Monday, August 29, 2016

Did John Locke really claim that societies exist to protect private property?

The English philosopher John Locke was a vocal advocate of private property, and gave an eloquent defense of it in his "Second Treatise on Government." (More on that here.) Perhaps owing partially to that, it's sometimes been claimed that he said that this was the main reason that societies exist. It might even be claimed that he said capital punishment was an appropriate penalty for violating it through stealing - something which is vastly far from the truth, but which may seem (emphasis on "seem") to be supported by an actual quote from Locke's work - at least, when that quote is taken out of context.

John Locke

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How women got the right to vote (and how PBS covered it in a documentary)

"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of Electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a State, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State."

- Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (ratified 1868), Section 2 - a major barrier to the enactment of women's suffrage before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, because of the word "male"

I had a sort of request from one of my female readers to do something about women's history. Up until that point, I had thought that women would not like hearing things about women's history coming from a man (such as myself); but considered at that point that women might also dislike the idea of their history being left out - which is not a fair perception for my particular blog, I might suggest (since I have talked about it indirectly, in posts about other things), but one that might be perceived nonetheless on the part of some women, if I didn't actually go out and write something specifically on women's history. Thinking "darned if I do, darned if I don't" (or something along those lines), I thought "What the heck?", and decided to write about women's history after all. (If you don't like the idea of women's history written by a man, then by all means, don't read this; but if you're not bothered by the masculine coverage of feminine history, then you're entirely welcome to read this post.)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: The central figures of this documentary

Thus, I set out to write a post about two of the great feminists of the women's suffrage movement, which are Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These were both depicted in a Ken Burns film called "Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony" (which was later broadcast on PBS). I imagine that Ken Burns and writer Geoffrey C. Ward (both men) also found themselves in the same uncomfortable position that I described for myself, which may have been why they dedicated this film to their daughters, and the other women in their lives. In that same spirit, I set out to give my review of this film; perhaps one that will be read by my future children and other descendants - which will likely include females, who will wonder what I said about their gender's history; and who I cannot let myself disappoint in my coverage here.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her two sons, 1848

Susan B. Anthony, 1848

Monday, August 15, 2016

A review of Michael Wood's “The Story of India”

"As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan."

- Indian Independence Act of 1947, as passed by the British Parliament

I should give a disclaimer for my international readers that I am from the United States (and not from India), and that none of my ancestors are from India, either - just from European countries like Britain, the country that financed this documentary. Thus, I do not claim to be an expert on India, as I am just a layperson in North America who is an outsider to this culture. With that disclaimer in mind, I will give an opinion on Michael Wood's "The Story of India," and how it compares with some other country histories I've seen on television.

Monday, August 8, 2016

United States Census can influence a state’s votes in Congress (and the presidential elections)

"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed."

- Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 2 (ratified 1868)

The census is mandated by the Constitution

So we have a year ending in a "0" coming in a few years (2020), which means that the United States Census will be taking place again at that time. Most of us have heard of the U. S. Census before; but since many of my Facebook friends have never heard before that this is explicitly mandated by the Constitution, I thought it might be good to explain that there is a part of the Constitution that mandates having a census every ten years - not only because it's good to have accurate information about the population (for purposes of comparison with other countries), but also because the number of votes each state has in Congress - and also, the presidential elections - is determined by the official population count from the census. (Since the number of votes each state has in the presidential elections is dependent upon the number of votes each state has obtained in the Congress, I will first discuss the particulars of the Congress votes, before transitioning into how voting in the presidential elections works.)

Capitol Dome, at the building of the United States Congress

Number of votes each state gets in the House of Representatives is dependent upon this census

The number of Congressmen (or Congresswomen) each state gets in the House of Representatives, specifically, is proportioned to the populations of each state respectively. Thus, although it may be done partly for purposes of comparison with other countries' populations, this is not the only reason that it happens; since the most important reason is determining how many votes each state has in Congress - which is a big deal in determining the balance of power in the legislature (and by extension, the electoral college - but more on that later).

The Constitutional Convention, 1787

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