Monday, August 31, 2015

Why a Level Playing Field?


Why does the government have a responsibility to make the playing field level? 

Let us at least be on the same playing field. Starting with...
"In commerce, a level playing field is a concept about fairness, not that each player has an equal chance to succeed, but that they all play by the same set of rules.
In a game played on a playing field, such as rugby, one team would have an unfair advantage if the field had a slope. Since some real-life playing fields do in fact have slopes, it is customary for teams to swap ends of the playing field at half time.
A metaphorical playing field is said to be level if no external interference affects the ability of the players to compete fairly.
Some government regulations are intended to provide such fairness, since all participants must abide by the same rules. However, they can have the opposite effect, for example if larger firms find it easier to pay for fixed costs of regulation. It may be added that if the rules [affect] different participants differently then they are not actually the same.
Handicapping might be thought of as the opposite concept, of unequal rules designed to make the outcome of play more equal." -- Wikipedia "Level Playing Field."
But let us see how this works in practice. The USA recently sued India at the WTO because India requires a percentage of domestic content in solar panels, disadvantaging imported materials. In another example, the Netherlands does not grant special state subsidies to its ports, though Germany, Belgium, and France do. The Netherlands claims that this is not a level playing field. Dutch ports are disadvantaged by state subsidies given to other ports.

Those are arguments about "free trade versus fair trade." It is alleged that when a national government subsidizes home industries, it disadvantages imports. Other subsidies give advantage to local exports into foreign markets where they disadvantage the unsubsidized local businesses there. 
 
Sprinter Dutee Chand has been fighting regulations
that define her gender by the levels of androgen
in her blood. She is not accused of doping.
These are her natural levels of a hormone
present in all women and all men.
All bodies are not created equal.
I suggest a micro-economic analysis of households, individuals, employees, and businesses. Ms. Smith is an executive who earns $250,000 per year. Every Saturday, she takes out her riding mower and manicures the large lawns and gardens around her home. Billy Jones has a lawn service. He points out that he can do the work more efficiently for less. He is willing to earn much less than Ms. Smith, say $100 for the two hours to mow, trim, and rake. Moreover, if Ms. Smith went to the office - even just her home office - she would be far more economically productive than she is being her own lawn service.

Ms. Smith listens to him, and agrees that she has better things to do. She goes into the house and comes out with 8-year old Samantha. "Want to learn to drive? Do a good job, all neat and clean, and I will give you $50. It will take you most of the morning. You will clear about $12.50 an hour." Billy Jones files a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

The concept of a "level playing field" applies to sports because competitive sports are zero-sum games. Business is not. Businesses create unlevel playing fields all the time. They change the rules of the game. New products and new services create new markets. 

The speed limits on streets and roads are a perfect example of a legally mandated level playing field for delivery companies. UPS, FedEx, the USPS, and all the many independents, even the bike couriers, all are subject to the same rules of the road. Amazon wants to deliver packages with drones. Where is your level playing field now? It is in the wrong dimension - Flatland, visited by a sphere.

Moreover, in some games - golf comes to mind - knowing the field - slopes, traps, trees, and all - and playing it to your advantage is part of the game.

Now with the Boston Celtics,
Isaiah Jamar Thomas is 5'9"
and plays on the same courts
as everyone else.

As noted in the Wikipedia article, the remedy in some sports is to switch goals after half-time. That way if there is a natural slope, the advantage goes to each side equally. But does it? Is a football field the same after half a game? Heraclitus would have a lot to say about that. The assumption is that either team could take equal advantage of a sloped field. How is that known? And if it were a real consideration, would not the officials actually measure the field for flatness? And would not some of those sports actually be played on fields with officially regulated slopes? 

What about basketball, another sport where the goals are swapped. No one claims that the gym is sloped. 

Note that in American Football, the first kickoff is settled with a coin toss. They do not have two kickoffs and average them to distribute the result. They do not flip the coin ten times and average that. You win or you lose the advantage on the toss of a coin. That's life... And as for chance, as Louis Pasteur famously noted, it favors the prepared mind.

Finally, as Wikipedia pointed out, attempting to level the playing field may actually deliver a disadvantage to a firm that cannot afford the price of lobbying for legislation.  

The concept of a level playing field in economics is a floating abstraction, a logical construct without empirical validity.

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Where All the Children are Above Average

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bleeding Data: SXSW Interactive Proposal

With new data breaches appearing in the news every day, how can anyone protect their information? With a few simple tools - which we will demonstrate - you can dramatically improve the privacy of your personal information. 

Among the tools that we will provide and explain are Secunia PSI; KeePass Password Manager; and OpenDNS.

We chose those and other tools because they have high reputational value in the computer security community. They are easy to use. They specifically protect the most vulnerable aspects of your information flow. 

We will guide the workshop attendees through the installation and use of the tools. Tutors from the Austin computer security community will be on hand to provide individual instruction.

Selection of SXSW Interactive workshops and panels is, in part, by open voting. To vote and view the proposal video click here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/50060

You can view the video directly on YouTube here:


You can read more about how to protect your personal information on Laurel's blog, IntentionalPrivacy.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Plenty of Time When We Get Home

The United States of American does not take care of our wounded warriors. We do not adequately acknowledge our combat veterans. We do little enough to reward them with tangible evidence of thanks.  We are getting better, but it has been a long, hard struggle for the soldiers. To say that conditions and services and awareness are better now than they were in 2005 is to ignore 5,259,600 minutes of pain, uncertainty, confusion, loss, and frustration for 2.5 million soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen (citation here).

Sergeant Brian McGough took shrapnel to his head from a land mine. The Army found him unfit for duty, appropriately enough, and then shoved papers in front of him to sign. He was told that treatments were available, or not available. He was ordered to report to places he could not find for counseling that denied his problems. The searing headaches, the depression, and the mental confusion all left him unable to even read the envelopes in which the bills arrived. Fortunately, he had Sergeant Kayla Williams.
Cover shows three pictures. One is young man in military camouflage writing, another is a woman in camouflage. The third shows the two of them in regular civilian clothes outdoors.
Plenty of Time When We Get Home:
Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War

by Kayla Williams (W. W. Norton, 2014).

They had met in Iraq. He was one of the few soldiers who did not harass her. It turned out that they shared a lot of opinions. Williams enlisted after college. McGough was a lifer, but it took him longer than most to make sergeant because of his attitude. Then he was caught by an IED, severely wounded, and sent home.  After she was released from duty and also back home, Williams looked him up to see how he was doing, and was shocked at what she found.

This is their story. It reads like a novel with a plot and theme, action and dialog. It is also at once a confession, a political statement, and a reflection.
We overheard people on their cell phones: “My latte took ten minutes at Star Bucks. This is the worst day of my life!” Of course we understood that people were exaggerating—but they seemed wrapped up in the most meaningless, trivial crap. The news was full of coverage of celebrities, while what still mattered to me and Brian—stories about American troops getting killed in Iraq and Afghanistan—was relegated to the little ticker at the bottom of the screen.” (p. 109)
Post traumatic stress syndrome is a normal reaction to abnormal events. McGough eventually healed enough to join a fire department. Williams became an EMT. They were instructed to call on the counselors for their departments because dealing with horrible events would be expected. But those departments had counselors. The Army’s response was “suck it up and drive on.”

As individuals, we may not be reducible. How McGough and Williams pulled through—pulled each other through, eventually; first she him, and then the roles were reversed—may not be repeatable. Their individuality is their own hallmark, their coat-of-arms.
“While many people automatically assumed that we would support John McCain for president since he was a decorated war veteran, his Senate record was actually not that strong on veterans’ issues. (http://www.veteranreportcard.org/reportcard.pdf) He had never supported the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a bipartisan effort to increase college benefits for today’s veterans, and wasn’t a strong supporter of increased funding for the VA. Conversely, Senator Obama’s record was solid. “ (p. 185)
But they are not an anomaly. Millions of other people, many of them couples and families, went down the same roads, with similar (though differing) outcomes. As McGough and Williams survived, endured, and overcame their problems, the Army finally got on top of its challenges. In the Appendix, Williams acknowledges the help they (finally) received from the Veterans Administration, and the Army. It is nice to hear… but you must not forget those first 1000 days, 24,000 hours, one million four hundred forty-four thousand minutes, in which McGough’s only medication was self-medication with alcohol – or the minute he put a gun to Kayla’s head. (Later, he remembered enough of it to disassemble the gun and throw the parts away.)  In that, their story is tragically all-too-statistically common. It was also statistically predictable.

We all know the cliché that the generals are always prepared to fight the previous war. For them, that was Desert Storm, horrible enough for some, but not in the huge numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan. And none of those generals had been in command during the previous harsh lesson, Viet Nam.  You can see the outcome of that on the streets of any city in America. 

Williams has disparaging words for the VFW in an oblique reference about clubs of old men who cannot perceive a woman as a combat veteran even when it is said twice plainly.  But she shares tears at receptions and dinners with Viet Nam veterans who finally have someone to talk to who knows what they went through, both during the war, and in the long, long aftermath.
Many of them [students on college campuses] had no idea, and shared common assumptions that troops were the dregs of society, who enlisted because they had no other options. Many asked me why I joined the Army, seeming to think that only dumb people and criminals enlisted. I got to challenge those assumptions with facts: today, 75 percent of young Americans don’t even qualify for the military. Most are too overweight, don’t have high school diplomas, or have criminal backgrounds. College recruiters and military recruiters are by and large targeting the same cohort—98 percent of troops have high school diplomas, compared to only 75 percent of the civilian population. (p. 167)

The story does have a happy ending. They have three children, and a dog. Williams works at the RAND Corporation. McGough takes up golf and considers college. That also underscores a counter-narrative. As destructive as war is, the overwhelming majority of veterans do re-integrate. Those who are wounded do recover with care, support, love, and guidance. 

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflections on the Passing of a Comrade

“Thank you for participating in my cheap substitute for much needed therapy. The tone of my posts is best interpreted if you imagine a can of beer next to my keyboard.” --Fred Bartlett

'Crime is easier than calculus.'
Fred Bartlett

Fred passed away in January.  He was a regular on the Rebirth of Reason and Objectivist Living discussion boards. On OL, he posted as "Frediano."  (His family name had been Americanized from Italian some generations back.) This was his last contribution, placed on OL: 
 Posted 31 December 2014 - 10:04 AM[quoting a previous post to which this was his reply] The practice of homosexuality is jealously protected by secular leftist libertines who regard it as a Holy Sacrament of their political religion. Perhaps.   But my politics are somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.  I view the issue as a primary example of free association, in the most personal and individual sense of free association; the choice of one's life partner.  
I also see the issue as emblematic of what was once also an American principle; that one of the best ways to defend our freedom in this nation is to defend the freedom of our peers.  So, yes, in that political sense-- defense of individual liberty in a free nation, I see it as part of my political religion. Been a 'practicing' heterosexual my whole life.   Practice makes perfect, they say.   Been married to the same woman for decades.   Never been molested.  
I came to know and observe the relationships of adult homosexual couples as a young man, growing up on an island in a river in an industrial town of about 140,000.   Families lived on this island, it was a smaller community within a larger community.   Because of the nature of this island community, it was a place in this town where people could live without being hounded by the crusaders who were imbued with their special righteous concern over the skins and lives of others; you know, freedom eating busybodies.  The adults on this island would hire the kids in the summer to do odd jobs -- like, pour a cement deck or sidewalk or dock,   Work all day, get paid lunch and maybe $2 each.   Standing in the muck in the river, wrangling railroad ties and metal rods to back the cement forms, all kinds of fun.   Not every day; most days we were kids screwing around, and when we did so inappropriately, we'd get yelled at by the adults.   All the adults.  Equally.   Could not tell them apart in any significant fashion at all.   But I remember distinctly -- it was a life lesson -- an incident with one of the 'bachelor' couples.   One of them got sick, kidney problems, hospitalized for a while.   Was critical.  And the anguish and concern in his partner was palpable.  And when his partner recovered and was back home, the relief was palpable as well.    It was clear that these two human beings cared for each other, deeply, like any other pair of human beings I've ever seen on earth.   And in all that time on that island community, I never even heard of a single untowards incident or moment of abuse or molestation.   Maybe the local DIocese was covering up plenty in town at the time, later well documented in the papers,  but not anything I ever personally witnessed or heard of in that island community. 
So, we all have our theories about the choices of others.   Such as, where the deep seated need to crusade against the nobodies business but their own choices of others that has over-run the insane GOP comes from. regards,Fredright wing public secularist advocate of individual liberty and freedom
The Rebirth of Reason discussion board allows approval voting. (Disapproval voting is not an option.)  Fred had garnered 9558 Atlas Points, an impressive sign of appreciation from the community of readers. His writing was often rhapsodic. I asked him about that. He replied that as an engineer, he has to be matter-of-fact in his writing. Writing for Objectivist discussion groups was his chance to kick back and write freely.
It's 1961. I'm 6 years old, and in the kitchen of my buddy, Howie. Howie has a brother, a stay at home mother who is active in the local PTA, and a father who graduated from HS and is a janitor at Beth Steel. Howie's father is standing in the kitchen with one arm around his wife, who is crying and laughing. They are staring at his first weekly take home check that cleared the miracle amount of $100. They live in a clean neighborhood on a tree lined street, they send their kids to a good local school. They think they have just won the lottery.
The day this is happening, JFK's federal budget is $100B, over half of which is for defense at the peak of the cold war. JFK will soon give his speech at Rice, and America the nation, as well as American economies, are about to go on a tear. A nation of inspired youth is about to head off in a hundred million different quests to change the world. As well as the odd adventure in Vietnam. Flash ahead to 2012. The federal government spends over $3600B/yr of the nation's income, not $100B/yr. But where are the stories of joyous janitors and their happy wives crying with joy over bringing home a weekly check in which Dad the HS grad has cleared over $3600/wk?http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Books/0274_1.shtml#20
Fred graduated from Princeton University in 1977, then earned a master's from MIT in 1978. He worked around the world, usually for himself, occasionally hiring others.  

You can read the obituary at the funeral home here.  The notice and replies on Objectivist Living were posted hereThe notice and comments on Rebirth of Reason were posted here. Fred wrote a novel, Running Through the Dark. He placed it on RoR in 2012 (read herebefore selling it through Amazon. 
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Reflections on the Passing of Comrades

Recently, two Objectivist writers passed away: William Parr, and James Kilbourne.  I knew them tangentially, at best. Their passings were noted on Michael Stuart Kelly’s discussion board, Objectivist Living. 

Bill Parr taught statistics at the China European Institute of Business Studies. Mikee (Michael Erickson) found biographical links online and posted them. 
http://www.ceibs.edu/faculty_c/notice/obituary_en.html
http://www.ceibs.edu/faculty/cv/images/20070316/5413.doc
https://www.linkedin.com/in/billparr

On MSK’s OL, I said this: 
So sad... I feel bitter about not knowing that he passed. Just a couple of general reflections on this if I may...   
1.  Bill was teaching statistics at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai and that was really cool. His CV is, indeed, as Mikee said, "impressive": he four-pointed his graduate and post-graduate degrees at SMU, no mean feat. After working at Harris Semiconductor, the University of Tennessee hired him with tenure - hired in 89, tenured from 90 - also an achievement. He had over 50 original papers and a slew of book reviews and et ceteras go along with that.  He had a life of achievement. His death at such an early age is sad, but no one knows how long they have. One Norn spins; one Norn measures; one Norn cuts; even the gods have no control over Fate.   This is not the first time that I wished I had gotten to know someone better before they died. (I lost a manager in an industrial accident...) And that leads to: 
2.  The paradigmatic downside to all this individualism is that lack of social contact.  That is very American.  We are not the only individualist culture in the world. Even Nigeria has them. But I find this in other social spheres as well. Right now, two of my hobbies are numismatics and astronomy, and while they do embrace large populations with attendant varieties of personality, they tend to attract those who do better with empirical concretes and their abstractions, than with they do with actual living people.  
My other hobby is the Texas State Guard here (or here) on my blog. No one is ever left out there alone. Twice in the last three months, I sat with another guardsman who told a personal story. While he and his family dealt with the grief of loss of a parent or a child, the "details" at the funeral home were "taken care of" and not another word was communicated. Someone knew about their situation and someone else responded. No one is ever left alone -- which has a downside, also.
 I do not know where the middle ground is.  Perhaps it must remain Either-Or.

James Kilbourne had been active on SOLO: Sense of Life Objectivists before it diverged into two sites, SOLO-HQ and RoR: Rebirth of Reason. James was proximally responsible for the split.  He posted an open letter about the owner of SOLO, Lindsay Perrigo, outing him as an alcoholic.  (As the site owner and moderator Perrigo allowed the post, if for no other reason than to open the discussion about his apparent mood swings.) Kilbourne was gay. It is not a surprise (and perhaps a cliché) that he shared several of Linz’s passions, including the performances of Mario Lanza.

With a great deal of sadness, I just read the following on a Facebook post by a person named Stoney Stone. This was posted on James's own Facebook wall.
 
Stone said
RIP James Gregory Kilbourne. News from Jean today that Jim passed away on Wednesday evening...a heart attack. Jim was a major influence on many of my friends and me in our younger years. He made me think. His spirit will live on in our hearts. — with James Gregory Kilbourne.

For those who don't know anything about James, he was one of Barbara Branden's closest friends.
 
Barbara Branden, on 01 Aug 2006 - 9:43 PM, said:http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/public/style_images/master/snapback.png
... James Kilbourne, whom I met eleven years ago on a moonlit terrace in Athens, Greece. A boyfriend once told me a fable that I loved, and I had him tell it again and again. The story was that my friends and I had been born and had lived on Rigel, where we had played, carefree and happy, among the stars. One day, God decided that it was time for us to go to Earth and learn its mysteries. He picked us up in His hands and scattered us over the earth – and from then on, each of us searched always for our lost playmates. In James, I knew almost at once that I had found my playmate from the stars.

Michael Stuart Kelly said: 
He also wrote an article on the old SoloHQ that caused a holy turmoil in online O-Land.Drooling BeastThis article was a catalyst that, from one angle, helped OL come into being. Back then, Barbara said good things about the article and Perigo, one of the site's owners and James's target, reacted with malice and hatred toward her that endures until today, even now that she is gone. Soon after, SoloHQ split into Solo Passion, Rebirth of Reason, and Objectivist Living.
 James was gay, for those who might find value in knowing this. He was open about it, but very low-key as an individual. I had the pleasure of meeting him once. Kat and I visited him with Barbara at his house for dinner. He was charming to the extreme. We even got Kat to listen to some opera.  I communicated with James regularly by email for a while, but eventually we drifted apart.  I always had in the back of my mind to look him up and try to dig further into the delight Barbara found in him. I no longer have that opportunity. The longing remains but James and Barbara now belong to memory. I hope there is an afterlife because I would love to see them playing among the stars and join them.Michael


Then I wrote this:
I saw this yesterday, but was blanking out on it. Another loss.  I remember the storm on SOLO, I did not remember that essay being the start. This is his SOLO (RoR) autobiography:
Quote
"Co-founder (1989) of Custom Training Institute (www.CustomTraining.com), a training company that applies the concept of knowledge engineering to solve a company's information technology challenges. We are survivors of the recent tech depression. I am a passionate lover of life, liberty, and great music, particularly symphonies and operas. Politically, I am a Washingtonian classical republican liberal with Jeffersonian leanings. I am a defender of the real victim, the overlooked innocent, and the truly heroic."
  
His articles covered a range, but he clearly shared several interests and perspectives with Lindsay Perigo, which may explain his concern.  James Kilbourne's SOLO (RoR) articles are here:

The first friend I lost was Fred Reenstjerna. Not an Objectivist by any stretch, Fred influenced my intellectual development by challenging me in ways that I never expected. I posted a obituary to Rebirth of Reason here: http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0129.shtml

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Love My Rifle More Than You

Kayla Williams writes from the gut, the heart, and the mind. She joined the army after college–and after marriage and divorce. Her early life was not easy, but “sons of the sinner, sons of the saint,/who is the child with no complaint?” She always was her own person, taking risks and accepting the consequences, even as she entered her teens. So, it was fitting (though not predictable) that ten years later, she joined the army, pretty much on a dare. She served in Iraq in 2003-2004 as an interpreter.

Shows young woman in combat uniform with large automatic rifle in front of a military vehicle
Love My Rifle More than You:
Young and Female in the U.S. Army

by Kayla Williams (W. W. Norton, 2005).
I found the book attached to her biography on the “Foxhole Atheists” tab (“Meet the MAAF”) of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

Williams labels herself a “secular humanist” and she thanks the chaplains who provided emotional support for those in combat.

Her insights into adjusting to war are deep and meaningful. She speaks not just for herself, but from her observations of others. Even those who originally embraced the locals came to distrust and despise them, not for anything they did, but for being the cause of the soldier’s being in an untenable situation. 

In addition to Iraqis, Williams met two other groups who were then just footnotes, and who have since been catapulted to the headlines: the Peshmerga militia of the Kurds; and the hapless Yezidi.  

Williams maintained a vegetarian diet while in combat for a year. She lost 30 pounds, down from 145, but stabilized with food from the local Kurds. She also was able to get some halal and kosher MREs, but not without hijacking them. (No one was eating them. They were to be destroyed. But she was not Jewish, and “vegetarian” is not a recognized religion.)

Toward the end of her deployment, she discovered Atlas Shrugged, and it resonated with her. Focused and detailed, she often ran headlong into brazen incompetence. 

Much of the narrative is about the unrelenting sexual harassment. In small words and grotesque actions, the female soldier is barraged every hour of every day. 

Returning home, she soon retreated from unknowing (but sympathetic) family, friends, and acquaintances back to Fort Campbell. There, she was among others who had shared her experiences.  Eventually, she found her way out, and her new book is Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War.

Previously on Necessary Facts
  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Libraries of the Founders

Everyone loves the American Revolution. Radicals on both the left and the right see themselves as the true inheritors of the Declaration of Independence.  The Articles of Confederation are more popular on the right, but everyone thinks that they are proper interpreters of the Constitution – even those who claim not to “interpret” it at all.  For everyone who cites a Founder to show that America was created as a Christian nation, another person quotes a different Founder to demonstrate that it was not. What is the truth?
Jefferson's Collection
at the Library of Congress

Of the many generalizations customarily made about the Founding Fathers, one of the most common but least defensible is that they all thought pretty much of the same things about the nature of man, society, and government. On one level of consciousness, we know better. Had there been such unanimity of opinion the American public would scarcely have taken so long to work out an acceptable governmental system.
[…]
"On the other hand, despite their differences the Revolutionary generation did achieve independence, they did write a number of strikingly similar state constitutions, and they did draft and put into operation the federal Constitution. What underlay and made possible these monumental accomplishments, however, was not a universally accepted set of philosophical principles. Rather, I suggest, most Americans shared a common matrix of ideas and assumptions about government and society, about liberty and property, about politics and law." -- Forrest McDonald, Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought , vol. 1, no. 1 January/March 1978 published by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982).

What was that “matrix of ideas and assumptions”?

Donald S. Lutz also compiled an inventory of the works most often cited by the Founders.  His “Top 40” (actually 37) can be found here at the Online Library of Liberty, sponsored by The Liberty Fund, Inc. The same site also carries Forrest McDonald’s essay here. 
Prof. Lutz’s Top 10 are:
  • St. Paul
  • Montesquieu
  • Sir William Blackstone
  • John Locke
  • David Hume
  • Plutarch
  • Cesare Beccaria
  • John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon
  • Delolme
  • Samuel Pufendorf

Among the works by Montesquieu was Reflections on the Causes of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (1734). Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall was only being produced 1776-1788.  Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (also called Parallel Lives) provided details about the ancient world. Seeking to sever the political bands that tied them to a medieval government, the Founders had few other models, and the ancient histories provided many lessons.
From the Library of Congress Homepage
Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that their opinions necessarily changed with experience. So, the conflicts were not just between or among them, but also within them. That ambiguity leaves us with more quotable quotes with which to support our arguments.
  • “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -- John Adams
  • “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” – John Adams

Of course, context is important.  The first quote came from “Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massacusetts” (October 11, 1798) available on Belief.net here.

The second came from Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.  
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (Wikipedia here. The article also provides an image of the original treaty.)
The context is clear, and a subsequent treaty (1803) did not contain that key phrase.

The Founders also expressed an ambivalent or conflicted set of beliefs about property and commerce. Many of them were merchants, of course. But for those merchants, the hallmark of regal over-reach was the creation of crown charter corporations, beginning with the Bank of England.  In the words of Forrest McDonald: “… the Americans developed a deep-seated reverence toward the sanctity of private property and simultaneously developed a strong anticapitalistic bias.”

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