Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Democratic Man Has No Balls.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin.

In my mind there is no doubt that Islamic terrorists are currently making attempts to cause harm to the U.S. and other countries in the West. I have no doubt, either, that should they obtain access to nuclear or biological weapons they would use them in an indiscriminate fashion for the maximum psychological effect.  The threat against the West is real and it is only a matter of time till the Radical Islamicists pull off another spectacular stunt. Many will die.

It is also true that the majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed by individuals with high powered semi-automatic weapons. The current attempts to ban them will, in my mind, significantly reduce the risk of mass shootings such as were seen in Colombine and Sandy Hook. The removal of these weapons in Australia has now meant that there have been none since the Port Arthur massacre.

Now the reason I bring these points up is with regard to the interplay, in democracy, between personal safety and individual liberty. I have no doubt that the recent PRISM revelations (and Echelon, Trailblazer, etc.) are all programs which have been implemented to protect American (and allied citizens). I have no doubt that they probably have saved peoples lives but the question I ask myself is, "at what expense?" The price, I think, is now too high.

Take the proposed semi-automatic firearm restrictions. This is very complex topic (Why is it that Americans are more trigger happy than other nationalities when it comes to mass shootings? But that's for a different time.) but any elemental reading of the U.S. constitution would lead to the conclusion that U.S. citizens have the right to bare arms. I'm no constitutional scholar, but it appears to me that the founding fathers intended for the citizens of the U.S. to fight back against their government if it became too uppity.  The U.S. constitution is front loaded with an ever present potential for war of the U.S. citizenry against the U.S. government.

The U.S. constitution was founded in a time where modern antibiotics, anaesthetics and surgical techniques were non-existent. War was horrible, yet, the fathers of the U.S. felt that the mass slaughter that wound entail should Americans choose to defend their liberty against the government was worthwhile price to pay. The founding fathers valued their liberty more than their security.

I can't imagine Ben Franklin, surveying the tragedy of Sandy Hook, suddenly proposing a semi-automatic ban. He too would have been moved by the horror, but accepted it as a consequence of having an armed citizenry.  The fact that some citizens misused their right to bear arms was no reason to take away the rights from those who didn't-- especially in the name of public safety. It would of been a trade-off he would have been unprepared to take.

Which brings me to the PRISM program. I have no doubts that it has bought benefits to the U.S. state and the West, but at the expense of having every electromagnetic enabled communication monitored. Nothing is private any more. The U.S. government's argument, that there is clear oversight of the program is of no comfort, especially to anyone who has any first hand knowledge of public servants or government officials. I mean, after all, wasn't the IRS mean to be impartial?* Most congressmen, not exactly examples of moral rectitude, have the vaguest idea of what is going on. How do they police the system? More importantly, what happens when these morally ambiguous beings take control of it.

PRISM, Echelon, the Gun control debate and nanny state rules are all enabled by a democracy which values safety over liberty. History has repeatedly shown that those who own the guns make the rules and those without the guns have to take it. Having everyone disarmed and having the government spy on everyone else is a great thing until the government becomes tyrannical, then it's too late.

The terrible tragedy here is that of Edward Snowden. He has given up friends, family, liberty and a hot girlfriend (who seems to be exploiting her situation with a lot of raunchy pics) in order to "inform the people." The problem is that the people are the problem and  seem quite happy with the situation as it is. His efforts were in vain; the people prefer safety to liberty. Democratic man has no balls.

*Just to show that this isn't a Left vs Right thing. Political opponents in the U.S have traditionally used the IRS to their persecute their opponents. Richard Nixon sent in the IRS to hound Curtis Le May after his failed attempt with Wallace in the 1968 elections.


Drew said...

Please let me ignore the main point of the post for a moment and talk about some of the conventional wisdom that just isn't so.

Gun bans may or may not have an effect on mass murder. The events are very rare, even for large countries, that they are statistically insignificant (in the technical sense) and therefore specious correlations. Furthermore, substitute tools are equally, if not more effective with such weapons as poison gas, fertilizer bombs, arson, etc easily topping the mass murder hierarchy of villainy.

What is of important note in the US is that these attacks using firearms are almost exclusively perpetrated in "gun free zones". Whenever these attacks are attempted in areas of armed citizens, they almost never turn into mass events. Quite often the attackers psychopathic vision of endless infamy and destruction falls apart at the first sign of serious resistance and they take their own life or surrender quietly.
"Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed."

Finally, these bans don't seem to have much good affect on the typical day to day crimes that really affect quality and risk of life (robberies, assault, rape, gang activity, domestic violence, suicide, etc). In some cases violent crime goes up (Britain), in some cases it continues to decline at roughly the same rate as it was before the law changes (Australia). Or in the contrary case of the US, the 90s and 00s saw a massive proliferation of concealed carry (49/50 states) and gun purchases (easily tops 340M). While gun inventories and public carrying dramatically increased, violent crime in the US continued to decline precipitously.

There clearly is just not much correlation between gun ownership and crime. And remember, in the 20th century, gov'ts have killed more of their own people in purges, repressions, and sectional disturbances than all the rogue crimes and terrorism combined.

The unacceptable truth is that crime is most strongly correlated to culture. This can be seen when looking at crime patterns as a function of generations (measured by age), ethnicity (measured by race), and family structure.

Which eventually circles all the way back to what kind of culture are we building? Freedom for security? Herd vs Pack?

The Social Pathologist said...


I don't have a problem with gun ownership. I'm quite comfortable with risk. And yes, you are quite correct, culture is the most important variable.

I think the trade off between security and liberty is an important one that the gun lobby really hasn't used very much. There is no way you can insure against wacko's, so an armed society is going to have a few crazy's kill innocent people every now and then. But it's a price I think is worth paying in order to safeguard liberty.

And remember, when it comes to democracy, it's not as much about rational argument as it is about perception. Presenting hard evidence and logic doesn't work in convincing the herd. The argument has to be emotive.

That's why the anti-gun lobby should be framed as "pussy's" more concerned with safety rather than liberty.

Anonymous said...

More than enough female support for a gun ban, so "pussy" is rather disarmed. Yes, they choose safety over liberty; hell, they're probably against liberty even when there are no safety concerns.

Drew said...

Absolutely agree with everything you're saying about castrating freedom and believe it is the strongest argument for free arms. The example I've used in the past is "just because indoor cats live longer than outdoor, does not mean it is the better life. Living a limited and castrated life for the sake of safety spits on freedom and is not worth the living."

I wasn't trying to imply that you were against arms, but I noted some assumptions about the pragmatism of arms laws that shouldn't be conceded without comment.

Anyway, I count the pragmatism arguments as being the second strongest in the right to arms debate and felt moved to comment on it.

I think the "correlation doesn't equal causation" argument to probably be the weakest in the gun supporters defense. As I've said in other places, it is a logically true statement and argument, but lacks any kind of conclusive power for the purely logical person, and has very little rhetorical punch despite valiant and clever attempts at it. Examples...

"If guns cause crime, all of mine are defective."

"If guns kill people, then...
Pencils miss spel words,
cars make people drive drunk,
spoons made Rosie O'Donnell fat."

Anonymous said...

Just to prove that it IS a left-vs-right thing:

When Nixon tried to weaponize the IRS, the IRS leaked to the press immediately, and the press were all over it.

When Obama weaponized the IRS, all the IRS staffers had to say was "Whatever you say, boss!!!"

Jason said...

I think Snowden's morality is a little more mixed, doctor. He should have stayed in the U.S., where he would be seen by many as a principled dissident who nonetheless has a respect for the American Law, and who recognizes that even breaking unjust laws has consequences (The great example of this is Martin Luther King, who never sought to evade the American justice system during his campaigns of civil disobedience). As it is he fled to Hong Kong (under the authority of China, of course, that paragon of legality and human rights), where for some reason he strangely believes there exists a greater freedom and respect for law than anywhere else in the world.
Still, the point of your essay is well-taken. Are Australians worried that the influence of the U.S. will extend into their domain as far as Big Brother is concerned?

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Social Pathologist said...


Are Australians worried that the influence of the U.S. will extend into their domain as far as Big Brother is concerned?

It doesn't seem a big an issue over here, though some civil ibertarians are concerned about it. I think most Australians have confidence in the legal system (even though it is left leaning) to protect peoples rights.

With regard to Mr Snowden, I think, given his job, he has a meta view of how the world works, and I think it is somewhat ironic that he feels that his civil rights are better protected in a currently communist formerly British city. I think had he stayed in the U.S. the PRISM story would have been quickly quashed by asupplicant media and the Feds would have legally ilenced him immediately. With MLK, there was a fair amount of sympathy for him in the upper echelons of power, whilst in the U.S. I think Snowden has next to no support at that level. That's the difference.

Anonymous said...

"The current attempts to ban them will, in my mind, significantly reduce the risk of mass shootings such as were seen in Colombine and Sandy Hook."

I disagree in this instance.

I tend to sympathize with the NRA, but at the same time I realize that there are instances where gun control works. Singapore and Japan, for instance, seem to have pulled it off.

It needs to be understood, however, that controlling guns is hard. We're talking at least as hard as controlling recreational drugs, since guns are about as easy to smuggle and easier to manufacture. As I never tire of pointing out, the Poles managed to manufacture submachine guns during the German occupation in WWII. For various technical reasons, submachine guns are extremely easy to make and require no engineering expertise to design, even if plans for their construction weren't already widely available and distributed.

So, it can be done, but only in a country whose law enforcement and government have their act together and are really serious about doing what they say they're going to do.

The United States is not that country.

Furthermore, the proposed bills don't ban semi-automatic weapons or anything close to. The media may have said that's what the bills propose, but the media are incompetent and completely ignorant of technical matters. By and large, these bills ban certain combinations of largely cosmetic features of weapons. There are no important changes to the (badly flawed) background check system, additional funding for law enforcement to give teeth to these laws, or anything else really meaningful.

Furthermore, a close reading of these bills compared to existing laws will show that the people who wrote them have absolutely no knowledge of the existing law, since they are enormously redundant and contradictory.

Talking about what laws the USA needs to solve this or that problem is a completely theoretical exercise. The laws are unintelligible, their true meaning unclear until lawyers and civil servants decide what they will mean. Enforcement is spotty, to say the least, and affected by political expediency as much as by laziness.

The USA is a nation of laws no longer. Would stricter weapons laws curb the violence? It's like asking whether adjusting the central banking seniorage and reserve rates in Zimbabwe would improve the economy. It presupposes a level of functionality in the government that is so far from reality that the question is meaningless.