Committed to making the world a better place, that is. And what better way to demonstrate that commitment than by re-visiting last New Year’s resolutions, and then making some more new ones! Join me –
Last year I pledged to acquire some skill that is in demand ( or could be in demand) on the black market. Now, as it happens, I am already a journeyman carpenter, and it is well known that there is a substantial underground economy in the construction field. But in addition, I have taken up beer brewing and learned about distilling. I even have a distiller under construction (which is perfectly legal… it is the distillation of spirits that puts one on the wrong side of the state). I also said that I might try and shed some weight, and I do believe that I’m down about 3 or 4 pounds. So all in all, good job Dave!
I also suggested that those of you without firearms resolve to take the steps needed to acquire them. I am very pleased to write that this year, a few of the Victoria Libertarian Book Club members took the courses for their licenses, and one of them has even picked up a nice, economical SKS rifle (currently available across Canada for $180 – $200). More of my immediate family have obtained their licenses, and we have acquired at least one firearm for each member of our household. The next step is to insure that everyone knows how to use each of them.
For this year, I have resolved to increase my donations to worthy causes. Beginning January 1st, I will donate $50 each month to some individual or institution working to defend liberty. The first donation will go to Reason.com.
In addition, I resolve to spend $50 each month on ammunition, with the goal of building a stock of 1000 rounds in each calibre for the firearms I have. Just in case.
Whatever you resolve (if anything), I wish you success, plus a year full of peace, prosperity, and happiness.
“Les Miserables” is enjoying packed theatres this holiday season, and I have been to see it myself. I’ve never seen the stage version, but I have read the book and also am familiar with most of the music. I cannot say whether I recommend the film, but only that I was alternately bored to tears (figuratively) and moved to tears (literally). A couple things struck me, libertarian-wise:
First, the main character, Jean Valjean, has spent 19 years in prison; five for stealing bread, and the remainder for repeated escape attempts. As the bread is stolen in order to feed his starving sister, nieces, and nephews, it is tempting to view Valjean as having been ‘forced’ to steal the bread. Please don’t. If there is no violence (or threat of violence) there is no force. If Valjean stole the bread because he had a gun to his head, then he was forced, and it would be wrong to punish or seek restitution from him. Valjean chose to steal, and even though the circumstances argue that he should not have been imprisoned, he cannot avoid making restitution by arguing that he was forced.
Second, there is a moment in the film when Gavroche delivers a note to Valjean, but prompts Valjean to pay him before handing over the note. After the exchange, Gavroche says something to the effect of “Something for you, something for me. Who needs charity?” It was the libertarian highlight of the movie.
“The Verger” (by W. Somerset Maugham) is not a Christmas tale, but for some reason I think of it every holiday season. It’s a great story, and I think libertarians will find it particularly appealing, thanks both to its attack against the prevailing wisdom and its illustration of the entrepreneurial process. Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing can be read in less than ten minutes –
“But a most extraordinary circumstance came to my knowledge the other day and I felt it my duty to impart it to the churchwardens. I discovered to my astonishment that you could neither read nor write.”
The verger’s face betrayed no sign of embarrassment.
“The last vicar knew that, sir,” he replied. “He said it didn’t make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for ‘is taste.”
“It’s the most amazing thing I ever heard,” cried the general. “Do you mean to say that you’ve been verger of this church for sixteen years and never learned to read or write?”
“I went into service when I was twelve sir. The cook in the first place tried to teach me once, but I didn’t seem to ‘ave the knack for it, and then what with one thing and another I never seemed to ‘ave the time. I’ve never really found the want of it. I think a lot of these young fellows waste a rare lot of time readin’ when they might be doin’ something useful.”
Libertarianism is a tough sell, given that most people develop their biases long before they are exposed to the philosophy, and that we are immersed in a culture that vilifies success and applauds any theft done under the cover of redistribution.So when Dr. Pam Peeke appears on the Stossel Show, having already argued in favour of government intervention for the purpose of curbing obesity, you would be forgiven for assuming her position in advance. Well, not so fast –
Treasure this, and take hope. We live in a world full of surprises.
Although the Mayan Apocalypse failed to materialize, humanity faces the constant threat of disaster on all fronts. Perhaps it will be a pandemic, or meteor strike. Maybe it will be an alien invasion, a natural disaster, or an economic collapse combined with a chaotic loss of rule of law. Since libertarians know that counting on the state to save the day is likely to result in devastating (and perhaps fatal) loss, we prepare to care for ourselves, our friends, and our communities. In that spirit, I offer you the following video, showing what can be done with resources from an unlikely place –
Of all the things to admire, I am struck most by the resistance of the coat hanger to being place under so much tension. It is a testimony to the quality of Ikea construction.
Determining the number of lives saved by privately-owned firearms is not so easy a thing as totalling the number of those killed by gun-wielding criminals. For example, a gunman recently opened fire inside a theatre complex in San Antonio, only to be dropped by an off-duty sheriff. So how many lives were saved? Considering that the Aurora shooter killed 12 people and injured 58, maybe that’s how many.
Another recent example – a shooter in an Oregon shopping mall killed two people and injured one before turning the gun on himself. Why did he stop at three victims? Perhaps because he saw an armed citizen taking aim at him. How much worse could it have been? Well, George Hennard shot 50 people, killing 23 of them in the 1991 Luby’s massacre.
Are there 33 people alive now who would have been otherwise killed in San Antonio and Oregon? Maybe. You can’t say with the same sort of certainty that you can say 20 children were executed in Connecticut. But you probably hadn’t heard about the San Antonio shooting, nor the Oregon shooting, and they were both in one week. Multiply that by the 52 weeks there are in a year. Then add the countless other incidents that you don’t hear about, where people use arms to defend themselves. And of course you will never hear about the incidents that never even happened, just because a target simply brandished a firearm.
So can it be said, precisely, how many people are alive because of privately owned firearms? No. But it can be said beyond a reasonable doubt that they far outnumber the victims.
Samizdata regularly posts a Quote of the Day, and Johnathan Pearce recently quoted a post made at Econlog by David Henderson. In said post, Henderson recounts a not-so-unpleasant interaction with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Pearce then shares his own less-than-traumatic interaction with the same agency –
“When I recently flew into San Francisco airport, the queues were long but – and this might just be my being lucky – the guy who checked my passport and details was friendly, helpful and efficient. (He was ex-Air Force and did his military service near where I was brought up, a fact that he told me with great delight). Perhaps someone has told the TSA to improve.”
I hardly ever fly, but I do so enough to know I hate it. Still, despite the numerous horror stories I’ve encountered from reliable sources, my experiences with the TSA have been in keeping with both Henderson and Pearce. On my last trip, I was returning home via the Pittsburgh Airport. As I was passing through security, an agent waved me towards a scanner. Having time to spare, I indicated I would not pass through the device, and the agent called out “Opt out.” He instructed me (civilly) to wait a moment until another agent came to escort me to the pat-down area. The agent who came to escort me chatted with me amiably, and as he pulled on his gloves I advised him (matter-of-factly) that I didn’t want any stranger touching me any more than was absolutely necessary, and that I would be stripping down to my briefs before allowing the pat-down. He told me that I wouldn’t be, but I assured him that I most certainly would be, AND that he had no legal authority to prevent me from doing so, AND that I had no objections to undressing in front of everyone if they didn’t have a private area. The agent was a little taken aback, but not angry. He called for his supervisor, who spoke with his supervisor, who spoke with the airport manager, who said it was just the same thing as if I came through security wearing a Speedo. So we all went off into a private area where the first supervisor went to great pains to explain the procedure to me, both repeatedly and in detail. My clothes were taken away to be scanned (can they only pat them down when they’re on your body?), and my crotch and buttocks got a light pass with the back of gloved hands. No one asked me why I was doing this, or expressed any anger or resentment. They wished me a good trip when all was finished, and the whole process seemed more stressful to them than to me.
None of this is to excuse the TSA or its practices. In order to return to my family, I had to submit to being either fondled or irradiated. Even taking the steps I did, I still had to suffer the indignity of having my genitals touched by a stranger. This is entirely unsatisfactory, and I’m sorry to find from the reaction of the TSA agents that very few people are putting up even the minimum level of fuss that I did. Like Henderson and Pearce, I find the TSA agents to be, at least on a personal level, pleasant people. All the same, the next time I fly, I plan on wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants over some Speedos, and there’s not going to be so much discussion before I drop my drawers.