The ninth amendment to the Constitution of the United States says that any powers not given to the federal government by the constitution are instead given to the states.  This is a fairly straightforward amendment, and embodies one of the key points of federalism, separation of power between the national and local governments.  Along these lines, it also limits the power of the federal government, something that the founding fathers were very concerned with.  Recently, though, this limit has been softened some.  FDR’s New Deal gave the federal government much more power than strictly allowed by this amendment, and since then this power has been slowly expanding even more.  Today there is debate over whether we should be limiting the government more strictly to the constitution or whether the loose interpretation brought about by Roosevelt is acceptable.

    The sixteenth amendment states that the federal government has the right to level an income tax on citizens.  Prior to this amendment there was no reliable source of income for the federal government.  For the most part, people don’t like taxes, but the fact that there should be some taxes is nearly indisputable.  Beyond this, the American tax system is a fair one.  The fact that it is a percentage of one’s income means that those with less will not be overly hindered by their taxes.  The different tax brackets further help this, making those who make more money pay more money.  This is mitigated by the highest tax bracket being less than 100%.  This means that no matter how much you make there is always incentive to make more.  Modern arguments about taxes usually have to do with what conditions there should be tax exceptions for, such as religious houses being tax free property, or whether the tax brackets should be changed.

    If I were to put forth a new amendment, it would be an extension of the suffrage amendments.  Currently the fifteenth and nineteenth prohibit denial of suffrage based on sex or race.  What I think we need, though, is to define what you can deny voting for, rather than what we can’t.  For example, we can deny people the right to vote based on whether or not they are a citizen, or whether they are a criminal.  Though this is not currently an issue that needs addressing, nobody is attempting to deny people voting rights on a trait because it is not protected, they very well could, and a preventative amendment could be useful.

The definition of a faction in Federalist 10 is a group of people that have gathered together for a common purpose.  Applying this definition to American politics shows immediately two factions, Democrats and Republicans.  However, not everyone that identifies as part of these groups has the same views.  Within the Republican party, for instance, you have a number of different groups, the Tea Party and the Moral Majority to name two, whose views are quite different and could be considered factions in their own right, yet are still aligned under the conservative banner.  On the Democratic side there are just as many different opinions, but few have formed cohesive factions like their conservative counterparts have.  Each of these different groups hold similar ideas about what is important, but are usually differentiated by how they rank the things they find important.  Nowadays you can’t define people by the faction they belong to, you have to look at all of the factions they agree with most.

Critical Thinking

(In response to

I tend not to be a critical thinker.  I oftentimes will refuse to change my stance on a subject even when the evidence is stacked against me, though this is partly because I often just want to be contrary.  Really the biggest objective for me in becoming more critical in my thinking is just to slow down.  I need to try to evaluate ideas and evidence more before accepting or rejecting them.  I also need to be more reasonable about evaluating my own ideas, rather than regurgitating whatever support I’ve heard for my position in the past.

Logical Fallacies

Ad Hominem Argument

An ad hominem argument is an argument that attempts to discredit the speaker rather than actually addressing the subject at hand.  Arguments are rarely affected by the person speaking them, and even then should be directly addressed.

Begging the Question (more commonly known as Circular Reasoning)

In circular reasoning, an argument is justified by the very basis of the argument.  It is so called because following the chain of logic supporting the argument will always end up going in circles.  Usually this is obfuscated with a long chain to follow, or by only implicitly using the claim as a point.

Straw Man

"My opponent would like to you believe…"

A straw man argument sets up an incorrect or oversimplified version of the opposing argument to be easily countered.  Just because the straw man is wrong doesn’t mean that the opponents real argument is wrong.