World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2006

The World Economic Forum, based in Geneva, Switzerland, has released its 2006 Competitiveness Report for the nations of the world. The report contains the rather remarkable result that the United States has dropped from 1st to 6th place.

Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist and Director, Global Competitiveness Network remarks about that report:

The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy.”

Among the Top 25 nations, the biggest drop in competitiveness was measured in France, which dropped six places from 12th to 18th. The biggest jump in competitiveness in the Top 25 was Israel, which moved up 8 spots from 23rd to 15th.

Changes in competitiveness rankings from 2005 to 2006:

Upward-Moving Countries in Terms of Competitiveness

Guatemala surged 20 positions from 95th to 75th
Indonesia leaped 19 notches into the top 50, from 69th to 50th
Croatia moved up 13 places from 64th to 51st
Turkey moved up 12 spots from 71st to 59th
Cambodia moved up 8 rungs from 111th to 103rd
Dominican Republic moved up 8 positions from 91st to 83rd
Israel moved up 8 notches from 23rd to 15th
Panama moved up 8 places from 65th to 57th
Qatar moved up 8 rungs from 46th to 38th
Gambia moved up 7 positions from 109th to 102nd
Tunisia moved up 7 spots from 37th to 30th
Algeria moved up 6 spots from 82nd to 76th
Morocco moved up 6 notches from 76th to 70th
Kuwait moved up 5 places from 49th to 44th
Malta moved up 5 spots from 44th to 39th
Norway moved up 5 notches from 17th to 12th
Bolivia moved up 4 places from 101st to 97th
Honduras moved up 4 rungs from 97th to 93rd
Sweden moved up 4 positions from 7th to 3rd
Costa Rica moved up 3 places from 56th to 53rd
Hong Kong SAR moved up 3 spots from 14th to 11th
Jamaica moved up 3 rungs from 63rd to 60th
Latvia moved up 3 spots from 39th to 36th
Moldova moved up 3 positions from 89th to 86th
Pakistan moved up 3 spots from 94th to 91st
Peru moved up 3 rungs from 77th to 74th
Switzerland moved up 3 places from 4th to 1st
Albania moved up 2 spots from 100th to 98th
Iceland moved up to 2 places from 16th to 14th
India moved up 2 spots from 45th to 43rd
Luxembourg moved up 2 positions from 24th to 22nd
Netherlands moved up 2 rungs from 11th to 9th
Philippines moved up 2 notches from 73rd to 71st
Bahrain moved up 1 place from 50th to 49th
Benin moved up 1 notch from 106th to 105th
Estonia moved up 1 spot from 26th to 25th
Georgia moved up 1 rung from 86th to 85th
Mexico moved up 1 position from 59th to 58th
Nicaragua moved up 1 place from 96th to 95th
Sri Lanka moved up 1 notch from 80th to 79th
Tanzania moved up 1 spot from 105th to 104th

Downward-Moving Countries in Terms of Competitiveness

Nigeria plummeted 18 spots from 83rd to 101st
Argentina fell sharply 15 places from 54th to 69th
Bulgaria dropped 11 positions from 61st to 72nd
Egypt dropped 11 spots from 52nd to 63rd
Jordan dropped 10 rungs from 42nd to 52nd
Uganda dropped 10 places from 103rd to 113th
Ukraine dropped 10 notches from 68th to 78th
Botswana dropped 9 rungs from 72nd to 81st
Brazil dropped 9 places from 57th to 66th
Cameroon dropped 9 spots from 99th to 108th
Mozambique dropped 9 positions from 112th to 121st
Russian Federation dropped 9 places from 53rd to 62nd
Timor-Leste dropped 9 rungs from 113th to 122nd
Zimbabwe dropped 9 notches from 110th to 119th
Colombia dropped 7 spots from 58th to 65th
Chad dropped 6 places from 117th to 123rd
China dropped out of the top 50, moving down 6 spots from 48th to 54th
France dropped 6 rungs from 12th to 18th
Hungary dropped 6 notches from 35th to 41st
Lithuania dropped 6 spots from 34th to 40th
Cyprus dropped 5 notches from 41st to 46th
Kazakhstan dropped 5 rungs from 51st to 56th
Macedonia, FYR dropped 5 spots from 75th to 80th
Namibia dropped 5 spots from 79th to 84th
Poland dropped 5 positions from 43rd to 48th
Republic of Korea dropped 5 notches from 19th to 24th
South Africa dropped 5 spots from 40th to 45th
Taiwan, China dropped out of the Top 10, moving down 5 places from 8th to 13th
United States dropped 5 places from 1st to 6th
Ethiopia dropped 4 positions from 116th to 120th
Italy dropped 4 places from 38th to 42nd
Paraguay dropped 4 notches from 102nd to 106th
Tajikistan dropped 4 spots from 92nd to 96th
Venezuela dropped 4 positions from 84th to 88th
Canada dropped 3 places from 13th to 16th
Ecuador dropped 3 notches from 87th to 90th
Guyana dropped 3 rungs from 108th to 11th
Japan dropped 3 spots from 7th to 10th
Kyrgyz Republic dropped 3 positions from 104th to 107th
Malawi dropped 3 notches from 114th to 117th
Mali dropped 3 spots from 115th to 118th
Portugal dropped 3 positions from 31st to 34th
Slovenia dropped 3 places from 30th to 33rd
Uruguay dropped 3 notches from 70th to 73rd
Vietnam dropped 3 rungs from 74th to 77th
Austria dropped 2 spots from 15th to 17th
Azerbaijan dropped 2 spots from 62nd to 64th
Germany dropped 2 positions from 6th to 8th
Madagascar dropped 2 rungs from 107th to 109th
Mongolia dropped 2 places from 90th to 92nd
Serbia and Montenegro dropped 2 places from 85th to 87th
Thailand dropped 2 notches from 33rd to 35th
Armenia dropped 1 position from 81st to 82nd
Australia dropped 1 spot from 18th to 19th
Bangladesh dropped 1 rung from 98th to 99th
Bosnia and Herzegovina dropped 1 place from 88th to 89th
Denmark dropped 1 place from 3rd to 4th
El Salvador dropped 1 rung from 60th to 61st
Kenya dropped 1 spot from 93rd to 94th
Malaysia dropped 1 spot from 25th to 26th
New Zealand dropped 1 spot from 22nd to 23rd
Romania dropped 1 position from 67th to 68th
Slovak Republic dropped 1 rung from 36th to 37th
Trinidad and Tobago dropped 1 rung from 66th to 67th
United Kingdom dropped 1 place from 9th to 10th

Countries with No Change in Competitiveness Rank

Finland remained 2nd
Singapore remained 5th
Belgium remained 2oth
Ireland remained 21st
Chile remained 27th
Spain remained 28th
The Czech Republic remained 29th
The United Arab Emirates remained 32nd
Greece remained 47th
Mauritius remained 55th

Countries or Economies Not Ranked in 2005

Barbados – 31st
Suriname – 100th
Nepal – 110th
Lesotho – 112th
Mauritania – 114th
Zambia – 115th
Burkina Faso – 116th
Burundi – 124th
Angola – 125th

Here is a list of the 2006 competitiveness rankings (including the 2005 rankings):

2006 Rank – Country/Economy – 2005 Rank
1 – Switzerland – 4
2 – Finland – 2
3 – Sweden – 3
4 – Denmark – 3
5 – Singapore – 5
6 – United States – 1
7 – Japan – 10
8 – Germany – 6
9 – Netherlands – 11
10 – United Kingdom – 9
11 – Hong Kong SAR – 14
12 – Norway – 17
13 – Taiwan, China – 8
14 – Iceland – 16
15 – Israel – 23
16 – Canada – 13
17 – Austria – 15
18 – France – 12
19 – Australia – 18
20 – Belgium – 20
21 – Ireland – 21
22 – Luxembourg – 24
23 – New Zealand – 22
24 – Korea, Rep. – 19
25 – Estonia – 26
26 – Malaysia – 25
27 – Chile – 27
28 – Spain – 28
29 – Czech Republic – 29
30 – Tunisia – 37
31 – Barbados —
32 – United Arab Emirates – 32
33 – Slovenia – 30
34 – Portugal – 31
35 – Thailand – 33
36 – Latvia – 39
37 – Slovak Republic – 36
38 – Qatar – 46
39 – Malta – 44
40 – Lithuania – 34
41 – Hungary – 35
42 – Italy – 38
43 – India – 45
44 – Kuwait – 49
45 – South Africa – 40
46 – Cyprus – 41
47 – Greece – 47
48 – Poland – 43
49 – Bahrain – 50
50 – Indonesia – 69
51 – Croatia – 64
52 – Jordan – 42
53 – Costa Rica – 56
54 – China – 48
55 – Mauritius – 55
56 – Kazakhstan – 51
57 – Panama – 65
58 – Mexico – 59
59 – Turkey – 71
60 – Jamaica – 63
61 – El Salvador – 60
62 – Russian Federation – 53
63 – Egypt – 52
64 – Azerbaijan – 62
65 – Colombia – 58
66 – Brazil – 57
67 – Trinidad and Tobago – 66
68 – Romania – 67
69 – Argentina – 54
70 – Morocco – 76
71 – Philippines – 73
72 – Bulgaria – 61
73 – Uruguay – 70
74 – Peru – 77
75 – Guatemala – 95
76 – Algeria – 82
77 – Vietnam – 74
78 – Ukraine – 68
79 – Sri Lanka – 80
80 – Macedonia, FYR – 75
81 – Botswana – 72
82 – Armenia – 81
83 – Dominican Republic – 91
84 – Namibia – 79
85 – Georgia – 86
86 – Moldova – 89
87 – Serbia and Montenegro – 85
88 – Venezuela 88 3.69 84
89 – Bosnia and Herzegovina – 88
90 – Ecuador – 87
91 – Pakistan – 94
92 – Mongolia – 90
93 – Honduras – 97
94 – Kenya – 93
95 – Nicaragua – 96
96 – Tajikistan – 92
97 – Bolivia – 101
98 – Albania – 100
99 – Bangladesh – 98
100 – Suriname —
101 – Nigeria – 83
102 – Gambia – 109
103 – Cambodia – 111
104 – Tanzania – 105
105 – Benin – 106
106 – Paraguay – 102
107 – Kyrgyz Republic – 104
108 – Cameroon – 99
109 – Madagascar – 107
110 – Nepal —
111 – Guyana – 108
112 – Lesotho —
113 – Uganda – 103
114 – Mauritania —
115 – Zambia —
116 – Burkina Faso —
117 – Malawi – 114
118 – Mali – 115
119 – Zimbabwe – 110
120 – Ethiopia – 116
121 – Mozambique – 112
122 – Timor-Leste – 113
123 – Chad – 117
124 – Burundi —
125 – Angola —

For detailed analysis, see the various downloadable .pdfs of segments of the actual report.

New York Judicial System in Need of Repair at the Grassroots Level

Although our own political views are centrist and although we tend to take a hard line on criminality, we nevertheless hold that essential elements of the American legal system require considerable improvement and reform.

For example, we recently reviewed David Feige’s Indefensible: One Lawyer’s Journey into the Inferno of American Justice, which gave a Bronx defender’s insider views of the deficiencies in the criminal justice system in New York state.

The New York Times now has a series of articles by William Glaberson (The Broken Bench : Part 1 (This is Not America) : Part 2 (You Learn by Mistakes) : Part 3 (forthcoming)) on everyday justice in town and village courts, known as justice courts, in the small towns and villages in New York state.

The picture that these courts present about justice at the grassroots in New York state is not only bad, it is devastatingly bad.

Typical for findings by the New York Times is Franklin County “where only one of the 32 local justices is a lawyer“. Some of the 1,971 part-time justices in New York State have only high school educations and are ill-prepared for their legal positions. The New York Times writes:

“[S]everal people in the small town of Dannemora were intimidated by their longtime justice … a phone-company repairman who cursed at defendants and jailed them without bail or a trial…. This justice was quoted in an interview as saying of his 13 years on the bench: ‘I just follow my own common sense … And the hell with the law.’

[A] 76-year-old Elmira man who contested a speeding ticket in Newfield, outside Ithaca, was jailed without even a warning for three days in 2003 because he called the sheriff’s deputy a liar.

“I thought, this is not America,” said the man, Michael J. Pronti, who spent two years and $8,000 before a state appeals court ruled that he had been improperly jailed.

There are still 30 states in the United States with these kinds of justices:

New York is one of about 30 states that still rely on these kinds of local judges, descendants of the justices who kept the peace in Colonial days, when lawyers were scarce.

Many states, alarmed by mistakes and abuse, have moved in recent decades to rein in their authority or require more training. Some, from Delaware to California, have overhauled the courts, scrapped them entirely or required that local judges be lawyers.

But New York has no such requirement. It demands more schooling for licensed manicurists and hair stylists.

The problem is that these are elective positions, and much like the same problem we increasingly face in the persons elected to U.S. Congress, this means that more and more people are occupying important positions of public trust without having the requisite education, skill or training to carry out their jobs properly. The New York Times continues:

Justices are not screened for competence, temperament or even reading ability. The only requirement is that they be elected. But voters often have little inkling of the justices’ power or their sometimes tainted records.

For the nearly 75 percent of justices who are not lawyers, the only initial training is six days of state-administered classes, followed by a true-or-false test so rudimentary that the official who runs it said only one candidate since 1999 had failed. A sample question for the justices: “Town and village justices must maintain dignity, order and decorum in their courtrooms” — true or false?

The result, records and interviews show, is a second-class system of justice.“

Although this may seem to the reader to be a “local” New York state problem, it has in fact a more wide-reaching component internationally, pointing to serious deficiencies in the American legal system. And these deficiencies are among the tangible reasons why the United States currently has such a significant image problem in the rest of the world.

It is next to impossible to hold the rest of the world to higher standards than one demands at home. Hence, although it is necessary as a matter of domestic and foreign security for the United States in the current age of terrorism to police the world against international criminals, it is just as important to police a judicial “clean house” domestically. If we ourselves practice “cowboy justice” at the grassroots in the USA, we should not wonder if “cowboy justice” is seen as justified in the countries in whose political and legal systems we are trying to inculcate democracy in order to eliminate THEIR “cowboy justice”.

Who Visits LawPundit? – World Stats

Sometime during this week,
our five major websites will top 200,000 visits for the year 2006,
with LawPundit leading the list.

The five major websites are:

The LawPundit Blog is the main feature of presents our decipherment of the megaliths as astronomy. understands itself as “a Renaissance in Learning”, challenging many mainstream paradigms which do not stand up to evidentiary scrutiny. contains our personal home pages. is the website for our book, Stars Stones and Scholars: The Decipherment of the Megaliths as an Ancient Survey of the Earth by Astronomy.

According to our web hoster’s traffic statistics, our visitors thus far this year came from the following geographic domain locations (the most frequent is listed first). Our hoster can not determine with certainty the geographic origin of the domain visitor for more than half of the visits since these are .com, .net and .edu domains, but most of these, of course, are found in the United States):

Visitor Rank – Domain (abbr.) – Domain of Visitor

1 com – commercial, for-profit organizations
2 net – network infrastructure machines and organizations
3 au – Australia
4 edu – 4-year, degree granting colleges/universities
5 uk – United Kingdom
6 ca – Canada
7 de – Deutschland
8 it – Italy
9 nl – Netherlands (Kingdom of the)
10 fr – France
11 us – United States of America
12 il – Israel (State of)
13 jp – Japan
14 pl – Poland (Republic of)
15 br – Brazil (Federative Republic of)
16 org – miscellaneous, usually non-profit, organizations
17 se – Sweden
18 dk – Denmark
19 nz – New Zealand
20 be – Belgium
21 in – India (Republic of)
22 mx – Mexico 282
23 ch – Switzerland (Confederation of)
24 at – Austria
25 sg – Singapore (Republic of)
26 fi – Finland
27 no – Norway
28 ru – Russian Federation
29 ar – Argentine Republic
30 cz – Czech Republic
31 gr – Greece
32 hu – Hungary (Republic of)
33 lv – Latvia (Republic of)
34 my – Malaysia
35 ph – Philippines (Republic of the)
36 za – South Africa (Republic of)
37 es – Spain
38 mil – US military
39 ee – Estonia (Republic of)
40 pt – Portugal
41 gov – United States federal government agencies
42 lt – Lithuania (Republic of)
43 tr – Turkey
44 ro – Romania
45 sk – Slovak Republic
46 hr – Croatia (Republic of)
47 tw – Taiwan, Province of China
48 pe – Peru
49 cl – Chile
50 is – Iceland
51 tt – Trinidad and Tobago
52 yu – Yugoslavia (Federal Republic of)
53 bg – Bulgaria (Republic of)
54 pk – Pakistan (Islamic Republic of)
55 co – Colombia (Republic of)
56 ie – Ireland
57 ua – Ukraine
58 id – Indonesia (Republic of)
59 th – Thailand
60 cy – Cyprus (Republic of)
61 am – Armenia (Republic of)
62 gt – Guatemala (Republic of)
63 ma – Morocco (Kingdom of)
64 uy – Uruguay (Eastern Republic of)
65 ge – Georgia
66 ae – United Arab Emirates
67 do – Dominican Republic
68 eg – Egypt (Arab Republic of)
69 mt – Malta
70 kr – Korea (Republic of)
71 cn – China (People’s Republic of)
72 lk – Sri Lanka (Democratic Socialist Republic of)
73 lu – Luxembourg
74 bm – Bermuda
75 hk – Hong Kong (China)
76 lb – Lebanon
77 mu – Mauritius (Republic of)
78 om – Oman (Sultanate of)
79 vn – Viet Nam (Socialist Republic of)
80 fj – Fiji (Republic of)
81 zw – Zimbabwe (Republic of)
82 coop – Poptel .COOP registry
83 ky – Cayman Islands
84 md – Moldova (Republic of)
85 ba – Bosnia and Herzegovina
86 ci – Côte d’Ivoire (Republic of)
87 cr – Costa Rica
88 gh – Ghana
89 kw – Kuwait (State of)
90 kz – Kazakstan (Republic of)
91 zm – Zambia (Republic of)
92 al – Albania (Republic of)
93 aw – Aruba
94 bn – Brunei Darussalam
95 bs – Bahamas (Commonwealth of the)
96 ec – Ecuador
97 hm – Heard Island and McDonald Islands
98 nc – New Caledonia (Territoire français d’outre-mer)
99 pg – Papua New Guinea

That the more general domains such as .com are predominantly visitors from the United States is verified by Google Analytics, which shows the following top geographic locations for the frequency of LawPundit visits the last week:

1. United States
2. Germany
3. India
4. Canada
5. United Kingdom
6. Latvia [due to our extensive posting on Latvian government websites]

LawPundit Blog continues at

The LawPundit weblog and the archives were not accessible
during part of the day of Wednesday, September 20, 2006
as we transferred our files to a different server
and thus had to change various blog settings.

We apologize to our readers for any inconvenience.

Contrary to our message of several months ago,
LawPundit will now remain permanently accessible at the domain
and our main blog home page will stay at

RSS and Atom feeds as well as subscriptions by email remain unchanged.

Pope Benedict Says Religious Violence and Inhumanity is Contrary to the Laws of God

In a much misunderstood speech in Regensburg, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI attacked those who misuse religion to promote violence and to justify inhuman acts. Benedict noted that religious violence was contrary to the laws of God.

As written by Ian Fisher in The New York Times under the title Pope criticizes Islam’s jihad:

[Benedict] began his speech by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus [also written Palaiologos or Palaeologus], in a conversation with a “learned Persian” on Christianity and Islam -“and the truth of both.” “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,” the Pope quoted the emperor”.

The Wikipedia has a more extensive explanation at Manuel II Palaiologos:

“In his controversial speech of September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI quoted from a dispute around 1391 between Manuel II and a Persian scholar (Dialogue 7 of Twenty-six Dialogues with a Persian), in which the Emperor stated: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” He then continues, saying, “God is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (syn logo) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…””

The Pope’s citation of the over 600-year old quotation from Manuel II has brought a lot of unrest in the Muslim world, but for the wrong reasons. The Pope’s citation is seen as an insult to Islam, but then, it seems that any criticism of Islam is seen as an insult by many of its believers. Islam does not seem to have the ability, readiness or willingness to criticize and correct itself, a virtue which we find in Christianity.

In reality, in his controversial speech, the Pope is quoting Manuel II Palaiologos for the legitimate point that too many people erroneously see their religion as a justification to do evil and inhuman things which are contrary to the will of God. This applies not only to the extremist fundamentalists of Islam today but also applies historically to many of the terrible things done by Christians in the course of the development of Christianity, which were contrary to the laws of God.

Clearly the point that Benedict wanted to make is that a good religion is one which reduces violence and spreads the love of God and the love of humanity among mankind. A religion which preaches violence and inhumanity has nothing to do with the true nature of God and is outside the realm of the real God, because it is contrary to reason. In a true religion, on the other hand, faith and reason blend with one another. Goodness and not evil prevails.

When Christianity surfaced as a world religion, arising out of Judaism, it preached human virtues which included obeying the Ten Commandments and other laws of the Bible among the solemn duties of religious men and women. In addition, Christianity represented a significant step forward toward civilized monotheism and a step away from the primitive polytheistic religions of idolatry which marked man’s early development. Moreover, Christianity demanded from its believers that they live a good life and be good to their fellow humans, whether these were Christians or not.

Islam is a later religion than Christianity and also arose out of Judaism (i.e. out of the teachings of Abraham and his followers). When Manuel II Palaiologos asks in the year 1391 A.D. what Islam has positively brought to humanity beyond the teachings of Christianity, it was a serious question then and remains a serious question today.

Many Christians would agree with Manuel II that there is not much positive apparent in good works attributable to the Muslim religion. To many, Islam appears mostly to exist to propagate itself through the preaching of religious violence and inhumanity by fanatics.

Hence, many in the Western world see Islam being misused as an excuse to commit violence and to disobey the general laws of reason and of humanity. Those are the issues which Muslims should be addressing and which Pope Benedict raised.

This is not to say that Islam may not have its positive aspects for its believers, the vast majority of whom are Arabs or members of third-world countries, much in the same way that Christianity is the major religion of Western Civilization.

As compared to Christianity, Islam is also monotheistic and thus replaces the primitive religions of polytheism, just as Christianity already did before it. But this is not new to Islam and that is the point that Manuel II was making more than 600 years ago. In essence, the good aspects of Islam are the same as those of Christianity.

What troubled Manuel II, what troubles Pope Benedict XVI and what troubles the rest of the world is that not the good aspects, but rather the bad aspects of Islam are those which many of its believers seem to have selected to follow – and it is these bad aspects of Islam which are contrary to the actual will and nature of God.

Psychoanalysis, Socratic Education, Evidence and Hand Proofs

There are advantages, disadvantages and pitfalls both in the exercise of judgment as well as in the exercise of intuition. Socratic education – in our view – is one method to make students aware of the complexities of thought and to inculcate the ability (viz. habit) to engage in critical thinking in analyzing evidence and in formulating proofs.

In the Abstract to Psychoanalysis and Socratic Education*** by Trevor Pateman (article available as a .rtf document), it is written that:

A range of concepts are introduced to argue similarities between Socratic Education and Freudian psychoanalysis. The concepts are these: the talking cure; floating attention; knowledge and acknowledgment; judgment and intuition; (prior) theoretical understanding; attending for truth; acting in role; play; negative dialectics; the training of the self …

What interests us particularly is Bateman’s discussion of judgment and intuition, the former – in his definition – involving what we know or think to to know in an appeal to shared knowledge and the latter – in his definition – involving the subjective expression of how things look or feel to us as individuals. Bateman writes:

The exercise of judgment involves appeal to what I know or think I know at some articulate level of consciousness. Typically, judgment appeals to shared knowledge: what everyone knows or thinks. So rationalization and self-deception find ready-made support in all kinds of conventional wisdom….”

In contrast, intuition is the expression of a personally experienced connection, drawing on a reservoir of inarticulate consciousness. Intuition is the expression of how things look or feel to me…. [I]ntuition will get us to a (correct) result well before we have the means to judge its correctness … [M]athematicians have the concept of a hand proof. In a hand proof, there is no (real) proof, just a lot of handwaving. But it gestures to an intuition that if we set out in the general direction indicated by the hand proof, we will get to the proof we want to reach. Intuition is then like a compass. [emphasis added]

But intuition does not always work like this; sometimes it leads us astray. Shown the Muller-Lyer lines, I may intuit that one is longer than the other, but I am actually wrong; judgment is against me. But it still remains that the lines look that way. (The Muller-Lyer lines are the ones placed parallel to each other, but with arrow-heads pointing in opposite directions)….”

To see a graphic of Muller-Lyer lines, see the Epistemology of Perception at The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

*** “Website version 2004. A first version appeared, under the same title, in a 1993 issue of Aspects of Education (University of Hull, England), number 49, pages 76 – 80. A second version, again under the same title, appeared in S.Appel, editor, Psychoanalysis and Pedagogy (Bergin and Garvey: Westport, Connecticut), pages 45 – 51. Copyright material used by permission.”

The basic problem with “hand” proofs as opposed to “mechanical” proofs is that, as noted by Neeraj Suri, Michelle M. Hugue, and Chris J. Walter in Synchronization Issues in Real-Time Systems:

As hand proofs are sensitive to the skills of the prover, mechanical proofs are sensitive to the correctness of the theorem prover and its underlying logic.

In other words, to employ a phrase used by Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), if the paradigms (viz. “mechanical” proofs) underlying a given view of “shared knowledge” are wrong, then that knowledge is likely also wrong. What this means is that someone along the way has done an intuitive “hand proof” which does not conform to the judgmental mechanical proofs in vogue. A hand proof made by a skilled prover is thus always at the root of progress, in any field.

Another example of “hand proofs” is the method by which our legal system relies upon the opinions of judges, rather than on computer-produced verdicts applying fixed mechanical theorems. Here, “skilled” provers are viewed as superior to a computer theorem.

As concerns the progress of science (and law), Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is thus in our view more accurate than Karl Popper’s ideas concerning scientific thought as the falsifiability of mainstream statements because “hand proofs” – also in fields other than mathematics – are generally made to conform to the observations at hand, often initially ignorning completely any presumed attempt to “falsify” existing mainstream ideas.

In law, precedents may in fact have to be overturned, but that is not the main purpose of an opinion which overrules prior judicial decisionmaking. Rather, new rules are being made to conform to new observations and events.

Only after an observation-fitting hand proof is made and then compared with the mechanical proofs in vogue does the battle with the inertia of existing paradigms begin.

Mainstream scientists want the ensuing discussion to proceed under their terms and thus demand that their theories be proven false. This, however, does not accurately describe the process of scientific discovery, nor does it describe the primary motivation for overturning precedents in law – and this constitutes Popper’s main error in analysis. Popper, by concentrating on mainstream science, does not actually describe the actual process of scientific (or legal) advance – rather, he describes the process of mainstream resistance to advance and the inefficient mechanisms by which that resistance is or can be broken.

The true pioneers in science (or law), on the other hand, and this is where Kuhn’s analysis is the more accuracte, have no interest to waste their time on developing proofs to falsify the erroneous theories in vogue, but rather, prefer to be busy building up their own systems which correspond to the evidence at hand. The falsification process of the erroneous prevailing theories is then later carried out by others, i.e. the innovators and early adopters of new theories.

Good examples here are the “hand proof” works of Isaac Newton, which presented new interpretations of observed phenomena and spent as little time as possible wasting time in disproving the erroneous ideas of others.

Another example of new paradigms and hand proofs is the Constitution of the United States, which is a “new discovery” that concentrates on new things to be achieved, rather than on old things to be “disproven”. This in fact is still the genius of America, several hundred years later. America is a “Kuhnian” world of new paradigms and “hand proofs”, whereas the Old World (Europe, Middle East) is in part still caught in a maelstrom of Popperian inertia of resistance to change, functioning by antiquated and long outdated mechanical solutions (unreformed social systems, entrenched social classes, overemphasis on tradition, no longer state-of-the-art customs, deference to nobility at the cost of modern social innovation, etc.)

As the “hand proof” says, “go for it”. That’s the American way which is sorely lacking in the Old World.

US Chief Justice Roberts – The First Term

Via LexisONE, Linda Greenhouse has an assessment at the New York Times of the first term of John G. Roberts Jr. as United States Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Although we have criticized Roberts previously at LawPundit for being too unmoving, we think he is making an excellent Chief Justice and will continue to do so, adding stability and greater unanimity to a court which was often sadly divided under predecessor Chief Justice Rehnquist. The law may in the last analysis be nothing more than “a matter of opinion”, but the Supreme Court should never give the country that impression.

Laws to Suppress

Spacetime, the Group Leader of The Edge of Knowledge group at has the following quotation on his profile page:

Laws to suppress tend to strengthen what they would prohibit. This is the fine point on which all the legal professions of history have based their job security.
–Bene Gesserit Coda (Dune)

To what degree is this true and to what degree is this an exaggeration of one inevitable aspect of lawmaking? Why is this so?