compassion Buddhism values. Instead, Buddhist compassion is the result of knowing one is part of a greater whole and is interdependent and connected to that whole. It is the result of practiced meditations. Indeed, Buddhist compassion should be without heat or passion – it is objective, cold, constant and universal.
Trungpa (1973) argues true compassion has the potential to appear cruel or ruthless. Compassion requires prajna or transcendental wisdom – an ability to see past shallow appearances and see true suffering and need. For this reason, compassion may involve giving someone what they really need, not what they want. In addition compassion is an open gift, it is generosity without demand. One does not expect or require reciprocity or confirmation of compassion. Indeed, true compassion will often not be appreciated and may be received with anger or hatred. The next section discusses the threat of anger to compassion and the methods for dealing with this.
From a Buddhist perspective, Harris notes 3 that,
Viraaga literally means the absence of raaga: the absence of lust, desire, and craving for existence. Hence, it denotes indifference or non-attachment to the usual objects of raaga, such as material goods or sense pleasures. Non-attachment is an important term here if the Pali is to be meaningful to speakers of English. It is far more appropriate than “detachment” because of the negative connotations “detachment” possesses in English.
In fact, at least three strands of meaning in the term “compassion” can be detected in the texts: a prerequisite for a just and harmonious society; an essential attitude for progress along the path towards wisdom; and the liberative action within society of those who have become enlightened or who are sincerely following the path towards it. All these strands need to be looked at if the term is to be understood and if those who accuse Buddhist compassion of being too passive are to be answered correctly.
Bodhi 4 states,
Like a bird in flight borne by its two wings, the practice of Dhamma is sustained by two contrasting qualities whose balanced development is essential to straight and steady progress. These two qualities are renunciation and compassion. As a doctrine of renunciation the Dhamma points out that the path to liberation is a personal course of training that centers on the gradual control and mastery of desire, the root cause of suffering. As a teaching of compassion the Dhamma bids us to avoid harming others, to act for their welfare, and to help realize the Buddha’s own great resolve to offer the world the way to the Deathless.
Considered in isolation, renunciation and compassion have inverse logics that at times seem to point us in opposite directions. The one steers us to greater solitude aimed at personal purification, the other to increased involvement with others issuing in beneficent action. Yet, despite their differences, renunciation and compassion nurture each other in dynamic interplay throughout the practice of the path, from its elementary steps of moral discipline to its culmination in liberating wisdom. The synthesis of the two, their balanced fusion, is expressed most perfectly in the figure of the Fully Enlightened One, who is at once the embodiment of complete renunciation and of all-embracing compassion.
Both renunciation and compassion share a common root in the encounter with suffering. The one represents our response to suffering confronted in our own individual experience, the other our response to suffering witnessed in the lives of others. Our spontaneous reactions, however, are only the seeds of these higher qualities, not their substance. To acquire the capacity to sustain our practice of Dhamma, renunciation and compassion must be methodically cultivated, and this requires an ongoing process of reflection which transmutes our initial stirrings into full-fledged spiritual virtues.
But, you start to whine, isn’t compassion a call to action. Mustn’t one DO something?
The simple answer, of course, is, “Yes!” But while compassion is about helping another find the power to overcome their circumstances, that power truly comes from helping another find detachment5, NOT by way of resolving someone’s difficulties. It’s not about which side of the mushroom to nibble on; it’s about acknowledging one has no need of the mushroom. 6
If you are too impatient to read on, skip to the packet below by clicking here.
Most Alaskans I think understood that there would be recall fever as soon as petitions were available, which is why it was so important that rollout by the organizing group be impeccably planned in advance. Well, let’s just say that their hearts are definitely in the right place and they are moving forward.
In the interim, I have been able to secure the volunteer packet (which, YES, does include petition forms). It apparently was distributed to some persons under the e-mail appended below from Meda Dewitt (my link to the packet appears below that). The font choice is mine to separate this post from DeWitt’s e-mail.
Additionally I am informed and believe that packets will be available at the AFL-CIO Offices in Anchorage on Monday.
Go get some signatures!
For new signature gathering volunteers that you have recruited who want to start gathering signatures. Or if you would like to know more about the process. Please have them read the Volunteer guide and attend the webinar at 1pm this afternoon. If they are unable to attend, that is ok, we will be recording this session so that they can access it with a link at a later time.
Thank you! Meda
Good Evening Fellow Alaskans,
First and foremost I would like to thank you for your patience. This process is moving quickly and there is a tremendous amount of energy behind the Recall of Michael J. Dunleavy from the office of Governor of Alaska.
Please see the attached compressed folder, in it you will find:
– Volunteer Guide. Please read it thoroughly and ask all of your volunteers to also read.
– Recall Signature form. Most important document, print double sided, do not alter.
– Statement of Legal Grounds for the Recall of Dunleavy.
– Recall Legal Memo. This explains the legal grounds. (We know there is a typo. I promised this email for no later than today, will send the updated one tomorrow.)
– An open letter from Co-Chairs Joseph E. Usibelli and Peggy Shumaker to Alaskans.
– Volunteer Sign up sheet. Please don’t confuse this with the official signature sheet.
Recall Dunleavy will be hosting a webinar/call in session tomorrow for any questions and general check-ins from around the state on how everything is going. Please read the attached documents before the webinar, it is quite comprehensive.
Meda DeWitt, Chair of Recall Dunleavy
P.S. You may get duplicates of the email, because I will be sending it out to different threads and replies to make sure it gets to the people who need it. Thank you for your continued patience.
Recall Dunleavy Volunteer Q and A session
Sat, Aug 3, 2019 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM AKDT
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3112
Access Code: 896-701-869
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A few comments about HRes 109, the Green New Deal 1
After a parade of horribles (declarations by the paid Congressional shills owned by the energy extraction industries), the caucus makes the bald faced claims that
- Intertwine the federal government in every aspect of our daily lives,
- Overhaul American energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors,
- Jeopardize jobs and take-home income of hundreds of thousands of Americans,
- Expand the power of federal bureaucrats far beyond what our Founding Fathers ever intended,
- Impede the energy efficiency and carbon capture research and development industry has invested in, moving America further away from our emission goals,
- Destabilize our electric grid and energy dominance and independence compromising our national security, and
- Undermine federalist principles our nation was built upon.
Whoa!!!!! As one can easily see, there is no evidence tat the Resolution would do ANY of this. I am waiting to see documentation by the Western Caucus evidencing, well, anything.
I strongly suggest that EVERYONE actually read HRes 109 and if you are seeking to convince others how horrific it is, I would argue that the onus is on you to provide a sectional analysis (that’s what rational folk do). I for one would like to know what is problematic with pledging
(D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—
(i) clean air and water;
(ii) climate and community resiliency;
(iii) healthy food;
(iv) access to nature; and
(v) a sustainable environment;
Sounds very much like what the US Constitution requires of our federal government. The preamble states
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If you want to frighten yourself, go see a Manoj Nelliyattu “M. Night” Shyamalan movie. In the meantime, unplug from Fox News, try to be critical when you read or hear rants from people trying to suck your life blood and render your community a toxic desert, and do try to behave in a manner that suggests that you are a rational person entitled to enfranchisement.
The modern approach to property is to see property as a “bundle of sticks”, abandoning the 17th Century notions (the ones that today are touted as the basis for libertarianism) as largely foolishness. This jurisprudential analysis bore fruit in the discussion by Hohfeld of jural correlatives over a century ago.1 2 Philosophically, this echos the development of the social sciences, and the recognition that Homo sapiens is closer to termites3 than one might expect. In other words, we are tribal and symbiotic, and may very well be largely a function of what our group and our gut mandate.
Practically speaking, we are intersections of complex matrices (a high tech verbalization of “bundle of sticks”). There is no such thing as ownership; there is only these complex relationships. To say that Locke’s idea that we own ourselves is not to say that someone else owns us, but to say the very notion of ownership is something only a child might entertain.
Even with this realization, as Justice Johnson notes 4, the forces that drive our jurisprudence still try to focus on only one side of the balance, as it were, and the judicial appointments of culture warriors hearten such ideological forays. As Johnson puts it, “Professor Hohfeld brought legal jurisprudence a long way by giving courts the analytical tools to understand property as a set of interdependent relations that involved both rights and obligations. That work evolved into the bundle of rights, but there has been much more emphasis on the rights, and less on the obligations. Any new theory of property rights has to emphasize broader obligations, as well as rights, if we are to confront the fairness question.”
When we hear people like Mia Love preach possessive Narcissism, when we see mobs rallying to “I built it”, we are seeing the ignorant response to the demagogues call to shed the mantle of responsibilities that all members of any society wear. Indeed, in one of many inconsistent moments Locke actually makes it clear that while individuals should have the right to elect membership in a polity, once the election has been made, the individual is caught and held fast by the tyranny of the majority (and taxes are not theft).
In sum, we are perhaps better defined by our obligations than by our “rights”. As potlatch societies recognize, status is maintained by what is given, not by what is taken. One’s position in any society is dependent on the myriad relations one manages with all the other persons and things one lives among. Hubris, at its core, is the belief that the individual is wholly responsible for their own destiny, and has been the subject of scorn for millennia. It is our great challenge that we face its resurgence today.