“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
While attending the Agora Financial Symposium in Vancouver, I became aware that Americans enjoy some rights that Canadians do not: among them, the limited ability to carry weapons. Even private security guards seem unable to be armed in Canada.This does not make me feel safer. Quite the reverse.
Private people who carry guns make me feel safer.
So I would like to make a plea to my fellow citizens: please buy, carry, and even stockpile weapons. Carry them with you always. Keep them in your homes and cars. It’s especially important to do this in public places, where freak murderers like that guy in Aurora, Colorado, lurk. The weapons should be loaded and dangerous, capable of killing with one shot.
I especially desire this because I don’t want to buy or own a gun. Truth be told, I hate them. I don’t want them in my home. I don’t want to go shooting at the range. I don’t like looking at them, shopping for them, cleaning them, or even thinking about what they do to others. I loathe violence of all sorts, and hope to never have to use it. I’m a pacifist in spirit.
The only way I can really hope to get away with indulging my wimpy temperament here is if others are willing to pick up the slack that my unarmed self has created. I want burglars, kidnappers, and thieves of all sorts to believe that every home in my neighborhood is heavily armed and populated by fearless gun owners.
I want every robber around every corner to hold the expectation that anyone he mugs is carrying a deadly weapon. I would like to sit in theaters, airplanes, and restaurants where the trolls and scum among us believe that they could pay the ultimate price for misbehavior.
The thing is that I do not want to personally contribute to this cause in any way. I’m not up to it.
To be sure, I was raised with guns in Texas. As early as my trigger finger could work, my parents gave me a surprisingly powerful BB gun. All my friends had them too. We played in the backyard with them regularly. The older kids had 22 pistols and rifles. When they weren’t playing basketball or street football, they were in someone’s backyard (in city neighborhoods!) blasting away at cups, cans, and targets. When I came of age, I got a pistol too.
It was enjoyable enough. But as the guns got bigger, I lost my interest. The shotgun my father taught me to shoot I found to be alarming. His 33 rifle was no better. The bullet was long and looked deadly, even horrible. Once a friend took me out to his farm to shoot his 44 pistols. The sound, the kick, the astonishing damage that these guns caused was it for me. It burned me out on weapons forever. I never want to hold one again so long as I live.
My sincere hope is that other people are not as squeamish. If everyone felt like I do, the world would be a much more dangerous place. The criminal class would rule the day. The pathway for their craft would be clear. So too for government agents, who would hold a monopoly on the use of deadly force. Barriers to tyranny would removed. Those who prey on others would have a free hand.
A friend who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1960s said this was a common slogan in his neighborhood: “For every Jew a 42.” It was commonly understood that if the Jews had been heavily armed in Germany, the rise of the Nazis would have been checked, and perhaps the Holocaust could have been prevented. Neither he nor his friends were particularly interested in doing this but the point was clear.
Today, he too hopes to be a free rider on gun nuts. I’m with him on this point.
In so many ways, the debate on guns in deeply disturbing. Those who love guns, collect them and shoot them, are the people who are dedicated to defending Second Amendment rights. They go to gun shows, sign up for gun-rights advocacy groups, read gun magazines, and hang out with friends at the rifle ranges to practice.
On the other hand, the opponents of gun rights, those who would want to disarm everyone and stupidly think that the criminal class will go along with the bans, are also the same people who can’t imagine ever owning a weapon. None of their friends own weapons. They live in places like Portland, Oregon, where there doesn’t seem to be any purpose to owning a gun. They are sickened by them. Therefore they want to ban them.
This group has a corollary among those who have no desire to smoke pot and therefore want to deny everyone else’s right to smoke the stuff. So too the people who want to ban liquor and prostitution exercise no effective demand for the goods and services. These people all see the law as an extension of their own moral and aesthetic preferences, and means of institutionalizing and universalizing their own lifestyle and belief systems.
Actually, what the law is should have nothing to do with our own personal choices about what we like and do or dislike and do not do. This view seems nearly extinguished in our world today. If you don’t drink sodas, you are happy to ban them. If you are not gay, you are glad for laws that restrict freedom for others. If you don’t like guns, you want them banned.
That’s not how the free society works. The preservation of freedom requires that we be willing to stand up for the rights of others to own and do things we do not like but which harm no one, or, in the case of guns, actually save lives.
For this reason, I have far more respect for the teetotaler who favors a free market in liquor than I do for the heavy drinker who favors them same. Non-smokers should stand up for the right to smoke. And so too should people who do not own guns and have desire to own guns stand up for the right to possess and carry.
Especially in the case of guns, we gun wimps have a special and personal interest in defending not only gun rights but also the massive proliferation of weaponry among the citizenry. It’s the only way that we can truly deter crime and stop crime in public places when it is unleashed.
The Aurora theater case is a great example. An unarmed population is vulnerable to mass killers, and there is nothing the state can do to prevent this. You can turn the whole of society into a prison and not even that would prevent violence, as anyone who knows prison life can tell you.
The push to disarm is actually a very scary trend. Think of how it applies among travellers today. All weapons are confiscated before people board the plane. So we have large numbers of unarmed people landing in unfamiliar places and wandering around without the ability to protect themselves. Every tourist has a sign on his or her head: mug me.
The only real means to prevent the emergence of a world safe for criminals and government is to see the proliferation of guns among everyone else. I’m sorry, but I will not do my part in this respect. But I will defend the rights of others to do so, with a sincere hope that they will stockpile and be ready. Yes, I’m a free rider, but gun nuts need to know that I’m truly grateful.