Number 3, December 1995

We Are Held In Utmost Contempt

By Jim Davidson

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         In, The Prince, his seminal work on the techniques of dominating a population, Niccolo Machiavelli makes a very telling point. "To be unarmed, among the other harms it brings you, causes you to be despised." His admonishment to princes was simply that you must be armed if you wish to be taken seriously.
         In the centuries since, the choice of going about armed was the intelligent selection of prudent men. The threat of being disarmed was precisely the issue which caused men to gather in Lexington and in Concord to fire "the shot heard round the world."
         Why then, has gun control become an issue which can be raised in dignified forums without arousing hoots of disdainful laughter? Why does anyone take it seriously?
         Since near the dawn of civilization, thieves known variously as revenuers, tax collectors, and "agents" have gone about exacting a toll on society. Initially, men were told that they were slaves to the gods. Their king was clearly powerful, and proclaimed as a deity. Thus, his requirements were to be met with slavish devotion. Later, men were told that they could protect their rights by joining together in a "social contract" which they would never actually sign and with whose specifics they did not need to agree. To protect these righs, governments would be instituted among men. Those who consented to be governed would pay a certain fee or tax, and their representatives would determine how that was to be collected.
         But what of those who did not consent to be governed? What of those like you and I who are upset by the idea of having the fruits of our labor seized by others who justify their behavior by explaining that our refusal will simply lead to our arrest by men with arsenals much larger than our own? Those who consent to be governed are somewhat outraged that others might benefit from police protection, overpriced monopoly utilities, outrageously conceived roads and bridges, and idiotic escapades at public expense without being required to pay our "fair share" for the entertainment value of these spectacles.
         In the guise of appeasing this outraged group, those who control the state seek to make it easier on their "Federal Agents" by encouraging a widespread disarmament. Make no mistake, the debates leading up to the recent "assault weapons" ban had nothing to do with crime. The last time an automatic weapon was used in a bank robbery was in 1934, after all. No crime was to be deterred, only the prevention of crime. Only those willing to prevent the trampling of their right to exercise their own religion or their right to determine the disposition of their own property through the exercise of their right to bear arms, only those people would be affected.
         If anyone in Washington is reading Machiavelli, they must have long since turned to the passage in which he admonishes a ruler who has come to power to disarm his people. Only by retaining control of arms among his own soldiers can the prince hope to maintain his rule. After all, the armed population that brought him in also threw some other rascal or set of rascals out. Why leave that power unchecked?
         But why resist this urge by some to exert greater control? After all, if those who control the state wish to have greater control, perhaps they can bring with it greater order. By disarming the public, perhaps the rampant crime in our cities can be brought under control. Perhaps we need more order in our lives so that we can become more productive.
         These arguments were used to usher in the era of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Austria. The nations that made the trains run on time used those trains to send millions to their deaths. But even without evoking the spectre of those horrifying years, we can conclude that the argument that yielding power improves the level of order in our lives is specious at best.
         Statistics regarding the number of crimes committed with guns are widely publicized. Less well known are the statistics on crimes prevented with guns, often by homeowners willing to defend their property from thieves. While a few tens of thousands of crimes are committed each year with guns, some two million crimes are prevented with these same weapons each year. Hmmmmm. Perhaps we would have less crime and more order with a population more greatly armed.
         Such reasoning clearly went into the recent passage of a concealed carry permit law in Texas. In 1993, before the law was even brought before the legislature, I was arrested for unlawful concealed carry of a handgun during a routine traffic stop. I must say that I found it refreshing when the judge hearing my case said simply, "It's a war zone. Of course you have to defend yourself. I see no way to avoid enforcing the law as written, but I'll see these charges are dismissed if you can complete a year of probation." So I dutifully visited a probation officer monthly for one year, saw the Class A misdemeanor charges dropped, and promptly changed my address and place of employment.
         Meanwhile, the first concealed carry permits have been issued. Houston has been enjoying a marked decrease in crime. Are the increasing numbers of police hired by the current mayor really the reason for this shift in crime rates? Or could it possibly be that more criminals are more concerned that their intended victim might have something in her purse other than money? Naturally, I favor the latter reasoning.
         Not long after my experiences with the Texas legal system, I began to take an interest in the new country movement. As any discussion of that movement, its recent history, or its philosophical and technological underpinnings would easily be the subject of a series of articles, I mention it for only one reason.
         That is to ask this question: What would it take to make the United States of America a satisfactory place in which to live? L. Neil Smith recently suggested that if the Bill of Rights were properly enforced as the highest law of the land, that might be sufficient. While the suggestion seems reasonable, and meets my definition of making America satisfactory, its realization does not seem likely.
         To realize that goal, we would have to see the IRS and ATF eliminated. The FBI's activities would have to be curtailed. The FCC would have to cease regulating broadcast radio and television. The FTC would have to cease regulating advertising. The SEC would have to cease regulating securities. The Homestead Act and the Mining Act would have to be brought back, and lands held in the tragedy of the commons would have to come under private ownership. The Department of the Interior, perhaps beginning with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, would have to be eliminated. NASA would have to be destroyed. The EPA would lose most of its regulatory power, as would the NRC. Indeed, the entire alphabet soup of Washington, DC and most of the related agencies in state government would have to be severely curtailed or eliminated.
         I believe these goals can be met. I wouldn't bother writing this article or reading The Enterprise if I weren't convinced that broad change were possible within the next few decades. How to speed the process up, how to ensure success, those are clearly topics for another article. But if we yield so much as an inch on the subject of arms, we are lost. There is no possibility for an unarmed population to overthrow leaders determined to rule them.

Jim Davidson has always been a liberty minded individualist, but got very serious about it after the state shut down his space tourism company, Space Travel Services, in 1991. Jim has a bachelor's in history from Columbia (1985), an MBA in marketing from Rice (1987), has worked in aerospace, software, banking, real estate, and is currently Chief Operating Officer of a $3 million revenues medical company. Among his other interests, Jim has been president of the Houston Space Society and scubas whenever he can.

Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 3, December, 1995.