Why I’m not a Libertarian.
“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity, in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” ~Edmund Burke
“[A Constitution is] not an act of government but of a people constituting a government and a government without a constitution is a power without right…”Thomas Paine
The strength of America used to be its people. Now America’s strength is geography. If the French Third Republic was surrounded by two massive oceans, it, too, may still exist. Instead, the Third Republic was pulverized by a more vital foe, in the form of the German Third Reich. France tried to fortify its own geography when it built the Maginot Line. So dilapidated was France’s will to exist, so stunted its creativity, the Republic’s military could not see the simple solution to defeating the Maginot defenses: Go around it, through Belgium.
Contrary to popular myth, France did not have a weak military. In fact, it was the strongest in Europe, at least on paper. Though German tanks like the Tiger and Panther are the most talked about tanks of WWII, those tanks were relatively rare and did not exist until near the end of the war. France’s intellectual and spiritual dynamism had been gutted after WWI. Just as in modern America, the Left and Right in France became bitter enemies. France’s Right, much like America’s, ( and my own beliefs), believed that the left had lead France into decadence, and the depression of the 1930s fed the country’s cynicism. Sound familiar? Corruption had infected the political, judicial and media systems, culminating in the Dreyfus Affair. The far Right was severely damaged by the event, and the Left surged.
France had no interest in war with Germany. But as Trotsky chimed, war had interest in France. Germany annexed Czechoslovakia and France turned a blind eye, eagerly signing the Munich Agreement in a fruitless attempt to appease Hitler. The rest is history. The once proud French Republic bowed pitifully.
In 1918, France forced the Second Reich to sign an armistice and build a monument which read:
HERE ON THE ELEVENTH OF NOVEMBER 1918 SUCCUMBED THE CRIMINAL PRIDE OF THE GERMAN REICH. VANQUISHED BY THE FREE PEOPLES WHICH IT TRIED TO ENSLAVE.
Now the tables were turned. Evil won. Evil can be more energized than a sedated “good”which violates the Boy Scout Oath: Always Be Prepared. Lazy and sedated is not really good, after all.
I’m going somewhere with this. It’s not about Hitler, The Third Reich, or France; it’s about us. I’ve just taken the long route, as I’m prone to do. My point is that a country’s fate can change very rapidly, especially when internal elites want it to change. The impetus for this article is this piece written by Louis Michael Seidman, published in the New York Times. Seidman is a Constitutional Law professor at Georgetown University. In his op-ed, Seidman contends, essentially, that the United States Constitution should be followed at our leisure, when it is convenient. He defends his position by saying that even some of the Founding Fathers defied the Constitution when they felt it fit, and that currently we spend too much time trying to divine what we thought the Founding Fathers would do instead of just doing what we feel is right.
First off, Seidman comes across as dishonest when he says:
As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is.
His article hardly carries the tone of someone who’s had a recent epiphany on the matter.
Secondly, Seidman is plain wrong. He begins his article with:
AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.
What provision in the Constitution has caused our government to continuously spend more money than it has? Is it the same provision that the Greek Constitution had when Greece spent itself into irrelevance?
I begin to wonder how such a shallow thinker, whom could write the following, could manage a law degree, let alone hold a respected post at an even more respected school:
Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants. Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states.
Where does Seidman think that such “checks” would come from other than a Constitution?
Seidman’s most disturbing statement is thus:
Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.
So the logic is as follows: When future leaders stop respecting speech and religion, they should be able to abolish the free practice of both by fiat.
Of course, even a Constitution is no guarantee against tyranny. I remember when I was in college, arguing in open class with my Constitutional Law professor, a lawyer, that the Constitution was merely a piece of paper, and that there was nothing special in its words that could compel all men to obey it. She grew furious, eventually storming out of the class and slamming the door. The class was silent for a few minutes, before, finally, two other students said: “I agree with you.”
The professor missed my point, I think, which was not that government and people should do as they please, without regard to the Constitution, but that, as I’ve written recently, nothing absolutely compels them to obey the law except force. Otherwise, the Constitution is a gentleman’s agreement in a world where not everyone is a gentleman.
In David Berlinski’s brilliant book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, Berlinski writes the following:
At some time after it became clear that Nazi Germany would lose the Second World War, and before the war had actually been lost, one of the senior party officers–perhaps it was Himmler–in confronting the very complicated series of treaty organizations that Germany had accepted with respect to its satraps, wondered out loud, “What, after all, compels us to keep our promises?” It is a troubling question and one that illustrates anew the remarkable genius for moral philosophy the Nazis enjoyed.
Seidman seems to enjoy the fact that nothing can compel a president to obey a law and thus believes we should remove the outdated shackles of the Constitution from the Executive branch. He proposes checks, but does not indicate from where these checks would draw their power. While it is true that the Constitution probably has faults ( as all human creations must) its brilliance is in its generality, which allows for some flexibility. The Constitution is supposed to be difficult to change, like any work of importance. It can be changed. By amendment…
Moreover, a Constitution, even a flawed one, keeps important ideals highlighted in the mind of a people. It draws a people together, and makes a nation, not just a state. It says, we’re in this thing together and we’ll do our best to make it happen. The Constitution is the glue that keeps our parts from flying into the ether and our people from degrading to tribal warfare.
As it says:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I shy from arguments which summon Hitler. Mostly such arguments seek to shock hearers into agreement. I do not seek this. Well, not only this. Instead, I present the empirical. Hitler, democratically elected, consolidated all powers of the State in the federal government by disintegrating the parliament and he was made Fuhrer.
Many people never dreamed a life-failure like Adolph Hitler could do what he did. A mere corporal in the German Army in WWI, a failure in school, in art, in relationships, a convict. And yet, as Hitler bragged to a British correspondent in Berlin, 1934:
At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the National Socialist movement will go on for 1,000 years! … Don’t forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!
There’s quite a few now who think it could never happen again. Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Never. There have always been experts. The French Third Republic and Germany, both the pinnacle of Western civilization in the 30s, were filled with experts who believes these things could never happen. Many of them also spoke and wrote just as Seidman does now. That men will do the right thing out of respect…
As the French Third Republic shows us, a country can go from military supremacy to signing an armistice in defeat, in a flash, and small-minded but energized men can wreck a nation. Our country is lucky, given its present state, that it has two oceans to guard it, and not a rock wall. That we have Canada to our north and not the Third Reich. Our Constitution has served us as no Constitution has ever served a nation, making America the light on the hill. We should jealously guard it, even with our own blood if need be. It should be changed only with solemn consideration and amendment.
So now I leave you with the oath I swore 4 years ago, and plan to carry to whatever end it brings me. I hope my people will follow:
I, Douglas Moore, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
“He wants his home and security, he wants to live like a sailor at sea. Beautiful loser, where you gonna fall, when you realize–you just can’t have it all…he’ll never make any enemies.” ~Beautiful Loser, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band.
Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.~General John Stark
In the world of video games, there is a term that denotes making something decidedly less potent or dangerous: The term is Nerf.
My Army and indeed my country is trying to Nerf my entire world. It does this under the pretext of caring so much for my safety. Our obsession with safety is in fact making us weaker and thus less safe.
I cannot say that I expect nothing from my government. I expect it to smash the hell out of any enemy that tries to destroy our way of life. I expect it to maintain internal security so that people can enjoy their families and the things they have worked for. Thus I expect the government to toss people in jail whom have committed crimes which harm me or my family–or any other American family. I expect my government to defend its sovereign borders so that my country does not become what others without an American ideal want it to be.
What I do not expect of my government is that it protect me from myself. I do not expect the government to worry about the minutia of dangers that confront man everyday. The government cannot protect me from myself as well as I can. The United States Army has become one of the most risk-averse entities in our risk-averse nation. Soldiers must watch hours of safety videos every few months, many many more hours than they fire their rifles on a practice range, and are expected to wear a reflective belt at times, even when off duty in broad daylight, and must wear knee and elbow pads when in a war zone on patrol. Packing lists for Soldiers readying to deploy easily bring to mind a 5 year Soviet planning cycle. Make sure you bring your sewing kit. Who the hell is Sun Tzu? Because of the (most times) well-meaning cry for troop safety, our troops are weighed down with heavy body armor while trouncing over 8000 ft high mountains, exhausting them. Our enemies dance around in man-dresses and sneakers. In my unit, Soldiers pulling CQ duty (a 24 hour duty in which two Soldiers sit at a desk and communicate any problems to the chain of command), have been ordered to stop any Soldiers whom leave the barracks in shorts, because it’s too cold to be outdoors in shorts. Yes, that’s right, a military that helped annihilate the Nazis and nuked Hiroshima is worried about people wearing shorts in the cold during their off-duty hours. Every Friday, Soldiers must endure long speeches from the chain of command about what not to do during the weekend. They must be reminded that slapping their wives is illegal and driving drunk can result in car crashes. If we have Soldiers that are so stupid they require to be told these things every week, well then, I say let them make their mistake and get them out of the Army. Because that guy will probably blow the back of my head off with an accidental discharge from his M4 carbine. Our gown men used to be able to drink beer while deployed to war. No more. In the Vietnam War, US grunts could bye a 24-pack of beer for $2.40. We did better in Vietnam than in Afghanistan, according to authoritative writer, Bing West… We couldn’t have that now, could we? Surely American Soldiers would go on mad rampages across the Hindu Kush, slaying everything in sight. Somehow we beat the British with many of our troops half in the bag. As far as I’m concerned, denying a man a beer while he endures war is not just cruel, it’s downright un-American. The Puritans–those great foes of the Libertine Left– fed kids the stuff for breakfast, but then MADD busted up the party.
Here’s a quote from the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Glenn Beck’s book, Arguing With Idiots:
Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver, but she ended up leaving her own organization. Why? Mission creep. Here’s what she said….
“[MAAD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned…I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol, I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”
In the same chapter, Beck goes on to explain how legislation has been proposed to install devices on all cars that prevent people from driving drunk. As of now, only people whom have been convicted of DUI can have such devices installed by the government. He goes on to make the point that if we focus on the person offending, and not the tool of the offense, we do a better job in dealing with the problem, and we don’t needlessly bother those whom don’t drink and drive, since the majority of the DUI problems come from repeat offenders. And it’s the same thing when it comes to gun control. Taking away guns from the 99% is a tyranny. Many want to do it because the modern Left simply has a difficult time calling anyone whom is not named Dick Cheney or George Bush, evil.
The true shame of this, is that in the Army, NCOs are told that they are not leading unless they are micromanaging the private and professional lives of the Soldiers that work for them. I simply refuse to live like this or lead other men like this. As a kid, I did all kinds of dangerous things, and I’m proud of it. I never wore a bike helmet, yet rode my bike everywhere. Most of my bikes didn’t even have brakes; I had to use my foot on the rotting (dangerously so) tires, to slow myself. I proudly displayed the scabs and scars on my hands from the times I went over the handlebars on the pavement. Myself and groups of other kids engaged in rock fights and BB gun wars. We threw ice-encrusted snowballs at each others face, hoping to give each other black eyes. I carried a rifle around in the woods, unsupervised, at the age of twelve, shooting cute, furry squirrels until I could hear the weeping of bleeding-heart liberals for miles around. And I felt nothing for it except proud of my outstanding marksmanship….I endured 5 knee operations before the age of 25, all from playing that rough, dangerous sport: Backyard football. I boxed and had my brain concussed.
And every one of us boys is better off for having beat the hell out of ourselves.
And why did I do all of it? Because I don’t want to feel completely safe. I never have. I most certainly don’t want someone else making me safe from everything. I mostly want to be left alone to make my own decisions. I want to learn on my own. I don’t want to go to jail, get a fine, or get demoted in rank for failing to make my Soldiers wear knee pads. I want to live in a country that demotes me because my troops didn’t kill enough Taliban fighters, because my troops didn’t make the enemy quit. I know, I know, that makes me a brute. Yet, our addiction to safety helped us lose the war in Afghanistan. Make no mistake, COIN “warfare” is the child of an addiction to safety. It is a system designed to win wars without fighting the enemy. We hope to build the enemy stuff until he quits, we hope that he becomes as sedated with free stuff from the government as this American generation has become. COIN hopes to keep our Soldiers out of danger, but in reality it makes him so at-risk for lack of ridding the battlefield of armed insurgents, that the American fighter spends most of his time running back and forth between villages and friendly bases, instead of rooting the enemy from his enclaves. March to a village, shake some hands and smile at people lying to you and helping safeguard the people whom will kill you, then hurry the hell back to the base before you get shot.
I enjoy danger in my life. Yeah, there are always things the government could do to make us all safer. But at what cost? Should we make a law mandating all cars be coated in 12 inches of nerf material? I’m sure the guy who gets bumped into at a crosswalk would appreciate it. I measure my danger with what it can provide me. I understand there are some dangers we want to control. For instance, I argued quite vehemently for increased screening at Airports, but I’m against gun-free zones around schools. Why? Because I believe one does what it’s supposed to and the other doesn’t. If there were two airlines to choose from, one offering increased screening and pat-downs before boarding a plane, and one that did not, I would choose to use the one that offered increased screening. If there were two schools to choose from, one with a gun free zone and one without, I would choose the one without, hoping the well-vetted principal with 20 years experience in education is well armed and trained. Get it? I lift Russian kettlebells. There is an element of danger in using these, which makes me enjoy them all the more. Throwing around 70 lb iron balls cannot be made purely safe. My hands get torn up, and I’m damn proud of it. They make me a better person, even if I break a wrist.
I don’t want to be told how to pack my rucksack, how many bars of soap to bring with me to Afghanistan, and I sure don’t want to shave my chest, wear pop-collared polo shirts or gloves while weight lifting. I want to be allowed to not wear knee pads. I want to be allowed to fight when I go to war. In short, I want to be a man and not a giant baby. Let me be a big boy so we can focus on the important stuff, and not the things that end up costing us more in the creation of rules and their enforcement than in any protection we gain. We are a country of laws–too many of them–not of men. Why not think like Bruce Lee, and begin to take away before we add. Less is always more efficient, and maybe we can toughen up a bit and remember what a great feeling it is to be able to do things on our own without having to hope the government will protect us from all evil, and maybe fix our toilet if we whine and play the victim well enough.
Maybe we can teach our kids, again, the value of hard work, self-reliance, responsibility and toughness. A nation of individuals that values those things does not require a government that has to keep them in line.
Although not a pleasant topic so near to Christmas, I feel it necessary to touch on the issue of guns, violence, and the limits of what the law can do to protect us.
First, I will hit upon utility of the law. When I was a police officer, it was common for me to deal with “violations of protection orders”. A protection order is simply a legal piece of paper that ordered one person to stay away from another. It does nearly nothing to stop a person from actually having contact with another; the hope is that the possibility of getting in trouble will deter most people from violating the law. But as I would counsel some of the people who believed in the extraordinary power of the protection order, it is not a force field. It will not make bullets bounce off you. Moreover, people can violate a protection order without the rest of the world knowing they did so. They can stalk their victims, they can make anonymous phone calls, and they can murder their victims and get away with it, just as did O.J. Simpson.
Recently after the shooting at Sandy Hook, I began watching a documentary on the Beslan school shooting in Russia. In the first part of the documentary, a small boy, who was at the school during the massacre, makes a stunningly insightful comment at the 3:06 minute mark:
There is no God, only force. Military force.
I’m not sure whether to be more dismayed by the child’s nihilism, or the fact that he is more philosophically insightful than 99% of the adult liberals whom propose additional laws to control those breaking already existing laws. The laws against homicide did not prevent the children of Sandy Hook from being murdered. Now of course I am not for the removal of laws against murder. They certainly make some people think twice, and they provide us a legal path to imprison those who refuse to play by society’s rule, but they do not guarantee anyone’s safety. Nothing does.
Let’s talk about the usefulness of restricting gun rights. Later, I’ll touch on justice and what our Founding Fathers believed. I’ve already talked about the limits of written law and Blaise Pascal agreed:
Without force, the law is impotent.
Does anyone believe that by restricting access to AR-15s, violent crime will drop? If so, can you support your belief in fact? I can provide support to show the opposite is true.
Two countries, very close to America in cultural climate (and culture is important when considering crime and individual rights), Australia and Britain, experienced astounding increases in violent crime aftter implementing increasingly restrictive gun laws. In 1997, Australia enacted its gun ban. Some believe that Australia has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Five years after the ban, violent crime increased by 42.2%. Rapes jumped by nearly 30%. Shockingly enough, criminals didn’t obey the law.
We love the English accent. It summons thoughts of a refined and stoic people, steadfastly enduring Nazi air raids and fighting evil to the bloody end. Too bad England’s violent crime is even worse than America’s, despite heavy-handed restrictions on guns. In one decade, gun crimes in Britain nearly doubled. And while England has relatively low gun-crime, it is still the violent crime capital of Europe. One of my fundamental problems with modern liberals is not that they want a more peaceful and safe world, but that the laws they propose in order to make such a world rarely do what liberals say they will do. From the Kyoto Protocol to guns laws, the liberal argument is that of Piers Morgan: “We have to do something!” Consider this: Australia and Great Britain are both big islands, making the importation of illegal firearms more difficult than in countries like America. Yet this fact and the strict laws are not nearly enough.
How about trying something that works, doesn’t infringe on the Bill of Rights, and isn’t the child of a dreamy, politically correct world?
Then there’s our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico. Here’s what the US Consulate in Tijuana web page has to say to Americans travelling to Mexico:
Don’t bring firearms or ammunition across the border into Mexico.
Don’t carry a knife, even a small pocketknife, on your person in Mexico.
You may become one of dozens of U.S. Citizens who are arrested each month for unintentionally violating Mexico’s strict weapons laws.
If you are caught with firearms or ammunition in Mexico…
- You will go to jail and your vehicle will be seized;
- You will be separated from your family, friends, and your job, and likely suffer substantial financial hardship;
- You will pay court costs and other fees ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars defending yourself;
- You may get up to a 30-year sentence in a Mexican prison if found guilty.
If you carry a knife on your person in Mexico, even a pocketknife . . .
- You may be arrested and charged with possession of a deadly weapon;
- You may spend weeks in jail waiting for trial, and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, court costs, and fines;
- If convicted, you may be sentenced to up to five years in a Mexican prison.
Claiming not to know about the law will not get you leniency from a police officer or the judicial system. Leave your firearms, ammunition, and knives at home. Don’t bring them into Mexico.
Yet the drug cartels, not the Mexican government have the monopoly on violence in Mexico. Draconian gun laws do not prevent drug lords from fielding their own militias. I’ll find somewhere else to vacation, thanks.
I posted the following on my Facebook page earlier today:
Question to Liberals: If you were at Sandy Hook on the day of the shooting, and you had a gun, would you have shot the killer, Adam Lanza? If so, how do you square that with the prevalent argument from the Left that there should be gun-free zones and no armed teachers or guards? If you would not have shot him, how would you live with yourself?
If a person answers that they would shoot the murderer, they admit that having a gun at that time is preferable to not having one. And yet many liberals argue against gun rights. Of course, their argument is only that of Rosie O’Donnell. Guns are for me, not for you. Only me and my bodyguards can be trusted with them. I agree that some people prove they cannot be trusted with guns, but the average American can and should be trusted.
The police cannot protect you. Take it from a former cop. The police protect you only in so far as the criminal fears being caught, after the fact, or to the extant that you can slow the criminal down until the police arrive. If someone breaks into a person’s house, intent on injuring another person, the police will not stop him if the victim has not taken proper precautions in protecting themselves. That’s why I’m for both passive and active defenses in schools. If we make our banks difficult to attack, why not our schools? The disingenuous argument that our school houses would become free-fire zones doesn’t ring true when we consider the less important institutions in America that have far more security than schools, yet don’t resemble the Wild West.
Of all the myths of the Left, none is more beloved than, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Our most advanced writers–the Leftist intellectuals ensconced in the cocoon of academia, could only hope so. Thus their over-reliance on such entities as the State Department and United Nations. Talking and making rules doesn’t mean jack to the people we’re worried about. Force does.
Finally, there is the philosophical and historical argument for gun rights in America.
Thomas Hobbes said it best:
A man cannot lay down the right of resisting them that assault him by force, to take away his life.
If the government takes away the right of a man to defend his life, it essentially takes away his life. Any effort by the government to take away the right to self-protection assumes the ability of the government to adequately protect the individual, which it cannot do. Were all citizens afforded a Secret Service protection detail, such regulation may be justifiable. But that’s an impossibility.
Sometimes justice outpaces utility. For instance, in my mind, just as Edmund Burke argued, free trade is not so much about utility (how much in taxes the government can harvest) as it is about what’s right: It is right that people should keep what they work for. In the case of guns, it is right that I be able to protect my child and myself. It is not right that a man be able to break into my house and rape my wife without me being able to shoot him in the face…
The statements of America’s Founding Fathers and other respected historical figures are replete with support for individual gun ownership. While I’ll try to avoid appeal-to-authority fallacies, I submit that these figures deserve to be heard, and sufficient evidence is required to overturn the wisdom of these men. The proposed gun control laws have proven insufficient in the past in this country and in others. And they violate my inalienable right to protect myself. A law that both doesn’t work and harms individual liberty is a bad law, something this country surely doesn’t need any more of.
I’ll leave you with a few gems from the brilliant men that left it in our hands to maintain that great thing we take for granted: Our own liberty.
Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defence be the *real* object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?
— Patrick Henry, speech of June 9 1788
“The great object is, that every man be armed. […] Every one who is able may have a gun.”
— Patrick Henry, speech of June 14 1788
“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”
— George Washington
“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”
— Mahatma Gandhi