Do We Need Laws to Force Us to Wear Masks?

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Ever since the number of COVID-19 cases began to grow in the United States the debate over whether to mandate wearing masks in public has raged on. Frequently devolving into a debate over political ideology rather than a discourse based on hard science. Naturally, those who believe mask-wearing to be an effective precaution against spreading the virus favor compulsory laws enforcing this practice in public. However, could it be possible that people still opt to take precautionary measures even in the absence of fine or other penalties? Better yet, couldn’t owners of private institutions such as stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues implement their preventive measures as conditions of patronizing their establishment? After all, the incentives are present to want to avoid any unnecessary risks and to keep their customers healthy to ensure a steady stream of business in these uncertain times.

In the state of Arizona, the issue of mask-wearing mandates has been left up to the local governments.  Most municipalities have opted to require masks while occupying indoor venues at the risk of facing a hefty fine. Back in June the city of Phoenix purposed a $250.00 for individuals repeatedly refusing to wear a mask. The suburb of Chandler, Arizona imposes a fine of $100.00 or 30 days in jail for mask-related infractions. Residents and visitors in the towns and cities located in Pinal County are not subject to mask requirements but are strongly encouraged to wear masks. One would assume that in these communities that are immune from such restrictions that the image of bare-faced shoppers must be a ubiquitous scene in the local grocery store. Such an assumption would be incorrect.

Even in the absence of formal constraints, most stores require that all customers wear masks. Generally, posting a sign on the front door forewarning prospective patrons of this precondition. Not only are the stores and eateries of the communities of towns such as Maricopa, Casa Grande, and so on filled with mask-wearing customers, but many establishments are taking measures not required by any municipality in the state. Employees are constantly cleaning. The local grocery store has never looked more pristine. Frankly, many of these changes in the cleaning and sanitizing schedules of the local business are long overdue. These shrewd business owners are proactively responding to the potential concerns of their clients. Anticipating that customers may avoid doing business if masks are at their brick-and-mortar location they have elected to require masks. In addition to urging patrons to wear masks, they also are making concentrated efforts to increase sanitation efforts. Even placing markers indicating the presence of six-foot gaps to maintain social distancing. The smell of bleach and other disinfectant products fill the entryway of the grocery stores. The local Walmart is even wiping down and sanitizing the carts! A sight that few would have ever predicted a year ago. All these preventive steps are taken without any laws, penalties, or ordinances. Completely implemented through apolitical channels.  

This micro-level self-governance on the part of local business propitiators and franchisees demonstrates the power of profit and loss mechanisms. Due to the business owners having a stake in the company they own and operate it is in their best interest to put the customers first. If the customers are comfortable, happy, and healthy it will be mutually beneficial for both parties. The customer will continue to obtain the goods and services they need and want. Simultaneously, the stores and restaurants will continue to receive business which will keep them afloat. Establishments that are insensitive to the needs of their customers will invariably see a dip in sales. This would hold even if we were not amid a pandemic. The entrepreneur must adapt to the present climate. That may mean investing in more cleaning supplies and sanctioning mask-wearing requirements for their establishment. Business proprietors who do not respond to customer concerns about the virus will be effectively punished by market forces. Through a sullied reputation, lackluster sales, and even insolvency. While constrained by federal, state, and local laws business owners by their possession of the enterprise still retain an immense amount of authority to create the rules governing their store. Having the ability to formulate the policies that govern the direction of the business enables them to better serve their customers. Displaying how to profit loss mechanisms can direct precautionary measures even in the absence of laws.

Business proprietors responding to these market pressures is an example of polycentric decision-making.  A system where multiple “decision-making units” with some degree of independent action subscribing to the same set of rules. Filtering the development of safety measures through the government attempts to use a one-size-fits-all approach to the pandemic. Whereas, individual shop owners can tailor their precautions to the specific concerns of their regular customers. Versus obtusely applying rules that may not even be effective or pertinent to how COVID-19 is impacting the region. Direct customer input about the absurdity of funneling customer traffic through two entries instead of three, can be an example of ground-level adjustments that can be made through business owner governed safety procedures when compared to those that are government-sanctioned. Avoiding the red tape and lethargic process of passing legislation or town ordinances provides fluidity that is necessary in dynamic times. A fluidity that is lost in the typical overarching and top-down approaches that are generally favored in regulations.  

Those cynical of the arguments that favor market pressure over formal regulation underestimates the power of the invisible hand. In jurisdictions where there are no regulations in forcing mask-wearing store owners not only require masks but are going the extra mile to ensure sanitary conditions for their customers. Most skeptical of the market being able to push such strives towards private solutions to the COVID-19 outbreak tend to cite avarice on the part of business owners. Without formal regulations, most will skimp on investing in extra precautionary measures due to the additional cost of enacting such changes. The willingness to make such changes is what separates a prudent businessperson from a fool.  The long-run profits from investing more in meeting alleviating the concerns of your customers will quickly outpace the minor cost.  Making a refusal to independently adjust to these changes shortsighted.

Pueblo Lands

Photo by Kelsey Johnson on Pexels.com

Just a fun fact regarding the Pueblo tribe that originally resided in the U.S. Southwest. This tidbit of information is specific to the Pueblos domiciled in New Mexico. The “… lands were acquired under fee under Spanish rule…”. Once the territory of New Mexico was annexed by the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) in the aftermath of the Mexican War (p.272). This transferred right to the lands to the tribe versus the United States government holding the legal title.

Unfortunately, the technical aspects of the land own by New Mexican Pueblos are now minimal. As the tribe is presently in a trust relationship with the U.S. Government. See United States V. Sandoval (1913) (p.273). The tribe cannot “alienate their lands without the consent of the United States per United States V. Candelaria (1926) (p.273). Water rights for Pueblo lands are as applied by Winters Rights and are not different ( New Mexico V. Aamodt) from those of any other tribe (p.273).

Side Note: 

I may not be a trained lawyer. However, I am a Classic Liberal. That means I hold individual rights and property ownership in high regard. After all, I am following in the tradition of John Locke, and so on. If we strip away all the social justice rhetoric surrounding the government’s treatment of the tribes, there are a lot of violations of natural property rights. This opinion may not be based on past case precedence, but rather on unified philosophical principles. By the Treaty of Guadalupe, the tribe has legally transferred the right to their lands. While subsequent legislation may subordinate the strength of this previous agreement, did the tribe ever consent to the trust relationship with the United State’s government? From a purely a priori combined with some of the rhetoric surrounding past and present tribal/U.S. relations it would be fair to surmise no.

The legitimacy of the present guardianship dynamic between the New Mexican Pueblo tribe and the United States is suspect at best. Effectively, this arrangement transfers Pueblo lands to the federal government for relocation to the tribe. Many who are not as privy to the philosophical implication of property rights may find this alteration to landownership to be inconsequential or even a mere technicality. Taking such a superficial stance on this issue undermines property rights. Rightfully attained property should not be transferred to another party including the government without consent. This issue somewhat mirrors the overextension of civil asset forfeiture in cases of narcotic sales or instances of eminent domain. There may be laws on the books that provided legal justification for such actions. However, it is morally or philosophically justifiable? Could these laws be legitimate due to the fact they are unjust? Depending on your disposition towards property rights the answer can be a resounding no. Through this tacit acceptance of law equating moral correctness, we accept many unjust laws as being legitimate. This in turn transforms the Bureau of Indian Affairs into an institution that is more of an imposition than a facilitator of tribal rights. Inverting property rights, thereby shifting it from a negative right to a positive right. The BIA had the potential to operate in a manner that served to legitimately uphold tribal property rights. Like more bureaucratic departments within the government, it managed to make a bad situation worse. Instead of taking on the role of a property rights arbitrator between Indians and non-Indians, it became a property rights dispensary. Creating a perverse dynamic in which there is an inference that the Pueblos no longer own the land. When it was historically transferred to them by treaty. If this is true then the government has no business managing the land at all. Unless their property rights are being infringed upon. For example, non-Indians encroaching upon their water rights. There is a profound categorical confusion in attempting to protect property rights by first violating them. Making it appear as if it more of the pretext for circumventing Native property rights than defending them.

Maximum Age to Vote

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Last year, a debate formed around the issue of lowering the voting age to sixteen in the United States. While few have quibbled over the minimum age to be eligible to vote, even few people have ever considered creating an age ceiling for voter eligibility. Younger voters and older voters suffer from the same problems when voting for candidates and policies. They both have distorted incentives. Which have been warped by a lack of skin in the game. If you do not own property or own property but are not meaningfully contributing to the tax pool your you are effectively insulated from the consequences of taxation. This has the potential of voters electing candidates and policies that advocate for profligate spending.

Some may argue that seniors have a right to vote on policies that directly impact them such as social security. Especially considering they have rightfully paid into these entitlement programs their entire lives.  However, this perspective does not consider the facts Baby Boomers are collecting far more than what they have paid into these programs. Due to the vast number of Baby Boomers collecting and their lengthier life expectancy when compared to previous generations. Two variables were not considered when Social Security was first established in the 1930s. Effectively creating an intergenerational transfer of debate and inflation to be borne by subsequent generations. In many ways, this distortion in incentives is more dangerous than that of younger voter blocs. At least they will someday have to contend with the consequences of such policies. The intergenerational transfer of entitlement programs and publicly funded pensions has to be one of the most salient examples of fiscal illusion. Shifting payment to the children and grandchildren of the beneficiaries effectively severs the connection between spending and taxation.

This is not to say that senior citizens do not possess the facilities for sound judgment. What incentive do they have to support fiscally responsible policies? Very little. Ultimately, they will not be the ones picking up the bill. This sheds light upon the land ownership requirement for voter eligibility implemented earlier on in American history. If you are not subjected to taxation you are going to be less mindful of economic matters afflicting the country. This criticism is notably aimed at college students who can vote but do not meaningfully contribute to the tax pool. Elderly citizens are in a similar situation. Most no longer work or only work part-time. Yet, they collect large sums of money collected in the form of government allocated benefits. Naturally, if you are making meager sums of money, you are going to be relatively insensitive to the levying higher taxes on the upper-income brackets. Even if such targeted taxation would result in less investment in the U.S. economy. Then again if you are already retired, why would this be alarming?

If an individual is receiving publicly funded benefits later in life they are shield from having to pay for these services. They are also disconnected from the adverse ramifications of this vast re-distribution of resources. Considering the lack of sensitivity to the consequences, this makes this voter demographic a prime candidate for manipulation by political pressure groups. Lobbying organizations that advocate on the behalf of seniors such as AARP understand that Social Security and Medicare are both powerful bargaining chips. The scintillating spark to ignite the indignation and ire of senior voters. Not to mention acknowledge that it is the secret weapon in mobilizing elderly voters to become devout participants in the political process. Few demographics are as steadfast regarding political participation than seniors. Groups such as AARP attempt to align the incentives of seniors towards voting for an elected official that is left-of-center. Due to their historical congeniality towards entitlement programs. Fostering a decades-long coalition between the left and seniors’ advocacy groups. Typically, promoting fear-mongering surrounding the potential of right-wing politicians eliminating treasured entitlement programs. Most of these claims are either highly speculative or hyperbolic. Due to the fact to alienating your most loyal demographic of voters would be political suicide. The threat of losing the senior vote will keep even the most vehement budget-hawk on their toes. The myth of Republicans being willing to commit political suicide remains strong. Leading these groups to skew the voting of incentives of seniors towards less fiscally responsible policies and candidates.

Individual votes are indeed inconsequential in elections. It’s more the overall aggregate voting pattern of a specific voter bloc that is significant. The key is to pander to the sensibilities of your targeted demographic. Either through factual discourse or the spread of misinformation. There are so many strategic groups gunning for the senior voting bloc, that unless one is well-versed in political science it would be difficult to distinguish these attempts at manipulating voting behavior from well-intentioned advocacy. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of overlap between the two. Only confusing matters. It is important to remember that someone other than seniors stands to benefit from advocating for generous entitlement programs through increased job security. That is the administrators operating these departments that manage programs such as social security. Those employed by AARP benefit from having a cause to advocate. It is not pure beneficence these organized bodies push for increasing allocations for entitlement programs. I believe that most seniors still have the cognitive capacity to navigate these waters. Why should they have to?  If you worked your entire life, raise kids, etc. why still grapple with constantly being manipulated by the invested interests in Washington?  From the standpoint of mental health, it may also be advantageous to implement a voting age limit.

If those entering their golden years have an iron-clasp on their entitlement benefits at what age should they cease to be eligible to vote? This answer is quite simple. As soon as an individual is old enough to qualify for Social Security. Presumably once a person reaches retirement age they will opt to receive these benefits. Meaning they no longer have a stake in supporting fiscal responsible policies. To remedy the incentive problem, I would be willing to compromise with the following contingency. If a senior citizen would like to retain the right to vote they should forfeit the ability to collect Social Security. While they may not completely have skin in the game in they no longer generate taxable income, their incentives structure has been completely compromised by a boundless array of publicly funded entitlements. Once you start to accept these benefits and begin to expect them, you have already sold your vote to advocacy organizations, bureaucrats, and opportunistic politicians.  Making relinquishment of voting rights a fair trade-off if one is looking to receive social security.

Tocqueville on The South and Slavery

Photo by Tabitha Mort on Pexels.com

Some of the keenest observations made by Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America were made in his comparisons between the agrarian South and industrialized north. Tocqueville’s characterization of the two regions of the new American republic was so powerful they still passively influence regional stereotypes even in the modern era. The northern eastern United States is presented as a bustling hub for commerce and productivity. The south being caricatured as being rural, lackadaisical, underdeveloped, and board-line primitive. This may have been somewhat true in the 19th century. However, to hold such a view as being accurate today would be a gross demonstration of ignorance. Not too much it would require drastically underestimate the economic potential of cities such as prosperous Atlanta, Georgia, or the buzzing tourist town of Nashville.

In the nascent period of American history, southern states weren’t luring northern away from  Boston with low taxes and warm weather. The South was still primarily reliant on agriculture to fuel its economy. As we all know most of the labor was done by slaves. Tocqueville goes so far to point to the use of slaves in the south being the core differentiating attribute between the North and the South (p. 408).  Why? The practice of slavery in the south influenced many aspects of southern culture at the time. The absence of the practice in the north also helped shape the industrialized economy and culture of New England. Where the Weberian Protestant work ethic was very much salient. Through possessing a steadfast and unwavering focus on commerce the north ended up outpacing the south economically and technologically. Due to the lack of industrialization, much of the southern United States was less apt to become urbanized. However, considering the large plots of land required for agriculture lack of infrastructure and urbanization is understandable.

Farming is certainly a labor-intensive vocation. Requiring years of dedication spending engaging in hours of back-breaking working daily. How could we say that southerners of the 1800s did not possess a strong work ethic? The typical plantation owner did not do the work themselves. They had their slaves sweat and toil to produce the crops they sold. Making labor a necessity of the less fortunate. As ascribed by Tocqueville this subordination of work not only would be indicative of the luxuries of “idle men” (p. 407) but a more pervasive attitude towards labor. Relegating work to being only acceptable for the poor or slaves, it implies those above a specific status should not work. Especially when men of money have much more entertaining pursuits to indulge in. Such as hunting, gambling, socializing, womanizing, participating in local politics, etc. Drawing a sharp contrast with the self-made tycoons of the industrialized northeast. Where wealth was more of the byproduct of enterprising wit than old money or traditional social arrangements. Almost expressing a distant desire to return to the days of the monarchy. Where the slaving owning elites would either serve as the ruling class. Their slaves would be nothing more than captive constituents Analogous to the serfs of medieval. However, while the serfs were owned by lords only be being tied to the land and insurmountable debts. In the humid countryside of 19th century Georgia, the plantation owner possessed the land and the workers.   

Alexis De Tocqueville did point out that slave owners advocated for the continuance of the institution for the sake of profits. But rather to maintain their aristocratic lifestyles. To many unacquainted with the economics of slavery, this may come as a bit of shock. Tocqueville flat out declares slavery less efficient than free labor. A view is also expressed in the book The Real Lincoln by economist Thomas DiLorenzo. Tocqueville citing that the observation that paid workers tend to work faster than slaves (P.406). This being a core driving force of any economy. What Mr. Tocqueville is implying that the slave owners could not possibly be solely concerned about profits. If they were they would have switched over to paid labor. Due to the increase in efficiency and decreased production costs (food, room/board, and clothing for the slaves). In contrast, the profit-centric northern capitalists would see this transition as a no-brainer and a strategic shift in production methods. This would require the southern elites to become more involved in managing the process. Rather than have administrative and managerial matters handled by slaves that have proven themselves capable of such higher-level tasks. Hence, foiling the regal lifestyle fulfilled with entitlement, unearned honor, and leisure.

The Long White Beard Fallacy

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Introduction:

There are few fallacies as prevalent as equating age with wisdom. This false assumption is predicated on the belief that age tends to correlate with the accumulation of life experiences. Conventional wisdom would dictate that a prudent mind would be able to formulate deep insights based upon these plentiful experiences.  However, this presumes that the individual of advancing age is capable of shrewd judgment. Much like another demographic of people, some older people are not.  This error in thinking has been enshrined in the mythical image of a sagacious prophet or philosopher. A Socratic or an Aristotelian figure radiating the mystique of lost ancient knowledge. While imagery plays a powerful role in our perception, picturing every individual with a long white beard as being wise is an illusion. Simply confuses correlation with causation. The reality reduces the saying of being “another year older and another year wiser” to an empty statement.

Believing that every older individual has amassed a stockpile of knowledge ignores several prerequisites that make an individual inclined to become a wise person.  These characteristics include intellectual curiosity, the ability to learn from experiences, and the capacity for sound reasoning. Without these attributes it doesn’t matter if a person is twenty-five or ninety-five, they cannot be wise! To credulously accept conventional wisdom without any forethought makes an individual nothing more than a passive fool. To only continue to do so for decades on end is antithetical to wisdom. It is quintessentially spending an entire lifetime relying on lazy thinking, which will not lead to acquiring any knowledge. Claiming that such an individual is wise or knowledgeable irrespective of their chronological age is borderline criminal.

Intellectual Curiosity:

Encapsulated in the words of the wisest man among the ancient Athenians, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Arguably one of the most cited quotes in Western Philosophy conveys a lot of the nature of knowledge and wisdom. If one is not inclined to pursue the knowledge they cannot become wise. This is regardless of how many years they have spent living on this planet. Most true knowledge generally needs to be pursued, not passively obtained. The thought process of an individual content with accepting the superficial appearance of the world is not one who is going to explore ideas or the nature of the universe. Rather have their beliefs bequeathed to them.  Versus actively discriminating between two choices based on acquired knowledge. To merely accept the status quo for decades on end without any deeper contemplation is the opposite of being wise. This person has only spent their life regurgitating the ideas that have been inculcated into them since childhood. Instead of thoughtfully engaging with ideas to acquire knowledge.

Spending a lifetime staring at the surface deludes people into thinking they understand how the world works. Creating the erroneous belief that they can easily formulate solutions to problems or have a firm grasp of the nature of reality. Unfortunately, they have only been gazing at shadow puppets on a cave wall for all these years. Attempting to derive a complete understanding from such an inadequate foundation is impossible. Further substantiating the importance of having a thirst for knowledge to achieve the coveted status of a wise person.  A wise person does not succumb to the illusion of having the complete picture when all that is available are thin silhouettes. They have a firm understanding of the limitations of knowledge and acknowledge that learning is a continual process, not a destination. They echo the sentiment of the Socratic profession of ignorance keeps themselves open to accepting new information. Through remaining humble and reminding ourselves that there are severe limitations on our breadth of knowledge we allow ourselves to broaden our horizons.  If we assume that due to our age we automatically have a thorough understanding of the nature of the world, we are only fooling ourselves.  Such self-deception does not amount to wisdom.

The Ability to Learn from Experiences:

It is easy to assume that because we lived through an experience we truly have a strong comprehension of how to handle it if it reoccurs in the future. Once again, this is an attribute that is tantamount to self-depiction. Making matters only worse, our elders feel so confident in their abilities to draw meaningful inferences from these anecdotes they firmly distribute this advice to younger generations. Creating personal allegories that become imperative that younger folks learn from. However, how are these sage individuals so sure they have pin-pointed the precise source of the issue? Narrowing it down to one salient detail is an oversimplification of a complex situation. There could be multiple issues resulting in the problem at hand.  The specific contextual details of the current issue may differ just enough from the situation experienced by the older individual that their remedy may not be applicable. Dismally, even after all of these years, they have never been able to accurately determine the source of the problem. But have spent the past number years under the false impression that they know the correct course of action. People have the unfortunate propensity to conflate and transpose details that lead them astray. Rendering the solution to being ineffective. Attributing the issue to a salient detail rather than the true cause of the issue. A confusion that can lead a litany of personal fables and longwinded tales resulting in faulty advice.

It should also be noted that if an individual lacks intellectual curiosity, the aptitude of them ever getting down to the heart of a problem is slim. The capacity to learn from experiences is an attribute that dovetails to tightly with intellectual curiosity.  Those of an inquisitive nature are much more likely to weigh all the variables and then cautiously attempt to conclude. Resulting in sound retrospective analysis. While those accepting a crude and rudimentary version of the truth are prone to devise a solution from incomplete information and half-baked premises and reasoning. When examining experience and only accounting for an incomplete depiction or inaccurate assumptions about the scenario, it is impossible to learn from that experience.

Capacity for Sound Reasoning:

You can possess the learning capacity, applying information, and drive to acquire knowledge. None of this will make you wise if your thinking is plighted with biases and fallacies. To have all of the information but no means of interpreting it essentially makes this knowledge useless. What good is information if my interpretation of it is clouded by my prejudices. Capacity for sound reasoning is so integrally related to learning from experiences, it could be argued that without sober reasoning skills we would not be able to draw meaningful lessons from our past experiences. Odds are we would again resort to spouting the convention wisdom specific to our generation. Following the crowd does not lead you to the truth. Conforming for the sake of conforming is nothing more than a flaw in reasoning. Cemented and immortalized in the appeal to popularity fallacy. Popular consensus can lead us down some dark and treacherous roads. One only needs to be reminded of Nazi Germany to witness the grisly ultimate consequences of this fallacy. A genuinely wise individual would be able to recognize the danger in mindless acquiescence. Versus firmly leaning on the thoughtless cliché of referring to “back in my day”. However, times have drastically changed since the youth of well-meaning elderly folks.  Espousing outdated platitudes for fifty years ago (that most likely were even incorrect back then) is not equal to disseminating wisdom.

Assuming that advanced age automatically is equal to wisdom presents another fallacy in reasoning in its own right. That is the appeal to authority fallacy.  Utilizing age as an indicator of wisdom is setting that up as a social signaling mechanism. We hold an authoritative reverence for the advice provided by an elderly person, even though that advice could be flawed. We are allowing the variable of age to obscure our better judgment.  If we truly thought about it, only a small minority of people under the age of sixty-five are truly wise.  Do these individuals all of a sudden alter their habits and adopt a proclivity for sound reasoning magically after reaching this arbitrary age of retirement? No. Odds are as we get older we tend to become more rigid in our thinking and set in our ways. This may not be true of all individuals, but it does tend to be true for most people.

Public Schools, Condoms, and Parental Rights

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Sex Education curriculum has remained a topic of fierce debate in American public schools over the past several decades. Especially controversial, initiatives where schools distribute condoms to students without the consent of the parents. The schools believe they are providing a public service through dispensing prophylactics to students who may not access to such precautions otherwise. Parents with more of a conservative disposition feel that through providing contraceptives to their children the schools are attempting to undermine the values of the student’s household. Any impartial observer free of any ideological inclinations would see sound logic in either premise. School administrators have good intentions. The concerned parents have sound moral concerns. Despite whether their concerns are originating from religious convictions or pragmatic qualms about encouraging sexual activities among teenagers.

How does American law view the issue of distributing condoms in public schools? It would be reasonable to assume that schools funded with tax dollars should not be overtly promoting partisan values. Through providing condoms to students school officials could be implicitly be condoning pre-marital sex. Which may conflict with the religious beliefs some the parents wish to instill in their children. This dynamic of sex education in public schools presents an important question, where do the rights of the parents come in? These parents who take offense to such programs are effectively having their tax dollars utilized to fund initiatives that they find to be immoral. Their children can participate without any notification to the parents or the written expression of consent. That’s truly where the issue becomes problematic. Unfortunately, the law does not see eye to eye with the concerns of socially conservative parents.

One case that examined whether distributing condoms to students without prior parental consent was unconstitutional was Curtis V. School Committee of Falmouth (1995). In this scenario, a school nurse dispensed condoms to every student in school grades seven through twelve. Then a group of concerned parents challenged this action on the part of the school stating that they have the right to be notified. Also, asserting that parental consent should also be obtained before the school providing condoms to students (P. 431). The court countered this claim by suggesting that state action only violates “parental liberty” only when it is “coercive or compulsory”. That distributing condoms in such a fashion was neither due to students not being required to accept them. Therefore, it does not circumvent the authority of the parent. The ligating party found this premise to be false, arguing that this action was coercive and compulsory. Due to this fact, these contraceptives were being provided in public schools that have compulsory attendance requirements (P.431).

The Massachusetts Justices found little validity in these repudiations and ruled against the parents. The Justices acknowledging that providing condoms to students was a non-medical service. However, they found that there was no Constitutional precedence for requiring parental consent or an option to opt-out. Also, did not find this compulsory in any context. Proceeded to then state that parents do not have the right to “tailor public school education” (P.432).

Whether you are personally in favor of sex education or not it is difficult to not be troubled by this verdict on the part of the Massachusetts Justices. This court decision gives deference to the authority of the public school system over that of the digression of parents. It is difficult to justify such an overreach. This is a prime example of the structural apparatus of the law bulldozering over the rights of the parent. Especially when it would have required little in the way of time and resources for the school to issue permission slips. It perplexing how your child needs a permission slip to go to a museum, but not to receive a condom. Shouldn’t the school have the permission of the parents in either situation? Schools intend to educate children. Sex education is in of itself is one thing. However, distributing condoms takes on another tone. Through directly providing condoms to students without parental consent the school has gone too far. The parent does have the right to object or want to shelter their child from such realities. This may not be the most prudent or realistic approach, however, that is irrelevant. Unless a parent is abusing or neglecting their child, they have a right to raise their child as they see fit. Public schools being appendages of the government do not have the right to interfere with the child-rearing process. This topic provides greater insight into why parents are turning to the unschooling movement in droves (even before the pandemic).

Extracurricular Activities: Legal Right or A Privilege

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Is the ability for students to participate in extracurricular activities a
right or a privilege? Many young people mistakenly believe that it is a right.However, in the eyes of the law, it is a conditional privilege. Much to the chagrin of hyperbolic teenagers. School districts reserve the right to make satisfactory academic performance a contingency for participation in interscholastic sports. However, there was one aspiring student-athlete inTexas bold enough to challenge this assertion. Resulting in the ruling of Spring Branch I.S.D V. Stamos. Needless to say, the court’s verdict did not
favor the underachieving student-athlete.

Continue reading “Extracurricular Activities: Legal Right or A Privilege”

Craft Beer and Creative Destruction

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

Millennials are quite frequently criticized by older generations for a litany of various reasons. Some of these grievances vary from a  weak work ethic to having an unwarranted sense of entitlement. Many of these claims are squarely qualitative making it possible that many of these observations are distorted by bias. Since millennials have entered adulthood there have been some interesting shifts in consumer preferences. These characteristics of the Millennial generation can be more objectively measure through tracking sales.

Over the past decade articles reading “ How Millennials are killing ……. Industry” has proliferated throughout the internet. Millennials have chastised for being the death knell for industries ranging from napkins to chain-restaurants. Come on folks, was the food at Applebee’s ever any good in the first place?  All joking aside, this is truly a fascinating phenomenon.  One sector where the departure from traditional sensibilities has been the most pronounced is in beer. Yes, Millennials are trading up to craft beer slowly making the ubiquitous backyard barbeque with a cooler filled with Budweiser cans a relic of yesteryear.

Naturally, there are some sour grapes on the part of Gen-Xers and Baby boomers who are fans of the American adjunct-lager. The unprecedented growth of the craft beer industry coinciding with the late 2000’s early 2010s is not an accident. This is the timeframe in which many Millennials had reached the legal drinking age. Even as recent as 2019 the projected numbers for the growth of the industry have been looking strong.  In 2018, the craft beer market was valued at $108,912 million and was projected to mushroom to $186,590 million by 2025. Unfortunately, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened someof the previously projected growth. It estimated that the pandemic has cut overall craft beer sales by approximately 20 percent.

Virus or not, odds are the established mainstay craft brewers with national followings like Dogfish Head, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Stone, Rogue, etc. will weather the storm. Its more likely the regional and local favorites are the companies that are barely hanging on for dear life. The fears of macro breweries and their devoted fan base concerning the rise of craft beer epitomizes the process of creative destruction. An economic concept first devised by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. This concept isn’t isolated to the shift in consumer preferences towards craft beer, but also the other industries millennials are “killing”. Creative destruction can be loosely described as the process of innovation in the market driving out previous products, services, and production methods into obsolesce. Therefore, these developments can fail the less innovative firms in the industry. When Schumpeter first synthesized the conceptual bones of the process he was referring to increases in productive efficiency (p.81-83).  

The production of craft beer if anything is far less efficient than the production of a standard adjunct-lager. Rather, the craft beer example is a different manifestation of creative destruction. Cost-efficiency and are no longer the name of the game. Consumers prefer more flavorful beer are willing to pay a premium for it. Due to this sway in consumer preferences, making hyper-efficient and economical beer is starting to become antiquated. Consumers are starting to become savvier when it comes to the intricacies of the brewing process. They are well versed in the subtleties and flavor nuisances in different hop varieties. The contemporary beer aficionado is looking for a beer that pushes the very boundaries of the definition of beer. Relishing the possibility of obtaining a bottle of the Sam Adams’Utopias beer. Clocking in at a staggering 28 percent alcohol by volume and aged in ex-cognac barrels paralleling a vintage port more than a beer. Demonstrating the dynamic essence of capitalistic markets, to quote Schumpeter :

“Capitalism, then, is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary. And this evolutionary character of the capitalist process is not merely due to the fact that economic life goes on in a social and natural environment that changes and by its change alters the data of economic action (Page 82).”

These innovations are merely an evolution of how we perceive beer. The efforts of craft breweries not only gives us a break from the monotony of drinking Coors Light but expands what was a previously narrow beverage category. Millennial beer drinkers have spoken in the democratic process of market exchange. They don’t want to drink the same beer their dad drank. If the bigger breweries do not adapt they will continue to lose business.  

Not so fast! It would be hasty to assume that millennials and their love of fancy beer are going to be the death of Miller, Coors, Pabst, and Budweiser. These companies and brands survived prohibition, surely, they have an ace up their sleeve. Especially considering they have considerably more capital and resources to invest in the brewing process than the smaller firms. They have found a way to continue to do what they do best and enter the craft beer segment of the market. One early attempt of bigger beer to get in on the craft beer action was in 1995 with the introduction of the wheat ale Blue Moon to their brand portfolio. Back in the mid-1990s, most Millennials were in Elementary School or Junior High School. The craft beer boom of the 1990s was minor in comparison to the current growth in the market. Other attempts of the big guys attempting to craft some suitable alternatives to craft beer have come in the forms of Michelob Amber Bock and Shock Top.

The current trend in big beer thwarting the present wave of artisanal creative destruction has been buying out existing craft breweries. As the old saying goes if you can’t beat them, join them. The phases of acquisitions began back in the early 2010s. The first notable craft beer acquisition by big beer was  AB InBev’s acquisition of  Illinois-based Goose Island back in 2011 for $38.8 Million. The acquisitions only continued throughout the decade. It started to be commonplace for big beer conglomerates to shell out millions of dollars to buy out established craft brewers. In all honesty, this was a very shrewd move on the part of big beer. Why? It is much more efficient to purchase an established brand that produces a good product and has a following. Versus spending millions more on R&D, marketing, packaging design, etc. 

It should be noted that this has been met with some backlash from craft beer consumers. Some IPA imbibers viewing these companies as “selling out” acting like their favorite underground hardcore band just inked a record deal with Atlantic Records. Ethical opinions aside, strategically this move makes good business sense for both parties. The big guys easily slide into the craft beer game and the owners of the bought-out brewery can either retire or pursue other, business interests, or get hired on an employee (the benefit is it can be less stressful than running your own business). Not every small-scale beer entrepreneur is celebrating the prospect of an acquisition. Veteran craft breweries Sam Adams and Dogfish Head completed a $128 million merger in May 2019. It can be strongly suggested that this merger took place partly to resist either company from being acquired by one of the macro beer conglomerates. After having read a few books written by DFH founder Sam Calagione it becomes quite clear he wouldn’t be one to sell his business. Displaying the fact there are hold outs. However, as the market becomes more concentrated will more craft brewers have to form alliances similar to that of  Sam Adams and DFH to stay competitive? Only time will tell. But if it wasn’t for the tides of the Schumpeterian gales constantly altering the dynamics of the domestic beer market this wouldn’t even be a concern. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for creative destruction we would all still be drinking the same beer favored by our grandfathers.

Bootleggers and Baptists: Part XI: Workplace Diversity

Diversity awareness programs on their surface appear to be noble endeavors designed to provide equal opportunity employment to historically disadvantaged groups.  Over the years, there has been some controversy over the conclusive impact and application of workplace diversity programs. Due to claims of only marginal success in increasing the diversity of the workforce. One major shift has been to couple diversity with “inclusion”, having a diverse workforce is not enough. The company now needs to also provide a welcoming environment.  This is a profoundly difficult task considering the subjective evaluations of what is defined as “welcoming” may vary wildly depending upon the perspective of the individual employee. There is a growing prevalence of what is known as “diversity fatigue”. Many managers and H.R. personnel succumb to the stress of attempting to fulfill lofty and unstandardized goals.  Making the achieving the goals of diversity and inclusion an ever-present uphill battle. Especially with the hyper-dynamic and ever-changing trends in what is deemed as being politically correct by the intellectual upper crust.

The move for diversity for its very sake is not without adverse consequences. Beyond merely making aimless strides towards an arbitrary and idealistic goal. If mismanaged minority employees may feel alienated or there may be an increase in the incidence of conflicts between employees. Two downsides are often not accounted for in the application of diversity programs. Neglecting these variables not only determines the purported objectives of diversity programs but the inevitable flaws of human nature.  The old expression “… you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…” comes to mind. Prejudice cannot be eradicated by the edict of corporate policy nor by the stroke of a lawmaker’s pen. Freewill and personal perception have a massive role in fostering and maintain prejudice. A naively wide-eyed and idealistic diversity awareness program provided by an employer will not inculcate the virtue of tolerance into their employees. These are conclusions that the individual must independently arrive at deep introspection.

These lofty expectations mirror the Holier-than-thou virtue signally exposited by contemporary Progressives. Modern Progressive has firm ideological roots dating back to the early 20th century. A careful examination of history will lead any thoughtful observer incredulous of the true aims of the diversity movement. Many of the moral objectives of the Progressive Era were nothing more than circuitous means of rent-seeking. Making the whole notion of workplace diversity truly about diversity dubious at best. Few employees ever question how their employer benefits from promoting diversity programs. A business enterprise exists to provide a product or service not to proliferate the virtues of tolerance. What do they stand to gain through attempting to cultivate a culture of hyper-tolerance?

What emerges from this situation is a potential example of  Bootleggers and Baptist coalition.  An internal coalition between the human resources department and upper-management. Typically, the individual representing the moral argument for a diverse workplace is the “Diversity Ambassador”.  A role within the company that carries quite a bit of prestige, yet how this position direct benefits day-to-day operations is questionable at best. Even when employees who are crucial to daily business are laid-off the Diversity Ambassador gets to keep his job.  Although such a role is nothing more than a luxury. This actor is undoubtedly our Baptist due to his incessant persistence in exalting the values of diversity and inclusion. His rhetoric comes just short of mirroring a political propaganda campaign. Boldly asserting that everyone possesses some degree of prejudice or implicit bias. His obtuse repudiations make countering his claims (regardless of the accuracy of his claims)  a futile endeavor. Below details a scenario witnessed by the author that demonstrates the zero-sum nature of the accusatory discourse of the typical Diversity Ambassador:

Diversity Ambassador:

“ I have conducted this exercise for over twenty years and not once has anyone ever mentioned that I was black. I told you all to list the inferences you can make from just looking at me. No one even mentioned the most obvious characteristic of me. I am black. Why is this? None of you have followed my instructions! Why?!

Audience Member (Attempting to answer his question):

“ Because none of us see color.”

Diversity Ambassador:

“ Don’t ever tell a diversity and inclusion coach that you don’t see color!!”

The above conversation between a corporate Diversity Ambassador and an hourly employee exhibits the perverse quiddity of this wanton advocating for diversity. This is not the tone of a man who wants to educate, but rather who wishes to indoctrinate. Pedagogically and condescendingly force-feeding us the moral imperative of admitting our own biases. Versus attempting to foster understanding or attempting to provide us with the genuine precepts for being more tolerant. The man was simply describing our sins without truly prescribing a means of reconciling them. Paralleling the fervor of an Evangelical preacher, we can do no right. We must fully accept that we are in the wrong with no hope of ever being right. Presenting a situation where the participant can only lose. Generating such a compelling moral narrative for the imperative to proselytize the virtue of diversity that it also doubles as an impenetrable smoke-screen that insulates the company from accusations of discrimination.

The Bootleggers in this dynamic are the individuals in upper-management.  There are two main benefits of this variety of moral rent-seeking are deflecting the possibility of having a hostile work environment and social currency for appearing to be forward-looking. Over the years the United States has become quite a litigious society. Considering the increased sensitivity towards various minority groups, the opportunities for discrimination lawsuits have only become expanded. Providing a sizable incentive for those at the helm of the company to avoid any transgressions against their employees that could be viewed as discriminating in nature. By painting the opposite picture, even if this image is illusory, diverts, or weakens claims of discrimination. Not only does promoting diversity and inclusion have monetary incentives, but it also fosters a positive image for the company. It creates the facade of being open, progressive, modern, and may lead to the company to earn accolades for their culture. All of which will benefit the company and make the jobs of the CEO, CFO, etc. more secure. The reputation of the company for inclusive will attract talented young professionals that will only add value to the organization. One only needs to look at the example of Google to see how company image matters when it comes to acquiring skilled employees. Work culture almost operates as a form of non-monetary compensation. It is another variable that may sway top-notch young professionals towards one company versus another. Merely operating to the benefit of those in the top-tiers of management.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Gonzales V. Raich- Medical Marijuana and Federalism

close up photo of kush on glass container
Photo by Yash Lucid on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

When medical marijuana was first legalized back in 1996 it presented a bit of a conflict for law enforcement. Even though Marijuana could be prescribed for medical purposes in California, it was still a banned substance under federal law.  Twenty-four years later Cannabis remains prohibited under federal law remaining a Schedule I drug.  Under this classification, a drug is deemed as having no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. Even though medical Marijuana is presently legal in 33 states. The conflict between state law and federal law in the sphere of regulating Cannabis has created a plethora of issues. Among these issues have been inconsistent rulings on the behalf of the Supreme Court. At times striking verdicts that circumvented state authority and gave deference to the jurisdiction of the federal government. At best, these rules are Constitutionally questionable.

 

One particularly noteworthy example of this confusion of jurisdiction transpired on August 15th, 2002. Angel Raich and Diane Monson, two card-carrying medical Marijuana patients, were subjected to a raid by the DEA and the local sheriff’s office. Despite the fact their Marijuana consumption and cultivation were legal under state law “..federal agents seized and destroyed all six of … Cannabis plants..” on the property. Unfortunately for the respondents, the Supreme Court did not rule in favor of their case, Gonzales V. Raich (2005). The court found that congressional authority under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) superseded the Compassionate Care Act passed at the state level. Why would the court side with federal authorities on this matter? This incorrect judgment by the Supreme Court is possibly rooted in a misapplication of the Commerce Clause. This clause on the Constitution grants Congress the authority to regulate intrastate trade. It is perplexing that the Supreme Court would find the parameters of this congressional function to be so malleable that it could be extended to a medical plant cultivated solely for personal use. Effectively allowing federal agencies under the egis of congressional law to interfere with the affairs of California.

 

Legal scholar Randy E. Barnett found that the Supreme Court had misapplied the Commerce Clause in this case. Due to the court’s loose definition of economic activity. It can even be argued that they also misinterpreted the past cases cited in their decision. United States V. Lopez (1995)limits the substantial effects doctrine to intrastate activities that are economic in nature” (P.5). Meaning that Congress would have had the authority to intervene in the matter of medical Marijuana cultivation if it stood to impact the national economy. Here’s where the Supreme Court engages in the aerobatic feat of fitting non-economic activities into the model of economic conduct. Analogous to fit the square block into the proverbial round hole. Through applying the Larger Regulatory Scheme Doctrine the court was able to loosely define  Raich and Monson’s conduct as “economic”. Utilizing what Barnett refers to as a “fungible goods rationale”, essentially inferring that the production of marijuana influences the national supply of the commodity (p.7). Aside from merely grasping at straws with this determination it completely ignores the purpose of the complaints growing marijuana in the first place, relief from chronic medical conditions. In light of the opioid epidemic would it be fair to confiscate legally prescribed Vicodin tablets due to this medication having the potential of being illegally sold on the black market? No. However, Vicodin also isn’t illegal at the federal level. Leaving open possible speculation that this application of law overtly discriminates against medical Marijuana.

 

The ruling in Gonzales V. Raich demonstrates an inconsistent stance on striking down the use of the Commerce Clause by federal authorities to unjustly meddle in state matters. In the two cases cited by the court United States V. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000) it was held that the Commerce Clause was not applicable due to the non-economic nature of both cases. If an individual were to examine the context of Gonzales V. Raich it would be easy to see that it too is not enforceable under the Commerce Clause. Rather it was an example of gross abuse of power that is not even Constitutional allocated to federal agencies.

 

 

United States V. Lopez (1995)

 

Back in the early 1990s 12th grader, Alfonzo Lopez was charged with bringing a concealed handgun to school. He was initially charged under Texas law and a day later the charges were dropped.  Subsequently was charged by federal authorities for violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.  Lopez was found guilty on federal charges and was sentenced to six months in prison. Federal authorities citing the Commerce Clause as their justification for intervention. The appeal on this case did end up reaching the Supreme Court where it was ruled unconstitutional for Lopez to be charged under the Gun-Free School Zones Act.

 

Per Oyez it was ruled:

Yes. The possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity that might, through repetition elsewhere, have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The law is a criminal statute that has nothing to do with “commerce” or any sort of economic activity.

 

It is profoundly confusing that this case was cited in Gonzales V. Raich, yet the general principle did not seem to transfer to from United States V. Lopez. Much how it is a gargantuan leap to assume that gun possession in a school zone would automatically lead to distribution in intrastate economic activity. It is equally faulty to assume that the production of Marijuana for medical purposes is overly economic. If there is not any concrete evidence that either Monson or Raich had an intent to resell their prescribed Cannabis, then the “economic” argument seems to falter. Similarly, in the Lopez case, the economic argument is at best grasping for straws. Unless there was solid evidence that Lopez was planning to rob a bank after school, it is hard to say that the federal authorities were upholding the stability of intrastate commerce.

United States V. Morrison (2000)

 

In 1994, two male students attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute ( now known as Virginia Tech) raped a female student. Then in 1995 the female student file a complaint under Virginia Tech’s sexual assault policy. One of the male students was immediately suspended for two semesters and the other was able to go on with impunity. When the student who was punished sought an appeal and his punishment was found to be “excessive” and was “set aside”. The female student did end up unenrolling from Virginia Tech. Then subsequently sued both the school and the two males students under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. A federal law designed to curtail violence targeted at women. It was ruled that utilizing the Commerce Claus to enforce the VAWA was unconstitutional. While abhorrent, violence against women does not disrupt interstate commerce. In terms of delivering justice in this case of disturbing sexual violence that falls upon the commonwealth of Virginia.

 

It is important to note that Justice Rehnquist who delivered the majority opinion did not tacitly condone the actions of these two men. Rather, he was attempting to uphold the proper application of federalism.

[i]f the allegations here are true, no civilized system of justice could fail to provide [Brzonkala] a remedy for the conduct of…Morrison. But under our federal system, that remedy must be provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and not by the United States.”

 

The Morrison and Lopez cases only make the ruling in Gonzales V. Raich more dubious. If we can allow the states to regulate non-economic violent crime why cannot we do the same for non-violent drug laws? The lengths the court went to frame Monson and Raich’s cultivation of Marijuana as economic and therefore require federal intervention defies reason.  Also, gives credence to professor Barnett’s stance that this case was a devasting blow to federalism in our legal system. Potentially washing away the gains made in the Lopez and Morrison cases. Who gets hurt by such fallacious judgments by the Supreme Court? Medical Marijuana patients who are grappling with a multitude of various debilitating conditions. However, fortunately, the tide does seem to be turning as far as Marijuana is concerned. After all, years later public opinion has come around for not only medical use of Cannabis but also recreational use. Medical use is presently legal in 33 states and recreational use is legal in 11 states plus Washington D.C. That in of itself could be viewed as a larger long-term win for federalism. The lingering potential for the federal government to usurp functions that should be within the state’s power still exists. Only time can tell if on a later date the federal authorities opt to intervene in the seasoned recreational market of a state like Colorado or Washington.

 

Also, please see click here to see the story of Angel Raich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Substance over Style

person holding a chalk in front of the chalk board
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

 

 

Just a random thought. As I have gotten older I have begun to realize how you arrive at your answer is more important than what your answer is.

Anyone can get lucky with incidentally contriving a profound insight. However, your method of arriving at such a conclusion cannot be the byproduct of chance.

Rather, it would be the byproduct of sounding thinking. Replicating the feat will eliminate the potential it was a happenstance fluke.

Can Teachers Strip-Search Students on School Grounds?

 

auditorium benches chairs class
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Arguably one of the most important rights that the U.S. Constitution endows every American with are those protected under the Fourth Amendment. Broadly applying to the preservation of an individual’s right to privacy. Explicitly stated under the Fourth Amendment:

 

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

 

However, it can be assumed that like most Constitutional rights that the Fourth Amendment is not without limitation. In a similar vein to how free speech is not an unlimited right under the First Amendment. Overt slander, threats, and language intended to incite a fight are examples of speech that is outside of constitutional protection. As can be expected, our right to privacy is not unfettered.

 

Does the question become whether school students are protected under the Fourth Amendment while school is in session? The answer to this question is far from linear due to the fact there are a few factors that make this question more complicated. For one, most of the students are under the age of majority. Effectively school staff operates under the doctrine of Parentis Loco in which teachers and administrators are to act in the best interest of the students. Due to the students being separated from their parents. It becomes problematic when we attempt to delineate a fine line between maintaining the privacy of the student and looking out for their best interests. Another consideration is that public schools are technically an extension of the government. Making it more imperative that school officials do not deprive students of their Constitutional rights.

 

What guidelines do school officials have for determining the line between Constitutional and unconstitutional searching for a student? Whether it be on their person, backpack, or the locker that they use during school hours? The litmus test generally exercised by the courts in New Jersey V. TLO  a ruling dating back to the 1980s. The facts of the case detail how a female student was caught smoking cigarettes in the bathroom by a faculty member. The student was subsequently sent to the principal’s office where her purse was further inspected. Upon searching the student’s purse there was a small amount of Marijuana found and evidence of drug sales. The defense attempted to argue that TLO had her Fourth Amendment rights violated through the search. The court ruled that the search was reasonable in light of the contextual circumstances. New Jersey V. TLO setup a two-part test for determining whether a search on school grounds is “reasonable”.  Part one is “whether the … the action was justified at its inception..”  The second portion of the test is that “… one must consider whether the search as actually conducted was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place..” (P.249).

 

Unfortunately, even with an established test case, the definition of acceptable conduct in searching students on school grounds is murky. There are various cases where applying the test in similar circumstances has led to some notable variance in the results (P.249). Making rulings using this test heavily contingent on context. For example, a Pennsylvania court ruled against a locker search conducted by school officials after having seen the student taking a pack of cigarettes out of the locker. The school found Marijuana “joints” in the pocket of a jacket inside of the locker. The court citing that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the pocket of the student’s jacket (P.249).

 

The exorbitant amount of nuance applied in the New Jersey V. TLO test makes the prospect of school-sanctioned strip-searches horrifying. Depending on the context it is permissible. It would be shrewd of teachers and school administrators to exercise a profound amount of caution before restoring to such drastic means. As one can imagine, if there is a lack of clarity in applying this test to less invasive searches, the same problems surface in the event of strip-searches. For example, in the 1991 case Williams V. Ellington the court ruled that the search was reasonable in light of the circumstances (P. 251). Even when faced with the threat of drug use is it ever proper to have a teacher strip-search an underage student? Any attempt to answer that question will rapidly degenerate into an uncomfortable debate. It would be reasonable to be leery due to the amount of flexibility in the interpretation of the test. Potentially leading us down the path to some grotesque abuses.

 

A more recent case demonstrates that the courts will not always favor the schools. The 2009 case Safford Unified School District V. Redding details an incident that occurred in an Arizona middle school.  A fellow student reported to the teacher that a female student had an over-the-counter pain reliever. Being in direct violation of the school’s drug policy. In an attempt to confiscate any of the purported ibuprofen the student was in possession of the thirteen-year-old student who was strip-searched. Fortunately, the court did rule in favor of the student, agree that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. There are a few circumstantial considerations to note to truly understand exactly how negligent this course of action was. First, in the Common Law tradition children are not view has had the same criminal capacity as adults until they are fourteen (P.252). In this incident, the child was under the age of fourteen. Also, there isn’t a sane judge out there that would find it to be a reasonable exercise of power to strip-search a young teenager over an uncontrolled pain reliever. Perhaps making such a statement is demonstrating too much faith in humanity. Such extreme measures demonstrate negligently poor judgment. The kind of judgment that should disqualify someone from working with children.

The Paradox of Atheism

 

photo of person holding a bible
Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

Many proponents of Atheism hold it as the only perspective on religion free of dogma. The irony is that Atheism has it’s own orthodoxies that are held as strongly as a fervent belief in a higher power. Not all  Atheists fall into the “free thinker” or the “enlightened individual” trap, however, there is a number that does. Failing to see some of the parallels between devout atheism and organized religion.  The one characteristic shared by an atheist and a Baptist Minister is their immutable stance on religious faith. Being easily disposed to write off any contrary perspective as being false and ill-advised. The three main commonalities between atheism and religion are a collective association, possessing fixed views on belief in a higher power, and the proclivity to proliferate their religious perspective.

 

Rarely is atheism criticized from a neutral standpoint? Meaning generally it is critiqued concerning some form of religious precepts. This essay is not intended to be a polemic defense of religion over atheism but rather aims to observantly point out areas of inconsistencies. Atheism is presented as a dynamic belief system. The natural gradation in the development of human understanding and a departure from the ancient proclivities of magical thinking. It still suffers from many faults. Unbending commitment to a set of beliefs. Atheism even exhibits attributes of tribalism which can have dangerous consequences. One needs to look no further than the present political climate to witness the venomous repercussions of in-group conformity.

 

Collective Association:

 

Humanist groups are collectives of nonbelievers that meet periodically. Generally focusing the social gathering around discussion or other social activities. The number of activities that could encompass one of these gatherings are endless. Ranging from meeting at a coffee shop to bowling and beyond. It is reasonable to suggest that these groups are merely a surrogate for the religious communities previously forfeited by non-belief. Religion does provide a cohesive glue that voluntarily keeps communal bonds intact. This was an observation that the great political theorist Alexis De Tocqueville made back in the nineteenth century.

 

Considering that many atheists still grew up in a religious background, it isn’t surprising that many yearn to be a part of a community of like-minded people. Without the formal institution of an organized church, this endeavor has previously been difficult. In the age of the internet, many of the logistical costs of organizing have been minimized. Technological advancement coupled with a decline in religiosity in the United States has created fertile ground for the spread of humanist groups. As America continues to shed its Christian identity with declines in religious observance the societal acceptance of such associations increases.

 

The most perplexing aspect of these groups they are essentially church groups. Yet, few if any of the members of a humanist group would call it a congregation. It is a group of people drawn together by the commonly shared religious convictions. Those convictions may be a lack of faith in God, nevertheless, still are religious beliefs. It is merely the reciprocal of the traditional beliefs of a religious association. A humanist group is a community of nonbelievers. It is the embodiment of the church community that they had abandoned with losing their faith.  Somewhat analogous to converting to another religion and joining a different community of believers. Minus the immense amount of formal ceremonial procedures.

 

The Irreverent Dogma: The Freethinker Paradox 

 

Much of the rhetoric shrouding atheistic thought is fixated on purportedly on free thinking. Atheists by definition hold an inflexible view of the existence of a higher power. They have also seemed to have substituted faith in religion for an unquestionable belief in the authority of science. To be an atheist you must hold the rigid stance that there are no deity/deities that exist in the universe. If you do not conform to this crucial pillar of atheism you cannot be a part of the club. It is important to acknowledge that this argument is tautological. However, that is not grounds for disqualifying this point.  Anytime we opt to adopt a specific label whether it is a political designation, sports team affiliation, etc. there are certain characteristics we are expected to conform to.  Can an individual be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and not even like the team?  No. Therefore, to be a part of this subset of society you must conform to this virtue of group identity. To be an atheist you must capitulate some of your capacity towards freethinking. If you question the doctrine of non-belief you are no longer categorical an atheist. This parallels the fact that a Christian cannot be a Christian without believing in god. It is merely the same premise, just inverted.

 

Another issue that the free thinker designation that many nonbelievers adorn themselves is that their lack of belief mirrors the intensity of the belief of religiously observant individuals. It takes a lot of faith to make a definite claim about something that cannot be falsified. This goes back to the conundrum presented before us in Pascal’s Wager.  We really can’t prove or disprove the existence of God, therefore the possibility of a higher power existing is fifty-fifty. The odds are no different than that of a coin-flip. As we are presented with two potential outcomes. Because atheists are armed with the precepts of science the inability to falsify the existence of God already disqualifies the possibility of existence.  A corollary of this idea came from the infamous atheistic polemicist Christopher Hitchens in the form of Hitchens’s Razor. Succinctly put claims made without concrete evidence can be refuted without evidence. Technically, this argument could also be applied to atheism. The enigmatic nature of the God question is one that is cloaked in uncertainty. We have no means of proving or invalidating it. Either position is a leap-of-faith. Even the exalted dismissal of religion by science is still a leap-of-faith. With no means of testing the veracity, we will still run the risk of invaliding something true. As improbable as the premise may be.

 

Spreading the Word:
Atheists are just as incline as Jehovah’s witnesses to spread the good news. The attempts of atheist to proselytize their beliefs is somewhat underscored.  The author of this essay knows from anecdotal experience members of humanist groups will go to great lengths to persuade you to join their congregation.  It is not uncommon for nonbelievers to engage in heated debates over religious doctrines. In a futile attempt to persuade their religious opponent they are wrong. Making many atheists agents of transmission for their position on religion.  The vocal atheists who engage in this domestic missionary work have a clear agenda of making the world less religious. Pointing out the faults in reasoning synonymous with religion and atrocities committed in the name of God. Analogous to those spreading religious doctrines highlighting how the absence of religion leads to moral decay and sin.

 

Just about every religious tradition has it’s philosophical defenders and intellectual apologists, the same is very much true in atheism. The number of books, pamphlets, websites, blogs, and podcasts designed to persuasively defend atheism is dizzying. These substantial efforts have been particularly evident among the New Atheist intellectuals. Minds ranging from Richard Dawkins to Sam Harris and even the previously mentioned late Christopher Hitchens provide the fodder for the growth of this movement. Their polemical treatises against religion are widely read. Mirror the popularity and purpose of many books designed to promote religiosity. Both Joel Osteen and Sam Harris are best-selling authors in the United States. Proving that those in the ranks of defending atheism are starting to exhibit similar notoriety as those who defend the faith.

 

Conclusion:

 

This essay is not intended to be a personal attack against atheists or a moral judgment of atheism. It is merely expressing curious commonalities between atheism and organized religion. Intriguingly, atheism’s uncompromising nature does lend itself to having some peculiar similarities to strict forms of religious practice.  A conservative Christian is as equally invested in the promotion of their beliefs as of any atheist. Psychology and sociology most likely have some answers to why this is true. It is important to remember the Horseshoe Theory of Politics.  This theory asserts that the political extremes have more common characteristics than they do with the centrists. Leading one to speculate that this theory could be extrapolated and applied to other belief systems. Ranging from religion to positions on ethics issues.