I've divided this graph up into "net tax payer states," "break-even states" and "net tax receiver" states. The lightest shade of blue are states that, by far, pay in more than they receive back, such as New Jersey and Minnesota. The next lightest shade of blue are states that are more or less "break even" in the sense that spending and tax collections hover somewhat around a 1-for-1 relationship. The darker blue states are states that receive considerably more in federal spending than they pay in taxes.
Is this true? In Nebraska, it is illegal for a mother to give her daughter a perm without a state license? How do "crazy" laws come about? I suppose, they all have their own story. Mind you, like every other country, the US may have some "crazy" laws, but it certainly is not a nation of crazy laws.
And even among the "crazy" laws below not all are quite that crazy: in Ohio it is illegal to get a fish drunk, and in Oregon it is illegal to go hunting in a cemetery.
John Stuart Mill was a passionate believer in public debate, and felt with Spinoza that
the "collision" of ideas sharpens the minds of all parties, yielding suggestions no one would have lit upon in isolation and producing decisions more adequate than any proposal presented at the outset. Public opinion is a progressive force only when it is formed in a free-for-all public debate. Without institutional inducements for public criticism and opposition, in fact, political unanimity is likely to be a sign of irrational conformism.
Often there is no simple correspondence between reality and the perceptions of our minds.
So how can we know if our beliefs are true? Mill's trenchant answer was that "the beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded." [...]
The Political Representative - Delegate or Trustee?
This fallibilist epistemology inspired many of Mill's political proposals. Consider, for example, his support of a trustee as opposed to a delegate theory of representation. A delegate is a mere agent, sent to parliament to express the opinions of his constituents and subject to immediate recall if he deviates an iota from his mandate. A trustee, by contrast, has ampler room for maneuver. He can vote as he thinks best, using his discretion, disregarding occasionally, if only temporarily, the opinions of his electors.
The delegate model is objectionable, according to Mill, because it implicitly rejects the epistemology of fallibilism. It implies that a representative has nothing important to learn from an uninhibited give-and-take with fellow deputies. But this assumption is unrealistic: "If he devotes himself to his duty," a representative "has greater opportunities of correcting an original false judgement, than fall to the lot of most of his constituents."
The decisive superiority of deputies over citizens lies not in higher intelligence, virtue, or education, therefore but in the unusual nature of the legislative situation itself, a situation which, according to Mill, fosters self-correction. Voters are parochial. They are seldom exposed to the clashing viewpoints of fellow citizens which live in remote parts of the country. No one is ever invited to prove them wrong or rewarded for disclosing their follies. Voters should defer to representatives, therefore, although only in the short-run, not because members of an elected assembly are likely to be especially virtuous, but rather because representatives enjoy the eye-opening benefits of exposure to stinging criticism and relentless debate.
A modern legislative assembly is a machine for public learning because it guarantees that rival political proposals will be "tested by adverse controversy." Deputies are encouraged not only to uncover each other's errors but also to change their own minds whenever they become convinced that they have been laboring under an illusion. If recanting is intelligent, then it can be justified publicly, even to the voters back home, at least eventually. Accountability requires that deputies explain their decisions to their constituents. Because explanations of difficult issues take time, however, a system of immediate recall would make a mockery of government by discussion. Far from being antidemocratic, the trustee theory of representation simply recognizes that public learning, or the collective correction of collective mistakes, can never be instantaneous.
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.
Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.
Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.
Madison, Hamilton and Jay, Federalist Papers (Madison, Federalist 55), 346.
Ensuring high quality politics is a public concern of the first order. Everyone, especially those with partisan leanings, is called upon to look for and acknowledge common ground in the political community where it is warranted. Resisting the bad habits of partisanship is one of the great merits in those actively participating in politics. With her various current initiatives and throughout her political career, Senator Laura Ebke figures as a protagonist of high quality politics, as the below observations confirm.
Writes Vic Berardelli in an article worth reading:
Some months ago I wrote about the experience of Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke, who is a Republican activist in private life but had to run without a party label on the ballot and serves in a legislature without political party caucus. Without party discipline, she said, lawmaking is accomplished by coalitions around specific issues instead of a party line.
Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy demonstrated clearly in a recent essay how clear thinking on specific issues gets skewed by the lens of party affiliation, which fails to discern even basic facts.
“Alas, political tribalism warps people’s perceptions of basic reality, convincing partisans they’re entitled to their own facts. That’s not new, nor is it limited to one side of the political spectrum,” he wrote.
Healy gave a striking example: In a 1988 survey, more than half of self-identified “strong Democrats” believed that inflation had increased under Republican President Ronald Reagan when, in fact, it had actually come down by 10 percent.
In a 1996 survey half of the self-identified “strong Republicans” believed that Democrat President Bill Clinton had increased the deficit, although it actually had dropped during his terms in office.
Knee-jerk partisanship blinded the respondents to the facts.
“In the battle between facts and partisanship, partisanship always wins,” noted Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science professor Adam J. Berinsky.
We see this in the news all the time. Partisan blinkers prevent real negotiations based on a common set of facts in both Washington and Augusta. Often, the political affiliation of the author automatically dooms a bill to the scrapheap without any discourse or investigation.
The problem is exacerbated when society is not exposed to the same set of facts from which to apply their personal approach.
The various "branches of government have their roles, but it's time to give us some of our government back, to embrace our heritage, and to breath life back into our constitutional system," thus argues Mark Levin, whose book "The Liberty Amendments" Ed Stevens has recommended to me to better understand the LR 35 initiative.
It seems to me an exceedingly commendable initiative, for nothing is more important than keeping the public aware of and actively participating in the constitutional framework of American politics.
You may disagree with Levin on this or that issue, or not; in any case, the initiative offers an excellent opportunity to compete politically in the context of a set of needful and constructive categories such as living federalism and true subsidiarity.
And it is recognised across party lines that we need to engage in a discussion that restores the respect for the fundamental principles of a constitutional republic:
Kearney, NE - A push for historic legislation made its way to Kearney Saturday. LR-35 would include Nebraska in a call for a convention of states. It's a way to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that has never been used before. The method more commonly used is a two-thirds vote of Congress. State Senator Laura Ebke, of Crete, is leading the charge in Nebraska.
It is a fascinating initiative. I am not yet awfully knowledgeable about the details, but it does look to me like an important and most welcome move toward invigorating the constitutional debate with a much called for inclusion of the perspectives and concerns at the state level.
I am looking forward to learn more about the initiative and hope to continue to report here on its progress.
As a reaction to my comment here, I received these two replies, the first of which I cannot work with, as I neither know the commentator nor his standards of persuasiveness, the second of which providing more surface to dock on to.
You have said nothing persuasive yet.
States win the monopoly on sovereign violence. That’s all.
Immediately followed by:
And they win because someone has to win. And the state wins because we call,the winner of the competition “the state.”
To which I replied:
We may describe one among many aspects of the state as the possession of a monopoly of coercion. Mind you, that "monopoly" consists of a bundle of competencies that change all the time and are subject to acute competition among powerful and resourceful parties trying to add or subtract to that bundle. In some places in the US, the state is not even able to exercise its right to carry out capital punishment - because it is subject to severe contestation on that central matter of "monopolistic" coercion.
More generally, I cannot convince myself of the state being a uniform entity with a uniform utility function against which it might make sense to speak of the state as "the winner of the competition."
Also, the state is often tasked with facilitative projects rather than the pursuit of a final aim. The state is not supposed to decide an election but facilitate its implementation - in fact, one wonders, if the state is to be conceived of as a uniform winner-entity, what political party does "the state" belong to?
The state consists of individuals, factions, departments etc that represent differing and often competing notions of success.
Large and important parts of the state are specifically set up to accommodate competitive and compromise-building processes, including players with very different goals, values and notions of success.
The state is, among its many functions, a set of institutions with the purpose of having the most diverse opinions and interests compete among each other; it is itself open to permanent contestation and competition for temporary governance - on countless levels down to municipal affairs.
Personally, I find it hard to conceive of the modern liberal state as anything but a means for preventing total or permanent victory by any one person, group or institution.
The Achilles heel of libertarianism is (1) a preconception according to which the state is evil, dysfunctional and destructive, (2) an attendant attitude according to which "we know all about the state," and (3) a practice according to which one does not bother to look carefully at the complex phenomenon of the state with its innumerable surprises and subtleties - and its outstanding significance for freedom.