More Civilization

Civilization is a choice, a habit, a line in the . . . sand.

For modern, prosperous society to progress, to grow more healthy and wealthy and wise, most of us have to agree on a small set of principles. Mostly, we must agree not to rush to violence at the merest provocation.

There has to be a lot of negotiation to get anything done. At least, in a free and open civilized society.

Terrorism is the repudiation of this principle.

The main perpetrators of terrorism these days hail from Muslim peoples. But there are non-Muslim terrorists, too. Many of the “school shootings” and similar violent acts in America and even in Europe rarely get listed as terrorism, though they certainly look terroristic. And most don’t have anything to do with Islam.

Even when Muslims are the ones committing the terrorism, their victims are often also Muslim.

Some folks estimate that as many as 95 out of a hundred terrorist victims are Muslim. Why? Because so much of this violence goes on in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

While this estimate is probably too high, the fact that Muslims themselves are the most common victims of Muslim violence suggests that the underlying problem is the lack of institutions in those lands that hold to the choice — the habit — of civilization.

So, yes: tyranny is at the root of the problem.

Americans, if we want fewer terrorists, might want to restrain our governments from propping up or closely allying ourselves to “Muslim” dictatorships, then.

This is something we can control.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

A Learnable Moment

It used to be called “the Blue Flu.”

Cops, in the course of union negotiations, would deliberately slack on the job, or falsely call in sick (the “flu”) . . . just to get more moolah out of union contract negotiations.

Betraying a not wholly dissimilar epidemiology, New York’s finest have cut back on citations and arrests. According to a New York Times report, for “two consecutive weeks, New York City police officers have seemed to sit back, ignoring minor offenses and parking transgressions so completely that only 347 criminal summonses were written in the seven days through Sunday, down from 4,077 in the same period a year ago.”

This doesn’t seem union-directed, but a spontaneous result of the brutal police shootings that followed mass protests against police abuse . . . and seeming support for the protester’s critique from true-blue, left-leaning Mayor Bill de Blasio.

There is much apprehension about the police laggardness, of course.

But there is some jubilation, too, as folks receive fewer parking tickets. It’s mighty difficult to park in the Big Apple; a lot of folks appreciate the reprieve, however temporary.

The rap on the NYPD — and for that matter, police across the country — has regarded over-policing: enforcing the rulebook so aggressively that it becomes harassment. That sort of policing is counter-productive, leading to the current unrest, for instance.

Maybe we can learn something from this experiment in less policing.* We might discover that, in a lot of neighborhoods, less can be more.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

* According to recent reports, city government and police officials are trying to crack down on the breakout of police restraint. Regardless of future efficacy of these efforts, inquiry into the results of the inadvertent experiment remain worthwhile.

Townhall: Pardon My French

This week over at Townhall, your Common Sense columnist offers a perspective on what has been called the biggest mass protest in human history.

Click on over, then come back here for more reading.

Video: A Capitalist Peace?

Please, please, don’t be a pessimist. Steven Pinker interviewed by Caleb Brown, courtesy of Cato Institute:

Instead of a Tax Hike

The new Congress is in session and already there’s a push for a tax hike. Republican Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma says, “nothing is off the table.”

Of course the Democrats are chomping at the bit to raise . . . the gas tax. With gas prices having plunged so low, they see a green flag. But then, high prices at the pump are something they like. You know, to “save the planet.”

And across the aisle in the Senate, anyway, it’s not just Inhofe who’s sending up smoke signals to indicate a willingness to “bargain”; Senators Hatch (R-Utah) and Thune (R-SD) seem onboard. (Thankfully, House Republicans appear less enthused.)

To aid the cause, Inhofe calls the gas tax a “user fee.” Euphemistically. He has the tiniest of points: the modern “deal” has been to tax fuel and then use that revenue to pay for new roads and upkeep.

But recent congresses have been spendthrift, misusing the revenues on idiotic projects (hiking trails, bike paths, museums) and not so much on repair. In that context, the call for higher taxes almost looks responsible.

There’s a problem, though. Several.

You cannot go on rewarding government when government fails. They waste money? Why, give them more! Sheer folly.

Further, lower gas prices have meant an effective increase in incomes for regular people. Taxing that away, after so many bad years, is just cruel — to both the middle class and the poor.

Only a politician could call that “responsible”!

I have a modest alternative proposal: Devolve all federal roadways to the states; abolish all federal taxes on fuel. Let the separate states figure best how to fix “our crumbling infrastructure.”

Congress, after all, has failed. Miserably.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Through a Glass, Tinted

One day last year, Slate Star Codex blogger Scott Alexander “woke up” to discover that “they had politicized Ebola.”


It was, he explains, more than just a series of partisan cheap shots. Though there were plenty of those. It was something more startling, and in its own perverse way impressive. Everybody seemed awfully certain about what should be done, immediately, and along ideological lines, red and blue:

How did both major political tribes decide, within a month of the virus becoming widely known in the States, not only exactly what their position should be but what insults they should call the other tribe for not agreeing with their position?

The answer to the question?

Each tribe has its myths, er, “narratives,” and members of each concentrate on those stories that seem to demonstrate the truth of their . . . narratives. How you cover Ebola depends on other beliefs you already hold.

“Ideas are forces,” 19th century writer G. H. Lewes put it. “Our acceptance of one determines our reception of others.”

The result of sticking to one’s in-group mythos can have negative consequences, however. You can end up in Silly Putty Country, “saying ISIS is not as bad as Fox News, or donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the officer who shot Michael Brown.”

Conservative journalists see everything through red-tinted glasses, liberal journalists refuse to look at the world through anything but blue-tinted one. And too many people follow their lead.

Occasionally, we could try on lenses of different colors.

But perhaps I speak so confidently because I come from another tribe. Green? Orange? Purple?

What color is liberty?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Time to Drop Charges

Annette Bosworth is a medical doctor. She’s also a political neophyte, last year having sought the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in South Dakota.

She lost. Which is not surprising.

But the next day, she was arrested on twelve counts of election fraud and perjury. She awaits a Feb. 3 trial facing an incredible 24 years in the hoosegow — and, not insignificantly, the loss of her medical license if convicted.

Is Bosworth some sort of threat?

Here’s the story: She gathered ample signatures to earn a spot on the ballot, some at her medical office. During the petition drive, however, she went to the Philippines for two weeks to help victims of a typhoon.

According to dates on the petitions, 37 people signed when Dr. Bosworth was saving people and not in South Dakota. Yet, she signed as the circulator, stating she witnessed the signatures being affixed.

To the guillotine!

Bosworth had asked her campaign attorney if she needed to get those 37 folks — whom she knows, one being her sister — to re-sign. She was advised that she didn’t.

Attorney General Marty Jackley insists Bosworth’s crimes are “serious, deliberate and must be addressed in order to preserve the integrity of our elections.”

Calling such haphazard signature petitioning “commonplace” in South Dakota, former state senator Gordon Howie explains that “during the frenzy of political seasons, MANY (and I do mean MANY) South Dakota politicians circulate petitions and sign as circulators when they are not ‘in the room.’”

Let’s you and me ask* the AG to do the right thing: drop the felony charges.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* Here is contact information for Attorney General Marty Jackley:

Ask him to do the right thing. Please drop all felony charges against Dr. Annette Bosworth.

Phone: (605) 773-3215



Official Contact page on AG’s website