Published 4/27/05

The Optimist remembers a line like this title from an NRA speech. He wants to give credit where it is due, though he suspects that the NRA may have heard it from somewhere else too. Anyway, a reader sent a question which included a hypothetical price of silver at $15 per ounce. Part of the Optimist's reply is repeated in the paragraph below. Coincidentally, just a few days later, a different reader used a very similar phrase to describe his view of silver. This was the Optimist's reply to a possible silver price of $15:


For the record, let me tell you that other people will get my silver at $15 per ounce only after they pry it from my cold dead fingers!


Yet a different reader advised that she would soon begin purchasing precious metals for security in retirement. The Optimist combined the concepts of security, begin purchasing, and prying from cold dead fingers into a graphic image of a problem he sincerely hopes all readers can avoid.


Criminals Who Pry


Unfortunately, there are people who might interpret "pry precious metals from my cold dead fingers" as practical how-to guidance for their chosen occupation of callous criminal. The Optimist cannot recommend an NRA type of solution to people who may not be sure which end of the barrel to look into while pulling a trigger. Instead, the Optimist encourages all readers to keep a very low profile about the precious metals they purchase. Although telling the spouse is the right and proper thing to do, the list of acceptable confidantes ends there. Don't take out a newspaper ad to announce your investments to the world, and don't tell the kids, which is often just a less expensive way to accomplish the same result! Don't tell your co-workers, and don't confide in the neighbors. If you don't want your business to be the center of conversation in the poker game or at the beauty parlor, don't tell others about your precious metals holdings. After your friend tells a few friends, who tell a few more friends, etc, your wise decision to purchase precious metals could be counteracted by the unwise disclosure. A prospect that is even worse than taxation is awakening to find a stranger in your home using a knife or a gun to help you see the wisdom of sharing your precious metals with him. The Optimist offers this as words of wisdom you can live with: Silence is golden, and it is essential for silver too!


Seek Shelter From A Rising Crime Wave


Violent crime has long been a problem that everyone needs to work hard at avoiding. In keeping with the Optimist's preferred approach of telling you the good news that you may not hear elsewhere, he can confidently predict that the skills you have honed to avoid attack by criminals will prove to be invaluable, and possibly life saving. The Optimist is honored that he can share with you his view of the future.


Inflation will march inexorably higher at an increasing rate which cannot be fully disguised by clever hedonic adjustments. Rising inflation will force the FED to increase nominal interest rates in a never ending mode of catch-up, but the FED will insure that real interest rates are not permitted to peek into positive territory. The rising nominal interest rates will work as a continuing drag on the economy, and unemployment will steadily climb. Just as in the 1970's, we will be reintroduced to the concepts of stagflation and the misery index (which is the sum of inflation % plus unemployment %). The only things which are sure to prosper throughout a time of rising misery index are precious metals and crime. All readers would do well to review their surroundings to insure that their homes and lives are as well protected from rising crime as their investments in precious metals are protected from rising inflation.


Violent Crime Can Be Reduced


Some pessimists point to our already fully stressed courts and overcrowded prisons, and the woefully inadequate state budgets which leave no resource for repairs. Hopefully by now, you will not be surprised to learn that the Optimist will offer a brighter perspective. Violent crime and the related costs to society can be dramatically reduced after our nation takes positive action to correct the primary problem which causes it. Much of the violent crime in America is committed by people who did not obtain a proper education through the high school level, which is offered by the taxpayers at no cost to every student. Young adults without at least a basic education face huge hurdles in running the race of life, and too many of those uneducated young adults will trip and fall into the gutters of crime.


The solution to that problem is not to force older troublemakers (who do not want to be in school, and will refuse to learn) to stay in school, where they will only make it more difficult for the students who do want to learn. Instead, the solution can be found by recognizing that the parents of those uneducated young adults failed in their obligations as parents to properly motivate their children to achieve an education so they will have the tools which make it possible to succeed in life. The Optimist is confident that the two fold approach of encouraging parents to properly motivate their children, and of holding parents responsible for improper behavior by their children, will result in a marked decrease in the number of uneducated young adults. As indicated in Responsibility is the Opposite Side of the Freedom Coin, people who are unwilling or unable to motivate a child to achieve an education should not be parents. When people who should not be parents have fewer children, all of society will benefit from a reduction in violent crime and other serious social problems.


A Jury of Our Fears


The Optimist is pleased that he can be the first to tell you about a new concept in the criminal justice system. Two of the major problems which make the American system of justice notoriously inefficient are juries and the appeal process. The optimist rests his case against juries with a simple question. Was O.J. guilty or innocent? One group of jurors saw one answer, while a different group reached the opposite conclusion. The same facts, presented in a similar manner, resulted less in truth and justice than in a reflection of what the juries wanted to see.


The appeal process inflicts frustrating delays and additional overcrowding at ever increasing costs onto the justice system. When a simple error in police work or courtroom procedures can cause a judge to terminate a trial in progress and force a repetition in a new trial, there is no wonder that the criminal justice system is so badly overloaded. All readers who share the view that courts within the justice process are obligated to err on the side of the defense will quickly object that the judge must act to protect the rights of the accused. The almost unanimous rallying cry against the Optimist will be "What else can the judge do?" The Optimist is most grateful for this spontaneous invitation to present his alternative for consideration.


A Jury Does Not Compute


The weakest link in the criminal justice process is that a jury is composed of people, who may or may not want to do a good job of judging, and who may or may not have the ability and desire to separate the truly important elements in a complicated and emotional trial, and who will inevitably have their understanding filtered and their reasoning clouded by their individual backgrounds and experiences. The Optimist's solution to many of the problems in the criminal justice system is to replace juries with a computer! Instead of a lengthy and costly process for lawyers to repetitiously hammer their key points into a jury that may or may not be receptive, the points would need to be presented only once to a judge who would rule on the relevance and importance of each point. Then a clerk would input each piece of the relevance and importance data into a computer database. Instead of weeks or months for a trial by jury, the full data presentation and input process would be completed in days. The computer software would quickly process all of the data, and a verdict would be announced almost immediately. If a lawyer says something improper during the presentation of the data to the judge, there would be no need to restart the trial. The problematic action would just not be input into the computer. Similarly, if a "fact" that was presented during the trial is found to be untrue after the verdict, there would be no need to begin again with a new jury. Simply delete the bad item from the database, and run the computer program again.


A trial by computer would also eliminate the problem of a hung jury, since the computer would always reach a "verdict" on the total percentage of guilt by the defendant. Similarly, an overturned conviction by an appeals court due to a technical infraction would not create a need to retry the case. The specific item ruled inadmissible could be deleted from the trial database, and the program could be run again to determine the new level of guilt. Perhaps the best part of the Optimist's proposal is that it would be easy to apply new evidence to clear an innocent person who had been wrongfully convicted. No need for an expensive new trial, which might be otherwise impossible if original witnesses were no longer available to testify to a new jury. Simply input the new data, and process the amended database again.


The Optimist suggests new definitions for double jeopardy and guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the computer concludes that a person is less than 50% guilty, then the Optimist advocates that the defendant should be declared not guilty, and double jeopardy would operate to prevent retrying the person again for the same offence. Conversely, a computer verdict of more than 90% guilty would mean that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the judge could impose the maximum penalty. If the computer renders an ambiguous verdict with a degree of guilt between 50% to 90%, the accused would be called Probably Guilty, and the imposed sentence would range from as little as probation near the 50% level to almost the maximum near 90% guilty. If new evidence is subsequently developed to further implicate a Probably Guilty person, then a process would exist to enter that new evidence later, and run the trial software again. Conversely, a person could request a new computation any time that significant new exonerating evidence is developed.


By replacing a jury with a computer, innocent people will be better protected, guilty people will be more fully punished, and all of society will reap the benefits of a more efficient and much less costly system of justice.


Your Turn To Take Action


Although the Optimist does not yet know of other similar proposals to replace a jury with a computer, he is fully aware that there is little that is truly new. If any reader knows of previously proposed comparable ideas, the Optimist would be happy to learn about them and publish a summary in an addendum. The Optimist does not feel constrained, however, by earlier legal requirements such as the 7th Amendment to the Constitution which mandates that a person must be tried by a jury of his peers. That may have been the best we could do many years ago, but that is not sufficient reason to blindly tread the same problematic path today. The addition of one more amendment to the Optimist's action list is a small price to pay for substantially improving life in the USA. The Optimist has added this topic to his list of proposed Optimist Amendments to the Constitution.


All readers are encouraged to select the amendments they consider valuable, and pass that information to their Representatives at both the state and the national levels, and to the candidates they will support for election to those offices. Press your representatives and candidates to take action quickly, because the process to amend the Constitution is slow, and our nation has no surplus of time to waste in solving some of our major problems.


Reader Contribution


Several readers advised that juries do more than judge guilt or innocence.  Juries are also empowered to simply ignore a bad law and absolve a guilty person from punishment.  Jason Hommel (, writes:


trial by judge and computer?


The point of a jury trial, which you seem to have missed, is the concept of jury nullification.


This means that a jury can come back with a "not guilty" verdict, even if it appears as if the person violated the law, because the jury can nullify even the law itself, even if only one person, out of 12, believes that the law itself is unjust.


This is a protection of all of society from men who make unjust laws.


A single judge, and a computer, would not be able to accomplish that.


Unfortunately, juries are not even informed of their right to judge the law these days.  And judges tend to throw out juries who are informed of jury nullification.  People are even arrested for informing juries of jury nullification.


Ed Faulkner writes:


If the jury exists solely to examine evidence, then of course a computer (or more realistically, a judge) could do the job more efficiently.  But this is not really why we have juries.  At least not originally.


A jury is supposed to be the final defense against bad laws.  Contrary to popular belief, juries have the power to judge both the case at hand AND THE LAW.  There is a long history of jury nullification, and it was supposed to be one of the strongest checks on the power of the government.


Unfortunately very few Americans know they have this right.  Fully informed juries would be a huge first step toward restoring sanity and liberty.  For more info see:


Response by the Optimist:


The ability of a jury to nullify or ignore the law may be a good thing when the jury has only the noble intent of trying to protect the accused.  I am concerned, however, that juries can have other motivations which would work against justice.  Juries may react negatively to many factors, such as the appearance of the defendant, or the styles of the prosecution or defense.  Juries can also be prejudiced for or against a defendant, and render an improper verdict.


Trial by computer, in contrast, would reach verdicts which are not influenced by prejudice or other extraneous considerations.  At any time new evidence arises so that the earlier verdict by computer is considered to be questionable, then that additional evidence can be simply added to the original trial database, and the entire trial can be immediately reprocessed.  My view is that bad laws should be changed by the people, working through the legislature, rather than by activist judges or juries making emotional and unilateral decisions.  After a bad law is changed, all computer trials run under that law could easily be retried, and innocent people convicted wrongfully due to the bad law can be quickly released.


In another reader contribution, Hal from Arizona writes:


Your idea to replace the jury with a computer must have been written tongue in cheek. Any intelligent person can see the process would be unworkable.  How much weight would the computer give to conflicting pieces of evidence, to conflicting witness testimony?  Whoever decides how to weigh the various input data will determine the results.


Ever hear the phrase "garbage in, garbage out"?  I'm sure you've heard of the big brained Nobel prize winning economists at Long Term Capital Management.  They created a computer model that predicted the fund had about a one in a trillion chance of failing in any given year. Well, either something like a miracle happened or the big brained economists weren't so smart after all.  They devised a computer program based on bad assumptions.


The point is the computer is a tool, a machine, not a mind.  It's no smarter than the assumptions and data programmed into it. It has no human instinct to weigh the credibility of witnesses, it has no inherent judgment capabilities.  It's called a computer because it computes, it can't think creatively or make value judgments. 


One might as well believe that given all the facts, a computer can come up with the "correct" religion for mankind.


Response by the Optimist:


The Optimist confesses to not being intelligent enough to see why a properly programmed computer could not be as good as a jury at weighing evidence and reaching a determination.  In a trial, an incredible amount of data is presented, over a time span which can be months.  Some data will be more important than other data, and data presented by the prosecution will obviously conflict with data offered by the defense.  Throughout the lengthy presentation of data, the trial by jury process depends on each person in the jury to A) stay awake through the process, B) focus on the data presented, rather than worry about the money they are losing by not working or daydream about how to spend the profits from their silver investments, C) keep an open mind about all the information which is presented and simultaneously judge the credibility of each witness or other source of data, D) prevent all the natural prejudices and learning experiences over a lifetime from filtering shades of truth from the perceptions of the data presented, E) retain in memory all of the important details accumulated over the course of the trial so those details will be available to use during deliberations, and F) firmly adhere to the correct verdict despite intense pressure from the other jurors during deliberations.


The computer can do all of these tasks better than a person, with the exception of judging the credibility of a witness and determining the importance or relevance of a specific piece of information to the trial process.  The trial judge would make those critical determinations for input into the computer.  The Optimist envisions a process in which both the prosecution and the defense would present data to the judge.  The judge would decide on the relevance and importance of each item.  Then all of that information would be put into a computer for processing.  The computer software would be sophisticated enough to put the information into proper context.  Conflicting information with equal relevance and importance would essentially cancel out.  The result would be a verdict based on all the relevant information, with no prejudicial biases.


One of the best features of replacing juries with a computer is that any error in the trial process can be corrected later, and the full "trial" can be repeated by simply reprocessing the database.  That is much simpler and less expensive than repeating a trial, which is the only remedy now available for correcting a significant problem with a trial by jury.  Although the Optimist agrees that computers may not have evolved sufficiently to select the correct religion for all of mankind, he is confident that computers are now more than adequate for accurately weighing a database and determining a trial result.  The use of computers to perform that service will return significant benefits to society.


Click the Commentary link above to see additional offerings from the Optimist.


* * * Notice * * *

This commentary presents only the viewpoints of the Optimist, and it is intended only for perspective and entertainment.  Please do not interpret any portion of this work as investment advice.  If any of the concepts discussed here appeal to you, then you must do the work to decide if and when and how you should invest.  The Optimist does not ask for any profits you make, and he cannot be liable for any losses incurred as a result of your investment decisions.  The Optimist wishes you the best of luck in whatever you decide to do or not to do. Cheers!


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by Jim Otis