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57


L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 57, October 15, 1999
Remember Sobibor!

Preemptive Punishment

by Jonathan Taylor
fenris@sprynet.com

Exclusive to TLE

           I’ve always had a small problem with the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It used to piss me off, even way before I embroiled myself in the morass (read as more ass) that is Washington politics, when I couldn’t do things in grade school because I someone might get into trouble if - to pick an early example - gum was allowed in school. I didn’t stick gum on the teacher’s seat, why was I being punished for it? To me, being denied the right to consume what I wanted to was punishment, no matter how rational it seemed to the administration.
           Only now have I come to realize just how pervasive this attitude is, and how destructive it is. Just because a phrase is cliched and old, doesn’t make it correct or logical. An ounce of prevention is worth precisely nothing - if anything, it does more harm than good. First of all, if you get the teacher thinking she’s (see postscript) safe, then she never looks when she sits down, and invariably someone leaves a big old wad of gum on the chair. Second of all, you alienate young troublemakers like myself. Finally, to quote Frank Herbert (et al, I’m sure) “Once you give orders on a subject, you must always give orders on it”. That’s not even mentioning the fact that this irrational belief in the human ability to take control of the future is the gateway drug of tyrants everywhere. (And also leaving out the fact that you are denying the teacher her right to fling Bubbilicous back at her antagonist, which I felt would be stretching the analogy to the point where it would pop all over my face.)
           The fact is, you can do all the preventing you want, and it accomplishes precisely nothing - in any light you care to examine the problem. You ban chewing gum from school, and - laugh all you want at this idea, but laugh because its funny, not because its untrue - you get a black market in playground chewing gum, which might or might not have been sitting in some sweaty kid’s pocket for 8 hours, all so some fidgety kid who has already chewed off all his fingernails can satisfy his neurotic impulses, and then, the kids who would prank the teacher do so anyway - oddly enough, they never seemed to consider the fact that they would get in more trouble because they used chewing gum in a gum-free school zone. And they’re usually the ones who are dealing this sweat-soaked half melted product, making an 8-year old’s version of a killer profit margin on the whole deal.
           Anyone get where I’m going with this?
           Banning guns doesn’t stop crime, banning drugs doesn’t stop drug use, banning books doesn’t stop divergent thinking, and banning gum doesn’t stop school-room pranks. I know this is a novel idea, since the whole world is apparently sold on this whole “Ounce of prevention” thing, but maybe we should punish behavior, instead of just applying blanket punishment to the whole world because humanity has impulses that don’t suit our own corrupt and immoral control-freak desires. You don’t give someone painkillers before they get hurt, you don’t put someone through chemo before they get cancer, so which imp pulled this “Ounce of prevention” stuff out of his sack of goodies? Well, rephrase it a little bit - “Stopping bad things before they happen is better than trying to stop them from happening again.” This brings to mind a big brouhaha at my old alma mater, University of Maryland, where a women’s group posted a list, with random names of male students, under the big banner heading “POTENTIAL RAPISTS”. By this logic, preventing bad things (such as rape) from happening, we should just castrate, kill or imprison all men at birth. That would stop rape. But that’s extreme. However, this logic allows all sorts of interesting theories along those lines, such as never letting anyone leave prison alive. After all, they’ve proved that they are willing to commit crimes. You speed, you never drive again.
           These are all still extreme measures, true, but the logic can be carried back as far as you’re willing to take it. And people seem frighteningly willing to take it very, very far these days. After all, what crime were the Branch Davidians convicted of? Good thing we stopped them before they did anything drastic.
           In a world where a pound of cure is rarely worth its weight in bubble gum, we need to abandon this frivolous notion that we can prevent bad things from happening. As a species, we can’t afford the indulgence, and as a society, we can’t afford the consequences.
           (Note - No angry letters regarding gender stereotypes, please, the teacher in my examples is female because of a specific incident I was recollecting, and for no other more insidious reason.)


Report: Colt?s to Stop Taking New Orders for Guns
Aims to Limit Liability in Lawsuits
The Associated Press

NEW YORK, Oct. 11 - The Colt?s Manufacturing Co., inventor of the six-shooter, plans to stop taking orders for most of its retail handguns so it can limit its liability in lawsuits, according to published reports.

TLE notes:
1. The only way Colt's can truly and safely reduce liability is to recall every single handgun it has manufactured.
2. Follow the money.
3. Where's the NRA?


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