In his seminal work 1984, George Orwell imagined a dystopia where “Big Brother” government monitors every aspect of society. The technology of the surveillance state is here and becoming ever more pervasive. But Orwell missed something: the state didn’t get a lock on the technology, and now it’s being used by regular folks to surveil the state right back.
By Mike Cronin
Yet another mass shooting has shattered lives and sensibilities across the nation. While the dead bodies were still warm and the facts opaque, the usual demagogues began firing off the usual salvo of blame-storming. Guns, or types of guns, or parts of guns, or gun accessories, were to blame. Angry white men. Congress. Gun manufacturers. Republicans. The NRA. You get the idea.
As usual, the only solution to the believers of The Narrative is to ban firearms. Not all firearms, of course (at least not all at once), just the evil ones.
Such people are often impervious to reason. Even so, I feel compelled to once again offer some reasoned, logical thinking on this issue.
Either we have the right to life or we do not. Our Founders believed we do. They enshrined the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. If we have the right to life, then inherent in that right is the subordinate right to self-defense from any threat, to include the threat of tyrannical government. Our Founders ensured we had the capability to fight any and all such threats by means of the Second Amendment. During the centuries between the ratification of the Constitution and today, Americans have amassed hundreds of millions of firearms and billions, if not trillions of rounds of ammunition.
Since so many guns legally exist in the hands and homes of millions of people who have the protected right to possess them, and since a legal ban on guns could not make all guns everywhere magically evaporate, it follows that the only way we could eliminate all (privately held) guns everywhere in this country would be for well-armed government agents to confiscate them. One small problem. A government that once protected the rights of its people that then abolishes those rights by force is by definition tyrannical!
Therefore: Because guns exist and can be used against the people, the people must have the right to have guns. Put another way: Infringing on the right to keep and bear arms is infringing on the right to life. Banning firearms would be nothing less than banning our right to exist.
You might ask: “What about the victims of these mass shootings? Didn’t they have a right to exist? Doesn’t allowing criminals and crazies access to (insert the detested firearm variety here) give them all the power to kill and destroy?”
Of course the victims had a right to life. Of course we should limit the power of criminals and crazies to kill and destroy. The best way to do that isn’t by eliminating everyone’s access to firearms, it’s by limiting the criminals’ and crazies’ access to society!
It is my contention that people with histories of violence, or diagnoses of psychological conditions making them prone to violent behavior, or those using prescriptions that have side effects that include tendencies toward violence, must be escorted in public, incarcerated, or institutionalized.
“But Mike, criminals and crazies have just as much right to access society as you do!”
No, they don’t. Rights come with the responsibility to respect the rights of others. Those unwilling or incapable of fulfilling such responsibilities have less claim to any rights than those who are responsible. The rights of the incompetent do not outweigh the rights of the competent.
To paraphrase an analogy proffered by Bill Whittle: There are predators and there are prey. The leopard hunts the gazelle with stealth and claw and fang; the gazelle can fight back with numbers, speed, hooves, and horns. We cannot defeat, or even deter, the leopards of the world by erecting “no cat zone” signs (pro-tip: leopards can’t read) and cutting the horns off all the gazelles. However, we might improve the situation by trapping or “belling” the cats!
Oh, one other thing: note that I did not mention the name of the latest mass murderer. Another mitigation we might consider: A significant number of the criminals and crazies out there want nothing more than notoriety. Lets deny it to them. Our media can stop mentioning or publishing the names of the shooters. Yes, doing so is well within the bounds of “newsworthiness” and the names are indeed part of the facts of the case – but why fuel these monsters’ cravings?
By Mike Cronin
Today we celebrate our nations’ birthday, codified by the Declaration of Independence. It is one of the watershed documents of human history – not for its eloquence (though it is wonderfully written), but for what it accomplishes. In modern parlance, it is the “vision statement” of a new country (the preamble of the Constitution is the “mission statement,” while the body and the Bill of Rights are the “operating manual”) – one founded on the concept that the purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of the citizens – and not much else.
The kind of freedom espoused in the Declaration does not come freely. An individual free from government oppression must by definition also be “free” from dependence on government – he or she must be self-reliant. He or she must produce what they need to survive, either directly, through the hard physical work of living off the land, or indirectly, by doing the hard physical or mental work of producing something worthy of exchanging for the food, water, shelter, clothes, and other goods and services one needs to survive. Under this vision of freedom, survival is the basic underlying motivation for producing: either you make your own shelter and grow/kill your own food, or you make something to sell to others, or work for someone else in exchange for money so you can buy those things, or you don’t eat and don’t have a roof over your head!
Basic survival is the foundational motivation, but it is not the only one. Since any surplus produced belongs to the producer who created it, it can be saved for a rainy day, or exchanged for something else – a luxury, perhaps, or something that will make the future effort of producing “a living” go a little easier, i.e. an investment. In this manner, the “rugged individualists” are producers of wealth. They have no expectation that anything will be given to them, and they demand that nothing be taken from them – but they trade value for value amongst each other. All economic exchanges are conducted voluntarily to mutual benefit. This is how wealth can be created. It is the essence of Capitalism.
Critics either cannot or will not see this creation of wealth, this “enlargement of the pie.” To those folks, the “pie” is finite. There is only so much wealth, and if someone has more if than another, they must have stolen the excess, or received it unfairly. The “pie” (wealth) is distributed, not produced! They also argue that no one, not even the “rugged individualist,” can go it alone, that each of us must depend on the benevolence of others, or of the state (i.e. the same thing) – under the threat of force, if necessary. They use that formulation to argue for and justify all manner of violations of our rights by the government (that is supposed to defend those rights), and then point to the artifacts of those intrusions (roads and railways and schools are favorite examples) as proof of their assertions – as if those things have not been and could not be made by private parties. This is the essence of all forms of Collectivism.
To make it work, they have to cram the word freedom through the Orwellian doublespeak machine. What comes out the other end is all but unrecognizable. To this crowd, freedom means the absence of want or need or responsibility for one’s choices. Since they “can’t” handle the requirements of individualism, they must first hook as many people as possible onto the drug of state dependency, and then they must vilify and penalize those who insist on being individualists. Therefore, you must want government regulation and government assistance for everything, right? It’s what’s best for you. Surely, then, you‘ll understand and appreciate the tax man taking 40-50% or more of everything you produce, right? And when that doesn’t cover the costs of all the “benefits” and “entitlements” the government is “bestowing” upon your neighbor, you’ll understand when the bureaucrats will take even more of your wealth by manipulating the value of the currency, right? (Oh, wait, they forgot to teach that part at the government –run schools they “bestowed” upon you.) Thus, the 1800 square foot house your parent’s bought in the Denver area in the 1960’s for $18,000 goes for $350,000 to $400,000 today. The value of the house might have gone up – it might have even doubled or tripled, based on the popularity of the city and the neighborhood, but it didn’t go up 22 times. Rather the dollar has been devalued that much or more over 50 years – and salaries haven’t kept up. An $18,000 house was an affordable investment for an engineer with ~3 years’ experience, making a $7K or $8K annual salary in the sixties. How does the salary of an engineer with ~3 years’ experience compare now, relative to the house that has “gone up in value” 22 times? The median pay for an electrical engineer in Denver, CO is $76K per year now. The value of the house “went up” 22 times, but the pay of an engineer only “went up” 10 times during the intervening 50 years. The lag between rising prices and rising salaries is the stolen wealth zone.
The Collectivists don’t want you to look behind the curtain. They don’t want you to realize that their formula requires you to be a producer so that more and more people who won’t produce can ride on your back – until it gives out and you beg for assistance yourself – but at that point there won’t be anyone left to provide assistance, and we will have become Venezuela…or worse.
When you celebrate our independence today, will you be celebrating independence from tyranny, or independence from reality?
By Mike Cronin
I recently read an article that chronicled the lamentation of employers that college graduates today are not well versed in critical thinking skills. On the other hand, the graduates themselves thought they had a good understanding of critical thinking. If employers and graduates disagree on graduates’ thinking skills, who is correct? Turns out it depends on your definition of critical thinking.
The employers relied on the classical understanding of critical thinking: Objectivity, evidence, logic, reason. The grads’ understanding of critical thinking tended towards “… opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.” Huh. Critical thinking has become “critique-al” thinking. That explains how an ever-growing segment of our population seems to fall for every “feel-good” con for giving up freedom and liberty in the name of “social justice” or “diversity” or “environmentalism” or “wealth redistribution” or any other socialist trap.
For the record:
You cannot cure poverty by taking wealth from others, because poverty is not only a financial condition, it is also often a mindset. Consider that most millionaires in this country are entrepreneurs. Most business start-ups fail, and many of the successful entrepreneurs have been “poor” at some point. They earned, then lost, a fortune and became “poor,” only to earn and keep a bigger fortune by applying what they learned from their original mistakes. On the flip side, many “poor” people would, given sudden wealth, blow it all on luxuries and trappings, then fall back into poverty when the wealth dried up.
You cannot cure hunger in other parts of the world by decrying food excess here. Wasted food here cannot change the conditions causing starvation elsewhere. If you want to cure world hunger, you must first rid humanity of power lust and superstition and territoriality.
You cannot eliminate racism and bigotry and hatred by hating and being racist and bigoted. You cannot end “discrimination” by changing which group is “discriminated” against. You cannot avenge long-dead victims of a crime by punishing the descendants of the long-dead criminals. Change the words “crime” and “criminals” to “oppression” and “oppressors,” and the same truth obtains. (The old adage “fight fire with fire” works…in very few contexts. Fighting injustice with more injustice isn’t one of them.)
You cannot change reality by smuggling new meaning into old worlds. “Unemployment” comes to mind. The most widely used unemployment figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been around 5% for some months (4.7% as of February 2017). But that number uses a very narrow definition of “unemployed” and a very generous definition of “employed.” If you are out of work and haven’t been looking for four weeks, you are no longer counted as “unemployed;” you are counted as “out of the labor market.” On the other hand, if you are out of work but exchanged at least one hour of labor for at least $20.00, you are counted as “employed.” The real unemployment rate, i.e. the number of working-age adults that are not working and earning regular paychecks, is more like 40%!
You cannot build a Utopian health care system that relies on doctors (and other providers) whom you dis-incentivize. Doctors have spent a lot of time and money to earn their degrees, and they expect to be able to run their practices and make good money. Take that away from them, and all of a sudden there will be less doctors working and less people going to medical school. The doctors that do stay will be of lower caliber, and the quality of care will diminish greatly.
Likewise, you cannot produce a well-educated populace with a public school system purposely designed to prevent critical thinking by producing critique-al thinkers!
By Mike Cronin
Last week I offered three tips for Filtering the Feed. I thought I’d end 2016 with one more tip:
Understand “The Narrative(s).” As mentioned in tip one last week, the news is almost always fake to one degree or another. One of the driving factors in most main-stream media outlets is maintaining a certain narrative. But the mass media are not the only purveyors of “the narrative.” In dictionary terms, a narrative is simply a story. In the sense of modern ideological competition, narratives are essentially the story that is supposed to be happening. This striving to present the world to the rest of us in a certain way is especially favored by liberals / progressives, but conservatives are not immune to doing so either. The liberals have elevated maintaining “The Narrative” to an art form, as they control most of the machinery for advancing their version of it: Entertainment, Academia, Education, and Mass Media. Here are some of its major hallmarks:
- Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is more important than your individual identity.
- Ergo, whites are oppressors, or at least privileged, especially white heterosexual men. White men can be held to account for virtually any unfavorable outcome experienced by virtually any other group. In extreme instances, simply being white is racist, while any form of bias, discrimination, or exclusionary behavior directed against whites by other groups cannot, by definition, be racist.
- Human beings are destroying the planet
- Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed
- Guns are evil
- Abortion is a sacred right
- Marijuana should be legal
- Gays should have the right to marry
- Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s offensive to anyone except white males or Christians – then it should be doubly illegal.
- Everyone has a right to education, health care, food, etc.
- It wasn’t Hillary’s fault
- Everyone is equal, so everyone should have equal outcomes (except white males – see above)
- We should have pure democracy
- Big Government is the solution to all of our problems
While liberals have practically “weaponized” narrative advancement, conservatives have their own version of a narrative, which generally espouses opposite positions from the liberal orthodoxy, but not 100%:
- Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is perhaps as important as your individual identity.
- Some whites were oppressors while other whites defeated them during the Civil War. Later on, there will still some whites that were oppressors, while others stood with Dr. King in the 60s. Whites don’t have a lock on being oppressors, nor do non-whites have a lock on being the oppressed, as the relatives of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, or of the Cambodians killed by Pol Pot, or of the Russians killed by Stalin, or the Chinese killed by Mao can attest.
- Global warming is a hoax. Human beings might be destroying the planet – you’ll need to prove it without cooking the books and without resorting to calling skeptics “deniers” as if they are heretics.
- Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed…just not by nearly as much as our liberal colleague want.
- Guns are a God-given right
- Abortion is murder
- Drug use is evil
- The government must protect the sanctity of marriage as being between one man and one woman
- Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s flag burning, oh, and you need to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Everyone has the right to seek out education, health care, food, etc.
- It WAS Hillary’s fault
- Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
- We are supposed to have a republic
- Big Government is the cause of most of our problems…but we’ll let it grow…just more slowly than our liberal colleagues.
There is an alternative to the combating narratives. Call it the moderate, or libertarian, or independent view. It would probably make more sense to more people than either of the others, except that it has far weaker advancement machinery. I happen to ascribe to this view:
- Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is irrelevant compared to your individual identity.
- Some individuals do oppressive things against others. In a rights-respecting country, you can’t rationally hold an entire group accountable for the sins of an individual member of that group, especially if those sins were committed before any of the current members of that group were born.
- Human beings might be contributing to climate change, which is, and always has been, a natural phenomenon. We’ll be better off adapting to it than disrupting society with draconian, rights-destroying measures to try and stop it.
- Wealth is created by productive people, not distributed. No one has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor. Coerced charity is theft, but voluntary charity is just fine.
- Guns are a protected right because self-defense is a right, to include defending oneself from common criminals, or uncommon criminals, such as tyrannical government.
- A woman has the right to do what she will with her own body…but killing a human being is murder. When does a fetus become an individual human being? Before that point, abortion is merely a medical procedure; after that point, killing the baby is murder.
- The government should have no say about what intoxicants competent, consenting adults put into their own bodies – but such use cannot mitigate acts committed while voluntarily intoxicated.
- The government should have no say in the relationships between competent, consenting adults, except as regards fraud and contract enforcement.
- Everyone has the right to free speech…especially if it’s offensive, but not if it takes away something someone else had a right to. Conversely, no one has a right to make others provide a platform, venue, or to make anyone else listen.
- The only rights that are proper can’t involve taking anything from anyone else…in violation of their rights!
- It WAS Hillary’s fault
- Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
- We are supposed to have a republic
- Government has a singular purpose: the protection of our rights. When it does anything else, it ends up violating our rights and making the problem it was supposed to correct even worse.
By Mike Cronin
Today’s item is an update of “Will You Vote for a Beekeeper,” originally posted January 2, 2014.
The most basic (and most commonly employed) model of the political spectrum places Fascism (like Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini) on the extreme right side of the scale, and Socialism or Communism (like the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea) on the extreme left side. A government, a country, or a person’s political position can be gauged on this spectrum.
The problem with this model is that while the ideologies of Fascism and Communism may differ on the surface, in practice they result in the same conditions for the vast majority of people who live under them: subjugation. There may be distinctions between the two on paper, but in reality both ideologies are collectivist; that is, they espouse that the state, or the party, or the race, or the group, i.e. the collective, is more important than the individual, and that the individual exists to serve the larger group. In other words, both of these forms of politics, Communism and Fascism, treat humans like bees or ants, i.e. as drones (or slaves). The individual’s rights don’t matter (or even exist), only the party, or country (or hive/colony, i.e. collective), matters.
The achievement of the founding fathers was in creating a nation founded on the concept that the individual has rights that are inherent, that is, they are not granted by the state, and that the sole purpose of government is to protect those individual rights. The implementation of this idea was flawed, but still gave rise to a nation that brought more liberty and prosperity to more people than any other in history. One of the hallmarks of the system the founders built is the peaceful transition of power that has attended every presidential election and inauguration (save perhaps Lincoln’s).
One of our most contentious campaign seasons will culminate with the general election on Tuesday. Consider: Whether a politician identifies as a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, does not matter as much as this: What does his or her character and voting record reveal about their understanding of individual rights? Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are remarkable as candidates in that each was chosen by their party seemingly on the strength of name recognition over any other factor. (Both have been in the public eye on a national scale for 30+ years, far longer than any of the other candidates on either side.) They certainly haven’t been selected for their “sterling” personal attributes. Will we elect one of them based solely on popularity (or notoriety)? Can either of our candidates be considered defenders of our rights, or are we choosing between beekeepers?
By Mike Cronin
I often refer to H.L. Mencken’s “hobgoblins” quote: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” We see this every day, often with the enthusiastic pot-stirring of the main stream media.
Take today’s headlines, for example. Rising tensions with Russia over the imbroglio in Syria. Hurricane Matthew. Gold prices. Stock prices. Jobs growth. Giving up control of the internet. Hillary’s scandals. Trump’s crudities. Duterte’s bombast. NFL ratings. Crazy clown sightings.
How is all of that really important? How can we ignore the hobgoblins and glean the “ground truth?”
A few rules of thumb can be useful:
- Always keep Mencken’s quote in mind, together with Thomas Sowell’s observation:
- Get your news from a variety of sources. Journalism has evolved, or more precisely, de-volved, in the face of 24/7 cable news cycles, citizen-chroniclers, and the web. According to the authors of Blur, the old media’s apex occurred at about the time of the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. CNN came online shortly after in 1980, and the 24/7 news cycle was born. The term spin as euphemism for truth-shaping entered the lexicon at about the same time. Consumers have had to contend with an ever more clamorous, ratings-driven media ever since. Every outlet is biased, but some do a better job of admitting what their bias is (my own, for example, is for individualism, reason, and laissez-faire capitalism) and/or mitigating for it (this reporter, for example, does a commendable job on reporting from Washington D.C. without interjecting his ideology). Alternately, check out the US news from a foreign source, such as BBC, Al Jazeera, or Xinhua. They are biased as well, but perhaps not about the same things we are. It can be enlightening.
- Once the main-stream media have added unique theme music to a particular story, it’s not breaking news anymore. They are trying to turn it into a cash-cow and milk it for ratings.
- Most mainstream media operations lean left/liberal/progressive/Democrat, while Drudge, Breitbart, and Fox News (at least until the recent departure of Roger Ailes) tilt right/conservative/Republican – but what if both of those factions are two sides of the same coin? In order to see liberals and conservatives as opposites, you are supposed to accept a left-right political spectrum model with socialism on one end and fascism on the other. To the subjugated souls living under either, there is no practical difference. As the saying goes: All models are wrong, some models are useful. A left-right / liberal-conservative model keeps you scared of the hobgoblins. What if we look through a different lens? What if we put individual liberty on one end, and absolute tyranny on the other? I contend that on such a model, “liberal” and “conservative” establishment politicians are continuously dragging us closer to the tyranny cliff, with only the flavor of tyranny at issue. Using a better model might get us closer to “ground truth.” Who will lead us to liberty or drag us to tyranny?
- One kind of real hobgoblins we must watch for: luminaries with enough wattage to force the public eye to “look away.” Such wattage could come in the form of personal charm or charisma, whereby the figure is judged by their reputation instead of earning a reputation based on considered judgement (e.g. President Obama’s anticipatory Nobel Peace Prize), or via “wagging the dog” (e.g. President Johnson’s incandescent “Gulf of Tonkin” lie).
By Mike Cronin
Really, America? Is this what you want?
IN SHAME, July 4, 2016.
The Desecration of the Independence once valued by the united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for ignorant people to encumber themselves with the chains of political bondage and to abdicate the powers of freedom, liberty, and individuality, in respect to the demands of power-mad politicians and demagogues, requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to their servitude.
We hold these fallacies to be self-evident, that all people must have identical outcomes, that they are given by their betters certain revoke-able Privileges, that among these are the claim to other’s Life, Liberty and Property.–That to secure these rights, Governments are inflicted on people, deriving their powers despite the dissent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes conducive to these ends, it is the Demand of the Ignorant to expand upon them, and to institute more Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Servitude and Misery. Ignorance, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that people are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their desire, to expand such Government, and to provide more Guards for their airport security.–Such has been the dream of these collectivists; and such is now the necessity which compels them to expand their rapacious form of Government. The history of the present government is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations to its original establishment, all having in direct object evolution to an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let the character of the credulous and sycophants and quislings be exposed to a candid world:
Scared of dealing with an opinion you don’t like? Run to your “safe space” and call the whaaambulance. Then get the offending sentiment labeled as “hate speech.”
Can’t be bothered to earn a living for your family? Use SNAP for groceries, then spend your cash on booze, tobacco, tattoos, and “bling.”
Can’t get your mall built without Mrs. Smith’s property? Get city council to condemn it and force her out.
Believe it’s the state’s responsibility to educate your child? Get the government to confiscate your neighbors’ wealth to pay for your kid’s indoctrination…and despise the parent who takes it upon themselves by teaching at home or who pays for private school.
Can’t sell your sculpture of an octopus romancing a bagpipe to your neighbors? make them pay for it anyway by getting government to install your gleaming atrocity.
Can’t make a good product and sell it cheaper than an importer? Get your congressman to impose heavy tariffs.
Can’t offer a service at a better value than the up-and-coming competition? Get your state to set ridiculous training and licensing requirements to make it difficult to enter the market.
Decide it’s too hard to work your way up from entry-level to supervision or management? Demand ridiculous minimum wages.
Unwilling to take responsibility for your own self defense? Work to deny that right to everyone else.
Don’t like your neighbor’s flag? Get the homeowner’s association to ban it.
Don’t think people should ingest substances you don’t approve of? Get government to ban them.
Scared your kids’ faith might be shaken before it’s ingrained? Get the school district to teach “intelligent design” as an alternative theory to evolution.
Can’t abide the idea secular law was influenced by scripture? Get the Ten Commandments banned from public display.
Feel compelled to save your neighbor’s soul, even if he’s not interested? Have the government ban his vices.
Can’t stand the thought that you might be wrong about global warming? Paint your critics as “deniers” (AKA “heretics”) and have them burned at the stake.
Can’t pay for your upside-down mortgage? Is your company “too big to fail?” Get a bailout from Uncle Sugar.
Jealous of the wealth created by someone more inventive or industrious than yourself? Call him greedy and demand your “fair share” of his property.
Don’t think your favorite government program gets enough funding? Install politicians who will tax our earnings, tax our spending, tax our property just sitting there, and steal value from our money through currency devaluation…and still need to borrow more money from our children in order to overpay for it.
In every stage of these Oppressions Individualists have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: such Petitions have been answered only by further descent towards tyranny. A Government whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is fit to be the ruler of an indentured people.
We, therefore, the Masses of the Socialist State of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to Anyone in Authority for the rectitude of our intentions, do, without consent from the good People of this land, solemnly publish and declare, That this Socialist State, and of Might ought to be a dependent State; that they are Commanded to Allegiance to such tyrants that will own them, and that all political connection between them and Independence, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Socialist State, they have abdicated their power to the government in order to levy endless War, pretend Peace, contract entangling Alliances, destroy Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which tyrannical powers may of might do. And for the support of this Desecration, with a firm reliance on the protection of capricious enforcers, we mutually pledge to sacrifice the Lives, Fortunes and Honor of our neighbors.
By Mike Cronin
Here’s my take on the bitter firearms dispute vitiating our country. I offer my commentary without vitriol. No contempt. No condescension. No name-calling, baiting, or inflammatory rhetoric; just exposition.
Obviously, we have a fundamental philosophical difference. I don’t know, but I suspect that your apprehension over firearms is energized by a belief that it is the government’s responsibility to protect the citizenry from harm, and that you see firearms in private hands as a huge threat, especially given horrific mass shootings. Ergo, the government should further regulate firearms or ban them outright. If I am articulating it wrong, please correct me.
I can’t speak for every pro-gun rights person, but I suspect most of us subscribe to a quite different interpretation of the government’s duty to protect us than you do. I see it like this: All of us have the inherent right to defend ourselves from immediate violence. It would be nice if there were always a police officer around to intercede on our behalf, but that’s just not feasible, so we compromise. We retain the ultimate individual right to self-defense, but we delegate the right to retaliate after the fact (via impartial criminal prosecution and punishment) to government.
So far, you may not see a large gulf between our positions. Yet there is a significant one: It is my position that the right to self-defense is absolute. By that I mean that I have the right to defend myself from ANY initiation of violence (or the imminent threat of same) from ANY initiator – up to and including government agents, should they act in the absence of due process or turn overtly tyrannical. A shotgun or revolver is hardly proportional to such a threat. Since our own government, should it turn tyrannical, and the forces of other governments, should they unwisely choose to invade this country, possess weapon systems of devastating destructive power, it is more than reasonable for a free individual to possess mere firearms to stand in opposition, even if such opposition must take the form of a covert insurgency. It is reasonable that a free person possess firearms identically lethal to those his oppressors routinely bear.
Does that mean I think private individuals should be able to go down to “Booms-R-Us” and buy guided missiles and tanks and chemical weapons? In the absence of a better argument, I’ll accede to this principle: the more indiscriminate a weapon is, the harder it should be for anyone to obtain. That principle is already largely in effect. Regardless of anybody’s desire, there is no “Booms-R-Us” to go to in this country. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t legally buy a grenade, landmine, or bomb as a private citizen without an enormous amount of oversight, if at all. Conversely, hand-held firearms currently legal for possession are discriminate enough that law-abiding individuals should not be further barred or banned from buying and possessing them, regardless of militarized appearance, magazine capacity, fire rate, trigger function, or other minutiae, or whether some sociopath or jihadist has used one to commit mass murder.
There has been, and will continue to be, all manner of legal wrangling over the exact meaning of the oddly-phrased Second Amendment within the bounds of “the letter of the law.” However, the Founders made the spirit and intent clear in their other writings. The Second Amendment does not primarily protect the right to hunt or compete at the skeet range, that protection is a byproduct. It protects the individual right to self-defense. (Don’t take my word for it; the Supreme Court has said as much in D.C. vs. Heller.) A populace that can assassinate tyrannical leaders and their henchmen and fight a well-equipped guerrilla war against its oppressors is a populace that will not be easy to subjugate. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee that America has such a populace.
If we look at our positions from a purely logical standpoint, I posit that we are arguing from different premises: The pro-gun rights argument rests on the premise that individuals have an inherent and inviolate right to self-defense, and that our government is obligated by the Second Amendment to protect that right through non-infringement on keeping and bearing arms. If I have not misread the argument for the gun control faction, your premise is that government’s obligation to protect our rights gives it (or should give it) the purview to limit the potential for anyone to cause harm.
I contend that the more power you give to the government to prevent anyone from causing harm, the more pathological personalities you will attract who seek to wield that power…to cause harm! Eventually, you will get a card-carrying totalitarian who will turn the United States into a Venezuela or an Iraq, or worse. The alternative is to accept some risk with your freedom: occasionally, a nut with a rifle will kill a bunch of innocent people. The proper mitigation to both threats: A populace that can shoot back!
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By Mike Cronin
The realm of politics is huge, and it can be confusing. Pundits are always talking about liberals & conservatives, Democrats & Republicans, ideologues & demagogues, and many other terms. How can we make sense of it? In basic social studies or political science classes, teachers may introduce and discuss a model called the political spectrum. If you “google” images for “political spectrum,” dozens, if not hundreds, of different models will be displayed. The most basic (and most commonly employed) model places Fascist totalitarianism (like Germany under Hitler) on the extreme right side of the scale, and Socialism or Communism (like the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea) on the extreme left side. A government, a country, or a person’s political position can be gauged on this spectrum.
The problem with this model is that while the ideologies of Fascism and Communism may differ on the surface, in practice they result in the same conditions for the vast majority of people who live under them: tyranny, fear, and poverty. There may be distinctions between the two on paper, but in reality both ideologies are collectivist; that is, they believe that the state, or the party, or the race, or the group, i.e. the collective, is more important than the individual, and that the individual exists to serve the larger group. In other words, both of these forms of politics, communism and fascism, treat humans like bees or ants, i.e. as drones (or slaves). No individual is important, only the party, or country (or hive/colony, i.e. collective), matters.
The achievement of the founding fathers was in creating a nation founded on the concept that the individual has rights that are inherent, that is, they are not granted by the state, and that the purpose of the state is to protect those individual rights.
So, with mid-term elections coming this November, consider this: Whether a politician identifies as a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, does not matter as much as this: What does his or her character and voting record reveal about their understanding of individual rights? Will you elect a defender of your rights, or a beekeeper?