Welcome to Y2K!

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Welcome to Y2K!

by Ari Armstrong, January 1, 2000

We made it!

Even though I started planning this post-Y2K article a couple days ago, about all the dire predictions that never were to come true, I nevertheless kept an eye on the news through the evening and toasted in relief that there were no serious tragedies.

In recent weeks, the hysteria has become something of a joke. Even McDonald's got into the act, advertising a bunker full of hamburgers, and a car ad joked about its car's ability to serve as a Y2K back-up device. We have, though, survived several legitimate potential problems, as well as some kooky predictions. Of course, it's only Saturday, and delayed computer problems may start to show up in the coming work week. But so far it appears that problems will be minor at worst.

Various groups put out at least nine predictions of doomsday:

  • The Y2K Computer Bug. It seems that America has fixed all the potential problems, and so far third-world nations haven't manifest problems, either.
  • Computer Viruses. It was rumored that hackers planned to release a host of computer viruses at midnight, thus crashing multiple systems.
  • Terrorism. To my mind, this was the most real threat. Reportedly, a couple Americans were arrested in Washington after planning to blow up a couple large propane tanks. And a Nigerian was reportedly arrested crossing the Canadian border with a carload of explosives. Thankfully, no terrorist acts were reported anywhere in the world.
  • Foreign Invasion. In all the confusion, it was feared, some countries would aggress against others. Some thought Canada might try to invade; others saw a potential threat in a Russia and/or China invasion. Such fears tended to be based mostly in paranoia.
  • Looting and Rioting. Whether or not computer systems failed, the unscrupulous might have used the event as an excuse to riot and loot. Fortunately, nowhere was such behavior reported. A strong police showing must be given much of the credit for preserving safety. (Yes, even a radical libertarian can give credit to government programs, on occasion.)
  • Martial Law. Another fear based in paranoia -- perhaps Bill Clinton was going to use Y2K as an excuse to impose martial law make himself de facto dictator. Sure, Bill Clinton is a liar, a rapist, and an enemy of capitalism, but he's not that depraved. (At least there's no practical way Clinton could have pulled off such a stunt.)
  • Sun Storms. No kidding! The sun is supposedly at the peak of its cycle of electro-magnetic storms, which might wreak havoc on electronic devices.
  • Economic Collapse. Are we in a bubble similar to the one in the 1920s? Perhaps, but if so it didn't burst at the end of the 1900s.
  • Apocalypse. Christians have been claiming Jesus is coming back any day now, for the last 2,000 years. By most interpretations of the myth, Jesus/God will destroy the present earth and make it anew.

But all's well! When I was a child, I used to think about what it would be like to usher in the new millennium. I would be so old then, I thought. (Now I'm happy to still be hanging on to my 20s.) Of course, back then I didn't realize the millennium doesn't technically start until 2001, and I never imagined there would be doomsday predictions. Now, I wonder what such doomsdayers as Gary North plan to do with their lives, and how they plan to explain away their hysteria.

I'm actually very optimistic about the future. I happened to hear Bill Clinton's New Year's speech on the news. Even though I have little respect for the man, I shared his optimistic sprit, especially in terms of overcoming bigotry in the coming years. Of course, his claims are partly hollow, as he and his anti-gun crusaders stir up bigotry against gun owners at every turn for political advantage. But so far as overcoming racial, ethnic, and sexual bigotry, we're on roughly the same page, and I hope the libertarian movement leads the way in moving past all bigotry.

Of course, Bill Clinton talks of freedom even as he plans for more federal programs to run other peoples' lives. But Clinton doesn't have the slightest clue what constitutes genuine freedom, even though he's an expert at evoking emotionalized responses with that term. Freedom is not politicians and bureaucrats running the lives of the citizens. Freedom is unfettered property rights, minimal government, and self-responsibility. Gustav Le Bon wrote that when people "acquire a profound antipathy for the images evoked by certain words, the first duty of the statesman is to change the words without, of course, laying hands on the things themselves." The good news is that people are sick of statism and socialism. Libertarians cannot let Bill Clinton and others get away with calling big-government programs aspects of "freedom." The federal government can do nothing to advance freedom except to get the hell out of the way and stop usurping the individual civil liberties of the people.

* * *

In today's Rocky Mountain News, Bill Johnson paints a grim picture of the culture's reaction to Y2K. He laments that more people have been buying guns recently, and he wonders what has led to "this madness, the fear that grips us so." Johnson is totally off base. Nobody I talked to was genuinely frightened -- merely concerned.

It's totally healthy for people to keep emergency supplies around, and to purchase guns for self-defense. Indeed, one of the reasons rioters didn't show their faces is that they know Americans are fairly heavily armed. Guns reduce crime by deterring criminals, and hundreds or thousands of armed civilians defend themselves against violent thugs every day. As Professor Lott puts it, More Guns, Less Crime! I would urge new gun owners to take training classes! A gun is worse than useless for the person who doesn't know how to use it. Take a training class for a day or two, and practice shooting at regular intervals.

The general reaction to Y2K was, "Nothing's going to happen, but just in case I'll take some precautionary steps." It's like life insurance -- nobody expects to die prematurely, but most want to prepare just in case. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. I admire the way people have taken self-initiative in the matter without giving way to paranoia or expecting the government to do everything for them. Johnson's fears are unwarranted; indeed, Y2K has been cause for extraordinary optimism.

If we work tirelessly for freedom, if we refuse to cower to bigots and would-be tyrants, if we make an eloquent case for capitalism and freedom, then when 2100 comes the children will remember their forefathers -- us -- for their bravery in ushering in a Millennium of Peace and Liberty.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com