L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 80, July 10, 2000
Crimes and GuiltIndependence?
Letters to the Editor
Send Letters to TLE@johntaylor.org
Mr. Taylor and Mr. Suprynowicz,
[...] Bill Moyers spoke at my commencement last month (my punishment for going to a state school :-) ), and we have had one letter exchange concerning his call for more government force. This is my response to his reply to me. I guess I was looking for feedback from someone who does not make a living off PBS. It is just over 3 pages of 10 point Times Roman; I'll understand if that requires more time than you have available.
For the record, I'm a 34 year old getting a grad degree. Moyer's response made references to "when I grow up" and I wanted to be clear.
PS. Keep up the good work.
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This letter is in response to your letter to me on May 31; if I do not respond to every argument you made, it is simply to keep this letter reasonably short. I realize you are busy. I'm not sure how my ending paragraphs (quoted in part below) were unclear, although my grammar clearly suffered. It might have been clearer had I written "allow the IRS to threaten to take someone's house" or "threaten to throw a father in jail." All taxes are taken with the threat of jail time and/or confiscation of property. The fact is that someone in jail for tax evasion is obviously less fortunate than either of us. Do we therefore have an obligation to release him from that tax obligation in order to help him? It is only money, after all.
If we are required to be compassionate [toward] those less fortunate, then we are required to avoid making people less fortunate. How much sense does it make to allow the IRS to [threaten to] take someone's house in order to collect [the] taxes used to help the homeless? How much sense does it make to allow the government to [threaten to] throw a father in prison in order to collect [the] taxes used to help children without a father around? How much sense does it make to use the most feared government agency, the IRS, to collect taxes in order to make people feel safer? If we have a responsibility [toward] others, then we have a responsibility not to use the threat [of] physical violence against others [in order] to collect the taxes required for 'compassionate' government.
We are both equally "doctrinaire;" I opposed government intervention everywhere you have supported it. If I was not consistent enough to be called doctrinaire, you could just accuse me of contradicting myself. I am no extremist compared to, say, a pacifist. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a pacifist who opposes the use of government force against its own civilians (to collect taxes, for instance) as strongly as he opposes the use of government force against foreign troops and civilians. I also did not mean to complain that you were invited to talk and I was not; I was pointing out that some people have more ability to participate in the public dialog and influence others outside of giving money to political campaigns.
Also, in your analogy of political corruption to drunkenness, LBJ was not a drunken grandfather, his administration was Seagram's. The big money corrupting our political system is not campaign contributions, it is the $1.6 trillion the government spends every year to buy votes. If we sell our votes to the politicians who give us the most tax money in the form of government benefits (food stamps, Social Security, corporate welfare, etc.), we should not be surprised if those politicians then turn around and sell their votes after being elected.
I do see one difference between secret political giving ("slush fund" is just rhetoric) and the secret ballot. The giving is not the basis on which the government claims legitimacy, the voting is. As it stands, democracy and the secret ballot are simply ways in which the people who supposedly hold ultimate power (the voters) can avoid being legally accountable for how they use that power. We bombed Serbian civilians to get their government out of Kosovo, and our embargo on Iraq has doubled their infant mortality rate, but anyone who holds American voters directly accountable for "their" government is a terrorist. I do not care to whom my politicians are "indebted," I want to know how they voted. How they voted is public information. If I disagree with how my congressman votes, I will oppose his reelection regardless of whether he voted out of conviction or for a contribution, or simply to pander to the voters. I want politicians (including the Clinton administration) to obey the laws already on the books and not mask their criminal actions with calls for new laws to break.
My claim that both parties involved in a bribe are corrupt was in response to your claim that politicians are basically "good people." Good people do not take bribes. You cannot accuse Roger Tamaraz of giving a bribe without accusing the Clinton administration of taking one. Clinton's name was kept out of that part of your speech in the same way that the tens of millions killed under Communism were kept out of your list of the crimes of the 20th Century.
During the Clinton impeachment trial, his defenders claimed that
nobody could survive the legal scrutiny he faced without being found
to have broken some law. All that proves is that our laws make
criminals out of everyone, but the Democrats had no desire to fix the
problem for everyone. They simply wanted to be exempt. It is a case of
one rule for people in government and another for everyone else. I
also heard over and over that he should not be removed from office
because "everybody does it" so it was unfair to single him out for
punishment. Put it all together, and basically I'm expected to
One problem is that the third one contradicts the first two. Another problem with the third one is that it is based on circular logic; it is never all politicians who are good people. The "good" ones are considered good because they advocate the government power that is justified by the fact that they are "good" people. Do you think that good people oppose government aid to the poor?
In addition, your claim that the rich are buying democracy is false. According to Thomas Sowell, in 1997, the top 50% of wage earners paid 95.7% of all federal income taxes. The top 20% paid 77%, the top 10% paid 63%, and the top 1% paid 27%. One would think that those percentages of taxes paid would be lower if the rich really owned the government. You might claim that these tax rates are justified due to the amount of wealth the rich control, but that is irrelevant to the question of whether they have bought our democracy. Justified or not, these percentages would not be so high if the government had been bought and controlled by the rich.
You judge private activity, including research and development, by its dangers (real or imagined) and government by its benefits (mostly imagined). You assume the worst for science and the best for government (which is as impossible to disprove as you claim my ideology is). The article by Bill Joy you quote approvingly states:
The 21st-century technologies - genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) - are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them.
I consider government a greater threat than genetics, nanotechnology, or robotics simply because various governments have killed well over one hundred million people in the 20th Century alone and robotics has not. Nobody is forced to pay for genetically engineered foods they way they are forced to pay for government. As far as the danger of people becoming dependent on technology is concerned, I'm more worried about people's current dependence on government. How can people control a government when the government controls people through dependency? Why is it dangerous to create technology on which people might depend, but compassionate to create a government on which people might depend? It is a case of one rule for people in government and another for everyone else. Joy's article also states:
With their widespread commercial pursuit, enforcing relinquishment will require a verification regime similar to that for biological weapons, but on an unprecedented scale. This, inevitably, will raise tensions between our individual privacy and desire for proprietary information, and the need for verification to protect us all. We will undoubtedly encounter strong resistance to this loss of privacy and freedom of action.
As far as your analogy between this and traffic regulation is concerned, the government owns the roads; your analogy breaks down in that the government does not own everything. A ten-year-old can drive on private property and nobody cares about traffic lights in his own living room. You also completely ignored the massive increase in government coercion required to enforce restrictions on research and development as compared to that involved in giving traffic tickets for running a red light in public.
You justified yourself by giving the example of "democratic" control of nuclear weapons. However nuclear weapons were not all under "democratic" control. American, British, and French may have been, but Russian and Chinese ones were not. If you wish dangerous technology to be controlled, how about saying something about how President Clinton has turned a blind eye toward having our nuclear technology stolen by China, and his blind eye toward China's role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, even if that means criticizing a Democrat by name?
I put "democratic" in quotes here and in my previous letter because I do not concede any sanctifying power to an election. Churchill was right when he called democracy the worst possible system, except for all the others. I prefer Clinton to Mao or Stalin, but that is damning with faint praise and no reason to bow down before "democracy." There is a saying: "democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has pointed out that the vote counting procedure can decide the results of an election. The United States has had a divided government for 26 of the past 32 years. Under an equally democratic British style parliamentary system, this cannot happen. That system would have given the United States either a Republican Congress for Prime Ministers Reagan and Bush, or Prime Ministers Mondale and Dukakis. Would Clinton have become or remained President if there had been runoff elections without Perot? The very possibility simply demonstrates further that the process chosen for vote counting can clearly change The Will of the People as Expressed in the Voting Booth, with one result being just as democratically legitimate as the other.
However, "democratic" government is not even restricted in ways that the rest of us face every day. It is at least possible to throw a businessman in jail for lying to get my money, but not possible to throw a politician in jail simply for lying to get my vote. Is not my vote also something of value? Could any government survive the same laws against fraud every business has to obey? Does free speech only apply to lies when politicians tell them? It is a case of one rule for people in government and another for everyone else.
The fact that a government action is legal does not carry much weight with me due to the fact that the government gets to decide what is legal. Besides, our government breaks the law every day. It is unconstitutional for the government to search homes without warrants in order to deter lawbreakers, but the IRS openly conducts random audits in order to deter tax evasion. A constitutional amendment was required to authorize the government to prohibit alcohol, but the government is currently prohibiting other drugs without that authorization. Does the different chemical makeup of heroin make the Constitution apply differently to it than it does to a martini? I have yet to find a reference to chemistry in any copy of the Constitution I have read.
Nobody really protects you from something he does to you himself. If government commits crimes, it does not protect us from crime. Taxes can be justified on the grounds that the government protects us only if it does indeed protect us; otherwise there is no difference between government and the Mafia. After all, no mob lets another mob run a protection racket on its own territory, and therefore it "protects" people from other mobs. Even leaving aside random tax audits and the War on Drugs, what about taxes themselves? They can only be considered justified (and not simple robbery) if citizens get something for them, namely protection, and citizens are not being protected if they are being robbed. Taxes are therefore not robbery only if they are not robbery. Government is legitimized only by a circular argument.
Scott Cattanach email@example.com
Terrific site!!! Thanks to you I did nothing productive last night! The following is a letter printed in the local newspaper in response to a 17 year old reporter in "TEEN TOPIC" who reported that the Brady Bill saves thousands of lives, the Clinton Administration are the only ones who "Love the Children" and that "everything is great in our wonderful country". Barf!
I couldn't stand it and had to respond. Feel free to use it in anyway if you choose.
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To: Lenoir News-Topic
Your reporting of the effectiveness of various gun control measures is in error and your "teen opinion" regarding this important subject is of little value.
Your report that the Brady Bill has been very effective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is not accurate. What you have done is regurgitate propaganda you have "heard" from the leftist media and Communist Clinton administration. In fact, the Brady Bill has resulted in only a handfull of prosecutions for the attempted purchase of a firearm by convicted felons. The Brady Bill was "feel good" legislation that has produced no effect on crime. The statistics that you have quoted are wrong and are used as a propaganda tool by the media and government to promote their program of civilian disarmament.
Miss Fowler, if you are indeed interested in "the safety of the children" I propose several items that will be much more effective than any additional gun control legislation.
I propose the following "KID CONTROL" legislation:
1) Any student age 6 years and above who attends a public school will have their arms and hands restrained at their sides while within school boundaries. This will be done to prevent violence in any form. This will save the children.
2) All students indicated above will wear coveralls without pockets to prevent the carrying of weapons or drugs. This will save the children.
3) All students indicated in item #1 will begin their day with the application of a 6 inch piece of duct tape across their mouth to prevent "offending" other students who may resort to violence if offended. This will save the children.
If these "Kid Control" regulations would have been in effect at Columbine High School we would not have had those tragic deaths. Do these sound reasonable to you Miss Fowler? Are you ready to promote these measures at South Caldwell H.S.? After all it's "for the safety of the children"!
Do these suggestions sound wrong to you?
Your endorsement of more gun control legislation sounds wrong to me also.
Gun control laws are a lie.
Gun control does not "save the children".
Gun control does not "guarantee your safety".
Gun control does not "prevent crime or lower crime rates".
Gun control does not keep you safe as you travel to a basketball game at South Caldwell H.S.
Gun control is a lie.
You sound like a decent young lady. You just need to make the transition into informed young-adulthood. You need to know a few thing s before you reach the age of consent and I offer these observations:
Do not believe everything you see or hear that is presented on the TV, the radio, the Internet or in newspapers.
Think for yourself! I know it gives you a headache, just do it!
Learn the true history of our country and why we told King George III to GO AWAY!
(By the way, civilians used guns to make him go away and stay away.)
Gun do not kill people! Evil people use /hands/fists/feet/pipes/ballbats/knives/guns to kill people.
Jesus Saves! (I found this out later in life. I hope you can learn it earlier than I did.)
America is out of control and getting worse.
Miss Fowler, repeating what you have heard doesn't make you a journalist. Following the crowd does not make you a leader. Being politically correct is not correct. Your observation that "gun violence is a real problem" overstates one of many problems we face in our country. Here are a few more problems we face in this country that demand attention:
*Abortion kills thousands EACH DAY !
*Political Corruption at all levels of government.
*The United States is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt. This debt will come due in your generation.
If you need a "cause", I suggest one of those I just mentioned. If you can fix those you will have a better country for your children. If you try to take away all the guns from civilians you will have a police state. (You will also have a massive violent uprising but I will save that for another letter.)
If you want a Pulitzer Prize in journalism I suggest you research the causes that have made our society so violent, so misguided and so blind that we cannot see that we are on a pathway to destruction if we do not change our direction very soon.
Welcome to adulthood.
Dr. Bill Butson firstname.lastname@example.org
I sent this letter to the Antelope Valley Press (Lancaster, CA) -- using a pseudonym for obvious reasons. Feel free to print it in your publication, where I'm sure it will be received better than in the "law and order" Antelope Valley.
(Special for Betsy Mill at LPC Monthly: Remember me? We met at the stop light at 10th St West and Ave I in Lancaster when you spotted my bumper sticker. Nice to meet you. It was a whole lot better chatting with you about it than it was with the deputies...)
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I read with great interest Gregory Bell's letter of 14 June, regarding government tyranny as expressed in "sobriety" checkpoints.
I had the distinct displeasure of experiencing such a stop in Deming, New Mexico in the wee hours of the morning about ten years ago, while driving cross country with my family. I was well aware that any excuse, real or concocted, would turn an inconvenience into a nightmare. Would the armed men take special notice of my red, tired eyes? Would a note of irritation creep into my voice? Would I frown too deeply?
Fortunately, the armed men took no special note of us or my explanation of where we came from, where we were going, and why we got off the interstate -- all patently none of their damned business! We had done nothing wrong, harmed no one and did not match the description of known criminals; we had been jacked up.
Although I had previously given some thought to the state of our society and its eerie resemblance to the police states I read about in history and literature, I just didn't GET IT until I had experienced it personally.
Still, that was in New Mexico -- it could never happen here, right? Wrong! Mr. Bell said it wouldn't stop at sobriety checkpoints, and he even more correct than he knew.
On 11 June, my wife spotted a shotgun at a moving sale. Knowing that I wanted to buy one (to take up clay shooting with the kids), she told me where it was. I looked it over and, after agreeing on a price with the good old boy who was selling it, bought my first shotgun. The seller was very likable and helpful, throwing in a target thrower and advice on where to shoot locally.
Throwing the shotgun into my pickup, I set off to scout the area he told me about (canyons above the aqueduct west of town) and to see if there were any good places to access the aqueduct from the downhill side, so the kids and I could fish without walking for miles or bringing bikes.
As soon as I followed Ave M into the dirt at 70th St West, I knew something was up. There was a lot of traffic up on the aqueduct (where there should be none) and a couple of suspicious-looking white pickups cruising the dirt roads below.
What was so suspicious? They were obviously following me! At one point, I pulled up to an intersection of dirt roads, where one pickup had been watching me for a long time, and stopped. I looked the driver in the eye and gestured to him that I would allow him right of way to pass in front of me, but he seemed convinced that he was invisible. Undaunted, I waved and drove on.
Within two minutes I had a sheriffs black and white tailgating me -- no lights, no voice over the P.A. -- just tailgating me on a private (as far as I know) dirt road. Being the peaceful, neighborly guy I am, I stopped to ask the deputies what was going on and if I could help. Little did I know, but I was about to be jacked up by forces of the "War on Dumping!"
The deputies approached one on each side of my pickup, hands on their sidearms as if I was on "America's Most Wanted." I asked the deputy on my side what was going on; he ignored me and demanded my drivers license (on a private road?). As I complied, the other deputy shouted that I had a shotgun (it was on the floor behind my seat, not loaded -- perfectly legal). Within seconds, I was outside, against the pickup, with my hands behind my back, being frisked.
They proceeded, over the next half hour or so, to grill me on all manner of things. What was I doing there? Did I have any warrants? Was the truck mine? Was the gun mine? Was the gun registered?
Registered? The gun control wacko-republicrats tell us that there is no gun registration in this country. I guess they forgot to tell these deputies, eh? I told them that it was not registered (I had just bought it). Was it stolen? Who did I buy it from? Where? They took the gun to their car and called in my license and the serial number of the shotgun. A long time later, they were evidently told that everything was cool (of course), but they didn't tell me.
This gave them time to turn the screws even tighter. While one deputy searched my pickup (he didn't bother asking permission and I'm sure he had no warrant), the other accused me of throwing ammunition out the window as they approached. He even questioned my politics (I have a "Vote Libertarian" bumper sticker). Normally, I enjoy being questioned about my bumper sticker, but I had never considered this particular situation before!
They eventually told me they were looking for dumpers and left. As they were leaving, one told me that he didn't normally like to treat innocent shooters like this. However, I am certain that if I had only used a different tone of voice, or a slightly different posture, that I would be writing this from jail.
The bottom line is that they could have just flagged me down to talk. They could have chatted me up about dumpers and asked what I had seen out there. They could have unobtrusively seen I had nothing to dump in the back of the pickup. We all know that it was not many years ago that they would have done exactly that. All without shredding and trampling the Constitution.
What has changed in this land of ours?
Why do I feel like a guy in 1933 Berlin who just happens to "look Jewish?"
What is next?
Many of you may not see any problem or think it's an aberration. You may think that I'm a whiner. To you, I say, "Please, be careful -- you may not be as 'lucky' as I was."
Al Borego email@example.com
Urge them to remove their [anti-gun] bumper stickers?
Urge them to put them on the cars of everyone they know who share their belief.
Get them to come up with a cutesy yard sign too!
Hell, I'll help pay for them.
Ignorance is something that education can correct.
Stupidity is always fatal.
Charlie Duncan firstname.lastname@example.org
> Why are there hardly any women authors in your fine magazine? I
Thank you, but to further make your point, that was a reprint.
> I think I can answer this by pointing to a tabloid one can pick up
Hah! "Edwardo Furioso" doesn't know any of the fine ladies associated with this publication, such as Claire Wolfe or Kathy Smith, who use guns expertly. Nor does he know some of the excellent firearms instructors like Vickie Farnam.
Besides, guns are not the sole subject of this publication, however often it may seem so.
Both of which points show the dangers of generalization.
> We are born with only two instincts - fear of heights and fear of
Well, that's the best explanation of rap "music" I've yet heard.
> Women can learn to overcome their fear of guns by learning about
So: Where's your article, Renata?
Charles Curley email@example.com
[Women authors who have appeared in past issues of TLE include Christine Krof Shock, Wendy McElroy, Cathy L. Z. Smith, Fran Van Cleave, Claire Wolfe, Sunni Maravillosa, Dr. Sarah Thompson, Arianna Huffington, Jacqueline Ralston, Tina Terry, Krissi Pulliam, Rylla Cathryn Smith, Kimberly Martin, Deborah Marie Pulaski, Nikolina Kulidzan, Amber Grunte, Tessa Somers, and Jessica Scheller, not counting Letters to the Editor. There is room for more!-- Webmaster]
I couldn't believe it! The National Libertarian platform committee recommended encouraging the passage of laws for concealed weapons permits. This took place at the 2000 National Libertarian Convention in Anaheim. Has another pro-freedom group converted to a gun control group? How can these people call themselves Libertarians and support the licensing of a right guaranteed by the constitution?
I understand the many arguments in favor of such laws and they are clearly defined in John Lott's Book, More Guns, Less Crime. I also understand that states that have "shall issue" concealed weapon permit laws do have a dramatic reduction in crime, but none of this has any relevance to the Libertarian philosphy of freedom.
Even more horrifying was that a majority of the delegates voted in favor of this misguided piece of tripe. The vote was so close that the national chairman declared that it had passed, and only when a "division of the house" was called and all the delegates counted off, did we learn that the motion failed for lack of a two thirds majority.
I can only guess that so many of the delegates, like so much of the public are entirely ignorant when it comes to firearms laws and their history. Set aside the fact that allowing or encouraging the government to grant permits for a constitutional right flies in the face of the entire concept of the Libertarian philosophy, and look at the entire system and history of firearms licensing of any kind. In every instance licensing, or registration has led to confiscation. In every area of licensing, the cost and requirements for the license or permit always goes up and never down. Are these Libertarian Party delegates advocating more taxes? I think so!!
Now, let's get to the mechanics of the actual licensing of concealed carry. Requirements vary from state to state, but all want your fingerprints, and most importantly the make, model and SERIAL NUMBER of the firearm listed on your permit. THIS IS GUN REGISTRATION and a majority of the delegates at the LP convention voted to endorse it. Some states go so far as requiring a psychological examination by a government approved psychologist. We know that psychology is not an exact science like mathematics, so all the government has to do is find an anti-gun psychologist to declare every applicant nuts.
If we say no compromise on repealing drug prohibition, if we say no compromise on free speech, if we say no compromise on repealing the income tax, why are guns any different?
We need to educate our Libertarian brothers and sisters that any permits, licenses or registration is not only unacceptable, but makes the problem of victim disarmament worse, not better.
Larry Baird BEDOYA2@aol.com
A few years ago, the LP propbably wouldn't have even considered such a proposal, considering that the membership at that time was more hardcore. Now with the massive influx of new members, you are going to find the LP diluted.
I understand what the platform committee was trying to accomplish, but you know where good intentions lead.
The LP does indeed need internal education, not just with regard to the Second Amendment, but the whole Bill of Rights.
The LP is still better than Republicans when it comes to guns, but the distinction won't long last if members decide that neutering the platform is best.
Gene Trosper firstname.lastname@example.org