Ends vs Means – The Problem with President Obama’s Immigration Proposal

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I just read the transcript of President Obama’s Immigration Announcement.

Honestly, I agree with a lot of the points he makes. As I have mentioned previously, illegal Immigration is a difficult problem. How do we be fair to those who play by the rules, while still dealing with the realities of families and economics while still respecting the law? How do we balance justice and mercy?

But, regardless of the merits of his proposals, as I have tried to repeat over and over: the ends do not justify the means. Good ends can be pursued through unwise or wicked means.

The President cannot unilaterally decide to change law by executive decree. Law must be changed through proper constitutional procedure through the Congress. That is the whole point of the separation of powers the Constitution establishes. It may be inconvenient, but it helps protect us from tyranny.

Imagine if the next president is a Republican. Should he be able to simply decree that certain large corporations will be exempt from taxes because he believes it will help the economy and create jobs? No. The President is not a king.

This is similar to my objections to President Obama’s “Net Neutrality” proposal.

Now, I know that many people are frustrated by gridlock in the government. But in my view, gridlock is a feature, not a bug. It is an intentional consequence of the separation of powers and checks and balances.

There are plenty of people who disagree with me, however, and think that these constitutional roadblocks are outdated and irrelevant to our modern world. That may be a legitimate criticism. However, the proper course of action is to make your case, persuade enough people of that view, and amend the Constitution through proper procedure to rectify the inadequacy.

Ignoring constitutional limits and usurping powers is the wicked road to tyranny.

So don’t let the fact that the ends are good and the motivations good lead you to think that the means are therefore justified or worth it.

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President Eyring Reads from the LDS Family Proclamation to Pope Francis and Religious Leaders at Vatican Summit

Though you may not hear much about it in national media, there is a remarkable colloquium going on this week at the Vatican, hosted by Pope Francis. The purpose of the summit is to join religious leaders from many different churches and traditions in defense of complimentary man-woman marriage.

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Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be thrilled to know that this morning President Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency of the Church, addressed the Pope and the other religious leaders of the colloquium and read significant portions of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Continue reading

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Strict Comment Policies Facilitate Civil Discussion

Well, my previous article, “Some Thoughts for LDS Members Who are Surprised and Upset about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy“, garnered a lot more attention than I would have ever guessed when I wrote it last Thursday evening. A great big thank you to all of the kind people who shared it. It has been viewed over 110,000 times over the last 3 days. That’s a whole lot for my little blog. I am humbled and hope that I have been able to influence readers in a positive way.

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It is inevitable that these kinds of topics will also receive some angry and critical responses. That is bound to happen whenever anyone speaks out about a topic that matters to any significant number of people. It should be expected. I am thankful for the people who engaged with me in generally polite and constructive ways, even when we disagree. There are good, honest, intelligent people on opposite sides of most issues.

However, the Internet is infamous for unfiltered, belligerent, crass, and offensive comments. Continue reading

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Some Thoughts for LDS Members Who are Surprised and Upset about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

There has been a lot of discussion and media attention about articles recently published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints detailing the history of the practice of Plural Marriage in the church.

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The media has focused on what they characterize as a “shocking” disclosure by the church that founding prophet Joseph Smith was sealed to multiple women– including women who were already married to other men and a few young women, the youngest of whom was 14 years old.

I want to talk to those members of the church who are feeling surprised and upset by this new information and who may feel betrayed or deceived.

Continue reading

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Ends vs Means – The Problem With President Obama’s Call for Net Neutrality

The internet has been buzzing with discussion of President Obama’s recent call for Net Neutrality and the contrary reaction from some Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz.net-neutrality

If you are not familiar with the term, I encourage you to read about Net Neutrality on Wikipedia. (As always with Wikipedia, it is a good idea to check out the Talk page and the change history in addition to the main article).

Personally, while I tend to favor many of the principles of Net Neutrality, I have mixed feelings and concerns.

As a customer of my Internet Service Provider, I pay for access to the Internet and expect to be able to use it to visit sites or services that interest me. I don’t want the ISP slowing down or even blocking sites that I want to visit because they have deals with competitors of those sites.

And Net Neutrality is intended to protect me from exactly that kind of thing.

And as a web developer I think that if I were to start a web company to compete with some existing web service, I would not want to be unable to compete because my well-established competitor has a special deal with Internet Service Providers that makes their service run faster and smoother than mine.

And Net Neutrality is intended to protect me from exactly that kind of abuse too.

And for those reasons I support Net Neutrality.

But the issue is complicated. It’s not as cut-and-dried as many proponents make it out to be.

Yes, some of the influential people who helped invent the Internet, like Vinton Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, are in favor of Net Neutrality. But others, like  Bob Kahn and David Farber, oppose it. And there are some interesting arguments against regulating Net Neutrality.

And despite the fact that I agree with the ends,  I also have some serious concerns about how Net Neutrality will be achieved and what it will mean in the long run.

As I have emphasized in posts in the past, it is possible to pursue good things through bad or even wicked means. The ends do not justify the means.

So you have to consider not just the ends, but the means through which it is proposed that they be accomplished.

Senator Ted Cruz was heavily criticized and mocked for comparing President Obama’s call for Net Neutrality to “Obamacare for the Internet”. Some implied that he was in the pocket of telecommunication company lobbyists. Others assumed, instead, that he is misinformed or dumb. And it is true that his initial reaction of calling Net Neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet” was a clear oversimplification– a soundbite, not an argument.

But in a previous statement from last May, Senator Cruz also raises a valid concern regarding Net Neutrality: “Congress, not an unelected commission, should take the lead on modernizing our telecommunications laws.

This is, in fact, a serious problem with Obama’s Net Neutrality proposal. Obama is asking the FCC to unilaterally reclassify broadband Internet providers (including mobile carriers) in a way that allows the FCC to impose Net Neutrality without any new legislation.

In other words, this is another case of President Obama attempting to subvert constitutional checks and balances in order to impose sweeping changes as he sees fit. Many of those changes may be desirable, but the means by which he seeks to bring them about are subversive and wrong. Net Neutrality should be achieved through proper constitutional, representative government, not by sweeping regulation imposed through unilateral redefinition by unelected executive-branch bureaucrats.

Net Neutrality should be implemented through a proper legislative process in congress, not by executive-branch decree.

And for that reason, I oppose President Obama’s proposal. Not because of the ends, but because of the means.

The responses from various broadband internet companies is also interesting and worth your time to read: Verizon’s ResponseAT & T’s Response, Comcast’s Response .

The response from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler [PDF] also shows that the issue is more complicated than President Obama’s oversimplification implies, noting that federal courts struck down previous rules attempting to prevent blocking and discriminating against content.

Chances are high that if the FCC did unilaterally reclassify broadband internet providers as public utilities as Obama proposes, that the companies would take it to court and win based on existing court precedents and the intent of Congress in establishing existing laws.

In the bigger scheme of things,  I also worry about unintended consequences.

I wonder if giving government too much regulatory power over key Internet resources we might create perverse incentives for large companies to use their lobbying power to employ the government as a cudgel against their competitors.

After all, those who are worried that Senator Cruz’s opposition to Net Neutrality is driven by the influence on him of big business lobbyists and campaign contributors, should consider the fact that increasing government regulation over the Internet simply exacerbates that exact problem.

If the FCC can unilaterally redefine broadband service providers as public utilities, and then establish sweeping regulations without new legislation, then why wouldn’t they be just as susceptible to the influence of lobbyists, powerbrokers, backroom deals, and industry revolving doors as as Senator Ted Cruz may or may not be?

Increasing government power doesn’t usually stop big companies from playing dirty against their competitors; it just changes the arena in which it plays out from the business sector to the government. So instead of throttling speeds through deals with service providers, they will simply use their industry revolving door to the FCC to impose subtle, but burdensome regulations that serve just as well to keep potential competitors at bay.

In other words, it doesn’t really solve the underlying problem. It just changes the venue.

That is one of the reasons why I would rather have the issue addressed through proper constitutional processes in the legislature by the elected representatives of the people.

UPDATE: Be sure to read Mark’s comment below with some more in depth knowledge.

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