Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dirt Roads

Monday my friend and I were out getting some mountain therapy involving trucks and guns.

Freedom and Responsibility learned from the Pilgrims

I often reinforce my philosophies of freedom through the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). I just read a marvelous article there entitled Our First Thanksgiving.

Some excerpts from the article:
On Thanksgiving Day we are asked to remember what Edmund Burke, in one of the most eloquent phrases to be found in all literature, described as that "little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body" -- the tiny vessel, more accurately to be described as a "cockleshell," the Mayflower, and its hundred passengers, men, women, and children, who sailed on her.Twelve years earlier, in 1608, they had fled from religious persecution in England and established a new home in Holland. Despite the warm welcome extended by the Dutch, as contrasted with the persecutions they had endured in England, their love for their homeland impelled them to seek English soil on which to raise their children, English soil on which they would be free to worship God in their own way. Finally, the Pilgrims landed, as we all know, on Plymouth Rock in the middle of December 1620, and on Christmas Day, in the words of Governor William Bradford, they "began to erect the first house for common use to receive them and their goods." So was established the first English colony in New England.

Three years later, when the plentiful harvest of 1623 had been gathered in, the Pilgrims "set apart a day of thanksgiving." But what of the intervening years?.....

This Thanksgiving Day, let us, each in his own way, humbly ask forgiveness for the degree to which we have all violated the great “seminal principle,” either directly, or through tolerating its violation by others. Then, this Thanksgiving Day, let us highly resolve to dedicate our lives, as individuals, to “planting for our own particular,” rather than living as parasites on the productive energy of others; let us dedicate our lives to a renewed application of the ideal of individual freedom and individual responsibility, which our Pilgrim forebears learned at such sacrifice, and which they passed down to us as our most precious heritage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bridge at Andau

I just read James Michener's book The Bridge at Andau, written in 1957, a few months after the Soviets crushed the Hungarian uprising against their occupation.

After years of war and struggle and one year of Nazi occupation, Hungarians had opened their doors to Soviet Russia and initially embraced the ideals of communism. However, over the next twelve years the average Hungarian became aware of what a fraud communism was, at least the Soviet brand of it.

The ugliest face of this awful life was the AVO, or the "party." The worst elements of the Hungarian population were elevated to positions of power and authority over the rest of the population, and the result was a culture of fear, scarcity, and terror.

A glorious revolution began in October 1956 as a people temporarily overthrew their oppressors. Students, factory workers, young married people, intellectuals, soldiers, and children fought tanks with their bare hands and primitive weapons and temporarily won. Five sweet days of freedom followed, with pleas to the UN, the USA, and the rest of the free world to help prevent the Soviets from returning in force.

Their pleas were met by silence and inaction, and Soviet tanks, airplanes, and other heavy weaponry rolled into Budapest on a Sunday morning in November 1956. The city was utterly laid waste. Efforts at resistance continued for some time, and the ragged resistance fighters had remarkable success considering their resources, but eventually the overwhelming odds caused them to cease fighting and fade back into the fabric of society.

Nearly 200,000 Hungarians subsequently fled, mostly through Austria, many of them across a rickety wooden footbridge near the Austrian village of Andau. Michener writes, "It was an American diplomat, exhausted from days of work during the crisis, who best described the Hungarian. Limply he cried, 'When this pressure lets up, I want just one thing. A transfusion of Hungarian blood. I want to feel like a man again.'"

The story of this people breaks my heart, and at the same time, gives me great courage and conviction that evil can never triumph over good, and that the human spirit can face overwhelming trials and survive. If you are reading this post, I strongly encourage you to read this book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

People, not guns, are the carriers of good, evil

My good friend writes a column in a local newspaper:

With so many areas of the economy lagging, it appears that the retailers of guns and ammo may be looking at record fourth quarter sales this year. Fears of a renewed ban on so-called assault weapons under a Democratic administration have prompted a fear-based buying frenzy on those models most likely to be restricted. Such fears are not entirely unfounded as a ban is indeed likely during Barack Obama’s presidency, but before rushing out to make a panic purchase, we should consider the role these particular firearms serve in a civilized society.

First and foremost, the term “assault weapons” is a purely pejorative description of firearms that are self-loading; meaning that they fire exactly one shot each time the trigger is pulled. They may share certain cosmetic features with the select-fire assault rifles used by the military, but the intent of the user and not merely the looks of a firearm are what determine whether it is being used for good or evil purposes.

If, as some suggest, these firearms are only good for “killing large amounts of innocent people” then we should ask if that is what we expect of our police or military to whom they are issued. If their real purpose is to protect innocent life from the lethally aggressive behavior of men bent on doing harm to others, then that need is just as real for the law-abiding citizen who doesn’t have the option of radioing for backup when danger appears. Standard capacity magazines are preferable to reduced capacity magazine for this same reason.

When confronted with multiple armed aggressors, a military-style self-loading rifle in the hands of an individual with the will to use it provides the best tool for solving a life-threatening situation. Unfortunately, statists have historically recognized that these firearms are also the preferred tools for resisting tyranny by affording a degree of parity with the sort of force the state’s agents are capable of projecting. Hence, they tend to view gun control as a means to the end of people control.

A powerful lesson can be gleaned from studying the genocides of the 20th Century in which out of control governments claimed the lives of nearly 170 million non-military individuals which were first carefully disarmed by gun control laws. This does not suggest that gun control causes genocide, but clearly shows that genocide can only occur when a targeted population is first rendered incapable of resisting. Col. Jeff Cooper said it best, “The rifle…may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but…they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”

In this regard, a military-style self-loading rifle in the hands of the law abiding citizen is much more akin to a life preserver than an instrument of evil. Whether we face stormy seas ahead or not, a life preserver is worth having on hand at all times. High quality training in how to use one correctly could prove quite useful. Consider this the next time “assault weapons” are being demonized.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Walter Williams agrees with me (of course)

Walter Williams' article this morning comes to the same conclusions that I did a few days ago in my last entry - Capitalism is getting unfairly blamed for the current crisis. He also thinks you're crazy if you believe this fairy tale. We haven't really had laissez-faire economics in this country, so how could they be to blame for the crisis? What activities do you engage in every day that are not somehow affected by a government regulation of some sort?

How about brushing your teeth? Well, the government says that we need flourine in our water to help keep our teeth hard, because apparently we can't be trusted to brush our own teeth.

How about going to the bathroom? Well, the government is concerned about how much water is wasted with each flush, so they've limited the tank capacity and regulated the water per flush for the toilets we buy.

Eating breakfast? Well, you can't be drinking that raw milk - it's dangerous.

Getting out of bed? Driving to work? Drinking a cup of tea? Making a phone call? Burning some brush in your back yard? Raising chickens in your back yard? Parking your car on the grass so you can wash it? Fixing your damaged mailbox? Protecting yourself from people who might do you harm? Don't worry, because the government has great concern for you, and they will make rules to protect you from yourself. I feel so much better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free Markets or Regulation

Am I naive, ignorant, or stupid?

Or is it possible that I am right and the masses are stampeding like buffalo toward an unseen cliff where they will meet their financial doom?

Let me be clear - I think you are nuts if you believe that we are seeing a demonstration of the failures of the free market. What free market? We haven't had a free market since before the American Civil War. Some special interest or lobby has been steadily influencing those with power to regulate literally every facet of our lives since that time.

A truly free market system is chaotic and messy, but tends to find an equilibrium between stability and chaos. Let's say you start a top spinning on a table - it wobbles and rotates gracefully but chaotically, until you reach in and bump it. Then it wobbles erratically, maybe corrects itself, or maybe falls down. If you bump it again and again, it definitely falls down. The same is true of a system like an economy. (I admit, my analogy doesn't account for the top finally spinning down and falling over, but it is simply an analogy - let's pretend the top doesn't lose energy and continues spinning infinitely.)

Here's an article that gives additional insight into my thinking:

So let's wake up! Some new flavor of intervention or regulation cannot possibly fix the problems we are currently experiencing. We need to remember that freedom means just that - FREEDOM! Not just freedom of speech or religion, but freedom of the markets. Freedom to buy and sell without intervention. Freedom to truly own private property and do what you want with it. Freedom to protect your life and property against plunder. FREEDOM!