Home/personal security vs. national security/immigration - A philosophical discussion

Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 months, 3 weeks ago to Philosophy
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About a year ago, I met a man who had just moved in with a female friend down the street. The man had served his jail time, but was on a sexual predator list. Some neighbors tried to fundraise throughout our neighborhood to build a community play set, with the explicit intent to force this man to move out (because he would have been in violation of sexual predator laws). Without my money, the play set was built, and the man moved out.

Since then, I have thought a lot about a) the presumption of innocence, b) whether that presumption should apply to people outside my country, especially when such people are from countries for which background checks are of questionable veracity, c) what the philosophical basis (or bases) is for the presumption of innocence are.

If someone moves to my neighborhood, does that constitute an actionable threat? I think not, but I am willing to listen to the counterarguments.

What if a stranger sits in his car in the street in front of my house? What if that stranger parks in my driveway or knocks on the front door? Think about how you react when you hear your doorbell when you are not expecting visitors.

What do you do for your personal and home security? Do you own a gun (or guns)? Do you have a dog that would be considered threatening to people who ring your doorbell? Do you have a home security system? Can you hit an alarm button manually? Is that alarm very loud or silent?

Now consider people coming to your country. How much does it matter whether or not the visitor's past is verifiable? Is it reasonable to let that person in without interviewing that person carefully?

Does a person's philosophy (or faith?) matter? Especially if a person's faith says that it is OK to lie to infidels in order to accomplish larger objectives? Can persons of faith be reasoned with?

On the other hand, is it worthwhile interacting with non-Objectivists with the hope that such people might eventually change? Should such situations be viewed as opportunities, threats, both, or neither?

Just checking my premises...


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  • Posted by freedomforall 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    Some think there should be open borders. I do not.
    If you do not agree with open borders, then you must rationally decide what factors are desirable and what factors are undesirable. Open movement between the states is desirable, so the rules for immigration must be uniform for all states. No state (nor the executive or judicial branches of the federal government) should be allowed to weaken the immigration standards established by the US congress or to selectively choose not to enforce them.
    No small community should be selected to receive the settlement of immigrants in excess of an amount per capita to the US population.
    Quicker resettlement of refugees from war zones should not be a factor used to determine if an immigrant is worthy when compared to immigrants from other locales.
    Yes, an immigrant person's philosophy is a valid factor to consider and his choice of religion is part of his philosophy.
    A very high degree of security vetting should be required for all immigrants.
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    • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
      Any opinions on the presumption of innocence for those who backgrounds are unknown?
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      • Posted by freedomforall 5 months, 3 weeks ago
        Weigh that risk of the unknown against the applicant's productive talents and against the other applicants with similar talents (and known low risk backgrounds), and consider the potential for harm if you are wrong. It is the government's job to protect the sovereign people from enemies, not to take undue risks to benefit immigrants with unknown backgrounds and unknown philosophy.
        The sovereign people should also be held to a higher standard before being allowed to vote. There should be a waiting period for immigrants and a test for understanding the issues and American philosophy before anyone is allowed to vote but that is a different can of worms.
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        • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
          An excellent set of policies.
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          • Posted by  $  Maritimus 5 months, 3 weeks ago
            I would like to add a real life story. About ten years ago, while I was still running my business, we had decided to add, in a second facility, about 875 miles away from the "headquarters", a highly sophisticated analytical technique. We had the instrument and needed a qualified operator. A gentlemen responded to our add. He had come back to live with his parents. PhD chemist, who served a prison term because his wife accused him an "inappropriate contact" with one of their daughters. A judge sentenced him and, in the prison, a priest led him to deep religious belief. He told me this entire story in the first interview. I was impressed with his abilities. I decided to hire him.

            We brought him to the "headquarters" and trained him. He is now one of the leading experts in the world in this kind of analysis. He married another woman, adopted her two daughters and has excellent relationships with his daughters from the first marriage.

            May be that I was just lucky, but I am glad that I made that hiring decision. Needless to say, I would do it again in such circumstances.

            Lesson: you have to carefully evaluate all the information that you have and take a risk.

            EDIT: removed extraneous words.
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            • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
              The criminal justice system has definitely been biased against some men. I am glad to hear that you judged this man as an individual.
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              • Posted by  $  Maritimus 5 months, 3 weeks ago
                To me, there is no other way to judge a man. If he happens to choose to belong to some group that I consider my enemies or opponents, his choice will have consequences. But it is HIS choice!
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      • Posted by  $  blarman 5 months, 3 weeks ago
        Then theirs is the burden of proof for entry. They are petitioning for entry and thus must be the ones to make their own case. I agree with freedomforall that they should submit their productive talents for consideration (Australia weighs this quite heavily). But I don't necessarily agree with just letting anyone claiming "refugee" status into the nation. We want Americans - not just anyone and everyone.
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        • Posted by freedomforall 5 months, 3 weeks ago
          If Australia weighed talent ahead of age, i would be living there. They have to protect their socialist health system from people over 45. Unless you have pull (or lots of money) you do not qualify for Aussie immigration if you are over 45.
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          • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
            I guess that means I'm out, too.
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            • Posted by freedomforall 5 months, 3 weeks ago
              If you got a university to sponsor you as a professor you could be accepted for a 4 year term, I think. After that you could apply for an extension or residency, but according to the rules you must have some talent that no Australian has in order to be approved.
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              • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
                There is probably no talent that I have that no Australian has. My claim to fame is being one of the few people to start one of the top handful of US nanotechnology programs. However, there is some international competition, particularly Flinders in Australia.
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  • Posted by  $  Zenphamy 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    Hello j; Long time no talk. The site has become so political, populist, and newsy that I seldom interact anymore. I haven't completely given up on the site as yet, but I suspect the time is coming. But I do miss some of our interactions, so I'll try to respond to some of your questions and the bent of your post.

    There are actually two sets of responses to what you pose--the first of course is from that of Objectivism and the Founding basis of the nation--Natural Individual Rights, and the second is that from the nation and society as it became in the early 20th century and is at present (and probably will remain, and worsen for at least the foreseeable future).

    Your tale of the new guy moving into the neighborhood and your neighbors response to force him out of his home sickens me to the depth of my soul. We've two men in this little community of about 500 that are registered sex offenders. The first is a young man convicted of statutory rape when he was barely 18 for sex with a 16yr old with the morals of an alley cat, and the second is an older man convicted for exposure for peeing in his yard in the evening after drinking several beers outside with friends. Both men have been forced to move from their homes because they can't live within 1 mile of an elementary school property, measured in a straight line radius. Neither individual is in any way a threat to anyone other than themselves, weren't when convicted and given their labels, and won't be in the future--yet they are labeled the same as a pedophile or serial rapist and will carry their labels to their deaths. I think we as a people began that method of continuous punishment for minor errors of judgement during the Dark Ages with scarring(branding) on foreheads, notching noses and ears, cutting out tongues, and lopping off hands-- and carried it into this 'enlightened' land through the Puritans in New England. Apparently, we haven't learned much from their atrocities and failures.

    For the remainder of what you pose (Not in such depth):
    If you define the right to a 'presumption of innocence' on the quality or presence of a background report, where's your presumption of innocence.
    The concept of a presumption of innocence comes from the importance of the Individual Right to life and property (from which all others arise. Before any of that can be altered or taken from a man, there must be no doubt.

    If someone moves to your neighborhood, are they suspicious? Are you if you choose to move to another neighborhood?

    What do I do for personal and home security? I came of age in a war zone, so I'm always aware and always armed. I own my life and property and I will defend both.

    If someone rings my doorbell, I look to see who it is before I open my door.

    For others that want to come to this country, I argue against and vote against any sort of gov't support or aid for anyone anywhere without exception.

    As to interacting with non-Objectivists at any level, it's nonsense to rely on hope or to think anything will change except on an individual level through example, and that rarely.

    As to the bent of your post, I refuse to live my life in fear or with continual paranoia. There's too many small pleasures left in life and too short a time to allow either to be overwhelmed by others stories and fears.

    Thanks for the post and the opportunity to interact.
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    • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
      One of the reasons for coming to this site are your contributions, Zenphamy. It is a pleasure to hear from you again.

      Your comments about the "sexual offenders" in your community are illustrative of how easily this can ruin one's life.

      Your comments on the origin of the presumption of innocence followed by your personal and home security are what I would have expected. I don't live in a continual paranoia either, but my wife is reasonably concerned given that it would only take one out of the hundreds of students I interact with to drastically affect my life. I am a little on the naive side; that aspect of my personality has been helpful in my interactions with both students and faculty. Consequently, I have not changed that behavior.

      You take your personal security seriously, as all of us should. As for dealing with complete strangers in my neighborhood or my country, I am careful, but not paranoid. If that complete stranger were worthy of paranoia, there is a good chance that he/she would have been incarcerated already. While I agree that at least most of the basis for the presumption of innocence is derived from an individual's right to life and property, I will argue that some of the basis for the presumption of innocence is derived from that individual's past history and society's documentation of that past history.

      When it comes to strangers from other countries, particularly those coming from countries that cannot, or will not, document that immigrant's history, I consider it to be no different than when "someone rings my doorbell, I look to see who it is before I open my door." Similarly, as I was writing this, an air duct cleaning company called me unsolicited. Am I to presume innocence for the air duct cleaning company, or is there a reasonable probability that this company is a scam? To that point, I think that this air duct cleaning company either bought the customer base of a now defunct air duct cleaning company (or just a renamed version of the same disreputable company) that my wife had integrity problems with during a previous visit. Any sensible person would initiate a call to the company before buying that company's services, rather than doing so unsolicited over the phone. I see the presumption of innocence for strangers from other countries to be as foolish as presuming innocence among telemarketers. Some are legitimate, but because the percentage of bad actors is definitely non-zero, one should be prudent about doing his/her homework.

      Regarding the interactions with non-Objectivists at any level, I will certainly agree that "it's nonsense to rely on hope or to think anything will change except on an individual level through example, and that rarely." However, when such rare individual changes happen through my example to some of my students, such times are among my most personally gratifying.

      Enjoy your day.
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  • Posted by Joseph23006 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    There was something disturbing about the neighbors deciding to build a play set to force the man to move, would they have done so if he hadn't lived where he did? That would entertain a question of their method being ethical, aside from moral considerations. In other words he moved there legally but the actions of the 'neighbors' made illegal for him to stay, ie: ex post facto, making something a crime that it was legal at the time then applying the new standard after the fact!
    Just a musing.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    The sexual predator tag is iffy at best, lacking information. A male/female 18 years old who has consensual sex with a 15 year old can be charged with statutory rape and labeled a sexual predator. That person is no threat to anyone. Unfortunately that person is categorized the same way as a serial, habitual pedophile, who is a definite threat to neighborhood minors (pedophiles are among the worst recidivist criminals). There needs to be a change to how that tag is applied, so that the real serious threats can be culled from the harmless offenders.

    I have an old fashioned security system, hard-wired, with battery backup and an encrypted cellphone connection to emergency services. It can't be hacked, like the fancier wireless systems, and cutting phone lines or power doesn't bypass it. The alarm is high decibel, and can wake the dead.

    We have the means to observe people at the door without opening it, and it is secure from being kicked in. Having a threatening looking dog isn't necessary. My standard poodles could be quite menacing if necessary, and most career criminals say it isn't the threat, but the noise of a barking dog that usually stops a break-in. Even a tiny yorkie yapper alerts the home to intruders, and the element of surprise is lost.

    I believe everyone should have the means for self protection. I adhere to the dictum that when harm is seconds away, the police will be there in minutes. The type of weapon varies, but it should be easy to operate, and effective enough at short range to discourage an intruder. For those squeamish about shooting someone, there are very potent multi-shot pepper or CS gas dispensers at a reasonable price.

    If I believe someone poses a threat, I don't care what sex, color, politics, or religion they are. I will act to protect my family. As for refugees, I believe they should be judged on the same basis as those seeking legal immigration, and I believe we should apply the same conditions as most other successful nations: the candidate has to prove they can support themselves, and not become an immediate burden on our economy.
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  • Posted by  $  teri-amborn 5 months, 2 weeks ago
    Rational self-interest should be the basis of all immigration policies.

    Even a human cell allows the good in, keeps the bad out and releases waste.
    The problem is that our nation has philosophical "cancer" and the body politic doesn't seem to be able to discern the difference between normal cells and cancerous tumors (so-to-speak).

    You did a very good thing, however, to eschew participation in what was so obviously a set-up. Too bad that you set such a rare example.
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  • Posted by Eyecu2 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    You ask a number of questions and while my answers would vary depending on my living situation, Apartment living verse rural living. I can only answer for my current situation. Since I currently live in a VERY rural situation a stranger parking within 1/4 mile of my house would perk my attention. As I live quite a long distance behind a cattle gate down a private road. If my doorbell were to sound unexpectedly. I would answer the door by stepping out the back door with my most convenient gun and circle around to the front to meet them from behind. Of course if I lived in an apartment my sense of boundaries would have to be greatly adjusted and that's why I choose to live as I do.

    As tpo your questions concerning immigrants. I would prefer to take a position of cautious optimism. Screen them as best as possible, deny the obvious villains, keep close track on all accepted immigrants, deport ALL who seem to pose a threat and execute any proven dangerous.
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    You ask a difficult question. On the one hand, you have the responsibility to protect and on the other you have the presumption of innocence. It's not an easy balance to weigh. From (https://www.smart.gov/SOMAPI/sec1/ch5..., recidivism among sexual predators is around 5%, but they note that many sexual crimes - indeed the majority - are never reported and only 10% result in arrests. Given the heinous nature of the crimes involved, it is easy to see how passions become inflamed on the matter.

    Personally, I think that convicts who have properly paid their "debt to society" and served their sentence should be allowed back into society, but I make several observations I believe relevant:

    1. Our prison systems are doing a lousy job of actually helping convicts reform. We currently re-arrest more than 50% of criminals within the first year following their release. (https://www.nij.gov/topics/correction...) We should be demanding better from our prison system. But we run into a problem there because change requires incentive and acceptance of personal responsibility most easily effected by religion, and we have largely removed mandatory religious counseling from our prisons.

    2. Our social laws are doing a lousy job of teaching and encouraging positive behaviors. Statistics continue to show that those most likely to end up in prison are those without a father in the home. Yet society passes laws that encourage the welfare state and a lack of responsibility in men to care for their offspring.

    3. Those released from prison need a support system to prevent recidivism. Gangs exist to glorify incarceration and encourage more law-breaking behavior. The only way to defeat the gangs is to provide an alternative support structure to released convicts that can help them re-adjust to real life in society. And only the religious community seems able and willing to take on this role.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 months, 3 weeks ago
    I think the predator lists are wrong. If someone has done his time, the gov't should not intentionally stigmatize him. We tend to be too paranoid about these people. A free society needs people to be armed and brave. We should not treat someone who's done his time for a crime unless he's openly threatening to do it again. We should not treat a religious person as a criminal unless he's making criminal threats.

    Regarding reacting with religious or irrational people, IMHO most rational people have at least some irrationality and vice versa. I think irrationality, esp little tricks where people think they've reasoned something but are actually doing post hoc rationalization, is more common than it seems.
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    • Posted by  $  prof611 5 months, 3 weeks ago
      "We should not treat a religious person as a criminal unless he's making criminal threats." ... unless the "religion" is Islam, which glorifies lying and murder in the name of "allah".
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      • Posted by ewv 5 months, 3 weeks ago
        Religious beliefs are not criminal. Any beliefs that include a commitment to jihad are a threat. The government cannot and should not try to filter people by their expressed philosophy, which most people could not even articulate, but general beliefs threatening the rights of the individuals in this country are certainly relevant in deciding whether to let him into the country. Anyone who recognizes the importance of philosophical ideas can see that allowing the country to be flooded by socialists or religious fanatics would be suicidal.
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    • Posted by ewv 5 months, 3 weeks ago
      If a predator is let out of jail earlier than he would have otherwise, with the provision that he be restricted in some ways, then that is part of the legal response to his crime. That response is never instantaneous, once convicted; it lasts for years. It doesn't matter if the felon thinks his punishment, in or out of jail, has "stigmatized" him. If he doesn't like it or anything else about his punishment then he should have thought of that before committing the crime.

      The requirement that felons be regarded as innocent until proven guilty and not arbitrarily punished pertains to government action, not private citizens. You have a right to use whatever information you know about a person and his history in assessing whether or not to trust him as normal or how you relate to him.
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    • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
      I definitely agree with you on the sexual predator lists, and I think I agree with you on all points.
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      • Posted by ewv 5 months, 3 weeks ago
        There is nothing wrong with a public record of criminal history. Telling someone he can't live where there is a playground may or may not be justified, depending on whether his release from jail is a full release from punishment or conditional on his behavior.
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        • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
          Unlike other crimes, there is no full release from punishment for sex crimes. The punishment with regard to where such a person can live is forever, even if the probationary period is completed.

          FYI: The man mentioned in this thread is the only person that I have known that I knew was on the sexual predator list. This case changed my opinion some on this topic.
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          • Posted by ewv 5 months, 3 weeks ago
            The question of how to objectively formulate laws and punishments for particular crimes -- so that the punishment and its duration are appropriate, the victim is properly made whole to the extent possible, and the rest of civilized people are not threatened by him in the future -- is a different matter from the general principles identifying concepts of incarceration and partial restrictions regarded as potentially just possibilities.

            Partial restrictions for life on sexual predators are apparently based on the psychology behind that kind of crime and the prospects for mental rehabilitation. Whether or not they are valid is another matter.
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            • Posted by  $  5 months, 3 weeks ago
              Excellent points. Are victims of crime, sexual or not, ever made whole again? Perhaps so, if a stolen item is returned. However, victims of some sex crimes and murder cannot be made whole again. Perhaps this is why some aspects of the punishment are for life. And yet there are some "sex crimes" such as those listed elsewhere in this thread by Zenphamy for which the lifelong punishments are just overwhelmingly large compared to the offenses.
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              • Posted by ewv 5 months, 3 weeks ago
                Part of the game is to use draconian sounding names for laws to create a false perception of those declared to have violated it: "Ooh he did thaaat" -- without ever knowing what he actually did or what the law is. It's often employed in package deals lumping real crimes with restrictions against normal actions that offend the bureaucrats. Many "environmental protection" laws are of this ilk. The goal is to demonize those whose normal lives trip over the exploding regulations, while instituting a public acceptance of the notion that crime does not mean something violating someone's rights, but instate a failure to obey the ideological state with the expected deference.
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