Freedom Updates: April 18, 2001
All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
Felony BB Gun Possession
When my grandfather and then my father went to school, students would regularly bring rifles and shotguns to school and keep them in their lockers. Notably, there were no school shootings in those days.
On April 18, the News ran a page 8A story which begins, "A felony weapons charge was filed Tuesday against a Broomfield teenager who brought an unloaded BB gun to school in his car."
Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant told the paper, "It's clear it is a deadly weapon."
A previous story on the matter may be found at http://www.knoxstudio.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=EDU-BBGUN-04-08-01&cat=AN.
Angel Shamaya, who runs one of the best web pages about civil arms, had the following to say about the matter:
KABA POSITION: The student said he shoots cans for target practice and forgot he had the BB gun under his seat. This report claims that illegal search and seizure is "legal" on school property.
Bob Grant's actions are ridiculously out of proportion, a waste of taxpayer dollars, and indicative of a police state. His office number is 303.659.7720.
Stupid Is as Stupid Votes
That quote is an absolute gem. When one looks at Boulder's ridiculous gun ordinances, or Boulder's attempt to ban couches on porches, it's clear something's wrong with the Boulder electorate.
The comment was made by British journalist Simon Hoggart at Boulder's Conference on World Affairs. Hoggart sat on a panel that explicitly dealt with the rights of stupid people to vote. (See "Should dolts be allowed to vote?" by Owen S. Good, in the April 11 edition of the Rocky Mountain News, page 4A.)
Interestingly, Hoggart also said, "It's a mistake to choose the system you think will give you the result you want. The only reason you choose a system is because it is absolutely fair."
But that seems rather paradoxical, that the "absolutely fair" system permits stupid people to decide public policy. Of course the problem lies in who gets to decide who's too stupid to vote. If I had that power, then it would be a great system. Of course, in practice I wouldn't really want the power, because that would mean that a villain would someday grab that power and use it for evil.
The problem is that Hoggart is wed to the ideal of democracy; he believes the system must be both "absolutely fair" and democratic. But democracy is inherently unfair, for it consists of the majority (or a politically active minority) wielding power over the rest of us. Within the system established by the U.S. Constitution (rest in peace), democracy was an afterthought to the central functioning of government. Instead, individual rights were held inviolable, and the state was severely limited.
If the state doesn't do much and individuals control their own lives, it doesn't really matter who votes.
Media Explore Biases
The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based criminal justice think-tank, offers those numbers to support its contention that facts about school violence -- that it's actually declining -- have been swimming against an overwhelming current of media coverage and public opinion.
Well, at least the media finally admit their coverage is skewed. Unfortunately, Simpson has not fully resolved his own biases in reporting. For instance, he quotes misinformation from the anti-gun Center to Prevent Handgun Violence without providing a balanced report. He also refers to the freedom to buy and sell firearms without registering with the national government as the "gun-show loophole," obviously biased language.
Authors Take on Campaign Finance Deform
The editorial concludes, "[I]f we have to choose between the Constitution and the fragile feelings of legislative candidates in Colorado, we'll side with the Constitution every time." (It's too bad the News suffered Constitutional amnesia during the Amendment 22 debate.)
On April 18, Thomas Sowell took his turn: "[L]aws designed to reduce the influence of special interests scare off ordinary citizens, thereby enhancing the influence of special interests. Campaign finance laws also enhance the power of incumbents, who have access to the media... and have direct access to the public through the power of press releases and junkets paid for by the taxpayers."
The intellectual debate has been won: campaign finance restrictions won't work and will make the problems worse. But in American politics, the truth rarely takes the winning side.
The Tax Man Cometh
So don't hate tax collectors -- pity them. What a miserable life, to make your money by forcing people to pay for unjust and wasteful government programs. Tax collectors must live in a mental fog, either pushing out the knowledge that their actions are repugnant, or numbing their minds to the official propaganda that purports to justify their jobs.
To follow a Randian vein, productive work is a major source of life's pleasure and an integral part of a person's self-esteem. Off hand, it's difficult to think of a job so devoid of value as that of the tax collector. Indeed, the position actually holds negative value and results in the destruction of some people's lives. To "live" as a tax collector is to not fully live at all.
I know some tax collectors, so I know better than to demonize them. Instead, I would urge them to take the path to righteousness. You're afraid of making less money? A fat wallet is no good trade for a sickly soul. A more noble profession would be to work as a tax advisor and help people pay as little in taxes as possible. Or go on a speaking tour calling for the repeal of the income tax.
As the Tax Foundation reminds us, "Tax Freedom Day" does not come for the average American taxpayer until May 3. In Colorado, we get off slightly easier, with Tax Freedom Day coming on April 25. So as you go to work remember that you're still working for "The Man."
The April 17 edition of the Rocky Mountain News features a front-page photo of a woman ecstatic over her tax refund. What a sad commentary on the public's psyche -- now people are actually happy when the government lets them keep a little bit more of their own money. The fact that the government kept the woman's money interest-free for a year seems not to have dampened her enthusiasm.
Of course, if the tax code were simpler, people wouldn't be surprised about how much money they owe. (I was sure surprised to find I am forced to pay an addition three grand.) In fact, I would support replacing the withholdings system with a monthly direct payment to the IRS. Then people might wake up to the full tax burden. But simplification will never happen, short of outright repeal. It's better for the government that the tax code is a mystery: that conditions people to just fork over whatever is asked of them without asking too many questions.
When I think about all the productive uses for which I could have spent my tax dollars, and all the positively harmful uses to which the government puts my money, I feel ill. Well, the Constitution was nice while it lasted. But to draw a line from Monty Python, "Always look on the bright side of life." Toward that end, I heartily recommend a commentary by Dave Barry:
The F.L.I.R. Project
The Cato Institute also published a report critical of the "official" account of Waco. Timothy Lynch's No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident is available at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-395es.html.
The Executive Summary states,
That incident -- which is now referred to simply as Waco -- has become the most controversial law enforcement operation in modern American history. Although the "official" investigation of the incident now places all of the blame for the carnage on the Branch Davidian leader, David Koresh, numerous crimes by government agents were never seriously investigated or prosecuted. If those crimes go unpunished, the Waco incident will leave an odious precedent—that federal agents can use the 'color of their office' to commit crimes against citizens."
Libertarians in Italy have published a book about Waco! Its title is "WACO: Una Strage di Stato Americana." Ralph Raico writes in his review of the book,
Rulers of today's world are so obsessed with controlling us, with saving us from our own bad habits and primitive instincts they'll stop at nothing. They are a new breed of ideological dictators, the New World Order Utopians. And no utopia is complete without its own GULAG. (http://www.lewrockwell.com/raico/raico14.html)
Is the Sun Rising or Setting?
I just wanted to drop you a note with a piece of trivia to let you know that the "half sun" that you referred to [in a previous edition of Freedom Updates] was not a painting really, but a carving on the top of George Washington's chair. As you may know, George refused to be a voting member in the continental congress, because he did not want to influence the votes, being a war hero and all (T. Roosevelt, and Eisenhower could have learned a thing or two). In fact, Washington is the ONLY military leader in history who, after winning a revolution, walked into the congressional chambers, laid his sword on the table, and resigned as commander of the army! The more I read about that man, the more I like him (even if he was a Federalist) -- but I digress.
So, upon completion of the final draft of the Constitution, Ben Franklin, whom everyone revered as their "father," and had seen the new nation from before it was even an idea, noted, "While I am certain that this document is not perfect, I now know that it is the best that we could hope for... For months I have viewed the sun on the chair above Mr. Washington's head and wondered if it be rising or setting. I now know that it certainly be a rising sun" (I couldn't find the exact text, so that is a paraphrase).
Did You Know?
No, I didn't know that, prior to reading it online. But somehow I'm not surprised.
Enemy at the Gates
Usually Hollywood treats guns either as objects of disdain or as "cool" toys that are fun to point at friends' faces. (The protagonist in Miss Congeniality racks her pistol and holds it to her friend's head WITH HER TRIGGER ON THE FINGER, and this is supposed to be a funny joke.)
Rarely are guns treated by the film industry as useful tools worthy of respect. However, such is the case in the terrific film, Enemy at the Gates, the story of a Russian sniper who helps defeat the Germans in WWII.
The film wouldn't have been possible during the cold war. It manages to glorify a Russian soldier while criticizing both the German and Russian variants of totalitarianism. It's based on a true story -- the sniper's rifle is on display today in a Russian museum, the film tells us. The subplots of love and friendship are wonderfully integrated and performed. The entire cast is first rate.
Yea, with drug dealing being "glorified" like that, I wouldn't be surprised if every teen in America goes into the business.
I have two main reasons to watch films: the first is to view good art, the second is to learn about the culture. Don't see the film for the first reason. It's about a guy who ruins his life. Technically, though, the movie is well-done, and Johnny Depp does a fine job acting.
See the film for the second reason. While the main character is not glorified, we are certainly meant to sympathize with him. It's basically the story of a guy who gets in over his head, a guy who expects "honor among criminals" where there is none.
Traffic is a film meant to explicitly critique the drug war. Blow is not. However, implicit in the story of Blow is the point that black markets raise prices and perpetuate violence and the point that usually the small potatoes are the ones who get deep-fried in the American "justice" system.
Homeschooling on the Rise
As horrific shooting sprees increase on public school grounds, the number of children being taught at home is growing significantly.
Parents seem to consider rightly that the school shootings are symptoms of much deeper problems with the government schools.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration may pose a threat to homeschooling. Colin Powell is quoted in the article, "We must be open to new ideas. Let's not be afraid of home-schooling. Let's experiment prudently with school voucher programs to see if they help. What are we afraid of?"
We're afraid of YOU, Colin!
The Separation School and State Alliance recently sent along the following link:
What are Charters for? Crowding out private schools, apparently. Proponents of school "choice" should consider the unintended consequences of their pet schemes on the few private schools left. John Tarka, director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers claims that 30% of Philadelphia's charter school students came from private schools. In that city, most of those students likely came from Catholic schools. (http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/04/04/city/SCHARTER04.htm)
As Alliance founder Marshall Fritz notes, if our goal is to reduce the number of children dependent on government for their education, it doesn't make much sense to purposely increase that number. To subscribe to the Fritz' e-mail newsletter, send an e-mail to SchoolLiberatoremail@example.com with just one word, "subscribe," in the BODY of the message (not the subject).
Political Media Strikes at Politics
The NPR radio story covered a Cuban economist who is critical of her government's policies. She said the Cuban economy survives only because of the black market. The PBS story was called "Busted: The War on Marijuana." It was fair, unbiased coverage, but because marijuana prohibition is absurd on its face the special naturally served as a critique of prohibition. Both pieces were finely detailed and nicely done.
That just goes to show that people can't be pigeonholed, that institutions are complex and so are people's motives. People can work for the government and still be highly critical of that government. (In fact, many free market academics work at state schools.)
Still, the trend for subsidized industries to support more statism is clear. The best example is government schools, which intentionally indoctrinate students to be good subjects. (The PBS documentary noted the DARE program sometimes results in students sending their relatives to prison.) Fortunately, both PBS and NPR are funded largely by voluntary contributions. Political subsidies always come with strings attached. Sometimes those strings are flexible, but they're always there.