Bloated Government

The US Government was wisely divided into branches in order to diffuse the power. These competing sources of power provide checks and balances against attempts the natural tendency of people, or groups of people, to attempt to act beyond their authority. The first check is the Constitution, with is limitations and demarcation of power and authority. The final check is the ability of a majority of the people to throw off a government that has failed to correct its abuses of that Constitution.

There is another problem in the US Government, which has weakened the checks between the three primary branches (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial): The excessive size and scope of government. Two primary challenges arise from the size of government. First, the size of government results in the impossibility of any one representative knowing all of the laws that exist. Second, the institutionalization of executive and legislative bureaucracies becomes self-protective and limits the knowledge of what needs to be reformed or changed.

1. There is a serious problem when those, who are elected with the responsibility to enact and change laws, do not have the time to read the bills that are placed before them for a vote, let alone to understand the laws that are currently on the books. Aside from the impossibility of citizens understanding all of the laws they must obey, the legislators cannot be expected to make wise decisions about laws if they do not know them. This has resulted in narrow specialization in Congress, with committees and subcommittees. Large “omnibus” bills that include hundreds and thousands of pages with dozens to hundreds of unrelated laws are placed before legislators for their vote. Can we realistically expect that each of the legislators will be able to read the entire bill, let alone to understand the impact of each of the separate provisions in the bill? And how should they understand the impact that those separate provisions have on current law? Is it any wonder that Congress seems constantly busy, yet little seems to get done? Surprisingly, they seem to find time for trivial matters, such as bringing citizens in for the latest professional sports doping scandal.

There is not less of a problem with the Executive Branch. Simply attempting to identify and list all of the agencies connected to the Executive is no small task. These are organized, to use the term loosely, under a plethora of cabinet-level departments. We may amuse ourselves trying to list the names of the Seven Dwarves, yet I wonder if even the President could list all of the departments in his cabinet, or the names of the Secretaries over each of them. Each of these innumerable agencies have separate rules and regulations that they attempt to follow and enforce, which effectively create additional laws to the infinite number that have been enacted by Congress. I have wondered if there are any agencies left in the federal government that do not have their own law enforcement function. Somehow, amid the chaos of the bureaucracy, we expect that the Secretaries of the different departments will have some idea what their various agencies are doing. Additionally, we must not expect these Secretaries to communicate this with the President, since we have regularly given this office a pass for not knowing anything, but the most vital to our security. Even when it has related to our security, we often excuse the ignorance of the President. I would love to see the President answer a pop quiz about all of the nations where we have military operations, including special operations. I will admit, I doubt he could do it. I doubt the Secretary of Defense could do it. How difficult is it to reason that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing in the Executive Branch? It would take an enormous stretch of the imagination to believe that the President is aware of all of the major actions taken by each of his departments. Is this what we expect from a President? With all of the laws and regulations, could we possibly expect anything else?

2. When new elected officials and their officers arrive, they find a ready institution of bureaucracy already on hand. There is some wisdom in this, because the functions of government would otherwise decrease in efficiency (assuming that is actually possible) with every election or change in a department. However, the size of the bureaucracy (as previously stated) is so large that it would be an almost impossible task for an incoming President (or others) to address all of the bloating and inefficiency. Becoming familiar with the various rules is not the primary focus of a President, when other policies seem much more visible and pressing. With this in mind, can we believe that any President would even be aware of changes that need to be made? Without time to look at the operations of each department, the President is left to take the advice of his cabinet. That is, naturally, the reason for a cabinet. However, the Secretaries are almost always new to their respective department. The result is that they, too, are relying on someone else to give them the shortened version of the various duties and how the department functions, including the multitude of laws that require certain duties, processes, and hierarchies.

The process of self-preservation for such departments and agencies is to focus on the immediate crises of which the Secretary or leadership needs to be aware, as well as ideas for further programs and regulations that would increase the scope and power of that department or agency. Information that suggests waste or irrelevance of that organization tends to get buried, underreported, or isolated from other areas. Can an organization offer or accept a recommendation to decrease the size of that organization? If this is necessary, it is ideally done in exchange for greater powers and authority than it previously enjoyed. These are actions that may increase the relevance and the future size of the organization. This can be seen with the recent recommendations of the Defense Department to decrease the number of personnel, while redefining the mission of the department in terms of special operations. The trade-off is a decrease in certain types of personnel that may be sedentary when not deployed, for an increase in active fighting forces, with more locations and situations for them to be used. As the use of active fighting forces for a large number of special operations becomes the norm, the Defense Department may again be able to increase in numbers, while maintaining an active institutionalized function, with its accompanying powers and authority. This comes, in part, from the increased flexibility given to a military at war, compared to a military at peace. The same principle works for other departments, as we view their functions of what they can do as an ongoing bureaucracy, instead of what they should do as part of a limited government.

The result of our bloated government is that citizens cannot be certain they are always obeying the law; legislators cannot know the impact of the laws they created; and the President cannot ensure that the existing laws are fully enforced. There are too many problems in government for everyone to agree where the primary focus should be, which results in little motivation for change. The size of government leads to distractions and disunity, which allows for increased size and abuse. No one can know all of the things our government is doing. Without knowing what our government is doing, how can legislators provide oversight? How can the people hold the legislators accountable for that lack of oversight. The next laws I would like to see passed are those that start to repeal all of the excessive laws we have. The laws that we need should be short, uncomplicated, and limited in scope.

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Secondary Rights

In addition to our primary natural rights of life, liberty, and property, there are also secondary rights that are necessary to ensure those primary rights under a government. John Locke clarified the relationship between men and a just government when he stated:

“…Freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man: as freedom of nature is, to be under no other restraint but the law of nature. This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power, is so necessary to, and closely joined with a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it, but by what forfeits his preservation and life together: for a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases. Nobody can give more power than he has himself: and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it.” (Second Treatise on Government, “Of Civil Government”, Book II, Chapter 4, sections 22-23)

In Blackstone’s “An Analysis of the Laws of England” (6th edition, 1771, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 12), after describing our natural (primary) rights to life, liberty, and property he states:

“Besides these three primary Rights, there are others which are secondary and subordinate; viz. (to preserve the former from unlawful Attacks) 1. The Constitution and Power of Parliaments: 2. The Limitation of the King’s Prerogative:–And, (to vindicate them when actually violated) 3. The regular Administration of publick Justice: 4. The Right of Petitioning for Redress of Grievances: 5. The Right of Having and Using Arms for Self-Defence.”

  1. The Constitution and Power of Parliaments: This describes our right to a common set of agreed-upon laws that bind the government and limit its powers, as well as the right to affect laws (under that Constitution) through representative self-government. Without these conditions, the liberty could not exist and we would live under arbitrary rule.
  2. The Limitation of the King’s Prerogative: In the United States, this is reflected by Constitutional limitations on all branches of government, particularly the Executive Branch. If the prerogative of the Executive (or the other branches) was not constrained by the Constitutional limits, then we could not have liberty and the rule would again be arbitrary.
  3. The Regular Administration of Public Justice: This is a primary purpose of government. If a government does not regularly enforce the agreed-upon laws and judge between citizens according to those laws, the effect would be the same as if there were no government at all—the citizens must rely on their own power to preserve their own rights. As such, irregular or ineffective administration of justice results in the abdication of authority by the government.
  4. The Right of Petitioning for Redress of Grievances: If rights are violated, whether despite or due to government action, there must be a method for correcting those wrongs. Again, this is part of the purpose and contract of government. Failure to provide a method for redress leaves the citizen vulnerable to the mercy and imperfections of the initial administration of justice by the government. This is, perhaps, the most important right in preserving the peace, because it allows disputes to be resolved through an intermediary, rather than through violence (whether the dispute is with another citizen or the government).
  5. The Right of Having and Using Arms for Self-Defense: As John Locke stated, we have a right to defend what the government cannot restore upon appeal and we have the right to use the force of arms necessary to preserve it. This relates primarily to our lives, which cannot be restored by the government when someone takes it. This suggests, all at once, the responsibility of the individual for the preservation of their own life, as well as the impossibility of the government providing security for every citizen at all times. We do not need to throw ourselves at the mercy of our would-be attackers by possessing arms that are inferior to those that would be used against us, thereby forfeiting our right to life.

These are rights that are necessary for the preservation of our natural rights to life, liberty, and property under any government that claims to preserve individual rights. If any of these are absent, the government has already failed in its role of protecting the rights of individuals and thereby abdicates its authority as a government.

“…Wherever the power, that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many.

…Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and him whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.” (John Locke, “Of Civil Government, Book II, Chapter 18, sections 201-202)

“Though in a constituted commonwealth, standing upon its own basis, and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them: for all power given with trust for the attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security. And thus the community perpetually retains a supreme power of saving themselves from the attempts and designs of any body, even of their legislators, whenever they shall be so foolish or so wicked, as to lay and carry on designs against the liberties and properties of the subject: for no man or society of men, having a power to deliver up their preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the absolute will and arbitrary dominion of another; whenever any one shall go about to bring them into such a slavish condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a power to part with: and to rid themselves of those who invade this fundamental, sacred, and unalterable law of self-preservation, for which they entered into society. And thus the community may be said in this respect to be always the supreme power, but not as considered under any form of government, because this power of the people can never take place till the government be dissolved.” (John Locke, “Of Civil Government, Book II, Chapter 8, section 149)

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The Right to Life

Our rights were granted from God, but we should think of them as more of a stewardship than of ownership. As in Christ’s parable, we have been given the responsibility to make use of these talents, or individual rights, while we are here on the earth, and He will expect a reckoning of our stewardship when he returns. They are individual rights. Although more responsible, the man with 5 talents was not held accountable for the actions of the man with 1 talent. Nor was he given the right to take that talent from the slothful servant and put it to better use (only the master had the authority to make that transfer). Wisdom did not change the individual rights each were given while the master was away.

Because we are stewards and not owners, we do not have the ability to give up our rights. We may work together, as those with talents may have found it advantageous to invest together, but we cannot take rights from another or entirely give up our rights.

This is just as true with the right to life as it is with the other rights. We do not have a right to intentionally take our own lives, nor to give anyone else the power to do so:

“But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another” (John Locke, Of Civil Government, Book II, Chapter 2, Section 6).

This is a description of the individual right to life and some of the responsibilities it carries with it. Since I was a child I could never understand the reasoning behind laws that prohibit suicide–if the person was dead, how could they be punished? This section instantly made sense of that paradox to my mind. The intent of the laws was not to punish, but to recognize a limit to our right to life. Our right is to discharge the responsibilities that we have and to make the decisions allowed by our liberty during the time that we have been allotted by our Creator.

Recognizing this fact, it becomes clear that, if we do not possess a right to suicide (although we have the ability), we cannot grant others that permission. And if our rights are individual, then no one else could possibly have the authority to grant that permission for us. Were this principle widely understood, it would turn right-to-die and euthanasia debates onto their heads. In all of my readings about ethics and end-of-life issues, no one has EVER brought up this original point: that we do not have a right to take our own life because it does not belong to us. Nor would the anti-religious, sanitized schools of our day allow such a statement.

I cannot emphasize the importance of this first point enough. It is the basis for our individual right to life. It was not granted by the government, or any other body, so the authority to end life cannot be transferred.

Our debates are confused in the United States because we are, as a people, straddling ideologies. People attempt to reconcile collectivist policies with individual rights. It cannot be done. We either have an individual right to life, or we do not. One of the primary errors is confusing mercy with justice.

Natural justice relates to each person’s individual rights to life, liberty, and property. These rights indicate what we are free to do, but do not suggest that others are required to give us anything or do anything for us. If they wish to do something for us, or have mercy on us, that is their choice, rather than their obligation. (This should not be confused with the obligation of all citizens to uphold and protect the rights of others.)

There has been a trend among advocates of socialized healthcare to refer to healthcare as a right. When healthcare refers to the skilled service provided by another person, this can never be a right, because this skill and the choice to apply that skill belong to another person, in addition to the goods that are often necessary to provide that care. This would be like claiming a right to the food in someone else’s cupboard. A closer comparison might be forcing someone else to grow food for you, because you are ignorant in gardening. Or claiming a right to have someone else dig a well so you can have water, because you do not know how to dig a well. Food and water are obvious necessities of life, even more than healthcare, yet our need for these things does not give us a right to the skills and services of others.

Although we have a right to life, this does not mean that we have a right for others to provide all of the necessities of life, with the exception of parent-child relationships (which will not be addressed in detail at this time). Any expectations that we may have of other people beyond these natural rights are contractual. As stated before in general, these contracts are also never justified in violating our natural rights as individuals, because we do not have the power to grant anyone that authority over ourselves. Since we are not able to grant that as individuals, no collection of individuals can grant that authority on our behalf.

When we join into society and its respective government, we assume mutual responsibility in protecting the rights of others, with the expectation that our rights will be better preserved from violations from within and without. If our rights were not better preserved, we would have no reason to join that society.

In order to maintain the laws of a society, some powers must be granted to its government. In a society that values individual rights, the proper role of government is to equally protect individual rights, but not to provide equal outcomes. Each individual is then free and responsible to pursue the necessities of life and those things that they believe will lead to happiness. However, when we permit and even demand that the government provide those necessities of life (and those things we desire for happiness), we are removing both freedom and responsibility.

Responsibility is necessary for freedom. A juvenile (meaning a person under legal age for adulthood) does not have as much freedom as an adult because he is generally viewed as not capable of taking on the same responsibilities as an adult. When a government is given the responsibility for providing for its citizens, it must also be given the freedom (or liberty to make decisions) that is necessary to fulfill that responsibility. While a parent that provides all of the necessities of life for a child may demand much from the child, while also setting strict limits on the wants of the child, a government that is providing these necessities for its citizens may also require much, while limiting the choices and wants of those citizens. Again, the power to decide and to act (liberty) is required to fulfill any responsibility.

When parents are in charge of providing food, they are also able to make advanced decisions about how many mouths they will feed (e.g., how many children they will have). This is a historical ability, although the methods of affecting family-size have changed throughout the ages, ranging from abstinence to infanticide (we won’t pretend that all methods have respected the right to life).

When a government is in charge of providing food, it must also be able to make decisions about resources, including limiting the population. While many modern governments encourage a limited population through “awareness campaigns,” other governments have been noted for more extreme measures, including infanticide and involuntary euthanasia (again, we won’t pretend that everyone respects life). As more modern governments (such as China) have demonstrated a continued problem, the disregard for life that accompanies government attempts to provide for all the necessities of life are not new, as demonstrated by the events following this quote, which was given on the passage of an “act to remedy the plight of the people”:

“The national government measures up in no other way than by protecting the German people, and particularly its millions of working people, from unnamed suffering.” (Adolf Hitler, Speech given on 3/23/1933)

While different governments make different decisions, all of the atrocities of Nazi Germany were excused under this same premise: saving the people from suffering. This is not the proper role of government. It is not a just power of government. It does not allow for an end result that government can achieve without violating all three natural rights (life, liberty, and property).

Those who believe that a government can: provide for the necessities of life, leave decision-making to individuals, and keep such programs indefinitely viable, have apparently missed the international discussions about scarcity. Although I do not believe that the earth has a defined and nearing limit to the number of people it can sustain, it is important for others to be aware that governments not only believe this, but they are planning and acting accordingly. Few, if any, are recommending that we just wait until we reach a limit before doing something. All actions will be taken before anyone would be able to starve because the earth has “reached its limit.”

Whether food, healthcare, or anything else, the result of giving up our responsibilities to the government has been rationing, scarcity, and decreased liberty.

How can the government limit what and how much we eat or drink? Because it is responsible for healthcare. It is responsible for providing the food. It is responsible for the potential negative effects of our personal daily decisions. We would become a drain on society if we were to use scarce government-provided resources due to the consequences of our personal unwise choices.

At the collective level of decision-making, we cannot rely on family relationships and feelings to preserve our lives. We cannot expect the broader society to consider our lives worth prolonging simply because they want our company a little longer. While it is not uncommon for aging parents to fear becoming a burden to their adult children, there are more people to burden in a collective system. A decision to maintain and preserve life becomes a matter of doing the most good, rather than concern for the individual.

“Has it been found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and the inference is founded upon obvious reasons. Regard to reputation has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one. A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses, for which they would blush in a private capacity.” (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers #15)

As the regard for personal reputation is weakened in collective action, so is the regard for individual rights and human life. When the government is responsible for providing the necessities of life, we must abdicate what we have no right to give–our right to life. This abdication of our right to life creates a growing disregard for human life. Life becomes a matter of resources and resources are a matter of economics. Eventually, life becomes about national or international economics–in other words, we put a pricetag on life.

One example is health care laws. One might think it is the responsibility of a government to provide for life-saving treatment for those who cannot afford to pay for it. From the instant this happens, the government now provides that right and it is no longer inherent in the individual. As soon as the government is expected to provide for these rights, the cost of providing these rights (and not solely the protection of these rights) rests with all of the people in a society. When everyone is paying for the healthcare of an individual, that individual receives new responsibilities as well. Those responsibilities include taking steps to ensure proper health practices that reduce the burden of cost on others in the society.

When individuals, apparently wired to think of themselves as autonomous creatures, determine to make choices that negatively impact their health and increase the need for healthcare, the government must step in to prevent the costs of healthcare from getting so exorbitant that healthier people would suffer or die due to the unconcerned. This means the government has a right to determine what care a person should receive, how and where a person should live, what a person should eat, and all other factors that impact a person’s health. This also means that the government can withdraw the right it gave for life (or other rights) in order to provide for a greater number of people. This is where government decides to let some suffer and die, rather than receive treatment, to kill some (those considered a burden to society), and to monitor and regulate the creation of life. The right to life is no longer vested in the individual, but in the government.

Some might argue that unhealthy people are a burden on free market insurance programs, and so they are. However, when a person joins an insurance program this is part of the risk that is assumed: that some people will be healthier than others. In fact, the insurance companies are counting on it in order to stay afloat financially, let alone to make a profit. As long as the right to join an insurance company still remains with the individual, as well as the right for the insurance company to reject unhealthy people who would collapse the system, the right to life remains with the individual.

The conclusion is obvious. If we wish to protect an individual right to life, we must reject a collective approach that would attempt to provide the outcomes we desire, especially with regard to the necessities of life. There is no fundamental damage to our individual rights when citizens, who are secure in their rights, provide the often necessary mercy to others. However, the effect on our rights is fatal when we attempt to force each other to have mercy through government-mandated programs. In the latter, we are forcibly ejected from our ability to make decisions regarding our own lives, with that power, of necessity, deferring to the government tasked with the responsibility of preserving life for everyone.

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The Fallacy of Gun Control

I think most of us miss the boat, when it comes to gun control. People have some blinders on when talking about the subject on either side that does not help a factual argument. Although I concede that most of the people seem to be basing their opinions on emotion, including many who claim to be “looking at the facts.” Part of the problem is that few people really understand the purpose of “arms” in protecting our lives, liberties, and properties.

To start, let me say that reducing the firearms in a society would generally reduce the access that criminals have to firearms. Many who use firearms for crimes obtain their firearms legally or steal them from others who have obtained them legally. A complete ban on firearms would result in fewer of them available to criminals and would increase the cost and difficulty for obtaining them. Having said that, criminals will still obtain firearms. Bans are 100% successful in reducing guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens (because the definition of that excludes them if they obtain guns unlawfully). Registering and destroying guns is also 100% effective for the law-abiding. However effective these bans are against criminals, we must understand they are not, and never will be, 100% effective. Criminals will always have guns, no matter what. Especially in a country like the United States, where there have already been a large number of guns in the public and where the borders are surprisingly open.

Some claim that guns represent only a small part of murders and is not the most used weapon. This is not true. In 2011 (and similar in previous years), murders using firearms accounted for 67.7% of the total murders in the US.

However, it is a fallacy that more guns increase the murder rate in the United States. According the FBI’s crime statistics (fbi.gov), the United States has experienced a gradual decrease in the murder rate overall, and including murders using firearms, between 2007 (14,916, or 10,129 with firearms) and 2011 (12,664, or 8,583 with firearms) that totals 15% (FBI Data Link). This occurred after the federal assault weapons ban expired and firearms with higher capacity magazines were more widely available. Although this does not necessarily mean that there are more guns in the United States, it does mean that citizens have had greater legal access to the kinds of firearms they are again attempting to ban.

According to the Washington Post, from all “mass shootings” in the United States in 2012 (arguably the worst year for such shootings), there have been 82 deaths. If the overall murder rate remains the same (unlike the yearly decrease it has been showing), This accounts for 0.65% (82/12,664) of the murders in the United States. Handguns were the weapon used in over half of these mass shooting deaths, not assault rifles. Handguns were also the most widely used weapon in all other murders.

In 2011, there were also 260 justifiable homicides reported to the FBI, of which 201 involved a firearm. Not included in this, or in many statistics, is how many crimes were stopped or prevented with a firearm, which did not result in the death of the criminal.

One of the biggest problems with the statistics used for most of the gun control debates is that it is almost all correlational. It can seem very impressive to see statistics for countries to have lower murder or even violent crime rates with or without certain gun laws. However, it is fairly easy to produce discrepancies to these conditions and any of the correlational statistics may not take into account other more signifant factors that contribute to murder and violence.

England (not the whole UK where rates differ) is often cited as the epitomy of reduced violence through removing guns. This may seem impressive when compared to the United States, but what about the often cited Switzerland, which has guns in nearly every home with lower or comparable murder rates to England? Excuses for this abound, but then there are the cases of others countries such as Austria, where gun laws are strict compared to America, but not as strict as England, yet they have lower murder rates? If English-style gun control is the answer, then we should see a progression from loose gun laws (higher murder rates) to strict gun laws (lower murder rates).

Correlations die in the details. Australia has been cited as a success and a failure in gun control by the respective sides of the debate. Both point to the changing crime statistics since their gun ban and “voluntary” confiscation. An impartial look at the data shows crime rates that are unstable. They have gone up and down during the period since their gun control measures, but the evidence is too weak to even draw a serious correlation in either direction.

The debate continues to focus on these statistics, which do have some importance, but ignore a weightier matter: Freedom.

The arguments for gun control have suggested that we do not need guns to protect us:

1) From other people in our own society, because we have law enforcement.

2) From aggression from other countries, because we have the military.

Some people think that we only have a right to certain weapons for self-defense and hunting, and any other weapons that are impractical for these purposes should not be allowed, or strictly regulated. There are many problems with this assumption, including the fact that we cannot un-invent guns. People still have them and the technology. People can make them in their garage. In addition, those countries that deny citizens the right to defend themselves by owning and carrying a firearm (to own and bear) do not compensate with the right to bear other types of arms that were previously used, such as swords and daggers.

When a citizen has a right to firearms, he has a right to the same type of weapon that may be used against him. When this is denied, criminals may have all types of weapons, but the law-abiding citizen is left defenseless. About 42% of robberies in the United States are committed with a firearm, while about 16% use another type of weapon. The remaining 42% use brute force. If more of the victims had access to a weapon of defense of some kind, they would at least have a chance of being evenly matched to the robber.

What we are saying in our societies is that law enforcement officers have a greater right to life than any of the other citizens. Law enforcement officers are often granted greater protection both while on-duty and while off-duty, due to the ability to carry a firearm in many locations. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are not able to be everywhere that the rest of us are. It is virtually impossible for them to be at a location in time to prevent or stop crime and murder. The result is that the general citizens are left completely vulnerable to crime and murder.

Many people claim that banning certain weapons will not have an affect on the ability of citizens to defend themselves or to hunt. However, allowing a government the power (from the people) to restrict guns does not need to stop with a certain class of guns. When gun ownership becomes a privilege (like driving a car), it is up to the government to decide what guns we can have and when and where we can have them. Limiting a particular class of guns because “people don’t need them” means that people do not have a right to them. The question then becomes how we define what types of guns are “needed” to fulfill our “right”. This can, and has historically, only led to further regulations against private gun ownership.

For the naive, who believe the government will stop at banning certain types, or features, of guns should consider what their “rights” mean if not bearing the same types of arms that criminals bear. Unless, of course, you are arguing for collective rights instead of individual rights. When a crime rate goes down, it matters to everyone except the victims–those who were left unprotected and with no reasonable means for protection. But don’t worry, about 28% of robberies are solved in the US.

As for the argument that the military will keep us safe, we might consider how we would fair against an invasion of the mainland United States. Right now, we would probably do pretty well. After guns have been banned and people have become unfamiliar with gun safety and marksmanship, our chances quickly decline. Combine that with the destruction of all of our “excess” firearms and we may not have enough weapons to arm the people that would need to be drafted. We would quickly find out how inadequate our down-sized and “modernized” military would be.

Even if the law enforcement and military could provide us with perfect protection from crime and invasion, at the cost of banning all firearms, it would not allow for the most important reason for gun rights: Freedom. Defense against tyranny from OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.

Those favoring gun control quickly and often successfully defer this point to the realm of conspiracy. Most of those who consider themselves “reasonable,” even in favor of gun rights, do not think that our government would ever get to the point of tyranny. If you do not believe that, look at history. You do not need to go very far to find that most governments in history have devolved to tyranny.

So, let’s compare some correlations now. Look at all of the European countries you would like, with their grand gun control laws. How many of them have escaped tyranny, including military domination by a tyrant?

England? Do we count King George? Obviously we saw a need to free ourselves from his arbitrary rule. Apparently, the English were less concerned. What about World War II? How did England fair against the Nazis? Does anyone doubt they would have been conquered without the US entering the war? I know this is a sore spot for some, who think we should have entered earlier, but the fact remains that their best efforts did not prevent outside invasion.

Germany? Look up World War I and World War II online or at your local library. Honestly, if you aren’t familiar with Hitler and the Nazis, there’s probably a lot you need to read before this.

France? Start with the Jacobins and go from there. Napoleon. The government bowing down to Nazi Germany. Nobody has been worried about France for almost a hundred years.

Austria? Think of either the Austro-Hungarian Empire or their annexation to Nazi Germany.

Italy? Should we go beyond Mussolini?

The fact is that Switzerland, with its wide proliferation of firearms through its militia, is the only really viable candidate for preventing crime and protecting against outside tyranny.

Now, tell me, how many lives have been lost under the tyrants during that same period of time?

How will we have power to stop our own government from becoming tyrannical or from bowing down to tyrants when we do not have the means to defend it?

This is the most important reason for our right to bear arms. Others who consider themselves “free” rely on our power to keep them in the enjoyment of those liberties. If we give up our rights, everyone suffers.

The US is based on a system of checks and balances. Most of these keep the government going internally. The power of the people to resist government provides the final check. The balance of power that means the people can resist the military might of its own government, if they are united. That requires more than hunting rifles and sporting shotguns.

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Consent of the Governed

Our society seems to have all but lost its ability to maintain freedom much longer.

The questions we ask and the ways we attempt to resolve problems in society are signs of this loss in ability. We have learned to look to government for solutions to all of the concerns we have in society. If we do not like something that other people do, we look to the government to change it, often by changing the laws.

The questions we ask ourselves tend to be: How can they do that? Or: Why would anyone need that?

Legislators at all levels seem to ask: What can we do about it? And: What will the public tolerate?

These legislators receive their JUST powers from the consent of the governed. Unjust powers cannot be given by anyone, because no one has authority to do something that is unjust. Unjust actions always violate our natural rights. When the governed do not understand their rights, or the limits of government, they allow the government to become unjust. Some of the governed even encourage the government to become unjust, perhaps due to a perverted sense of justice. Like feeding a monster, they expect that the monster will only destroy their enemies and will never turn on them. Maybe they are ignorant of history, or think that they are different for some reason. Whatever the case, people regularly give away their freedoms to tie the hands of their neighbors, usually without understanding the impact it will have on their own lives.

The question is about the role of government. We blame politicians and special interests for the problems we have in society, but we expect them to pass laws to correct those problems. On the other hand, they cannot pass laws without our consent. In other words, we must give up part of the power and authority we have by nature in order to allow them to act on our behalf to create, change, and enforce those laws.

The solution that we see is almost never to take more responsibility for ourselves or to make changes in our personal lives. We almost never consider the unintended loss of rights that we experience when we grant our consent to additional laws. Instead, we are so enamored with our own ideas or the relatively easy solutions offered by appeal to the government, that we give little or no thought to the effects of increasing the power of that government.

What is the role of government?

Some people have claimed that the role of government is to keep us “safe”.

Safety relates to the first of our God-given rights: Life. This is an important right, but it is not THE most important. It is only the most final.

The most important right is to use our liberty according to the dictates of our own conscience. For many of us, that means learning to better follow the direction of our God and prepare for eternity.

Life is important because the longer we live, the more opportunity we have to use our liberty. But liberty is the most important. It is for this reason that life has always been sacrificed in favor of the liberty of the next generation. “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Property is important because it allows us to maintain life, as well as the independence to act according to our conscience…or liberty. The importance of both life and property as rights are the extent to which they allow for liberty. From this view, the question is not: Why does anyone need that? Instead, the question is: Is it the role of government to limit that?

Any number of tyrannical governments can keep you “safe.” But the proper role of government is to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property.

Legislation and the courts have their place, but when we, as individuals, look to government to resolve our concerns, rather than personally addressing those concerns individually, as a family, and as a community, we are giving our consent to the increased size and scope of government.

Freedom can only be maintained by a moral people, because we cannot trust the moral relativity of a majority of people. We would always feel the need to protect ourselves through legislation and increased regulation, rather than trusting people to exercise self control, which increases the power of government and will, sooner or later, enslave a people.

 

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The Modern Militia: Securing a Free State

Several generations are now largely unfamiliar with the nature of the responsibilities once held by most Americans in the defense of our states, the United States, and their laws. We catch glimpses of unfamiliar settings and practices from movies taking place during the American Revolution or the 1800s. Talk about allowing, encouraging, or requiring citizens to be armed elicits derogatory comments about a return to the “Old West”. Suggesting a lawlessness that was settled at the barrel of a gun.

However, the reality that existed in the U.S., until the early 1900s, is that our national defense followed the pattern used by Switzerland for hundreds of years: the Militia. The first part of the Militia Act was signed into law by George Washington. This system continued (with occasional modifications) until the early 1900s, when it was replaced with the National Guard and Selective Service systems. This step increased the power of the federal government and weakened the responsibilities of the average citizen.

Essentially, most 18-45 year-old men were required to register and drill with their local militia. Communities were required to organize the men in their area as part of their state’s militia. Originally, each man was required to purchase his own firearm, which was protected by law, even if he owed taxes or other debts. Imagine that! You could take almost anything from a debtor–except his gun. There was other equipment each man was required to maintain as well. They were under obligation to train and conduct drills with their units.

So what were the obligations of the men in these militias? The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8) provides powers to Congress for raising revenue for the purpose, in part:

“To provide for the calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; …”

This describes some of the duties and obligations of the Militia. I addressed these in part in my blog on the right to bear arms. I will provide another angle to that argument in attempting to expand our understanding of the usefulness of the Militia.

1) To Execute the Laws of the Union:

In movies about the Old West, we often find the local Sheriff or Marshall calling together a posse. We may think about the Posse Comitatus laws as being the justification for calling together a posse, which is partly true. However, it was also a responsibility of the Militia to execute federal law when “called forth.” A Federal Marshall, having the authority to execute the laws of the Union, calls upon members of the Militia to fulfill their duties in assisting him in the execution of those laws. In those days, “calling for back-up” meant calling upon members of the Militia to form a posse.

2) To Suppress Insurrections:

The next time the Militia was expected to be called into action was in the event of rebellion. This is a more widespread refusal to follow the laws of the Union, with examples in our history such as the Whiskey Rebellion (a rejection of taxes imposed on whiskey) and the Civil War, in which militias from the North were called into action to help suppress the rebellion of the southern states and their militias.

3) To Repel Invasions:

In border states of the western frontier (however East that may have been at the time), Militias were often called up to defend communities and the nation from attack. A rather small U.S. Army originally relied on the residents in borders areas to protect against invasion and attack.

The opponents of the Militia Act, of over a century ago, argued that it was inefficient and outdated, among other arguments. I will provide a few reasons why it is still relevant today (confessing that I believe it was a mistake to leave it). Here are some of my views about the need for, and benefits of, an updated Militia Act.

First, we must be responsible for our own freedom:

We have become too specialized in the United States. Specialization in many areas of our lives has made us more dependent than independent. Not only are we unaware of the many people and processes that provide us with the necessities of life, it seems that many people could not survive if those links were interrupted. However, the most troubling area of specialization is that of defending freedom. We have professional military and professional law enforcement. The voluntary service and bravery of these men and women should be treasured. They demonstrate a commitment to preserving our lives and our freedoms in our nation and communities. But what about those who are able, but do not serve? Do we contribute to our own freedom by paying taxes? Is that the price of freedom?

Specialization should never have reached a point where we consider ourselves so safe because of our citizenship that we do not take an active part in preserving our freedoms. I am not talking here about participating in every military action the latest administration decides we need, as our active-duty military is expected to do. I am talking about training, being prepared, and taking an active role in our own communities to support the laws. Too many in this country are far too willing to enjoy freedom without a willingness to place our lives on the line for it.

We were endowed by our Creator with a right to Liberty. It is a precious gift, more valuable than life or fortune. It is so precious that the selfish become jealous and will want to take it from you. Protecting this gift is a sacred honor, because it allows us to worship Him according to our own conscience. We are weak to protect it individually, but, if we are united, we can preserve it as the best inheritance we can give to our children. If we do not make individual effort to protect this gift, we will lose it. If we leave its protection to others, instead of standing united in its active defense, those who seek to take it from us will chip away until there is nothing left to protect. We are nearly at that point when, looking at the remains of the gift, people begin to give up and question the value of the gift. They pay extortionists to protect it from thieves and robbers–constantly granting a bigger piece of the gift for the ever-increasing demands of protection. If we expect others to treat our gift with respect, we must respect and preserve it.

Using the previous three responsibilities of the Militia, I will illustrate the benefits we could have now:

1) Law Enforcement:

Imagine almost every adult male in the United States being trained in the use of firearms, understanding Constitutional rights (including search and seizure), and owning at least one firearm (a rifle) by law. Now think about a crime being committed in a neighborhood, or an apartment complex. What would the response time be for law enforcement?

Essentially, every adult male, between the ages of 18-45, could be trained at the level of a reserve law enforcement officer. Instead of a neighborhood watch calling the police when a crime is committed, they could call full-time police and also legally respond to the crime in progress with a number of other trained neighbors. The neighborhood tactical team takes the person into custody and secures the scene until the full-time police arrive.

With the equipment being provided over time by each Militia member, the costs of law enforcement would go down, including the number of full-time officers needed, while the safety of communities would increase.

2) Disaster Response and Constitutional Defense:

The specialties of Militia members from two hundred years ago would certainly be updated. This can include radio operators, medical, fire protection, and other important functions. Now imagine the number of people trained to support a disaster in any community throughout the United States. In addition to their daily work, almost all adult males would learn skills that would be vital to the safety of their neighbors during a crisis. The original provision for “able-bodied” men could extend to those with disabilities, but who are able to provide less physical skills in support.

The type of insurrection that most people in the United States seem to ignore, or flatly dismiss, is the possibility of despotism and tyranny from our own government. An attempt by the government to overthrow the Constitution and establish a government in violation of our natural rights. In addition, ideological differences between large segments of the population may one day return us to a state of civil war. Militias would provide us with the power and authority at the state level to effectively counter attempts by the national government to overthrow our freedoms. At the same time, these state militias would be checked against insurrection by the joint forces of all other states and the national military. The nature of people has not changed. As such, the dangers of tyrannical government have not changed. Our Constitution has slowed the progress towards tyranny, but we are not immune in the U.S.

3) National Defense:

Already, the number of firearms in homes throughout the United States stands as a deterrent to potential foreign aggressors. Our military is second to none in its technology, training, and courage. However, this does not make us invincible. The world has a strange relationship with the United States. Even our long-time allies do not always sound like allies. Our foreign and defense policies have attempted to take the fighting to our enemies and even our potential enemies, as we encourage, train, and support surrogates. We have an intimidating presence in the world. At the same time, we have spread our forces thin and drastically increased our debt. Militias would be able to ensure protection at home, wherever our active-duty or reserve military may be called to fight, and at very little cost during peacetimes.

The Militia is a responsibility of citizenship. It is also a largely volunteer service in which militia members provide most of their own equipment. They would not be paid for the regularly scheduled exercises, but they would be paid if they were called up for an emergency or for national defense. The buildup of equipment could be gradual over time, with some issued equipment for those who are unable to purchase their own. Requirements of equipment would also be kept to a minimum, but should at least include: a fully-automatic assault rifle (AR-15/M4 style, .223/5.56), extra magazines (compatible with other M4-style rifles), ammunition, body armor, and a radio. These things are not very cheap right now, but the drastic increase in demand (over a several-year transition period) will quickly drop those prices. The drill schedules would not need to be as frequent as Reservists or National Guard, but may average one day a month, or every two months. All Militia members would begin with an Basic Training that would include firearms training and laws, but could continue training on-the-job during their exercise periods in whatever skill they may choose, which is needed in their area. All would benefit from early training in rights, laws, and procedures for law enforcement in their respective states and communities, in order to provide effective support for the enforcement of laws in their area.

The main thing missing from this plan: Public Support. Despite the increased safety, decreased costs, and benefit to liberty in the United States, we have been taught to fear this system because of a distrust for others. We may be happy to trust ourselves, but afraid to trust our neighbors. It will raise fears of abusing authority and of widespread death and destruction. In addition, too many Americans do not want to bear the responsibility for their own safety and freedom, let alone the safety and freedom of others.

Why do I think this could work (assuming the public ever got on board)? We can trust each other. Even in the last 12 years, we have shown time and again that we are ready to defend the lives and liberties of our fellow Americans. From the heroes of 9/11–and particularly the civilians, such as on Flight 93–, who knowingly sacrificed their own lives to save others, to the large numbers who volunteered for military service to defend us against terrorism, to the teachers and principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who sacrificed their lives to save children and attempt to stop the shooter. All of them showed courage in defending life and liberty. All of them lived up to their sacred honor. I am convinced there are many more who are ready to do exactly the same, if it is needed. We can trust each other with these responsibilities. It does not mean we will automatically solve our problems with violence, as the fear seems to be. It means we will be equipped to stand up against aggressors when that time arrives.

The Militia Act of 1792, passed May 8, 1792, Article I:

“I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.”

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Gun Control versus Self Defense

Considering the ongoing tragedies involving attacks on innocent people, and especially children, I decided to offer another perspective to the debate. Having discussed the principles behind the right to bear arms in my previous post, I’d like to offer some thoughts about the practicality of the situation that we face in the United States.

First, nothing except the grace of God can EVER provide absolute security. Neither widespread guns, nor destroying all guns on the face of the earth, nor allowing guns to only law enforcement/military will stop the violence against innocent people. There is no way to monitor the mental health and intentions of everyone in the world to prevent them from such acts. What we can talk about is deterrents, but never real solutions.

One reason for this is variability. We can GREATLY reduce such acts through our actions in our own homes (in raising our children) and through dedicated daily service to others (see my post on Restoring Liberty: (http://wp.me/p1qldX-14)). Although I believe this will have an incredibly significant impact, if many people were to act on it, I also recognize that the growing trend in the world is to reject God and to reject absolute truth, including an objective morality. In other words, we are teaching our children moral relativity, which means there is no right or wrong. We teach them to reject their internal compass, their conscience, by demonizing the feeling of guilt and teaching rejection of that feeling and the use of self-medication, instead of teaching the need to correct actions in order to overcome feelings of guilt.

Relying on parents throughout the world to teach morality is our greatest hope, but this will not result in consistent behavior, because that is largely what we have now. In addition, we cannot suggest that governments should be charged with raising children, because they have proved to be the greatest incubators of anti-social behavior.

Second, there are deterrents in a free society and deterrents in other societies. Free societies are those which provide the individual right to bear arms as a defense against tyranny, foreign invasion, and immediate personal threats. This was addressed in my previous blog about The Right to Bear Arms (http://wp.me/p1qldX-1q).

In societies that lack this freedom, citizens are constantly exposed to threats against their persons and the threat of tyranny from the government. They are the weakest in their ability to protect themselves from foreign invasion. Such societies also assume the enormous task of constantly guaranteeing the safety of all of their citizens at all times. This has never been possible, but our societies have greatly neglected their responsibilities in this regard. Every person who is killed by another person, who did not have adequate means for their defense at their legal and unfettered disposal, is a BREACH OF THE CONTRACT OF GOVERNMENT.

If a city or state creates a rule that does not legally permit others to carry with them the means for their personal defense, that city or state assumes the responsibility for their lives and MUST provide defense against the loss of life. If any are killed under such circumstances, who did not have the legal means with them for their own protection, that is evidence that the city or state DID NOT PROVIDE DEFENSE against that threat. For where law enforcement was not present, or even died in the effort to protect, the individual, or a group of armed individuals, may have had greater success in preventing their own murders.

The burden of a government, or other body, for protection is even greater, when people have a legal obligation or duty to be at a specific location, or when a person’s presence is necessary to maintain their own welfare. When attendance is required or necessary, but does not allow individuals means for protection (such as a firearm), those preventing the means of personal protection have assumed a greater responsibility for the protection of life. In this case, the person is not able to decide not to attend, such as at a private residence, a private business, or even at a public park. Instead, the person is not reasonably able to maintain safety by remaining in a location where he is able to protect himself from threats.

If it is possible for the burden to become greater than ensuring there is no loss of life without the individual means for protection, this responsibility is the greatest when those without the ability to protect themselves even WITH a weapon, such as children, are required to be at a specific location.

This is where we are in the United States. Those very locations where we are REQUIRED BY LAW to go and to SEND OUR CHILDREN are the very locations where we are BARRED from the MEANS OF SELF-DEFENSE and the defense of our children. These are also the locations where our children are the most vulnerable, for they tend to be the least secure of all of our institutions.

Our governments have proven their inability to protect people against murder even in areas that have the greatest protection available, such as courtrooms and military installations. Locations which have strict policies on firearms and measures to ensure people are not armed.

While I will fight the legal battles for a restoration of our right to bear arms in the United States, it seems that we will be facing increased encroachment on these rights and, with that, a decreased ability to protect ourselves and our families.

What I advise, is that victims of violence and their families–where there were barriers to the right to obtain, carry, or use firearms, including the costs and necessity of obtaining a permit, harassment about having a firearm, restrictive public locations that would necessitate leaving a firearm in a car, or violence occuring at schools (preventing the individual or staff from securing the means of protection)–should file lawsuits against all those who impacted those abilities to carry the means for their own protection.

The government has a responsibility for public safety, but where it is unable to fulfill that responsibility, it violates our natural right to life to prevent us from lawfully protecting ourselves, our families, and our communities.

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