Sam Aurelius Milam III
In the field of statistical analysis, even the basics are complicated. For example, here's a description of the second simplest idea in the entire field, population standard deviation.
The Wikipedia article includes a simple example calculation. For my purposes, the most important thing to notice in that example is that the denominators of the equations shown include the term n, where n represents the size of the population being studied. Population size is fundamental to statistical analyses but, for my purposes, it's most important when it's equal to one. Anybody who works his way through the example calculation, adapting it to a population of one, rather than a population of 8, as shown in the example, will discover something interesting. For a population of one, the population standard deviation reduces to the square root of zero. The academics like to call such things a "trivial solution". I believe that it's far from trivial. Quite the opposite is true. It's of great importance. It tells us that population standard deviation is meaningless for a population of one.
It's assumed in the example calculation that the population represented is the entire existing population. If such a calculation addresses a sample population, taken from a larger population, then Bessel's Correction is applied. Using Bessel's Correction, n is replaced by (n - 1). When n equals 1, then (n - 1) equals zero. The mathematicians insist that division by zero is prohibited. So, by the accepted mathematical conventions, the calculation of a sample standard deviation, as opposed to a population standard deviation, for a population of one, isn't just meaningless. It's impossible.
More advanced statistical calculations use equations that can boggle the mind. However, throughout such analyses, the same thing is true. Whatever is being calculated will include the term n, somewhere in the calculation. When n equals 1, something peculiar always happens. I doubt if the statisticians even have a name for it. Being mathematicians, they probably discount it as a trivial case. I think of it as The First Principle of Statistical Analysis.
This principle is quite important. It tells us that it isn't possible to statistically predict the behavior of an individual. The general failure to understand that has encouraged the promulgation of numerous unjustifiable policies. There are many examples. In most segments of our society, individuals are being either restricted or punished, or both, on the basis of some unsupportable statistical expectation. "Statistics shows that" is a common mantra. Actually, statistical analysis doesn't provide any support for any of the various policies.
My favorite example, because the consequences have been so widespread and so draconian, is drunk driving. In theory, statistical analysis can provide an estimate of the probability of an alcohol related accident within a population of drunk drivers. The larger the population, the more confidence there will be in the estimate. The smaller the population, the less confidence there will be in the estimate. When the population size is one, then it isn't possible to make an estimate at all. The equations are not valid for a population of one. Therefore, statistical analysis is unable to predict that an individual drunk driver will ever cause an accident. Such a driver might drive drunk for his entire life and never cause any harm. Opinion to the contrary is mere speculation. The notion that a drunk driver is more likely than a sober driver to have an accident is intuitively appealing and irresistibly exploitable by misguided do-gooders like MADD. In fact, statistical analysis cannot support such notions.
Here are The Principles of Liberty, from my article of the same name. The article is available on Pharos. Note that these are not rights. They are principles.
The first principle, Cause of Action, tells us that a person ought not to be punished merely because of something that he might do. Punishment is legitimately administered only in response to actual harm, provably caused by actual behavior. It isn't acceptable to punish somebody based on mere speculation about his capabilities, but it happens all the time.
Ignorance of both The First Principle of Statistical Analysis and The Principles of Liberty has encouraged people to make some bad assumptions. For example, people assume that just because a thing is bad, or unpopular, or dangerous, or a sin, then the government should prevent it. In fact, the prevention of such things isn't a proper function of government, for some good reasons. In most cases, the government can't prevent such things unless it has prior information about the circumstances that enable them. The acquisition of such information requires that the government must always know what everybody is doing, or even thinking. To accomplish that, the government must engage in universal and detailed surveillance. Such a government is far more dangerous and undesirable than is the alleged harm that it pretends to prevent.
Failing prevention, there's punishment, which makes use of the bad assumptions that people can legitimately be required to prove their innocence, and that a refusal to do so is proof of guilt. Again, drunk driving is a good example. A drunk driver who's stopped for a sobriety test hasn't caused any harm. It cannot be demonstrated that he will ever cause any harm. Even so, he's presumed guilty and is required to prove his innocence. Thus the accused person, not the accuser, bears the burden of proof. The accused person is also prohibited from remaining silent and, instead, is forced to provide information that might be used against him. Refusal to cooperate is regarded as proof of guilt. If he resists, then the cops will initiate the use of force against him. If he continues to resist, then they might even kill him.
The Police State
Drunk driving continues to be a good example. In spite of the fallacies of their positions, the anti drunk driving activists have pressed ahead with their agenda, promoting their notion that statistical predictions are meaningful with regard to individual drunk drivers. They gloss over their disinformation with glib publicity slogans presented in the government media, mostly during holiday seasons. They like to describe such blurbs as public service announcements. They won't be dissuaded by the facts. They'll adamantly condemn any opposition. Motivated by a passionate and unreasoned hatred of drunk drivers, they've imposed upon everybody, drunk or not, a police force of strutting, armed, gestapo-style enforcers who roam the roads and highways at will, dispensing repression and exacting tribute. People have meekly submitted to the draconian policies. They've discarded the principles of presumed innocence, refusal to incriminate
|themselves, and remaining silent. In exchange,
they pay for the privilege of driving, and of being regulated by armed
enforcers. Beyond the drunk driving example, the pattern of repression
continues throughout our society.
In general, there are three categories of behavior in the United States: required behavior, prohibited behavior, and regulated behavior. If someone is caught failing to engage in required behavior, then the government will punish him. If someone is caught engaging in prohibited behavior, then the government will punish him. If someone is caught engaging in regulated behavior without permission, then the government will punish him. If such a person refuses to submit to the punishment, then the government will initiate the use of force against him. If he tries to resist the use of force, then the government will escalate the use of force against him. If he continues to resist, then the government might kill him.
People don't seem to realize the danger in the relentless prosecution of alleged violators of some reformer's pet peeve. Such prosecution contributes to a larger agenda of behavior control via brainwashing, mind conditioning, prohibition, regulation, and licensing. The various reformers are playing into the hands of the government by providing agendas that the government uses to ratchet up the repression ante. The situation has come about for various reasons. People are ignorant, they've made bad assumptions, they've believed misinformation, they lack understanding. They don't understand probability and risk. They don't understand liberty. They don't understand that voluntary participation equals endorsement. They don't understand that cooperation with illegitimate authority legitimizes the authority. They don't understand that authority and truth are not the same thing. They don't understand the differences between freedom and permission, rights and privileges, currency and money, sin and crime, God and religion, law and legislation, brainwashing and education. They don't understand that working within the system supports and strengthens the system. They don't understand that compromising with a police state is just a slower way to lose their liberty. They assume that unpopular behavior necessarily leads to harm and that it should always be prohibited, that anything bad should be a crime. They assume that the government has a legitimate mandate to prevent all possible harm, by any means necessary. They believe that the government should be able to punish people for their capabilities, their plans, their possessions, or even their thoughts.
The Search for a Remedy
I believe that the present U.S. government can't be fixed, although it might eventually collapse under it's own weight. Maybe it could be overthrown, but that would be a waste of effort. Every successful revolution has only established yet another bad government, thereby defeating it's own proclaimed agenda. People are so easily deceived and manipulated that they don't even notice. They're not able to control or even to understand a government.
I suggest that seekers of liberty should abandon government entirely. They should divest themselves of obligations to governments, and become undocumented. If that does become somebody's goal, then he should first arrange for a lot of help, and find other ways to satisfy his needs. Abandoning government without first positioning oneself is a recipe for failure. Driving, owning a house, getting medical treatment, having bank accounts, and so forth, will not be available to such a person. I've been undocumented since the 1980s, and it has required a lot of sacrifices and a lot of help. My experiences have suggested to me that most people won't bother. They'd prefer to be safe and comfortable, rather than to be free.
Abandonment isn't a new idea. Various versions and approximations of it have been around for a long time. The Nazarene provided an example when he advised a certain ruler to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. So far as I'm aware, such teachers have never accomplished much more than to be misunderstood by their followers. Today, the Nazarene's followers advocate meek submission to an absolute, all-seeing ruler. The penalty for disobedience is eternal punishment. It's the ultimate police state. I don't think that's what the Nazarene had in mind. The failure of his followers is a lesson. Seekers of liberty should not be either followers or leaders. They should be students. Pharos is a good source of information but nobody should unquestioningly accept the information that I've presented there. Each person should study for himself, and decide for himself what is right and what to do. As always, caveat lector.
My thanks to the following: SantaClara Bob; my mother; Betty; Eric, of Ione, California; Robert, of Ione, California; and Lady Jan the Voluptuous.
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Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor