Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘logic and reason’

Rush to Judgment in America: The Issue of Gun Control

[An Ultra-Liberal Looks at Gun Control]

 

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

 

Number of Guns and Gun Owners in USA

 

Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million.

 

Facts about Gun Ownership in America

Pew Research Center Data

According to Rich Morin in an article reported in FACTANK (July 15, 2014) titled, “The Demographics and Politics of Gun-Owning Households:

“Guns among Americans with young children in their home are just as likely as other adults to have a gun in their household, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center.

“Overall, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including 34% of families with children younger than 12. That’s nearly identical to the share of childless adults or those with older children who have a firearm at home.

“The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

“To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.

“All respondents in the nationally representative panel had been interviewed in an earlier Pew Research poll and agreed to participate in future surveys. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for results based only on those in gun-owning households.

Survey Results

“The survey results also would appear to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun ownership is far more prevalent in the South. According to the survey, southerners are just about as likely as those living in the Midwest or the West to have a gun at home (38% vs. 35% and 34%, respectively). The regional exception: Households in the northeastern United States, where gun prevalence is significantly lower (27%) than in other parts of the country.

“But regional differences emerge when race is factored into the analysis. White southerners are significantly more likely to have a gun at home (47%) than whites in other regions. But because blacks disproportionately live in the South and are only half as likely to have a gun at home as whites the overall rate for the southern region falls to 38%.

“Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.

“Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.

“As a group, Americans who have a gun at home see themselves differently than do other adults. According to the survey, adults in gun-owning households are more likely to think of themselves as an “outdoor person” (68% vs. 51%) or “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%), and to say “honor and duty are my core values” (59% vs. 48%).

“About six-in-ten gun household members (64%) say they “often feel proud to be American.” In contrast, about half (51%) of other adults say this.

“Not surprisingly, members of gun-owning households are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as a “hunter, fisher or sportsman” (37% vs. 16%).

“But on other dimensions tested in the survey, those with a gun at home differ little from other Americans. For example, they are as focused on health and fitness as those in non-gun owning households and are about equally likely to say they think of themselves as compassionate or as a trusting person.”

Sociological Background for Understanding Gun Control

It is an inescapable fact of modern life that “normal” or “deviant behavior” is relative to the culture one lives in. Any sociologist worth his salt should tell you that deviance, legally defined, is as much the product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule breakers.”

The great American sociologist Howard S. Becker in his book Outsiders (1963) wrote the following:

“All social groups make rules and attempt, at some times and under some circumstances, to enforce them. Social rules define situations and the kinds of behavior appropriate to them, specifying some actions as “right” and forbidding others as “wrong.” When a rule is enforced, the person who is supposed to have broken it may be seen as a special kind of person, one who cannot be trusted to live by the rules agreed on by the group. He is regarded as an outsider.

But the person who is thus labeled an outsider may have a different view of the matter. He may not accept the rule by which he is being judged and may not regard those who judge him as either competent or legitimately entitled to do so. Hence, a second meaning of the term emerges: the rule-breaker may feel his judges are outsiders.

The above description of Labeling Theory is the social context today that underlies the highly emotional and explosive social issue known as gun control. And “value judgments” dominate the thinnest landscape of analysis among those on both sides of this issue.

 

While governments can create rules that create classes of deviants, very few individuals realize that some motivations of governmental actions are deviant acts themselves. By that I mean governments, from a sociological point of view, sometimes encourage deviance, particularly when it concerns money and a politician’s career.

 

If you don’t think government agencies aren’t creating or encouraging deviant acts just consider what local city governments and townships have done for decades.

Intentions really matter, especially with governments. For example, parking fines on the surface are intended to deter people from parking beyond a certain amount of time. This is supposed to deter people; the reality is government agencies want parking fines and thus inadvertently or otherwise, they want to add revenues to their coffers. If everyone stopped breaking the rules, local governments would be very unhappy because of a lost revenue flow. Deviance in this sense is encouraged as they want rule breakers to break the rules.

 

What makes this type of social phenomena even more suspicious and aggravating, is not just the questioning of moral relevance, or absence thereof, but the fact that many local city governments and townships actually encourage deviant behavior. They do this by creating more metered parking spots in more and more neighborhoods or outlying areas. When this happens, the “rule makers” are creating more deviant acts, not to stem them, but to increase them for purposes of extortion and increased cash flow. Notions of “right” or “wrong” disappear when the “rule makers” by their own actions create deviance through increasing the number of “rule breakers.”

 

The Growing Gun Control Issue    

Why is there so much dissension over the issue of gun control? In a nutshell it’s all about fear of what’s happening with terrorist attacks or mass-shootings here at home or abroad. Gun control existed prior to these events but current events around violence, particularly gun violence, have made gun control such a hotly debated issue.

One of the basic facts of translating such underlying fear into public policy is that there has been a “rush” to judgment to solve a social problem; that is, strategies to curtail gun ownership have not been well thought out or researched, and there seems to be both a lack of basic logic and a great deal of hypocrisy in the process.

Let’s assume for the moment that saving lives is the motivation behind gun control. If saving human life is the ultimate goal behind the issue of gun control, there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence that gun-free zones, restricting either types of firearms or types of ammo or reducing magazine capacity, has any relationship to preventing firearm deaths or future acts of violence involving a firearm.

Back in April, 2013 Mother Jones reported: “True security in our schools and other designated gun-free places may require more. Forbidding firearms alone clearly won’t keep violence away—not least because of how easily bad guys can get their hands on guns. Nearly 80 percent of the mass shooters we documented obtained their weapons legally.” They also went on to say that loading up gun free zones with more armed protection may not lessen the violence either.

If one assumes that 80 percent of mass shooters got their guns legally, it does suggest that tightening loopholes and requiring stringent background checks would help. However, even here it’s not foolproof since at times it’s been known that girlfriends with no prior criminal record can and do buy guns for their gang member boyfriends, and there are many other occasions where a gun is bought for another person. Plus, there may be illegal gun brokers operating in every city. In this regard law enforcement has their jobs cut out for them.

Simply restricting and being punitive toward gun ownership among honest, responsible gun owners is no answer at all. It also raises the question of civil rights violations by government agencies. It’s really not about the guns—it’s about the people who commit anti-social crimes, the mental state of mass shooters and the warped ideology of radicalized individuals. And religiously radicalized Muslims are only part of the problem as there are many right-wing fanatics who pose an equal danger to society. This includes hate groups such as the Ku Klux Clan, white nationalists and others of similar ilk.

Concealed-Carry Weapons Issue

There are many states that allow open-carry weapons. Some states allow open-carry and concealed weapons as legal in their state. Some states don’t allow open-carry but do allow concealed-carry weapons by permit.

Most states that do allow concealed-carry permits require safety training, and extensive training in use of a firearm as well as requiring an extensive background check before a permit is ever signed by the proper authorities, usually a county sheriff.

In my opinion any attempt to restrict or deny concealed-carry permits to gun owner citizens may in fact have the opposite effect of actually increasing deaths when the “bad guys” start shooting in a mall, nightclub, airport, or similar location where large groups of people amass, irrespective of whether an attack occurs in a gun free zone or not.

As we all know from news reports, police often show up after the carnage has occurred, not before. A fully vetted, background-checked citizen trained to use a handgun may find him/herself  in the right place at the right time to save lives by catching the “bad” guys unaware of their presence. This is different from arming school security guards or teachers as the media makes this known to the public as newsworthy information.

However, the “bad guys” read newspapers and watch TV like anyone else. They know in advance who is likely to be armed or not. Concealed-carry individuals aren’t so easy to identify. If these individuals, often better trained and better shots than police officers, numbered one out of every 10 or 20 citizens, it might result over time in reducing such carnage among mass shooters in shopping malls, airports, nightclubs or elsewhere. While it might be impossible to save every life, at least a good number might be saved. At the very least this is a viable hypothesis.

So far the idea of deputizing all CCW (Concealed-Carry Weapon) citizens nationwide to be a kind of “first responder” has not occurred. But this is the kind of research idea that could be tested experimentally. While SWAT teams are very important to law enforcement operations, like patrolmen they too show up after the carnage has been carried out, not before.

The idea of deputizing good citizens during a critical law enforcement emergency is not unknown in American history. However, gun control without research to support it is like putting the cart before the horse. That’s why I’ve characterized this issue of gun control as a “rush to judgment.” In addition, it appears to me that politicians want to give the appearance or impression they are doing something to address a very serious social problem. And they do this even if their ideas are untested and they violate the civil rights of millions upon millions of our citizens.

The Politics of Fear 

The irony of many social issues today is that, politically speaking, people on both sides of an issue (e.g., a strong military, terrorism, job creation, a balanced budget, and clean air and water) often agree on the goals of an issue, but nevertheless vehemently disagree regarding the method(s) to achieve such goals. Besides debate of this hot issue what underlies it is fear. And, because of this fear the anti-gun supporters are using it to play politics with a fearful public. While some of this fear is irrational, some of it is not.

One serious factor that has contributed more than any other to the gun control debate, has been the occurrences of savage attacks by either lone-wolf assailants in the United States who are troubled psychologically, impaired individuals (such as the offender at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Umpqua College in Oregon, or Dallas, Texas) or individuals inspired by radical jihadist ideology (like the type of offender at Fort Hood (13 dead and many injured), San Bernardino, California (14 dead and many injured), and Orlando, Florida in July, 2016 where (49 people were murdered and scores injured).

By implication, there is also fear creation among Americans even when there have been large numbers of Jihadist attacks overseas, The attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and Iraq have all contributed to the fear people here in the United States feel. Because of such fear, rational or otherwise, there seems to be a demand that action be taken immediately to stop or prevent such mass-shootings and terrorist attacks.

Gun laws, of course, vary from state to state. At the present time California is one of the most restrictive states for guns and ammunition. The rules however are selective. They generally apply to citizen gun owners (or the general public) but not the police or military personnel. People on the right complain that the Second Amendment is under attack; those people on the left say it is the fault of having too many guns in society and not enough is being done. People line up on either side of this issue claiming the other side is either incompetent or illegitimate. Because of this, many issues surrounding the 2nd Amendment end up in our court system whether it is within federal, state or local jurisdictions.

How to Assess the Gun Control Issue

There are really two ways to think about gun control: (1) the legal system which attempts to make decisions on the basis of case law and/or statutory law, and (2) a more sociological type of analysis that makes use of logic, reason, data, analysis, and finally, objective conclusions. Both ways of looking at gun control, it must be recognized, may be fraught with politics and the rendering of non-objective criteria based on individual and collective “value judgments.”

 

In addition, even correlational data can be misleading. What is needed is experimental research, where correlational data is still useful in at least generating hypotheses to be evaluated using the gold standard—experimental research.

But there is a caveat even with respect to the quality of experimental research (in fact, all scientific research or methods employed). Many lay people think that ultimately scientific explanations determine truth. However, whether one is discussing meta-physical or religious claims of truth, or the best science has to offer as an explanation, there is no absolute truth. What is truth? Truth is what we agree it is at a particular point in time, nothing more and nothing less. And often what is perceived as truth is masked by underlying assumptions, beliefs and biased “value judgments” long before scientific explanations are even offered.

 

Nevertheless, scientific research is still the closest one is ever going to get to a kind of “social truth” where data, reason and logic prevail. Consensus that fosters unanimity of agreement is the closest one will ever get to the imperfect notion of “truth”. I say this only to make one aware and cautious when taking a political stand on this or any other issue.

 

Let’s take the two approaches in order. Let’s start with the major legal decisions of the United States Supreme Court related to the 2nd Amendment. This will be followed by a more sociological way of looking at the issue of gun control.

 

Major Supreme Court Decisions

 

The following material was obtained online from The Law Library of Congress.

 

     “On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. It also ruled that two District of Columbia provisions, one that banned handguns and one that required lawful firearms in the home to be disassembled or trigger-locked, violate this right.

 

“The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of this sentence is not self-evident, and has given rise to much commentary but relatively few Supreme Court decisions.

 

“In cases in the 19th Century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does not bar state regulation of firearms.  For example, in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875), the Court stated that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government,” and in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886), the Court reiterated that the Second Amendment “is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” Although most of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated (PDF) into the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and thus cannot be impaired by state governments, the Second Amendment has never been so incorporated. [UPDATE: In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court addressed this issue, ruling that Second Amendment rights are applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment.]

 

“Prior to District of Columbia v. Heller, the last time the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment was in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).  In that case, Jack Miller and one other person were indicted for transporting an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.  Miller argued, among other things, that the section of the National Firearms Act regulating the interstate transport of certain firearms violated the Second Amendment.

 

“The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas agreed with Miller.  The case was appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which reversed the district court.  The Supreme Court read the Second Amendment in conjunction with the Militia Clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, and concluded that “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [sawed-off] shotgun . . . has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument, 307 U.S. at 178.”  The Court concluded that the district court erred in holding the National Firearms Act provisions unconstitutional.

 

“Since United States v. Miller, most federal court decisions considering the Second Amendment have interpreted it as preserving the authority of the states to maintain militias.  Several of the post-Miller lower court opinions are discussed here (PDF).

 

“The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Second Amendment this term was precipitated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in Parker v. District of Columbia (PDF), 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. App. 2007).  There, the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that three District of Columbia laws regarding private gun ownership – namely a ban on new registration of handguns, a ban on carrying a pistol without a license, and a requirement that firearms be kept unloaded and locked – violated the Second Amendment.  The court held that individuals have a right under the Second Amendment to own handguns for their own personal protection and keep them in their home without placing a trigger lock on them.  This is the first decision since the Supreme Court decided Miller in which a federal court overturned a law regulating firearms based on the Second Amendment.

 

“Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision not to rehear the case, the District of Columbia Government filed a petition for certiorari for review of the decision by the Supreme Court.  The documents before the Supreme Court at the petition for certiorari stage have been collected here.

 

“On November 20, 2007, the Supreme Court granted (PDF) the petition for certiorari.  The Court framed the question for which it granted review as follows: “Whether the following provisions – D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 – violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

 

“The briefs on the merits by the District of Columbia and respondent Dick Anthony Heller, as well as amicus briefs by some 67 “friends of the court,” have been collected here.

 

“In its June 26 decision, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the D.C. provisions banning handguns and requiring firearms in the home disassembled or locked violate this right.

 

“In the majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court first conducted a textual analysis of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Court found that this language guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons. The Court examined historical evidence that it found consistent with its textual analysis. The Court then considered the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause, “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and determined that while this clause announces a purpose for recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms, it does not limit the operative clause. The Court found that analogous contemporaneous provisions in state constitutions, the Second Amendment’s drafting history, and post-ratification interpretations were consistent with its interpretation of the amendment. The Court asserted that its prior precedent was not inconsistent with its interpretation.

 

“The Court stated that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to regulation, such as concealed weapons prohibitions, limits on the rights of felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in certain locations, laws imposing conditions on commercial sales, and prohibitions on the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. It stated that this was not an exhaustive list of the regulatory measures that would be presumptively permissible under the Second Amendment.

 

“The Court found that the D.C. ban on handgun possession violated the Second Amendment right because it prohibited an entire class of arms favored for the lawful purpose of self-defense in the home. It similarly found that the requirement that lawful firearms be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock made it impossible for citizens to effectively use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense, and therefore violated the Second Amendment right.      The Court said it was unnecessary to address the constitutionality of the D.C. licensing requirement.

 

“Four Justices dissented, each of which signed both of two dissenting opinions. One, by Justice Stevens, examined historical evidence on the meaning of the Second Amendment to conclude that the amendment protects militia-related interests. A second dissenting opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that even if the Second Amendment protects a separate interest in individual self-defense, the District of Columbia provisions at issue are permissible forms of regulation.

 

“The outcome of D.C. v. Heller left some issues unanswered, including whether the Second Amendment restricts state regulation of firearms, and the standard for evaluating the constitutionality of other laws and regulations that impact the Second Amendment right.

 

“These issues will be the subject of future litigation. [Update: As noted above, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller applies not only to the Federal Government, but also to states and municipalities.”

 

Despite all the court cases of relevance, legislators in California are leading the nation in the “rush to judgment” approach to solving a social problem.

 

California Gun-Related Laws Going into Effect in 2017

 

Despite the violation of the civil rights of millions of gun owners in California several laws are about to go into effect on January 1, 2017. They include:

 

GUN BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. JERRY BROWN

 

There is Senate Bill 1446, authored by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which bans possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

 

SB 1235, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires background checks for purchase of ammunition.

SB 880, authored by Senator Isidore Hall, D-South Bay, and Assembly Bill 1135, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, ban “bullet buttons,” which make it easy to detach magazines.

 

There is also Assembly Bill 1511, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, which limits the lending of guns to family members who have not completed background checks.

 

Another bill is AB 1695, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which blocks people who have knowingly make false reports on the loss or theft of a gun from possessing firearms for 10 years.

 

AB 857, authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, requires anyone who manufactures or assembles a homemade firearm to get a serial number from the state Department of Justice.

 

A Sociological Look at Gun Control

 

Gun Control: Logic, Reason, and Hypocrisy

In this section I will describe why I think there is a serious lack of logic and reason in today’s gun control issue. When looking at the supposed goal of limiting guns as a solution to savings lives, I find a tremendous amount of hypocrisy by both the general public and legislators (federal, state and local).

If one believes the goal of the anti-gun lobby is saving lives—think again! Hypocrisy, unfortunately, plays a major role in their thinking. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is defined as the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.  

I think controlling guns is really a smokescreen for failure to do what is really needed by society i.e., the ability to create programs and strategies to alter or deter the anti-social behavior of groups and individuals. And this failure applies regardless of whether the subject matter is general crime, mass-shootings or terrorist attacks.

Recently, it was reported in the national news that, “Chicago is on pace to see as many as 650 or 700 murders this year, more than any year since the early 2000s, and likely more than the total murders in New York and Los Angeles combined.”

This is very telling because, you see, the City of Chicago has some of the most draconian restrictions on guns. Restricting law-abiding citizens from having guns won’t get the job done. Back on May 29, 2013 an article appeared in the New York Times titled, “Strict Gun Laws in Chicago Can’t Stem Fatal Shots.” According to the article,

“CHICAGO — not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. ‘The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,’ said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite — a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.

Young black men in the inner city of Chicago are disproportionately more likely to commit acts of gun violence, but also disproportionately more likely to be the victim of gun violence. So despite highly restrictive gun laws, violence is at a peak this year in Chicago. It would seem logical to me that there needs to be in Chicago a program to tackle guns that are illegally obtained from those guns that are legal for self-defense.”

Self-defense is an absolute legal right under the 2nd Amendment as described earlier in this blog. There is no need to unwittingly deny guns to law-abiding individuals.

Hypocrisy about Guns

Disarming gun owners and making unwarranted attacks on the Second Amendment is not a viable solution to ending violence.  After all, guns don’t kill people with intent, people kill people with intent. Intent is motivation by individuals to commit acts. Guns are simply pieces of metal cleverly crafted; pieces of metal don’t possess intent. People do.

Logic would suggest that butcher knives we all have in our homes are a much greater threat to children or adults than an empty handgun that is locked away in a gun safe with a safety on and secured with a trigger lock, and ammunition for that gun that is stored elsewhere in a locked safe. This is what responsible gun owners do.  How many people who own butcher knives or other knives lock them away in a safe?

When our children were growing up, how many of us put locks on our medicine cabinets or made sure when our kids visited other homes with young children, that those homes did not have guns, knives, or medicine cabinets that were unlocked? When one looks at states with highly restrictive guns laws, why is it these states have higher overall violent crime rates (like California) than those states (like Arizona) that have more liberal policies on guns such as open- carry gun laws, concealed-carry permits, and no restrictions on types of guns or types of ammunition?

Could it be that states that are more liberal with respect to gun ownership make potential offenders think twice about committing a crime? Maybe the answer is yes, or maybe the answer is no. We do not know this definitively one way or the other, but it does suggest the possibility that states with highly restrictive gun laws are neither preventing terrorist acts, mass shootings nor crime in general.

Another aspect of government hypocrisy on gun control is the selectivity or target of these laws. If saving lives is the real goal of gun control, then why does society or government politicians take a “blind eye” to the fact that every year cops in America kill or murder more people than all the country’s terrorists or mass-shooters combined? Why not take away all guns from police officers around the country? But, as we all know, then only the “bad” guys would have guns, putting police officers at greater risk. Society does not want to put the police at undue risk, and neither do I. Police have a right to protect themselves from attack.

But if society wants to give protection to police officers by allowing them to carry weapons in public, why then are legislators in particular so unwilling to deny the average citizen the same right to carry weapons for their own protection as police do? Why are they so unwilling to help protect the average citizen and why are they so willing to violate the civil rights of gun owners?

Hypocrisy runs rampant and logic is nowhere to be found if saving lives should be the “real” goal underlying gun control.

In 2014, 32,675 individuals were fatalities in car crashes and accidents. Millions of people have been killed in car crashes and accidents since 1900. Because of this self-created misery, has taking away the automobile ever been proposed by a legislative body? The answer is no—saving lives has always taken a back seat to economic interests and greedy politicians (remember—we have the best politicians money can buy).

With respect to deaths involving drunk drivers consider these facts:

  • In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

There are some programs out there to help the problem of drinking among drunk drivers. But regardless of the harm they do, no one has suggested a new prohibition of alcohol or eliminating cars altogether. Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal but no one wants to consider totally outlawing marijuana anymore.

In the same vein, consider how many people die every year due to smoking. “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Yet, no legislative body ever recommends doing away with the cause—cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s the same reason, economics and greedy politicians. The phoniness and hypocrisy of political action is all too clear.

If millions upon millions of gun owners don’t comply with regulations to control guns, a new class of “deviant rule breakers” is created because of the implementation of arbitrary, capricious rules having no relationship at all to protecting the public from harm. Obviously, it isn’t based on wanting to save lives. It seems more to be based on the appearance of “solving a social problem.”  An underlying reason is that government can raise their revenues and rip-off gun owners by charging them “administrative” fees.

In California it is called D.R.O.S. (Dealer’s Record of Sale) in which a $25 fee is charged every time anyone buys a gun. When SB 1235 goes into effect in January, 2017 background checks will be required every time someone buys ammunition. And the state will require a fee to be paid by the gun owner as he (she) makes that purchase. Can anyone really blame the NRA when they get involved in politics? They are simply trying to protect the rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Granted, the United States Supreme Court does give the right to the states to regulate firearms. However, it went too far in the District of Columbia case, and was reversed in 2010 in the City of Chicago that had restricted all guns in the city.

Final Comments

While people often give lip service to their support for the U.S. Constitution in general, there is nonetheless no such unequivocal support when it comes to specifics. Everyone wants their own interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to apply to any issue. People want the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to follow their own judgmental notions, beliefs and values. And when it doesn’t people want to cry foul.

I am old enough to remember how contentious the battle was for civil rights across the nation during the 1950s and 60s. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was one of the most important statutory pieces of legislation since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan 1, 1863 (and later outlawed slavery by Congress on Jan 31, 1865).

Now in the 21st Century we have another civil rights issue affecting millions of Americans. That issue is about the civil rights issue over gun control. Such disagreement on specifics tends to create lack of unanimity on gun control. On the legal side, it is clear that a balancing act is occurring between the rights of the individual to bear arms and the rights of the states to regulate firearms.

 

An earlier blog of mine outlined the various approaches to legal analysis that Supreme Court justices go through in reaching a decision. I refer you back to that blog titled, “Principled Constitutionalism and Gay Marriage,” July 2015.

Whether one looks at the 1400 year history of the Muslim faith or growing up in a ghetto, barrio, or impoverished white communities, one thing they all have in common. It is the systemic problems of poverty; lack of a good education and resources, and often being early in life the victims of discrimination. Where discrimination was concerned, it was the repression of followers of Islam by their own Sharia Law, and in the United States it was the repression of citizens by police violence and racial discrimination, and a larger society that remained in a perpetual state of denial. Love your neighbor is a great concept (my value judgment), but the reality is few people want to expend the effort to really help others.

The lone mass shooter is a different problem all together. Mental health services may help lots of people but predicting who is going to commit mass murder is near-impossible to predict. And, in this country one doesn’t lock up people just because they score high on some form suggesting an anti-social personality.

One cannot charge or arrest someone for what they might do; they can only be charged or arrested for what they actually do. This results in one of the most difficult of societal problems.  And, once again, it is about making value judgments on a major level. That is, is it more important to protect the liberty of all our citizens, or is it more important to lock up sizeable numbers of citizens based on what they might do?  This type of decision defies an easy solution. Why? Two major reasons: (1) It violates the very U.S. Constitution we all value as the guiding light for a free country, and (2) there is no test that can be devised that won’t result in both false-positives and false-negatives. Society would lock up some people who have no real interest in committing a serious crime and such a test will miss people who really would commit a crime. This applies not only to paper and pencil tests, but also to psychologist or psychiatric opinion about clients or patients. No test or opinion is ever foolproof.        

     At a macro-level efforts to effectively deal with systemic problems like poverty, poor education, lack of resources, and lack of opportunity in the inner cities, and police racism and violence, have all gone by the wayside. Why? Because systemic causes of violence described above would take a real commitment of resources to solve or reverse them. People may argue this point but my suspicion as a social scientist is that with population growth everywhere, no government on earth has anywhere near the resources to deal effectively with such social problems, much less eliminate them.

We all want to solve social and economic problems, so it’s very hard to accept a “bitter pill” that the most caring country in the world—the United States—is unable to solve all systemic causes of violence. The bottom line: some social problems may be simply beyond our reach. It’s tough to accept, but it may be reality. If my assumption is wrong, then governments still have a moral and ethical responsibility to save lives and to tackle these problems with some insight.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The Political, Social, and Economic Issues in 2012:

How Do the President and Mitt Romney Stack Up?

 

 

Introduction

There is perhaps no better way to clarify how you should vote in 2012 than to lay out the plan and beliefs of each candidate regarding the critical issues of our time. As we get closer to Election Day, I hope you keep these differences between the candidates in mind. Initially, I had planned to discuss the fine points and relative value of Supply Side Economics (Republican approach to the economy) versus Demand Side Economics (Democratic approach to the economy). Instead, I have decided to cover a broader set of issues.

Back in March 2012 I began writing a six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. There, in the broadest sense, I covered the basics of economics and I would encourage you to review them once again. We are told incessantly by the media and party leaders that the crucial issue in 2012 is the economy. However, many many other issues are important to various segments of the population, as well as important to the voting public as a whole.

Consequently, I have layed out how each candidate views a variety of social, political, and economic issues. In this way, the larger broader view of election year politics will be covered. With this broader view, coupled with the specifics of economic theory covered in the six part series, each reader should be adequately prepared with knowledge to vote for the candidate of his or her choice on November 6, 2012.

In a final Conclusions Section I will tell my cyberspace audience how I will vote this fall and my reasons for doing so.

 

Critical Issues of Our Time

 

 The following shows how Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues. This information comes mostly from the Associated Press but also from this Blogger.

 ABORTION & BIRTH CONTROL

OBAMA: Supports abortion rights Health care law that requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

ROMNEY: Opposes abortion rights. He previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

WAR

OBAMA: Ended the Iraq war. He increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. He approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. There are major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.

ROMNEY: Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. He would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.

TERRORISM

OBAMA: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden and set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush’s presidency. He largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

ROMNEY: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, Romney refused to rule out use of waterboarding torture to interrogate terrorist suspects. Despite the fact the war crimes tribunal executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding following the ending of WWII, Mitt Romney in 2011, said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture. The fact that the United States itself strongly supported all of the Geneva Convention laws prior to the Bush administration, Mitt Romney ignores the fact that the use of torture by the Bush administration dishonored and disgraced our country. Evidently, Mitt Romney would do the same by ignoring both national and international laws that forbid it.

IMMIGRATION

OBAMA: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. He took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

ROMNEY: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. He opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Establish an immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire non-citizens who do not prove their legal status. He would end immigration caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.

GUNS

OBAMA: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. He voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. He previously backed stronger gun controls.

ROMNEY: Opposes stricter gun control laws. He suggested after the shooting in a Colorado theater that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, he vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

FOREIGN POLICY

OBAMA: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition. Instead Obama seeks international pressure against the Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He signed into law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

ROMNEY: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. “Of course you take military action” if sanctions and internal opposition fail to dissuade Tehran from making a nuclear weapon, he has said. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but “the right course is not military” intervention by the U.S. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel and agreed with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the capital, disregarding the Palestinians’ claim to the eastern sector. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

DEBT

OBAMA: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. He won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. He calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama’s plan is to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.

ROMNEY: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, but opposed the auto bailout. He would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of his first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. He favors a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

ECONOMY

OBAMA: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and has created a sustained gradual recovery. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs.

ROMNEY: He advocates lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. He would replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. He proposes repeal of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and the law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals.

EDUCATION

OBAMA: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. “Race to the Top” competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports.

ROMNEY: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. He has said that student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

 OBAMA: He ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. He achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles.

He achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions.

ROMNEY: He supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska.

Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records. Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown.

GAY RIGHTS

 OBAMA: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. He opposed that recognition in his 2008 presidential campaign, and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. He achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. He has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. His administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

ROMNEY: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” He also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits —largely unspecified — as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

HEALTH CARE

 OBAMA: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.

Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.

ROMNEY: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured.

Proposes to guarantee that people who are “continuously covered” for a certain period be protected against losing insurance if they get sick, leave their job and need another policy. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

SOCIAL SECURITY

OBAMA: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s long-term financial problems. In 2011, he proposed a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

ROMNEY: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

TAXES

 OBAMA: He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. He supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all.

He wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, he built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

ROMNEY: He would keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest.

He would end Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

  

Conclusions

Mitt Romney as a Choice in 2012:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespear’s MacBeth

 

This fall I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama to a second term as our president. While Mitt Romney appears to be a good and decent man, he does not have the experience, attitudes, or mental acuity to convince me he is more qualified to be the President of the United States.

I don’t like President Obama’s 2011 measure to eliminate inflationary increases for Social Secuirty recipients, and I do like Mitt Romney’s plan to eliminate Capital Gains taxes on those making $200,000 or less. I also don’t think the President was aggressive enough on banning assault rifles, while Romney succeeded in getting assualt rifles banned in his state of Massachusetts.

That’s it folks. The President, on balance, is still the right choice this fall because of all his tremendous accomplishments while in office.

The Accomplishments of President Barack Obama

By some accounts (Florida Professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson of Lynn University) President Obama’s accomplishments now total 244 since he took office. Here are just a few of the significant accomplishments of the president during his first term in the White House.

  • Overhauled the food safety system;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter ”Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina;
  • Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under parent’s plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million more lower-income children;
  • Pushed through a $789 Billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure;
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it more consumer friendly;
  • Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of  GOP attempts to derail it;
  • Also outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
  • Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government;
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down of troops in Afghanistan;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act;
  • Signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded the scope of AmeriCorps;
  • Signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research;
  • Created greater transparency in government by creation of White House visitor logs, a ban on lobbyist gifts, or allowing lobbyists from serving on advisory boards, and restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists.
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals commandos to take out Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
  • President Barack Obama achieved, as of October 2012, the lowest unemployment rate (7.8%) since he took office. Remember folks, the unemployment rate during the recession, which the President inherited, reached a peak of (10.0%) on October, 2009. C’mon Man, give credit where credit is due! We’re now in an expansionary economic cycle. Guess what economic cycle comes after the expansinary one? That’s right genius—you guessed it—PROSPERITY!

At the value judgment level, I simply prefer the values of the democratic party than I do those of the Republican party. It seems to the objective observer that Republicans are always playing “catch-up” to the rest of society. Problem is “the Party of No” never really seems to catch-up. In addition,“Trickle Down (Supply Side Economics)” just doesn’t work because tax cuts for high income individuals, corporations, and large businesses don’t necessarily lead to economic expansion thereby creating jobs and lowering unemployment.

Why? Because there are other choices for using tax cut windfalls besides reinvestment in one’s business that might lead to job creation. One can simply save the money for a reserve or a rainy day. Or, one can invest their tax windfall in the stock market or other investments. Or, one can spend the tax windfall on hefty bonuses for executives, and salary increases for managers or staff, or one can actually plow the tax windfall back into the business.

Point is—there are many choices for what to do with a tax cut windfall. Current Republican rhetoric would have you believe that tax cuts always lead to job creation and lowering unemployment. It can, but what Republicans try to hide from the public and the voter is that, in reality, there are many other choices for spending a tax cut windfall, not just job creation.

For all these reasons around economics and taxes, as well as the President’ many other significant achievements while in office, I’m giving my support and vote in the coming election to the President of the United States—Barack Obama.

Read Full Post »

Placing Value on Life:

 Case in Point—The Never-ending Abortion Issue

 

     Abortion is one of the most troubling and hotly debated issues of our time. Weighing the social value of life is at the heart of the abortion issue. It remains a permanent fixture of our social landscape because of its unending cultural conflict created by values, politics, and science. The reason for this is that abortion is so intimately intertwined with the social definition of life. Yet, despite the fact many people believe life begins at conception, it is ironic that all life itself is not universally valued. The one underlying universal in all this seems to be that social context (value judgments rendered in different social situations) dictates the relative value placed on life.

Why isn’t life universally valued? Because it all depends upon the differing social contexts related to life itself. Even those who view life as beginning at conception think contextually. This occurs when the life of the mother is at stake, or conception is due to rape or incest. Even with abortion, there is no unconditional universal value placed on all life.

The Value of Life in Different Social Settings

Many issues today have to do with the value that is placed on life in different social settings. Life issues include: abortion, the death penalty, suicide and the right-to-die among the terminally ill, slaughtering animal species so humans can eat and using animals in medical research, stem cell research with human embryos, and killing of enemy combatants during wartime. Lastly, there is murder. In 2010, there were 12,996  murders in the United States.

It is important to know that the value placed on life has always been dictated by social context. That is, conservatives overwhelmingly tend to support the death penalty and willingness for the state to take a human life, yet form the major support group against abortion. Liberals tend to support a ban or moratorium on the death penalty, yet often do not have a problem terminating the life of the unborn. Liberals tend to accept the right to die claims of the terminally ill, and conservatives and the Catholic Church generally see it as wrong or sinful. Both liberals and conservatives buy meat or fish at their local corner grocery store and both have no problem terminating life in the animal kingdom. Both liberals and conservatives serving in a war zone are, if necessary, willing to take the life of an enemy combatant. Even John Q. Citizen will take life in dire situations to protect family members or oneself when threatened.

Any one of the above issues can be explored in more detail as it relates to valuing life. But let’s get back to abortion and social context.

 The Issue

The crux of the abortion issue seems to come down to two opposing sides. They include, “a woman’s right to choose” fostered by liberals and woman’s groups, versus “a right to life” fostered by conservatives and Right-to-Life groups. One of the long-standing groups against abortion has been the Catholic Church. However, many Catholics worldwide, and others, want to overturn the Catholic Church’s long-standing ban on abortion. Abortion nevertheless violates one of the Church’s basic tenets—belief in the sanctity of life. This long-standing stance of the Catholic Church is an appeal to faith, particularly faith in the righteousness of the Church’s position taken.

Regardless of what side one politically comes down on regarding abortion , Right-to-Life groups do have scientific support with their definition of life. And, the best definition of life is a scientific one. That scientific support is more about what constitutes a “life form” than it is as to the precise moment life occurs.   The biological definition of a “life form” is very consistent with the social definition of human life as espoused by Right-to-Life groups.

In the 1940s and 1950s a common social definition of life was life begins at conception. According to scientists six characteristics define what a “life form” is. Not everyone agrees on a social definition of life but there are generally accepted biological manifestations that life exhibits the following phenomena: Organization, Metabolism, Growth, Adaptation, Response to Stimuli, and Reproduction. All six characteristics are required for a population to be considered a life form. Fetuses, in the earliest of their development, manifest all six characteristics.

So why is there such social conflict over the issue of abortion? If biologists have given us a definition of life that is correct, then why is our social definition of life since the 1940s and 1950s so out of whack now? The answer appears to be political, not scientific or data-driven. It’s all about changing social underlying values that often masquerade in political debates as objective argumentation.

The Politics of Abortion

     One of the very strongest forces that contextualizes abortion and other issues where the value of life is concerned, is politics. At the heart of all politics is value judgment. A Women’s right to choose is more than a slogan. Feminists and abortion rights groups reject any political proposals that would seek to protect the unborn. Right-to-Life groups are likewise very political in supporting efforts by Republicans in Congress who put forth anti-abortion legislation.

What makes the abortion issue so beguiling is that the only perceived way groups can assure the rights of their own group is by denying the rights of opposing groups. This entrenchment on both sides of the issue implies that logic and reason are the enemies of both sides; values and value judgment dominate the political debate over abortion. Not surprisingly the biological definition of life carries very little weight in the political debate over abortion. Those for and against abortion prefer to use their own definition of when life begins. It is unfortunately a debate where definition of when life begins continues to produce great division among the public.

     It is for these reasons that the issue of abortion is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. It is very unfortunate that life under all circumstances is not universally valued. But all of these differing social contexts that is our present day reality worldwide, would all fade into dust  if the world ever chooses to engage in war with atomic bombs.

      May that day—never come!  But if that day does arrive, two things are very clear. One, we will no longer have a need to debate whether life begins at conception or birth. And two, on that day, society may finally unconditionally value and appreciate all lifeas it witnesses humanity meet its end in death through a self-inflicted worldwide suicide known as a nuclear annihilation.

 

Read Full Post »

ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

[Part VI-A]

The final segment of my six part series will be composed of a Part VI-A and a Part VI-B. In Part VI-A I present the accomplishments of the Republican Party and provide a biography of their candidate in 2012—Mitt Romney.

In Part VI-B I will suggest who I think should be elected  president of the United States on November 6, 2012. I will post Part VI-B a few days after people have had a chance to digest the data in Part VI-A. I am not going to tell you who to vote for; that is now up to you. What I will do is explain, in detail, the reasons why I’m voting as I am.

I will explain as best I can both the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in a final conclusions section. Everyone may or may not come to the same conclusion as I have. Hopefully, since the economy is the main issue, I hope everyone makes intelligent use of the material I’ve provided about how the economy really works, and integrates such knowledge into each person’s value framework and political preferences. No one can predict the future but as voters, let’s give it a good shot as to who we think will best serve as president of the United States during the next four years.

                                Accomplishments of the Republican Party

In this author’s opinion the accomplishments of the Republican Party fall into two areas: (1) signed legislation that became law, and (2) bills introduced giving you some idea as to what they wanted to do for the American people.

The Republican Party, of course, did not have control of the White House between 2008-2012. However, they did regain control of the House of Representatives in November, 2010. And, they did propose major legislation in a number of areas. Many of their Bills they proposed failed to pass muster in the Senate, and on several occasions President Obama promised to veto many of the major types of legislation proposed by the Republicans.

If one defines accomplishments as bills that become laws, then by that standard they failed miserably in terms of doing something useful for the American people. It may be one of the reasons why the Republican Party is often called “the Party of No.”

 I believe, in all fairness, the voter needs to evaluate The Republican Party in a different way. Since you are comparing a party with lots to show for it, the only other remaining way to evaluate Republican contributions to the country is to usefully look at their ideas as reflected in the Bills they put forward. If you agree with those ideas you’ll still have a basis for comparison to President Obama’s accomplishments. If you don’t like what was proposed by the Republicans, then perhaps you have a clear choice in November, 2012.

So what major legislation did the Republican Party propose before the Congress during the last four years.

MAJOR LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY THE REPUBLICANS

 I found five major pieces of legislation proposed by the Republican Party during the last four years. A sixth bill actually became law in 1998. That law was the Defense of Marriage Act. It is discussed here because it was followed during the last four years as the Respect for Marriage Act, which failed to become law.

Most Republican bills seem ideological in nature. Only two seem to relate to economics. Along with the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 the bills are the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion, the Protect Life Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act which was a new version of the original Defense of Marriage Act.

One bill was actually bi-partisan in nature and was the Stop Online Piracy Act. The one bill that tackled spending issues, the debt ceiling, and balancing a budget was the only truly economic bill proposed by the Republican Party. That bill was the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.

Collectively, these legislative efforts are the ideas of the Republican Party.

Defense of Marriage Act

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Public Law 104-109, 110 Statute 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. & 7 and 28 U.S.C. & 1738C is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Under the law, no state or other political subdivision of the U.S. may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. Section 3 of DOMA codified the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns. This section has been found unconstitutional in two Massachusetts court cases and a California bankruptcy court case, all of which are under appeal.

The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it had determined that Section 3 was unconstitutional and, though it would continue to enforce the law, it would no longer defend it in court. In response, the House of Representatives undertook the defense of the law on behalf of the federal government in place of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Respect for Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act, or RFMA (H.R. 1116, S. 598), was a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to couples in a same-sex marriage; the bill would not compel individual states to recognize same-sex marriages. It was supported by former U.S. Representative Bob Barr, original sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Until 1996, the federal government customarily recognized marriages conducted legally in any state for the purpose of federal legislation. Following an unsuccessful law suit aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act one section of which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

H.R. 3567

a) repeals section 1738C of title 28 of the United States Code

b) amends Section 7 of title 1 in the United States Code to read:

(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State. (b) In this section, the term ‘State’ means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3) is a bill that was introduced to the 112th Congress of the United States in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois). Although the bill is a bipartisan effort, most of the 173 co-sponsors were Republicans. The bill’s stated purpose was “[t]o prohibit taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections, and for other purposes.”

In large measure, it would render permanent the restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the United States laid out in the Hyde Amendment. The bill passed the House on May 4, 2011 by a vote of 251-175; however, because it was not expected to pass the Senate, the bill was largely a symbolic one.

Controversy over language about rape

The text of the most recent version of the Hyde Amendment provides an exception for cases of rape, stating that its prohibitions shall not apply “if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” The rape exception in H.R. 3 uses somewhat different language, stating that its limitations shall not apply “if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Some women’s rights groups have questioned the addition of the qualifier “forcible” to the word “rape” in H.R. 3, noting that it excludes many forms of rape and “takes us back to a time where just saying no was not enough.”

One critic, Mother Jones, alleged that the bill is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Republican Party to change the legal definition of rape.

Another critic, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) criticized the legislation, too. An article in The Raw Story had this to say about her reaction to HR 3. “The Florida Democrat, a rising star in her party and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, is a leading voice on women’s issues.

And she didn’t mince her words in an interview with The Raw Story, fiercely denouncing GOP colleagues over H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” ‘It is absolutely outrageous,’ Wasserman Schultz said in an exclusive interview late Monday afternoon. “I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women…” She continued, “It really is — to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself,” Wasserman Schultz said.” “Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable,” the four-term congresswoman added.”

Critics insist that HR 3 would directly diminish the rights of women who have fallen victim to rapes that are not considered “forcible” by the bill, as well as increase the danger of these types of sexual abuse occurring.

TalkingPoints Memo reported, “In an interview with the anti-abortion site LifeNews, Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, admits the language in the House’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “would not allow general federal funding of abortion on all under-age pregnant girls.”

However, the bill’s text does not offer a definition of “rape” nor of “forcible rape.” Responding to the criticism about the language used in the rape exception clause, bill co-sponsor Dan Lipinski (D) stated, “The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law rearding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so. Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.”

Protect Life Act

The Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) is a bill introduced to the 112th United States Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). The bill had 121 co-sponsors, including 6 Democrats. It would make several amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The bill was initially referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, of which Pitts is the ranking majority member. The committee approved it 33 to 19.

On October 13, 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill; however, it was judged unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate, and President Obama stated that he would veto it if it reached his desk.

The following are the provisions of the bill.

Provisions

  • Ban the use of federal funds to cover any costs of any health care plan that covers abortions. (This would extend previous restrictions on abortion coverage, which currently ban the use of federal funds for abortion and require federal funds and abortion-related funds to be kept separate.) Require the Office of Personnel Management director to make sure no health plans that fall under the Exchange cover abortions.
  • Require any entity offering, through a federal exchange, a health care plan that covers abortions to also offer an otherwise identical one that does not cover abortions.
  • Prohibit government agencies from “discriminating” against health care providers who refuse to undergo, require, provide, or refer for training to perform abortions.
  • Allow remedies to be sought in court for violations of PPACA abortion provisions.

Stop Online Piracy Act

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate is titled the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

Proponents of the legislation state it will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated sites, and citing examples of “active promotion of rogue websites” by U.S. search engines, proponents assert stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents state the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the “safe harbor” protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Library associations have expressed concerns that the legislation’s emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, to raise awareness. In excess of 160 million people viewed Wikipedia’s banner. Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over 7 million signatures, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and a rally held in New York City.

In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,” and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”

The sites of several pro-SOPA organizations such as RIAA, CBS.com, and others were slowed or shut down with denial of service attacks started on January 19. Self-proclaimed members of the “hacktivist” group Anonymous claimed responsibility and stated the attacks were a protest of both SOPA and the United States Department of Justice’s shutdown of Megaupload on that same day.

Opponents of the bill have proposed the Online Protection and Digital Trade Act (OPEN) as an alternative. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011

The proposed Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 (or HR 2560) was a bill put forward in the 112th United States Congress by Republicans during the 2011 U.S. debt ceiling crisis. The provisions of the bill included a cut in the total amount of federal government spending, a cap on the level of future spending as a percentage ofGDP, and, on the condition that Congress pass certain changes to the U.S. Constitution, and an increase in the national debt ceiling to allow the federal government to continue to service its debts.

The bill had the support of Republicans and much of the Tea Party movement. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19, 2011, but was rejected by the President and the Senate. The Senate voted to table the bill on July 22. President Obama had promised to veto the bill had it proceeded further.

The Republican Candidate in 2012

The Republican cadidate running for the Office of the President of the United States in 2012  is former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney.

 

Biography

Born Willard Mitt Romney onMarch 12, 1947, in Detroit,Michigan and raised in Bloomfield Hills,Michigan, Romney attended the prestigious Cranbrook Schoolbefore receiving his undergraduate degree fromBrighamYoungUniversityin 1971. He attended Harvard LawSchool andHarvard Business School and received both a law degree and an M.B.A. in 1975.

Mitt Romney married Ann Davies in 1969; they have five sons, Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben and Craig. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.

Entry into Politics

The son of George Romney, Michigan governor and Republican presidential nominee (he was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968), Mitt Romney began his career in business. He worked for the management consulting firm Bain & Company before founding the investment firm Bain Capital in 1984. In 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts but was defeated by longtime incumbent Edward Kennedy.

In 1999, Romney stepped into the national spotlight when he took over as president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. He helped rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics from financial and ethical woes, and helmed a successful Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002.

In 2004 Romney authored the book Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.

Masachusetts Governor

Romney parlayed his success with the Olympics into politics when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. During Romney’s term as governor, he oversaw the reduction of a $3 billion deficit. Romney also signed into law a health care reform program to provide nearly universal health care forMassachusetts residents.

2008 Presidential Run

After serving one term, he declined to run for reelection and announced his bid for U.S.president. Romney made it through Super Tuesday, winning primaries inMassachusetts, Alaska, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah, before losing the Republican nomination to John McCain. In total Romney spent $110 million on his campaign, including $45 million of his own money.

Romney continued to keep his options open for a possible future presidential run. He maintained much of his political staff and PACs, and raised funds for fellow Republican candidates. In March 2010, Romney published a book titled No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

2012 Campaign

At a farm in New Hampshire on June 2, 2011, Mitt Romney announced the official start of his 2012 campaign. A vocal critic of President Barack Obama, Romney has taken many standard Republican positions on taxes, the economy and the war on terror. Romney’s critics charge him with changing his position on several key issues including abortion, which he opposes, and health care reform—he opposed President Obama’s health care reform program, which was similar to theMassachusetts plan Romney supported as governor.

From the start of his campaign, Romney emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He showed more mainstream Republican appeal than Tea Party-backed competitors such asTexas governor Rick Perry. In January 2012, Romney scored a decisive victory in the New Hampshire Republican primary. He captured more than 39 percent of the votes, way ahead of his closest competitors, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  As the race has continued, Rick Santorum became his greatest competition, winning several states. But Romney had been able to secure a substantial lead in the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

In April 2012, Romney benefitted from a narrowing of the field when Santorum announced he was suspending his campaign. He publicly paid tribute to his former rival, saying that Santorum “has proved himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation.” After Santorum’s departure, Romney only had two opponents left—Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. But neither seems to have enough support to gain the necessary delegates to take the nomination from Romney. In May, 2012 Newt Gingrich departed from the campaign.

Post Script

At this point every reader of this six part series should now be armed with enough knowledge to make an informed intelligent decision as to who should be elected to the White House this coming November. Good luck in how you arrive at that decision. In a few days following the posting of this Part VI-A, I will present how I plan to vote this coming November. Based on all the knowledge presented in this series I will explain all the reasons why I have selected one candidate over the other. And, I will present such reasons in terms of both strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Read Full Post »

ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

[Part IV]

The American Economy and Monetary Policy

 

The topic in Part IV of this blog is all about Monetary Policy. As you will see this is the other tool the government can use to influence the economy. Is Monetary Policy any more successful than fiscal policy? Well, let’s wait and see. Due to the complexity of some of the material to be presented, you might like to just puruse the topic of “Types of Monetary Policy.” It is sufficient for your education if you simply understand the 3 main tools the Federal Reserve has to manage the nation’s money supply. This will be very clear and understandable. If you wish to read the section on Types of Monetary Policy by all means go right ahead. Not to be flip I just want to warn you—the material is complex and gave me a headache as I was putting it all together. It’s important information but probably, unless you’re an economist, you could just simply gloss over the material from that section.

Money Supply

In economics, the money supply or money stock, is the total amount of money available in an economy at a specific time. There are several ways to define “money,” but standard measures usually include currency in circulation and demand deposits (depositors’ easily accessed assets on the books of financial institutions).

Money supply data are recorded and published, usually by the government or the central bank of the country. Public and private sector analysts have long monitored changes in money supply because of its possible effects on the price level, inflation and the business cycle.

What is Monetary Policy?

Monetary Policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting a rate of interest for the purpose of promoting economic growth and stability.

The official goals usually include relatively stable prices and low unemployment. Monetary theory provides insight into how to craft optimal monetary policy. It is referred to as either being expansionary or contractionary, where an expansionary policy increases the total supply of money in the economy more rapidly than usual, and contractionary policy expands the money supply more slowly than usual or even shrinks it.

Expansionary policy is traditionally used to try to combat unemployment in a recession by lowering interest rates in the hope that easy credit will entice businesses into expanding. Contractionary policy is intended to slow inflation in hopes of avoiding the resulting distortions and deterioration of asset values.

Monetary policy differs from fiscal policy, which refers to taxation, government spending, and associated borrowing.

Types of monetary policy

In practice, to implement any type of monetary policy the main tool used is modifying the amount of base money in circulation. The monetary authority does this by buying or selling financial assets (usually government obligations). These open market operations change either the amount of money or its liquidity (if less liquid forms of money are bought or sold). The multiplier effect of fractional reserve banking amplifies the effects of these actions.

Constant market transactions by the monetary authority modify the supply of currency and this impacts other market variables such as short term interest rates and the exchange rate.

The distinction between the various types of monetary policy lies primarily with the set of instruments and target variables that are used by the monetary authority to achieve their goals.

Monetary Policy:

Target Market   Variable:

Long Term   Objective:

Inflation Targeting Interest rate on overnight debt A given rate of change in theCPI
Price Level Targeting Interest rate on overnight debt A specificCPInumber
Monetary Aggregates The growth in money supply A given rate of change in theCPI
Fixed Exchange Rate The spot price of the currency The spot price of the currency
Gold Standard The spot price of gold Low inflation as measured by the gold price
Mixed Policy Usually interest rates Usually unemployment +CPI  change

The different types of policy are also called monetary regimes, in parallel to exchange rate regimes. A fixed exchange rate is also an exchange rate regime; The Gold standard results in a relatively fixed regime towards the currency of other countries on the gold standard and a floating regime towards those that are not. Targeting inflation, the price level or other monetary aggregates implies floating exchange rate unless the management of the relevant foreign currencies is tracking exactly the same variables (such as a harmonized consumer price index).

Inflation targeting

Under this policy approach the target is to keep inflation, under a particular definition such as Consumer Price Index, within a desired range.

The inflation target is achieved through periodic adjustments to the Central Bank interest rate target. The interest rate used is generally the interbank rate at which banks lend to each other overnight for cash flow purposes. Depending on the country this particular interest rate might be called the cash rate or something similar.

The interest rate target is maintained for a specific duration using open market operations. Typically the duration that the interest rate target is kept constant will vary between months and years. This interest rate target is usually reviewed on a monthly or quarterly basis by a policy committee.

Changes to the interest rate target are made in response to various market indicators in an attempt to forecast economic trends and in so doing keep the market on track towards achieving the defined inflation target. For example, one simple method of inflation targeting called the Taylor rule adjusts the interest rate in response to changes in the inflation rate and the output gap. The rule was proposed by John B. Taylor of Stanford University. The inflation targeting approach to monetary policy approach was pioneered in New Zealand. It is currently used in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, India, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Price level targeting

Price level targeting is similar to inflation targeting except thatCPIgrowth in one year over or under the long term price level target is offset in subsequent years such that a targeted price-level is reached over time, e.g. five years, giving more certainty about future price increases to consumers. Under inflation targeting what happened in the immediate past years is not taken into account or adjusted for in the current and future years.

Monetary aggregates

In the 1980s, several countries used an approach based on a constant growth in the money supply. This approach was refined to include different classes of money and credit (M0, M1 etc.). In the USA this approach to monetary policy was discontinued with the selection of Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman.

This approach is also sometimes called monetarism.

While most monetary policy focuses on a price signal of one form or another, this approach is focused on monetary quantities.

Fixed exchange rate

This policy is based on maintaining a fixed exchange rate with a foreign currency. There are varying degrees of fixed exchange rates, which can be ranked in relation to how rigid the fixed exchange rate is with the anchor nation.

Under a system of fiat fixed rates, the local government or monetary authority declares a fixed exchange rate but does not actively buy or sell currency to maintain the rate. Instead, the rate is enforced by non-convertibility measures (e.g. capital controls, import/export licenses, etc.). In this case there is a black market exchange rate where the currency trades at its market/unofficial rate.

Under a system of fixed-convertibility, currency is bought and sold by the central bank or monetary authority on a daily basis to achieve the target exchange rate. This target rate may be a fixed level or a fixed band within which the exchange rate may fluctuate until the monetary authority intervenes to buy or sell as necessary to maintain the exchange rate within the band. (In this case, the fixed exchange rate with a fixed level can be seen as a special case of the fixed exchange rate with bands where the bands are set to zero.)

Under a system of fixed exchange rates maintained by a currency board every unit of local currency must be backed by a unit of foreign currency (correcting for the exchange rate). This ensures that the local monetary base does not inflate without being backed by hard currency and eliminates any worries about a run on the local currency by those wishing to convert the local currency to the hard (anchor) currency.

Under dollarization, foreign currency (usually the US dollar, hence the term “dollarization”) is used freely as the medium of exchange either exclusively or in parallel with local currency. This outcome can come about because the local population has lost all faith in the local currency, or it may also be a policy of the government (usually to rein in inflation and import credible monetary policy).

These policies often abdicate monetary policy to the foreign monetary authority or government as monetary policy in the pegging nation must align with monetary policy in the anchor nation to maintain the exchange rate. The degree to which local monetary policy becomes dependent on the anchor nation depends on factors such as capital mobility, openness, credit channels and other economic factors.

Gold standard

The gold standard is a system under which the price of the national currency is measured in units of gold bars and is kept constant by the government’s promise to buy or sell gold at a fixed price in terms of the base currency. The gold standard might be regarded as a special case of “fixed exchange rate” policy, or as a special type of commodity price level targeting.

The minimal gold standard would be a long-term commitment to tighten monetary policy enough to prevent the price of gold from permanently rising above parity. A full gold standard would be a commitment to sell unlimited amounts of gold at parity and maintain a reserve of gold sufficient to redeem the entire monetary base.

Today this type of monetary policy is no longer used by any country, although the gold standard was widely used across the world between the mid-19th century through 1971. Its major advantages were simplicity and transparency. The gold standard was abandoned during the Great Depression, as countries sought to reinvigorate their economies by increasing their money supply. The Bretton Woods system, which was a modified gold standard, replaced it in the aftermath of World War II. However, this system too broke down during the Nixon shock of 1971.

The gold standard induces deflation, as the economy usually grows faster than the supply of gold. When an economy grows faster than its money supply, the same amount of money is used to execute a larger number of transactions. The only way to make this possible is to lower the nominal cost of each transaction, which means that prices of goods and services fall, and each unit of money increases in value.

Absent precautionary measures, deflation would tend to increase the ratio of the real value of nominal debts to physical assets over time. For example, during deflation, nominal debt and the monthly nominal cost of a fixed-rate home mortgage stays the same, even while the dollar value of the house falls, and the value of the dollars required to pay the mortgage goes up. Mainstream economics considers such deflation to be a major disadvantage of the gold standard. Unsustainable (i.e. excessive) deflation can cause problems during recessions and financial crisis lengthening the amount of time an economy spends in recession. William Jennings Bryan rose to national prominence when he built his historic (though unsuccessful) 1896 presidential campaign around the argument that deflation caused by the gold standard made it harder for everyday citizens to start new businesses, expand their farms, or build new homes.

In a nutshell, monetary policy relates to increasing or decreasing the supply of money available in theU.S.Economy. Such actionable policy determines whether the economy heats up (more economic activity) or cools down (less economic activity). In turn, such decisions affect, either way, credit, and, down the road, influences business growth, hiring and employment, as well as everybody’s enemy—inflation.

The Infrastructure for Monetary Policy

While the budget remained enormously important, the job of managing the overall economy shifted substantially from fiscal policy to monetary policy during the later years of the 20th century. Monetary policy is the province of the Federal Reserve System, an independentU.S.government agency. “The Fed,” as it is commonly known, includes 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks and 25 Federal Reserve Bank branches.

All nationally chartered commercial banks are required by law to be members of the Federal Reserve System; membership is optional for state-chartered banks. In general, a bank that is a member of the Federal Reserve System uses the Reserve Bank in its region in the same way that a person uses a bank in his or her community.

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors administers the Federal Reserve System. It has seven members, who are appointed by the president to serve overlapping 14-year terms. The most important monetary policy decisions are made by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which consists of the seven governors, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank ofNew   York, and presidents of four other Federal Reserve banks who serve on a rotating basis.

Although the Federal Reserve System periodically must report on its actions to Congress, the governors are, by law, independent from Congress and the president. Reinforcing this independence, the Fed conducts its most important policy discussions in private and often discloses them only after a period of time has passed. It also raises all of its own operating expenses from investment income and fees for its own services.

The Federal Reserve has three main tools for maintaining control over the supply of money and credit in the economy. The most important is known as open market operations, or the buying and selling of government securities. To increase the supply of money, the Federal Reserve buys government securities from banks, other businesses, or individuals, paying for them with a check (a new source of money that it prints); when the Fed’s checks are deposited in banks, they create new reserves — a portion of which banks can lend or invest, thereby increasing the amount of money in circulation. On the other hand, if the Fed wishes to reduce the money supply, it sells government securities to banks, collecting reserves from them. Because they have lower reserves, banks must reduce their lending, and the money supply drops accordingly.

The Fed also can control the money supply by specifying what reserves deposit-taking institutions must set aside either as currency in their vaults or as deposits at their regional Reserve Banks. Raising reserve requirements forces banks to withhold a larger portion of their funds, thereby reducing the money supply, while lowering requirements works the opposite way to increase the money supply. Banks often lend each other money over night to meet their reserve requirements. The rate on such loans, known as the “federal funds rate,” is a key gauge of how “tight” or “loose” monetary policy is at a given moment.

The Fed’s third tool is the discount rate, or the interest rate that commercial banks pay to borrow funds from Reserve Banks. By raising or lowering the discount rate, the Fed can promote or discourage borrowing and thus alter the amount of revenue available to banks for making loans.

These tools allow the Federal Reserve to expand or contract the amount of money and credit in the U.S. economy. If the money supply rises, credit is said to be loose. In this situation, interest rates tend to drop, business spending and consumer spending tend to rise, and employment increases; if the economy already is operating near its full capacity, too much money can lead to inflation, or a decline in the value of the dollar. When the money supply contracts, on the other hand, credit is tight. In this situation, interest rates tend to rise, spending levels off or will decline, and inflation abates; if the economy is operating below its capacity, tight money can lead to rising unemployment.

Many factors complicate the ability of the Federal Reserve to use monetary policy to promote specific goals, however. For one thing, money takes many different forms, and it often is unclear which one to target.

In its most basic form, money consists of coins and paper currency. Coins come in various denominations based on the value of a dollar: the penny, which is worth one cent or one-hundredth of a dollar; the nickel, five cents; the dime, 10 cents; the quarter, 25 cents; the half dollar, 50 cents; and the dollar coin. Paper money comes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

A more important component of the money supply consists of checking deposits, or bookkeeping entries held in banks and other financial institutions. Individuals can make payments by writing checks, which essentially instruct their banks to pay given sums to the checks’ recipients. Time deposits are similar to checking deposits except the owner agrees to leave the sum on deposit for a specified period; while depositors generally can withdraw the funds earlier than the maturity date, they generally must pay a penalty and forfeit some interest to do so.

Money also includes money market funds, which are shares in pools of short-term securities, as well as a variety of other assets that can be converted easily into currency on short notice.

The amount of money held in different forms can change from time to time, depending on preferences and other factors that may or may not have any importance to the overall economy. Further complicating the Fed’s task, changes in the money supply affect the economy only after a lag of uncertain duration.

 

Monetary Policy and the Presidential Election Cycle

The Federal Reserve sets the monetary policy for the country. Although the Federal Reserve is supposed to be independent of the president and the Congress, monetary policy appears to follow the presidential election cycle as well.

In a paper entitled “The Presidential Term: Is the Third Year a Charm,” prepared by the CFA Institute and published in the Journal of Portfolio Management in 2007, the authors found that monetary policy is more accommodative in the second half of a presidential term and more restrictive in the first term.

These findings suggest that policy makers are reluctant to take a restrictive stance for fear it might slow down the economy in the months leading up to a presidential election. Of the four years, the third year is the year with the most expansionary monetary policy. During that year, the author found that monetary policy was expansionary 65% of the time versus 48% for the other three years.

Stock markets do well in periods of expansionary monetary policy and do relatively poorly when monetary policy is restrictive; therefore, it is no coincidence that the stock market is generally strong in the third year of a presidential cycle, when the Federal Reserve is in an expansionary mood. (For more insight, read Formulating Monetary Policy.)

Although the relationship between the presidential election cycle and the stock market appears to be strong, this does not mean it is going to play out the same way every cycle. However, when combined with other information, it can provide additional insights that investors can use to improve their investment decisions.

Monetary Policy and Fiscal Stabilization

The Fed’s operation has evolved over time in response to major events. The Congress established the Federal Reserve System in 1913 to strengthen the supervision of the banking system and stop bank panics that had erupted periodically in the previous century. As a result of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Congress gave the Fed authority to vary reserve requirements and to regulate stock market margins (the amount of cash people must put down when buying stock on credit).

Still, the Federal Reserve often tended to defer to the elected officials in matters of overall economic policy. During World War II, for instance, the Fed subordinated its operations to helping the U.S. Treasury borrow money at low interest rates. Later, when the government sold large amounts of Treasury securities to finance the Korean War, the Fed bought heavily to keep the prices of these securities from falling (thereby pumping up the money supply).

The Fed reasserted its independence in 1951, reaching an accord with the Treasury that Federal Reserve policy should not be subordinated to Treasury financing. But the central bank still did not stray too far from the political orthodoxy. During the fiscally conservative administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961), for instance, the Fed emphasized price stability and restriction of monetary growth, while under more liberal presidents in the 1960s, it stressed full employment and economic growth.

During much of the 1970s, the Fed allowed rapid credit expansion in keeping with the government’s desire to combat unemployment. But with inflation increasingly ravaging the economy, the central bank abruptly tightened monetary policy beginning in 1979. This policy successfully slowed the growth of the money supply, but it helped trigger sharp recessions in 1980 and 1981-1982. The inflation rate did come down, however, and by the middle of the decade the Fed was again able to pursue a cautiously expansionary policy. Interest rates, however, stayed relatively high as the federal government had to borrow heavily to finance its budget deficit

(Speaking of interest rates, 1980 was a very bad time where buying homes was concerned. One of our friends bought her first home that year. She paid a mortgage rate of just over 14%. That was a long ways upward from the no-down GI loan rate of 7% my wife and I paid 11 years earlier). Rates slowly came down, too, as the deficit narrowed and ultimately disappeared in the 1990s.

The growing importance of monetary policy and the diminishing role played by fiscal policy in economic stabilization efforts may reflect both political and economic realities. The experience of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s suggests that democratically elected governments may have more trouble using fiscal policy to fight inflation than unemployment. Fighting inflation requires government to take unpopular actions like reducing spending or raising taxes, while traditional fiscal policy solutions to fighting unemployment tend to be more popular since they require increasing spending or cutting taxes. Political realities, in short, may favor a bigger role for monetary policy during times of inflation.

One other reason suggests why fiscal policy may be more suited to fighting unemployment, while monetary policy may be more effective in fighting inflation. There is a limit to how much monetary policy can do to help the economy during a period of severe economic decline, such as the United   Statesencountered during the 1930s. The monetary policy remedy to economic decline is to increase the amount of money in circulation, thereby cutting interest rates. But once interest rates reach zero, the Fed can do no more. The United Stateshas not encountered this situation, which economists call the “liquidity trap,” in recent years, but Japandid during the late 1990s. With its economy stagnant and interest rates near zero, many economists argued that the Japanese government had to resort to more aggressive fiscal policy, if necessary running up a sizable government deficit to spur renewed spending and economic growth.

Measuring Effect of Monetary Policy

Today, Federal Reserve economists use a number of measures to determine whether monetary policy should be tighter or looser. One approach is to compare the actual and potential growth rates of the economy. Potential growth is presumed to equal the sum of the growth in the labor force plus any gains in productivity, or output per worker.

In the late 1990s, the labor force was projected to grow about 1 percent a year, and productivity was thought to be rising somewhere between 1 percent and 1.5 percent. Therefore, the potential growth rate was assumed to be somewhere between 2 percent and 2.5 percent. By this measure, actual growth in excess of the long-term potential growth was seen as raising a danger of inflation, thereby requiring tighter money.

The second gauge is called NAIRU, or the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. Over time, economists have noted that inflation tends to accelerate when joblessness drops below a certain level. In the decade that ended in the early 1990s, economists generally believed NAIRU was around 6 percent. But later in the decade, it appeared to have dropped to about 5.5 percent.

Perhaps even more importantly, a range of new technologies — the microprocessor, the laser, fiber-optics, and satellite — appeared in the late 1990s to be making the American economy significantly more productive than economists had thought possible. “The newest innovations, which we label information technologies, have begun to alter the manner in which we do business and create value, often in ways not readily foreseeable even five years ago,” Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in mid-1999.

Previously, lack of timely information about customers’ needs and the location of raw materials forced businesses to operate with larger inventories and more workers than they otherwise would need, according to Greenspan.

But as the quality of information improved, businesses could operate more efficiently. Information technologies also allowed for quicker delivery times, and they accelerated and streamlined the process of innovation. For instance, design times dropped sharply as computer modeling reduced the need for staff in architectural firms, Greenspan noted, and medical diagnoses became faster, more thorough, and more accurate.

Such technological innovations apparently accounted for an unexpected surge in productivity in the late 1990s. After rising at less than a 1 percent annual rate in the early part of the decade, productivity was growing at about a 3 percent rate toward the end of the 1990s — well ahead of what economists had expected. Higher productivity meant that businesses could grow faster without igniting inflation. Unexpectedly modest demands from workers for wage increases — a result, possibly, of the fact that workers felt less secure about keeping their jobs in the rapidly changing economy — also helped subdue inflationary pressures.

Some economists scoffed at the notion American suddenly had developed a “new economy,” one that was able to grow much faster without inflation. While there undeniably was increased global competition, they noted, many American industries remained untouched by it. And while computers clearly were changing the way Americans did business, they also were adding new layers of complexity to business operations.

But as economists increasingly came to agree with Greenspan that the economy was in the midst of a significant “structural shift,” the debate increasingly came to focus less on whether the economy was changing and more on how long the surprisingly strong performance could continue. The answer appeared to depend, in part, on the oldest of economic ingredients — labor. With the economy growing strongly, workers displaced by technology easily found jobs in newly emerging industries. As a result, employment was rising in the late 1990s faster than the overall population.

That trend could not continue indefinitely. By mid-1999, the number of “potential workers” aged 16 to 64 — those who were unemployed but willing to work if they could find jobs — totaled about 10 million, or about 5.7 percent of the population. That was the lowest percentage since the government began collecting such figures (in 1970). Eventually, economists warned, the United Stateswould face labor shortages, which, in turn, could be expected to drive up wages, trigger inflation, and prompt the Federal Reserve to engineer an economic slowdown.

Still, many things could happen to postpone that seemingly inevitable development. Immigration might increase, thereby enlarging the pool of available workers. That seemed unlikely, however, because the political climate in theUnited Statesduring the 1990s did not favor increased immigration.

More likely, a growing number of analysts believed that a growing number of Americans would work past the traditional retirement age of 65. That also could increase the supply of potential workers. Indeed, in 1999, the Committee on Economic Development (CED), a prestigious business research organization, called on employers to clear away barriers that previously discouraged older workers from staying in the labor force.

Current trends suggested that by 2030, there would be fewer than three workers for every person over the age of 65, compared to seven in 1950 — an unprecedented demographic transformation that the CED predicted would leave businesses scrambling to find workers.
“Businesses have heretofore demonstrated a preference for early retirement to make way for younger workers,” the group observed. “But this preference is a relic from an era of labor surpluses; it will not be sustainable when labor becomes scarce.” While enjoying remarkable successes, in short, the United States found itself moving into uncharted economic territory as it ended the 1990s.

While many saw a new economic era stretching indefinitely into the future, others were less certain. Weighing the uncertainties, many assumed a stance of cautious optimism. “Regrettably, history is strewn with visions of such `new eras’ that, in the end, have proven to be a mirage,” Greenspan noted in 1997. “In short, history counsels caution.”

In Part V ahead I will review the actual accomplishments of President Obama throughout the lion’s share of his first term in office. This will be followed by Part VI-A . In that segment, I will describe the accomplishments of the Republican Party the last four years and describe the background of their presidential candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney.

Read Full Post »

A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Your Life Cycle Stages

The Pioneer Work of Sigmund Freud

Part II

Freud’s Theory of the Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Psychoanalytic theory of the conscious and unconscious mind is often explained using an iceberg metaphor. Conscious awareness is the tip of the iceberg, while the unconscious is represented by the ice hidden below the surface of the water. Many of us have experienced what is commonly referred to as a Freudian slip. These misstatements are believed to reveal underlying, unconscious thoughts or feelings. Freudian slips can also apply to conscious thoughts and feelings as well. Quite often these feelings, whether conscious or unconscious, are ambivalent feelings. Consider the following example:

James has just started a new relationship with a woman he met at school. While talking to her one afternoon, he accidentally calls her by his ex-girlfriend’s name.

If you were in this situation, how would you explain this mistake? Many of us might blame the slip on distraction or describe it as a simple accident. However, a psychoanalytic theorist might tell you that this is much more than a random accident. The psychoanalytic view holds that there are inner forces outside of your awareness that are directing your behavior. For example, a psychoanalyst might say that James misspoke due to unresolved feelings for his ex or perhaps because of misgivings about his new relationship.

The founder of psychoanalytic theory was Sigmund Freud. While his theories were considered shocking at the time and continue to create debate and controversy, his work had a profound influence on a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, and art.

The term psychoanalysis is used to refer to many aspects of Freud’s work and research, including Freudian therapy and the research methodology he used to develop his theories. Freud relied heavily upon his observations and case studies of his patients when he formed his theory of personality development.

Before we can understand Freud’s theory of personality, we must first understand his view of how the mind is organized.

According to Freud, the mind can be divided into two main parts:

  1. The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness. Freud called this ordinary memory the preconscious.
  2. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges [including fantasies], and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict that is yet to be revealed to those around us. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences. Parenthetically, we may be consciously aware of our fantasies; however, many of these consciously circulating thoughts and feelings may not necessarily generate conflict that would create anxiety. Fantasies in the conscious reahlm can indeed be very pleasant experiences. However, the superego [see concept below] still keeps a close check on those who want to act out their fantasies.

Personality Development

According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, personality is composed of three elements. These three elements of personality are known as the id, the ego and the superego. They work together to create complex human behaviors.

The Id

The id is the only component of personality that is present from birth. This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes all of the instinctive and primitive behaviors. According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality.

The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state of anxiety or tension. The Id doesn’t necessarily try to resolve the tension.

For example, an increase in hunger or thirst should produce an immediate attempt to eat or drink. The id is very important early in life, because it ensures that an infant’s needs are met. If the infant is hungry or uncomfortable, he or she will cry until the demands of the id are met. By age 3 or 4 a child will begin to delay gratification, i.e., the demands are seen as not having to achieve immediate satisfaction. Immediately satisfying these needs is not always realistic or even possible. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings. This sort of behavior would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable. According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the primary process which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.

The Ego

The ego is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality. According to Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The ego functions in all aspects of the mind: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.

The ego operates based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses. In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification–the ego will eventually allow the behavior, but only in the appropriate time and place. Or, the ego allows for the behavior of the id in a disguised or sublimated form in addition to delay.

The ego also discharges tension created by unmet impulses through the secondary process, in which the ego tries to find an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id’s primary process.

The Superego

The last component of personality to develop is the superego. The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from parent(s) as well as society–our sense of right and wrong. The superego provides guidelines for making judgments. According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five.

There are two parts of the superego:

  1. The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for good behaviors. These behaviors include those which are approved of by parental and other authority figures. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value and accomplishment.
  2. The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society. These behaviors are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishments or feelings of guilt and remorse.

The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behavior. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. The superego is present at many levels of the mind including the conscious, preconscious and unconscious.

The Interaction of the Id, Ego and Superego

With so many competing forces, it is easy to see how conflict might arise between the id, ego and superego. Freud used the term ego strength to refer to the ego’s ability to function despite these dueling forces. A person with good ego strength is able to effectively manage these pressures, while those with too much or too little ego strength can become too unyielding or too disrupting.

According to Freud, the key to a healthy personality is a balance between the id, the ego, and the superego.

Freud’s Concept of Defense Mechanisms

The concept of defense mechanisms can be attributed to Sigmund Freud. Later, Anna Freud also made great use of these concepts in her work in child psychiatry and child psychology. What is a defense mechanism? A defense mechanism is a strategy used to cover up or change unconscious desires and wishes that may be inappropriate or difficult to express.

In psychodynamic psychotherapy for PTSD, bringing about change in symptoms or behavior requires getting in touch with and “working through” those painful unconscious feelings. To do this, a therapist will assist the patient in recognizing the defense mechanisms being used, what they are being used for (to avoid painful feelings in the unconscious mind often stemming from a traumatic experience) and connecting with and appropriately releasing those feelings and thoughts that were previously being avoided.

Because of anxiety provoking demands created by the id, superego and reality, the ego has developed a number of defense mechanisms to cope with anxiety. Although we may knowingly use these mechanisms, in many cases these defenses work unconsciously to distort reality.

While all defense mechanisms can be unhealthy, they can also be adaptive and allow us to function normally. The greatest problems arise when defense mechanisms are overused in order to avoid dealing with problems. In psychoanalytic therapy, the goal may be to help the client uncover these unconscious defense mechanisms and find better, more healthy ways of coping with anxiety and distress.

Researchers have described a wide variety of different defense mechanisms. Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud described ten different defense mechanisms used by the ego.

Defense Mechanisms and Ego Anxiety

Most notably used by Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism is a tactic developed by the ego to protect against anxiety. Defense mechanisms are thought to safeguard the mind against feelings and thoughts that are too difficult for the conscious mind to cope with. In some instances, defense mechanisms are thought to keep inappropriate or unwanted thoughts and impulses from entering the conscious mind.

In this blogger’s opinion, the concept of defense mechanisms demonstrated the absolute creative insights of Sigmund Freud. Why do I feel this way? Because I see them operate on a daily basis in myself and everyone I come in contact with. Where people with low or non-existent ego strength is concerned [unable at all to deal with ego anxiety], they often become victims of suicide, or have a complete mental breakdown where they must be institutionalized.

For example, at a less extreme level, if you are faced with a particularly unpleasant task, your mind may choose to forget your responsibility in order to avoid the dreaded assignment. In addition to forgetting, some other defense mechanisms include rationalization, denial, repression, projection, rejection and reaction formation.

The term “defense mechanisms,” or ways that we protect ourselves from things that we don’t want to think about or deal with, got its start in psychoanalytic therapy, but it has slowly worked its way into everyday language. Think of the last time you referred to someone as being “in denial” or accused someone of “rationalizing.” Both of these examples refer to a type of defense mechanism.

In Sigmund Freud’s topographical model of personality [if you recall earlier], the ego is the aspect of personality that deals with reality. While doing this, the ego also has to cope with the conflicting demands of the id and the superego The id seeks to fulfill all wants, needs and impulses while the superego tries to get the ego to act in an idealistic and moral manner.

What happens when the ego cannot deal with the demands of our desires, the constraints of reality and our own moral standards? According to Freud, anxiety is an unpleasant inner state that people seek to avoid. Anxiety acts as a signal to the ego that things are not going right.

Freud identified three types of anxiety:

  1. Neurotic anxiety is the unconscious worry that we will lose control of the id’s urges, resulting in punishment for inappropriate behavior.
  2. Reality anxiety is fear of real-world events. The cause of this anxiety is usually easily identified. For example, a person might fear receiving a dog bite when they are near a menacing dog. The most common way of reducing this anxiety is to avoid the threatening object.
  3. Moral anxiety involves a fear of violating our own moral principles.

In order to deal with this anxiety, Freud believed that defense mechanisms helped shield the ego from the conflicts created by the id, superego and reality.

Defense Mechanisms in General

Denial

Denial is probably one of the best known defense mechanisms, used often to avoid conscious fears and describe situations in which people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth (i.e. “He’s in denial.”). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Drug addicts or alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, while victims of traumatic events may deny that the event ever occurred.

Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. While this may save us from anxiety or pain, denial also requires a substantial investment of energy. Because of this, other defenses are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness.

Repression

Repression is another well-known defense mechanism. Repression acts to keep information out of conscious awareness. However, these memories don’t just disappear; they continue to influence our behavior. For example, a person who has repressed memories of abuse suffered as a child may later have difficulty forming relationships.

Sometimes we do this consciously by forcing the unwanted information out of our awareness, which is known as suppression. In most cases, however, this removal of anxiety-provoking memories from our awareness is believed to occur unconsciously.

Displacement

Have you ever had a really bad day at work and then gone home and taken out your frustration on family and friends? Then you have experienced the ego defense mechanism of displacement. Displacement involves taking out our frustrations, feelings and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening. Displaced aggression is a common example of this defense mechanism. Rather than express our anger in ways that could lead to negative consequences (like arguing with our boss), we instead express our anger towards a person or object that poses no threat (such as our spouse, children or pets).

Sublimation

 

Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kick-boxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways.

 

Projection

 

Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection works by allowing the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.

Intellectualization

Intellectualization works to reduce anxiety by thinking about events in a cold, clinical way. This defense mechanism allows us to avoid thinking about the stressful, emotional aspect of the situation and instead focus only on the intellectual component. For example, a person who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness might focus on learning everything about the disease in order to avoid distress and remain distant from the reality of the situation.

Rationalization

Rationalization is a defense mechanism that involves explaining an unacceptable behavior or feeling in a rational or logical manner, avoiding the true reasons for the behavior. For example, a person who is turned down for a date might rationalize the situation by saying they were not attracted to the other person anyway, or a student might blame a poor exam score on the instructor rather than his or her lack of preparation.

Rationalization not only prevents anxiety, it may also protect self-esteem and self-concept. When confronted by success or failure, people tend to attribute achievement to their own qualities and skills while failures are blamed on other people or outside forces.

Regression

When confronted by stressful events, people sometimes abandon coping strategies and revert to patterns of behavior used earlier in development. Anna Freud called this defense mechanism regression, suggesting that people act out behaviors from the stage of psychosexual development in which they are fixated. For example, an individual fixated at an earlier developmental stage might cry or sulk upon hearing unpleasant news.

Behaviors associated with regression can vary greatly depending upon which stage the person is fixated at:

  1. An individual fixated at the oral might begin      eating or smoking excessively, or might become very verbally aggressive.
  2. A fixation at the anal stage might      result in excessive tidiness or messiness.

 

Reaction formation

Reaction formation reduces anxiety by taking up the opposite feeling, impulse or behavior. An example of reaction formation would be treating someone you strongly dislike in an excessively friendly manner in order to hide your true feelings. Why do people behave this way? According to Freud, they are using reaction formation as a defense mechanism to hide their true feelings by behaving in the exact opposite manner.

Other Defense Mechanisms

Since Freud first described the original defense mechanisms, other researchers have continued to describe other methods of reducing anxiety. Some of these defense mechanisms include:

  • Acting out – The individual copes with stress by engaging in actions rather than reflecting upon internal feelings.
  • Affiliation – Involves turning to other people for support.
  • Aim inhibition – The individual accepts a modified form of their original goal (i.e. becoming a high school basketball coach rather than a professional athlete.)
  • Altruism – Satisfying internal needs through helping others.
  • Avoidance – Refusing to deal with or encounter unpleasant objects or situations.
  • Compensation – Overachieving in one area to compensate for failures or inadequacy in another. Control freak.
  • Humor – Pointing out the funny or ironic aspects of a situation.
  • Passive-aggression – Indirectly expressing anger or just opposition.

While defense mechanisms are often thought of as negative reactions, some of these defenses can be helpful. For example, utilizing humor to overcome a stressful, anxiety-provoking situation can actually be an adaptive defense mechanism.

 

CONCLUSIONS

I spent a great deal of time in one of my undergraduate psychology classes several decades ago studying Sigmund Freud. Freud was a practitioner of psychoanalysis, theoretical scientist, and an author producing many books. I suggested before that Sigmund Freud was one of the greatest theoretical minds of the 20th Century; it’s absolutely true.

Criticizing Freud for lack of hypothesis testing is a mistake and it misses what science as a concept is really all about. Science is composed of four major components, although they may differ somewhat as to their relative importance to the scientific process of discovery. These components include: theory development (explanations with or without confirmation by testing) formal hypothesis testing, and the most important aspect of all science—observation. Observation is the cornerstone of all science. Part of observation is a fourth component, i.e. accidental or fortuitous findings (Think of Flemming’s discovery of penicillin, or Alexander Graham Bell’s experiments). All four components comprise the enterprise of science. All four components contribute to scientific discovery.

As most people know, Albert Einstein is regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century with his theories of special and general relativity. Yet, he left mostly to others to confirm his theories. Steven Hawking has never experimentally tested his ideas (except conceptually through mathematics) about Black Holes. Yet, some think he is the greatest living scientist alive today. Earlier in this blog I reported on an important quote from Freud himself on these notions of accepting tested probability statements as “truth.” Probability statements are not truth. What they consist of are stepping stones necessary for reaching agreement in theory development. Truth is what we agree it is—nothing more and nothing less. Once the testing is done someone must still put together the findings within a theoretical framework, meaning the scientific process is never ending. All science is conditional and all theories are subject to revision.

The greatest scientists however have never been those who simply test other’s hypotheses, but rather those who invent explanations for the behavior in question before the confirmations. The exception to what I’ve just said is Edward Hubble who used the telescope to confirm his own hypothesis that the universe is not static, but has been expanding since the “Big Bang.”

All I’m saying is that for an activity to be scientific it will involve one or more of these major components described above. Once again, there is hypothesis development (theories) and hypothesis testing (like in a laboratory or with statistics) or observation of raw data before theories or testing, and there are also accidental, serendipitous, or fortuitous discoveries as part of observation.

For example, digging up a brand new ancestor in the evolutionary line would require re-evaluation of existing theories on human evolution. That is, how does the new information fit with existing knowledge or theories on evolution? This might be followed by laboratory testing of the human remains. Presumably new theories would need to be generated that might alter our current understanding of human evolution based on the new find.

Often times those who develop explanations of human behavior (or the cosmos) leave such testing to others. Freud approached his work without statistical testing of large groups. He did conduct case studies and came away, through astute observation and insight, development and refinement of original concepts (or hypotheses to be tested) about human behavior.

Not everything Freud proposed (his later ideas about the death drive or instinct) has curried favor with the public or those in the scientific community. Freud believed very strongly in man’s contradictory tendency toward self-destruction as well as self-preservation. For Freud, it manifested itself outwardly at society in terms of aggression. There is great complexity in many of Freud’s concepts.

Given society’s collective aggression toward others (international conflict and the potential for human annihilation with a nuclear war) there is pause to wonder if man might not harbor a self-destructive instinct. Perhaps one day someone will find a way to empirically find such an instinct, or perhaps not. Perhaps the drive toward self-destruction doesn’t arise in the human psyche, but is the sociological nature or consequence of group interaction, cultural values, and sometimes unpredictable historical events. Only time will tell if Freud was on to something few of us really understand.

In this author’s opinion there are other reasons Freud’s work had obstacles to acceptance besides lack of extensive empirical research. I believe people often hated or despised Freud because his ideas conflicted with their puritanical social ideas of what is appropriate or moral behavior, for example the Oedipus complex or childhood sexuality. Our Victorian roots as a society are still with us, although often disguised as something else.

I think that Freud’s work is also rejected because it might have gotten close to the truth of why collectivities, such as groups, behave, particularly with reference to use of defense mechanisms. That is, groups use defense mechanisms as well as individuals [denial, rationalization, etc]. For example, some groups collectively use the sugar-coated notions of religion to deal with their internalized fear of the finality of death.  And governments engage in defense mechanisms, all the time, by denying their own culpability in generating armed conflict with other nations.

Final Thoughts

 

Ironically, as said before in Connections, it was a movie about Freud I saw in 1962 (with Montgomery Cliff as Freud) that motivated me to consider psychology as a major in college. In many ways I have Sigmund Freud to thank for my career. From my standpoint, his legacy is definitely assured in the scientific literature on human behavior.

Next time in Part III—I will describe eleven written works of Sigmund Freud including: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Civilization and Its Discontents, The Ego and the Id, The Future of an Illusion, The Interpretation of Dreams, Introduction to Psychoanalysis, On Narcissism, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Studies of Hysteria, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and Totem and Taboo.

Read Full Post »

A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Your Life Cycle
Stages

The Pioneer Work of Sigmund Freud

 

Part I

 

Introduction

This Blog has an erudite, lofty title but it really is just a review of basic concepts and basic approaches taken by one of the greatest theoretical giants of the 20th Century—Sigmund Freud.

 

This Blog is written in three parts because Freud’s contributions to psychoanalysis were so many including: Psychosexual Stages of
human development, the conceptual framework for understanding conscious and unconscious behavior, and the importance of understanding defense mechanisms as a way of averting or avoiding problems of anxiety or conscious feelings of guilt. Freud was a prolific writer.

Part I will emphasize the pioneer work of Sigmund Freud, who is the father of psychoanalysis, as it relates to his theory of life cycle stages. Part II will present his discoveries on conscious and unconscious behavior and the defense mechanisms we all share in common, although their use may differ from individual to individual. Part III will present a detailed synopsis of Freud’s major works.

Connections

Indirectly, I have to say that when I was young, Sigmund Freud had an impact on my future academic career. How did this occur? During my
freshmen year of high school, I began reading books on psychology. I knew about the work of Abraham Maslow, Sigmund Freud, B. F. Skinner and, what psychology was all about long before I entered college. This opened up a new world to me. The pioneer work and importance of Sigmund Freud’s theories were described in great detail in many of the books I read. And, I was impressed by what I read; I
was intrigued by the field of psychology.

Later, when I was a sophomore in college (age 19) I was beginning to have to make decisions about my career one day. I knew back then,
as did every other college student, the major I chose would be extremely important as to what career would likely unfold. During college I liked to go to the movies. Back then I was dating my pretty and highly intelligent 18 year old girlfriend who also had a similar interest in outstanding movies of an intellectual or socially relevant nature. I took her to see Lawrence of Arabia and David and Lisa, the latter being a psychiatric-oriented movie—but that’s another story. One night early in our relationship I took her on a date to see (this was 1962) a movie, titled Freud. It starred Montgomery Cliff. This was, of course, a dramatic interpretation of Freud’s life, but nonetheless it was a turning point for me. My decision was made—I’d major in psychology.

Based on that decision I went on to earn 24 undergraduate units in psychology and an additional 12 units in sociology. In graduate school I
would later go in the direction of public administration and criminal justice, but I built my foundation of knowledge from that early decision to study psychology; I have never regretted that decision. In terms of career choices, I ended up being a social scientist, criminologist, and criminal justice administrator, collectively for 32 years. Amazing how small decisions early in life can later influence making bigger ones.

 

The Theories of Sigmund Freud

The Scientific Process

The work of Sigmund Freud, the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis, marked the beginning of a modern, dynamic psychology by providing the first well-organized explanation of the inner mental forces determining human behavior. While Freud brought us concepts like the Id,
Ego and Superego, the importance of the unconscious mind in human behavior, and a terminology of significant “defense mechanisms,” Freud also created a theory of human and personality development, with an emphasis on the psychosexual nature of human behavior. Part I explains what some of these concepts are all about. Sigmund Freud wasn’t just a very bright man—Freud was a conceptual genius who used the cornerstone of all science to help him in that conceptual process; that cornerstone of science is known as observation. Observation has led to more discoveries in science than any other process. However, the process of scientific discovery and validation is more complex
than observation alone. That is, there is an interrelationship between four major elements of science.

Interrelationships form in the process of science between observation, theory development and a third element known as hypothesis testing. Hypothesis testing, of course, does not occur in a scientific vacuum, because someone already has a theory or observation in the first place. This creates the context in which someone formulates a hypothesis later to test. Hypothesis development itself might precede observation or theory, but the more likely scenario is the other way around. But, as we all know, scientific discovery is more than the orderly process of three major elements. There is an added feature to the business of science that also contributes to scientific discovery. Scientific discovery sometimes occur through rather fortuitous or serendipitous events [we call them accidental discoveries]. In this author’s opinion Freud used primarily observation as his basic method of scientific inquiry. This in turn often led to his theoretical development or explanations for human behavior. And, it may be that accidental discovery may have played a role in some of his discoveries (I mean by this he likely saw or observed something unexpectedly in his patients that helped him formulate a particular theory).

However, Freud left to others the business of hypothesis testing. I surmise this would have been very difficult for him to perform given the small number of patients he saw. However, lack of quantitative hypothesis testing in his work in no way diminishes the important work of this theoretical genius. This is because valuable empirical evidence can result from case studies in producing very valid qualitative data on the nature of human behavior. Both qualitative and quantitative measures are important to scientific discovery. Truth is often talked about in many circles as something that is absolute in nature. Problem is there is no such thing as “absolute truth.” Truth in reality is what we agree it is, nothing more and nothing less. All scientific knowledge is conditional and always subject to change. Results in science based on degree of outcome probability is not truth; probability statements and statistical significance are best understood as stepping stones in the process of  building a consensus of agreement regarding the meaning of findings. Also, creating operational definitions for variables from complex concepts is always difficult work.

One way (although perhaps debatable) of going about the business of testing Freud’s concepts (however complex) is to develop proxy
measures for some of his supposedly un-measurable variables. Case in point: the Libido. If one defines Libido as sexual interest, sexual drive, or sexual energy one can create measures to tap into this variable. If I were trying to assess Libido I would use a combination of physical and psychological measures to tap into creating a proxy measure for Libido. In men, it might be testosterone level and a “pencil and paper” test of attitudes about their sexual life. Time and space does permit me the luxury of a full explanation of this. Therefore, I will continue to describe Freud’s contributions and what I believe his legacy to be. But rest assured some of the criticisms of Freud’s work may be unfounded based on a lack of understanding as to what the scientific process is really all about.

Sigmund Freud’s Legacy

Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939), was an Austrian neurologist who founded the
discipline of psychoanalysis. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression, and for creating the clinical method of psychoanalysis for investigating the mind and treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient  and a psychoanalyst. Freud postulated that sexual drives were the primary motivational forces of human life, developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association, discovered the phenomenon of transference in the therapeutic relationship and established its
central role in the analytic process; he interpreted dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was an early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy, and a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of culture. 

The Growth of Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud was the very first psychoanalyst. Many of his insights into the human mind, which seemed so revolutionary at the turn of the 20th century, are now widely accepted by most schools of psychological thought. Although others before and during his time had begun to recognize the role of unconscious mental activity, Freud was the preeminent pioneer in understanding its importance. Through his extensive work with patients and through his theory building, he showed that factors which influence thought and action exist outside of awareness, that unconscious conflict plays a part in determining both normal and abnormal behavior, and that the past shapes the present.

Although his ideas met with antagonism and resistance, Freud believed deeply in the value of his discoveries and rarely simplified or exaggerated them for the sake of popular acceptance. He saw that those who sought to change themselves or others must face realistic difficulties. But he also showed us that, while the dark and blind forces in human nature sometimes seem overwhelming, psychological understanding, by enlarging the realm of reason and responsibility can make a substantial difference to troubled individuals and even to civilization as a whole.

Like any other field of inquiry, the ideas of psychoanalysis did not “freeze” with the work of the field’s founder a century ago. Building
on the foundational ideas and ideals of Freud and his contemporaries, psychoanalysis has continued to grow and develop as a general theory of human mental functioning, while always maintaining a profound respect for the uniqueness of each individual life. Ferment, change, and new ideas have enriched the field, and psychoanalytic practice has adapted and expanded. But psychoanalysts today still appreciate the persistent power of the irrational in shaping or limiting human lives, and they therefore remain skeptical of the quick cure, the deceptively easy answer, the trendy or sensationalistic. Like Freud, they believe that psychoanalysis is the strongest and most sophisticated tool for obtaining further knowledge of the mind, and that by using this knowledge for greater self-awareness, patients can become free from incapacitating suffering, and improve and deepen human relationships.

Psychoanalysis it is said may have a double identity. It is a comprehensive theory about human nature, motivation, behavior, development and experience. And, it is a method of treatment for psychological problems and difficulties in living a successful life.As a general theory of individual human behavior and experience, psychoanalytic ideas enrich and are enriched by the study of the biological and social sciences, group behavior, history, philosophy, art, and literature. As a developmental theory, psychoanalysis contributes to child psychology, education, law, and family studies. Through its examination of the complex relationship between body and mind, psychoanalysis also furthers our understanding of the role of emotions in health as well as in medical illness.

APsaA’s publication, “About Psychoanalysis,” is a valuable reference tool. The psychoanalytic framework stresses the importance of understanding: (1)   that each individual is unique, (2)   that there are factors outside of a person’s awareness (unconscious thoughts, feelings and experiences) which influence his or her thoughts and actions, (3)   that the past shapes the present, and (4) human beings are always engaged in the process of development throughout their lives.

Personality basically established by Age Five

According to Sigmund Freud, the main features of personality are mostly established by the age of five. Early experiences play a large role
in personality development but personality is not static; Many factors, mostly of a social nature, continue to influence human behavior later in life.

 

FREUD’S
THEORY OF PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT

Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial. Freud believed that personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure-seeking energies of the id become focused on certain erogenous areas. This psychosexual energy, or libido, was described as the driving force behind behavior. If these psychosexual stages are completed successfully, the result is a healthy personality. If certain issues are not resolved at the appropriate stage, fixation can occur. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage. Until this conflict is resolved, the individual will remain “stuck” in this stage. For example, a person who is fixated at the oral stage may be over-dependent on others and may seek oral stimulation through smoking, drinking, or eating.

It’s important to let the reader know that Freud was assisted in his theory of psychosexual theory development by Karl Abraham and
Saxhfa Ferenz, two other Freudian psychoanalysts. They developed “character types” of individuals at the oral, anal, and phallic stages of development. I need to make clear that the following psychosexual stages outlined in Freud’s theory, although delineated within a certain time frame, often overlap. For example, the oral stage often goes beyond the first year of life. How long this developmental stage will last depends on the weaning process itself. Because of this, a longer oral stage would most likely impact the onset of other stages. Below I describe what happens if fixation occurs at any of the stages of psychosexual development.

The Oral
Stage

Age Range: Birth to 1 Year

Erogenous Zone: Mouth

During the oral stage, the infant’s primary source of interaction occurs through the mouth, so the rooting and sucking reflex is especially important. The mouth is vital for eating, and the infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through gratifying activities such as tasting
and sucking. Because the infant is entirely dependent upon caretakers (who are responsible for feeding the child), the infant also develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation. The primary conflict at this stage is the weaning process–the child must become less dependent upon caretakers. If fixation occurs at this stage, Freud believed the individual would have issues with dependency or aggression. Oral fixation can result in problems with drinking, eating, smoking or nail biting.

The Anal
Stage

Age Range: 1 to 3 years

Erogenous Zone: Bowel and Bladder Control

During the anal stage, Freud believed that the primary focus of the libido was on controlling bladder and bowel movements. The major conflict at this stage is toilet training–the child has to learn to control his or her bodily needs. Developing this control leads to a sense of
accomplishment and independence. According to Freud, success at this stage is dependent upon the way in which parents approach toilet training. Parents who utilize praise and rewards for using the toilet at the appropriate time encourage positive outcomes and help children feel capable and productive. Freud believed that positive experiences during this stage served as the basis for people to become competent, productive and creative adults. However, not all parents provide the support and encouragement that children need during this stage. Some parents’ instead punish, ridicule or shame a child for accidents. According to Freud, inappropriate parental responses can result in negative outcomes. If parents take an approach that is too lenient, Freud suggested that an anal-expulsive personality could develop in which the individual has a messy, wasteful or destructive personality. If parents are too strict or begin toilet training too early, Freud believed that an anal-retentive personality develops in which the individual is stringent, orderly, rigid and obsessive.

The Phallic Stage

Age Range: 3 to 6 Years

Erogenous Zone: Genitals

During the phallic stage, the primary focus of the libido is on the genitals. At this age, children also begin to discover the differences between males and females. Freud also believed that boys begin to view their fathers as a rival for the mother’s affections. The Oedipus complex describes these feelings of wanting to possess the mother and the desire to replace the father. However, the child also fears that he will be punished by the father for these feelings, a fear Freud termed castration anxiety. The term Electra complex has been used to describe a
similar set of feelings experienced by young girls. Freud, however, believed that girls instead experience penis envy. Eventually, the child begins to identify with the same-sex parent as a means of vicariously possessing the other parent. For girls, however, Freud believed that penis envy was never fully resolved and that all women remain somewhat fixated on this stage. Psychologists such as Karen Horney disputed this theory, calling it both inaccurate and demeaning to women. Instead, Horney proposed that men experience feelings of inferiority because they cannot give birth to children. Of course, in the case of both Freud and Karen Horney, where is the empirical evidence?

Speaking only as a man I have to say that most men don’t feel inferiority because they cannot give birth. Quite the contrary. What they do feel is relief and appreciation of the fact they were born as a male. What most men really feel is relief that they don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations of both pregnancy and the extreme pain of giving birth. Karen Horney may simply have been over-reacting to the rather bold statements coming from Sigmund Freud. If Karen Horney truly believed what she was saying, then would she have also hypothesized that women who couldn’t conceive or experience motherhood would also feel inferior to women who could? This is where researchers might start to generate empirical research into the assumptions that have been made regarding this aspect of psychosexual development. Perhaps some enterprizing researcher can send me a comment that outlines the currrent status of research on this topic. Those who frequent my blog would also appreciate being so informed.

The Latent
Period

Age Range: 6 to Puberty

Erogenous Zone: Sexual Feelings Are Inactive

During the latent period, the libido interests are suppressed. The development of the ego and superego contribute to this period of calm. The stage begins around the time that children enter into school and become more concerned with peer relationships, hobbies and other interests.

The latent period is a time of exploration in which the sexual energy is still present, but it is directed into other areas such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions. This stage is important in the development of social and communication skills and self-confidence.

The Genital Stage

Age Range: Puberty to Death

Erogenous Zone: Maturing Sexual Interests

During the final stage of psychosexual development, the individual develops a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex. This stage begins during puberty but last throughout the rest of a person’s life. Where in earlier stages the focus was solely on individual needs, interest in the welfare of others grows during this stage. If the other stages have been completed successfully, the individual should now be well-balanced, warm and caring. The goal of this stage is to establish a balance between the various life areas.

 

Criticisms
of Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory

There have been several criticisms of Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory. In many cases such criticisms have been unwarranted. Freud himself offered an explanation why empirical research is not the “all-end-all” of scientific inquiry. But first here are some criticisms:

  • The theory is focused almost entirely on male development
    with little mention of female psychosexual development.
  • His theories are difficult to test scientifically.
    Concepts such as the libido are impossible to measure, and therefore cannot be
    tested. The research that has been conducted tends to discredit Freud’s theory.
  • Future predictions are too vague. How can we know that a
    current behavior was caused specifically by a childhood experience? The length
    of time between the cause and the effect is too long to assume that there is a
    relationship between the two variables.
  • Freud’s theory is based upon case studies and not
    empirical research. Also, Freud based his theory on the recollections of his
    adult patients, not on actual observation and study of children.

Freud’s quote follows that addresses some of these criticisms:

It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind.

 

 — Freud

In another month Part II of this three part series will be presented. At that time I will report my conclusions on the work of Sigmund Freud. Although I’m not a psychoanalyst I do have something to say about the scientific process and how Sigmund Freud’s work fits into that process. All I can say now in that regard is that Sigmund Freud, although relying heavily on observation of a limited number of patients, was
nonetheless a theoretical genius, whose legacy is assured in the canons of scientific literature. Looking outward to the universe, theoretical scientists like Hubble, Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking come to mind. However, Freud’s work was mostly about looking inward to the human mind and behavior.

Looking the other way, inside the mind of man, there is no one who has ever surpassed Freud’s scientific theoretical achievements where human behavior is concerned.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »