Guns: Focus on agreement

This post, entitled, “Fuck you, I like guns” was posted to Facebook recently.

The positions from this article are: “I like guns and I don’t care what you want.” and “I don’t like guns and I don’t care what you want.” I don’t think people with those positions can have a productive discussion with each other.

I don’t think those extremes are as common as people like to claim. I think we’d do a lot better to focus on areas where we agree. For example, both sides agree that criminals shouldn’t have guns. We only prosecute 0.1% of background check denials. Except for paperwork mistakes, every single one of those people is committing a federal and state crime, which they have caused to be reported, and nothing happens. Can we investigate every single one?

There is also widespread support for “universal background checks”. Can we pass that (without lumping in other things)?

If you want to require licensing for gun purchases, I’m personally on board with that. For example, in my state, we could require the existing hunter’s safety course to purchase a rifle, and the existing concealed weapons permit course to purchase a pistol. I don’t think that’d be too controversial. I might ask for something in return, though. Since I’m licensed, let me take my concealed handgun into all gas stations instead of just some of them. Or, if that’s too much of a restriction on other’s property rights, maybe we can respect my property rights by repealing laws banning silencers so I can further protect my hearing at the range.

Can we repeal the common law duty to retreat at the same time as adding “violent” in front of “felony” in my state’s laws about self defense in the home to correct that oddity?

Can we treat private citizens who use force in self-defense the same way we treat cops who do the same, perhaps by bringing both situations closer to the middle?

If limiting things in the Bill of Rights is on the table, can we restrict the media just a little bit in how they report on these things? We know that copycat crimes are thing, and less sensationalism and glorification of the crimes would likely help.

Facts are Discriminatory

As reported on Ars Technica, the National Labor Relations Board’s Office of General Counsel, released a memo about James Damore’s complaint against Google after they fired him over his controversial memo. As I wrote on Reddit:

The NLRB memo concludes, “[His] statements about immutable traits linked to sex—such as…men’s prevalence at the top of the IQ distribution—were discriminatory and constituted sexual harassment notwithstanding… references”.

Imagine a male firefighter said (with citations to legitimate research), “Studies show that, on average, men have more upper body strength than women. That is a cause, other than bias, which could explain why there are more male firefighters than female firefighters, despite all of the fire department’s diversity efforts.” Can that be legitimately construed as discriminatory and constituting sexual harassment?

Imagine the firefighter further says, “While there are limits, we can change some aspects of how the work is performed to reduce the upper body strength required. This would help reduce the gender gap in a non-discriminatory way. This is more fair than having programs, mentoring, and classes only for women firefighters.” Does that help or hurt his position?

Minnesota Taxes

Jeff Johnson, a 2018 candidate for Minnesota Governor, posted on Facebook:

With all the talk from the left about how federal tax reform will be costly to some taxpayers in very high tax states (like Minnesota), maybe it’s time we stopped complaining about the Feds and solve this problem for Minnesota taxpayers ourselves.

Minnesota is among the highest in the country in income tax, gas tax, beer tax, wine tax, sales tax, corporate tax, death tax, social security benefit tax, business property tax – and I could go on. We’ll never be South Dakota, but how about we remove ourselves from the list of most taxpayer-hostile states in the nation.

And don’t let anyone tell you that we only overtax the “rich” in Minnesota – it’s not just wealthy people who pay gas, sales, beer/wine and social security taxes. More importantly, our lowest income tax rate (applying to anyone making more than $10,350 per year) is higher than the highest rate in 22 other states. We’re not just taxing CEO’s to death in Minnesota, we’re taxing school teachers, mechanics, bartenders and child care providers to death.

It’s time we give Minnesota taxpayers a break!

Minnesota tax rates are unquestionably, by comparison, high. If we can reduce taxes without sacrificing critical services like roads, bridges, education, etc., I’m absolutely for it. But let’s be careful not to overstate the size of the problem / benefit of such a change: it’s only about half a percent of total taxpayer income.

I’ve looked at a few sources, and they show similar results. I’ll use the numbers from one source for consistency. We are 8th highest in the country. The range of overall state and local tax burden across all 50 states is from 7.1% to 12.7%, and Minnesota is 10.8%. We’re thus 2/3 of the way through that range. If the realistic goal is that we’ll never be South Dakota, but we should do better, let’s call that goal being 1/3 into that range instead of 2/3. That means dropping 1/3 * (12.7%-7.1%) = 0.5 percentage points (pp).

To be clear, this reduction would be in terms of overall tax burden, not in some particular tax rate. Larger reductions in, for example, income tax rates would be necessary to create that reduction in burden.


There is also room for improvement in the progressiveness of our tax system, but we’re doing better there already than in rates. In terms of progressiveness of our taxes, we are currently 13th with regard to income taxes:

This article, while lacking in actual data, seems to confirm that Minnesota is also highly progressive in terms of overall tax burden (and one of the top states in that regard):

We’ve also been moving in the right direction. This report shows Minnesota as the #1 state in improving progressiveness from 2011-2014:

Informed Consent Required

I replied to this portion of a comment on Reddit:

I don’t think you actually want legislation that dictates a child’s ears cannot be pierced until they are old enough to decide.

I actually do want such legislation. I see permanent, cosmetic (i.e. not for medical reasons) body modifications as something which parents should not be allowed to perform or have performed on their children without informed consent from the child.

Such practices come in many forms, including ear piercing, male circumcision, and female genital mutilation. While the relevant age necessary to give consent should probably vary between these practices, in principle, these should all require informed consent. What one does to their own body is their business, but a child’s body belongs to him or her, not his or her parents.

We actually have such legislation banning female genital mutilation under the age of 18:

Zero Rating

AT&T wants companies to pay to “sponsor” their zero-rated data. This is the obvious violation of net neutrality. Even if the zero-rating looks good for consumers in the short run (because they can watch video without counting it towards their usage), it is bad for consumers in the long run. Any new video service will count against consumers’ data caps, giving that company a disadvantage. They can only compete if AT&T, at their sole option, chooses to allow them to sponsor zero-rating, and if AT&T charges them the same rate. And even then, this idea of pay-for-access is terrible for many other reasons.