Freedom Updates: February 4, 2001

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Freedom Updates: February 4, 2001

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Gun Bans Yield Soaring Crime Rates

What do Australia and England have in common? Both countries have banned most guns in recent years, and both countries have seen their crime rates soar.

Two recent articles detail the problem. On February 17, Lorne Gunter published an article in Canada's Edmonton Journal (no link available), and on March 2 Jon Dougherty published a WND article at http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=21902. (Thanks to Mark Call of 1360 am radio 4-5 pm for drawing my attention to the second article.)

Gunter notes that in "Great Britain... robberies and muggings are now more common than they are in the United States... Central Newcastle, in the north of England, may actually be the most dangerous place in the industrialized world."

Gunter continues, "Home burglaries and car thefts are more than 50 per cent more frequent in Britain than in the U.S. And there are nearly three-quarters as many total rapes in Britain as there are in the entire U.S., even though Britain has only about one-quarter the population." Handgun crime in Britain increased by one-third from 1999 to 2000, notes Gunter, even though handguns are totally illegal for private citizens.

Gunter issues a warning to Canadians as that country imposes increasingly stringent disarmament laws: "[A]s the number of private firearms declines, the number of violent crimes increases. Criminals know there is less chance of getting shot in their line of work if citizens can be counted on not to be armed, so they step-up their criminal activity. Nothing puzzling about that. It's standard common sense. Which is probably why anti-gunners can't figure it out."

Dougherty reports that the "International Crime Victims Survey, conducted by Leiden University in Holland, found that England and Wales ranked second overall in violent crime among industrialized nations. Twenty-six percent of English citizens -- roughly one-quarter of the population -- have been victimized by violent crime. Australia led the list with more than 30 percent of its population victimized. The United States didn't even make the 'top 10' list of industrialized nations whose citizens were victimized by crime."

Burglary rates in England and Australia are also higher than in the United States, according to the survey.

Dougherty points out the deceptive analysis offered by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, which is associated with Handgun Control, Inc. While CPHV reports that GUN crimes have declined in some categories during some years since the Australian gun ban, OVERALL crime has increased in every major category except murder (which has gone up and down since the ban and which has such a low incidence in that small country that it is highly variable from year to year). CPHV simply ignores the obvious point that criminals are emboldened when fewer citizens bear defensive arms.


"Throw Down" Gun in Mena Case?

A February 24 Denver Post article by Bruce Finley discusses the possibility that the police used a "throw down" or plant gun at the scene of Ismael Mena's killing. (This is the case in which a SWAT team raided the wrong house based on misinformation from a drug informant.) Previous reports suggested the gun found on or near Mena's body was inoperable. While a healthy skepticism is in order, the matter should be checked out thoroughly.

Finley writes that retired FBI agent James Kearney "accused Denver police of moving Mena's body at the shooting scene, shooting him twice more, and planting a 'throw-down' .22 caliber Burgo revolver." Kearney acted as a private investigator in the case. The feds are reviewing the case. See http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0224j.htm.


Bureaucrash.Com

There's an interesting new web page out at www.bureaucrash.com. The page seems to be associated with free-market.com, which offers excellent news links on weekdays. I thought the following text about the new page was worth passing along.

Anti-capitalists sometimes claim that the free market is like a jungle. I agree with them.

The free market is a dynamic, living ecosystem. It has infinite possibilities and abundant life. It grows and changes according to its own natural rules. It evolves to fill every niche in its environment.

The bureaucratic state, on the other hand, is a crude machine.

The machine seems safer to some people than the dark, unplanned, and unknowable depths of the free market jungle. We created the machine, they say, so we can have the machine do whatever we want. We can have it protect us, feed us, clothe us, and keep us healthy. If people sometimes get maimed by its gears, well, that's just the cost of social progress.

Every year they tinker with their machine. They stick on new parts and give it more complex jobs. The machine becomes bigger and uglier. It gets harder for them to operate it. Its gears grind more slowly. Every year the machine becomes more anachronistic in comparison with the dynamic jungle outside.

Some young people are starting to intentionally jam the gears. They are crafting a new form of libertarian activism, based on images, memes, counter-protests, and Web sites. They are the guerrillas of the free market jungle, and they have started a 21st century culture war. The bureaucrash has begun.


Clinton Clone

So how many federal programs have Dubya and the Republican Congress worked to eliminate or even reduce? How many freedoms have they restored? Exactly zero. Yet the Republicans have vowed to expand the power and scope of the national government in numerous ways. Dubya barely even qualifies as the "lesser of two evils." In fact, Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne argues that Bush is little more than a clone of Bill Clinton. In a recent WND article, Browne writes, "Hearing the Bush speech, it's obvious that Bill Clinton is a superior orator. But if you read the Bush speech, you'd be hard pressed to believe this isn't Bill Clinton's vision for America" (http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=21922).


IRS Church Seizure Revisited

I was speaking with a friend who thought Congressman Ron Paul's assessment of the recent church seizure went a little overboard. In particular, Paul's statement that the "First Amendment grants churches the absolute right to freely exercise their religious beliefs without interference from government" is exaggerated. For instance, the government may arguably intervene when parents restrict their children's medical care on religious grounds. It would be especially difficult for religious conservatives, who argue that abortion is murder, to then argue that parents may place their children in mortal danger. To draw a more extreme example, more than a few religions have practiced human sacrifice, a practice I'm sure we'd all agree the government may rightly stop.

However, I support Paul's contention that the church seizure, and the tax code that prompted it, indeed violate the church's "religious liberty." I believe the First and Ninth Amendments should be interpreted broadly enough to prohibit such federal practices. Again, everybody acknowledges the church's staff paid all their taxes. The IRS (working in conjunction with other federal agencies) seized the church only because the church's leaders refused to act as de facto tax agents for the IRS by complying with withholdings regulations.

The federal government should not force any citizen to act as its agent. The only argument with even superficial appeal is that the state might draft an army for defending against an immediate and domestic threat, but I reject even that argument as any sort of involuntary servitude places the state in a position above individual rights. Certainly the state may not in justice require citizens to act as tax collectors, a point which extends far beyond the religious case at hand.

I try to be sparing in my use of the "F" word, but the national government's policy of forcing citizens to serve as agents for the IRS is pure fascism. I mean this literally according to the precise definition of fascism used by the (free market) Austrian economists: state control over nominally private property. For libertarians, one's own person is the ultimate form and foundation of "private property."

In general, I found Paul's article poignant (if depressing) and notable because, hey, Paul is actually a member of the United States Congress. I have but one other nit to pick. I'm not sure what Paul means when he says "the IBT (unlike most churches) also refused tax benefits available to it through registration as a tax-exempt religious organization." What are the "tax benefits?" The staff of "tax-exempt" groups still have to pay their taxes. The main value of tax-exempt status is that donors can use gifts as tax write-offs. Perhaps Paul was thinking of the church as a whole, including its donors. (I have a strange inability to study the nuances of the tax code; if someone has deeper insights into the matter please write in.)

Think for a moment about how pervasive the tax code is in our everyday lives. Then think of all the secondary problems that would go away if the income tax were abolished (and replaced with nothing), beyond the obvious problem of the government eating up our economic prosperity.


Forbidden Fruit

Ralph Shnelvar sent the following note to the local Libertarian discussion group.

From the "Numbers" section on page 18 of the March 5, 2001 edition of Time Magazine:

28 Percentage of 10th graders surveyed... have used marijuana in the drug-permissive Netherlands

41 Percentage of U.S. 10th graders surveyed... have tried marijuana.

The Regulator Files

I recently saw two telling stories about regulators. The first is used by Bryan Schwartz as his e-mail signature; the second was relayed by BetteRose Smith on the Libertarian chat list.

Regulation "is a thrill; it's a high... I love it; I absolutely love it. I was born to regulate.... So as long as I'm regulating, I'm happy." -- Marthe Kent, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safety standards program, head of the agency's controversial ergonomics initiative (www.reason.com/0103/co.wo.overlawyered.html)

My neighbor built his own home. In Logan county, at the time, the only inspection done was the state electrical inspection (about four years ago). The neighbor had used all plastic pipe for his water and sewer. The UBC said that the electrical must be grounded to the water pipe. The neighbor had grounded it in another way. Before passing the house, this inspector required my neighbor to attach a ground wire to the PLASTIC pipe!

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