L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 282, August 1, 2004
Happy 50th Birthday Michael Badnarik!
Guns Are Good For You
Exclusive to TLE
Sometimes it's really strange how random inputs come together. Earlier today, I was reading an essay by Eric Raymond that had been linked in a post by Russell Whitaker on the smith2004-discuss Yahoo group. While very good on its own, the theme of this very insightful essay thudded home like a dropped anvil because of a conversation a few days before.
I had volunteered to drive Michael Badnarik and Jon Airheart for the first day of their visit to Maryland on July 22-23, 2004. We had left an interview with Jim Zogby (brother to John Zogby, the pollster) of the Arab American Institute and were driving from Washington, DC to Columbia, MD for an evening fundraiser. At one point in that interview, Dr. Zogby mentioned that he would often get requests from people to use his influence to help them in some manner. He deplored this kind of situation, as he believed that it encouraged dependency in those people and any who heard their stories if the problem got resolved. Michael, of course, agreed.
During the long drive (Ever been in rush hour traffic around DC? One of the worst in the country.), I put forward the thought that that kind of dependency was one of the factors that lead to feudal-style systems. Whether you ask the favor of the local baron, the Godfather, or the "elected official," you give up a piece of yourself twice: once when you get someone else to do your dirty work for you, and later when the debt gets called in.
Then I read the essay mentioned above, "Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun: What Bearing Weapons Teaches About the Good Life." In brief (although you really should read it), it discusses how bearing arms teaches life lessons that are essential not only to sound personal development, but to the political health of our (fading fast) republic. Bam! They came together in what was, for me, a minor epiphany.
I had already known that disarming the public was a standard tactic of repressive governments. I have always been a "no compromise" supporter of the right to bear arms, but from the perspective of the right to self-defense. I had not made the connection between bearing arms (not merely gun ownership, but carrying as a normal part of life) and development of a responsible adult. The kind of person that will take responsibility for his/her actions, regardless of the consequences, motives, or lack of full information. Which means that this kind of person tends to think before acting when possible, and act decisively from a sound set of ethical principles when necessary.
This brings me to the tangential epiphany: When Robert A. Heinlein wrote that "An armed society is a polite society," I had always thought he meant that people tend not to act like an asshole if it might get them ventilated. Now I believe that what was also, and more importantly, meant was that people in an armed society grow up polite because they are armed! Knowing that a careless act or moment of unguarded anger could ruin your life and end someone else's will make the vast majority of people act more responsibly.
Thus, the act of disarming the populace is not just to make them helpless to resist further tyranny; not just to infantilize them by making them dependent (along with the offer to "help you with your problem, anytime"), but to prevent them from developing into an aware, responsible adult. An adult that can make decisions and solve problems on his/her own, that doesn't feel scared and helpless in the face of trials and tribulations. An adult that will not be satisfied with empty promises, lying politicians, regulatory agencies running roughshod over people's lives (much less rights), and a government that grows more repressive every day.
I'm sure that others have already made these connections, but I hope that this has been of assistance to those that had not as yet. Living in Maryland, where the common people are disarmed, I would often see and hear the results of that pernicious policy. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard something like "the government ought to do something about (fill in peeve or prejudice)" or "we should get help from (fill in elected or appointed official)" or, worst yet, "what can we do?", I could fund Mr. Badnarik's campaign all by myself! Far too many of my friends have never even seen a gun in person, much less handled and fired one. Conservatives and liberals alike look to government for succor, protection, and unearned benefits. And few understand the costs of that attitude.
I don't have any solutions other than to keep to our principles and continue to demand our right to self-defense, which I now believe is also the basis of sound personal and political self-development.
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