Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nanny says: 'Downsize me!'

[Here's Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest assault on Liberty. Why the citizens of New York haven't yet rid themselves of this Enemy of The People is beyond me.]

Bloomberg administration proposes ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces

New York Daily News / Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg is a big soda scrooge.

After taking on smoking, trans-fats and restaurant calorie counts, Hizzoner has yet another health hazard in his crosshairs: oversized sugary drinks.

The city is working on a plan to ban large soft drinks and other sweet beverages in eateries, theaters and most other venues, City Hall announced Wednesday.

The new rules, which could take effect next March, would prohibit cups larger than 16 ounces of any liquid that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. That targets sodas, sweetened ice tea and energy drinks. Diet sodas and milk-based beverages -- even calorie laden milkshakes -- will remain lawful.

"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, 'Oh, this is terrible,'" Bloomberg told The New York Times. "New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something."

The ban will extend to food carts, delis, even concession stands in stadiums and arenas, but not supermarkets and grocery stores, according to the administration's proposal.

Cups bigger than 16 ounces would disappear from self-serve fountains in fast-food joints, although refills would still be allowed.

The anti-sweet drinks crusade got a bitter reception from the beverage industry.

"There they go again. The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association.

"The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates," he argued.

Some New Yorkers also thought the plan will fizzle out.

"He can try, but he can't stop people from getting what they want,” said cabbie Morshed Chowbhury, 27, of Jackson Heights, Queens. “Some days I can't survive without coffee or big sodas."

Victor Diaz, 24, was more receptive to the upcoming regulation.

"It will all depend on the person. But at least he's trying to help New Yorkers eat better," Diaz said of Bloomberg.

He added that he just opted for a Gatorade rather than a Big Gulp on a recent run to 7-Eleven, seemingly not realizing the sports drink will also be banned under the proposed program.

The mayor, who some disparage as Nanny Bloomberg for his plethora of prohibitions, has been waging a lengthy war against the soda scourge. During his time in office, he unsuccessfully lobbied for a state soda tax and tried to stop he purchase of soft drinks with food stamps.

The administration is planning to push the plan through the Board of Health, the same body that authorized restaurant letter grades and calorie count postings. No additional authorization is required, sources said.

If the big-drink dryout will pan out, people will still be able to buy a double dosage.

Helen O'Connor, 40, from SoHo, said she plans to do just that.

"He's going overboard," she said of the mayor.

"If I can't buy one big drink, I'll buy two smaller ones."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reading Room: 'The Tyranny of Conservative Clichés'

[This came to me in yesterday's "New Common Sense" e-newsletter from The Heritage Foundation. It's spot-on, an excellent illustration of how right-wing ideologues tend to make shit up that supports a neo-conservative agenda but sabotages the cause of Liberty.]

The Tyranny of Conservative Clichés

Everyone has an ideology -- a set of bedrock principles through which to view the world. Jonah Goldberg is cool with that. But he has a problem with people -- mainly liberals -- who deny having an ideology. In his latest book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Goldberg argues that liberals hide their ideology behind tired aphorisms, such as "violence never solved anything" or the Constitution is a "living document."

Unlike liberals, conservatives admit to having an ideology (although we prefer the term philosophy). We are also comfortable enough with our intellectual history that we don't shy away from arguments, invoking authorities from the Bible and Publius to Hayek and Reagan. Nevertheless, conservatives use clichés, as everyone does. Here are some we should avoid:

"America is a Christian Nation."

It's tempting unleash this cliché when confronted with the Left’s hostility towards religion. But, fellow conservatives, resist.

Yes, Christian morals and many biblical principles influenced the American Founders, and yes, Christianity has thrived in America. But America is not a Christian Nation in the strict sense of the term: Christianity isn’t the official religion to the exclusion of all others, nor is it the basis for membership in the political community.

The better way to defend Christianity's place in the public square is by arguing for religious liberty. The Founders all agreed that practitioners of every faith have a right to the free exercise of their religion -- in their houses of worship and in the public square. They enshrined that right in the First Amendment. Why use an inaccurate cliché when you have the original meaning of the First Amendment on your side?

"States' Rights"

Yes, the Federal Government is out of control. But, sometimes we utter two little words that undermine our entire constitutional system rather than protecting it from unlimited government: states' rights.

States don't have rights. People do.

Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution are states or any other government -- federal, state, or local -- said to possess rights. Rather, states have powers. The much beloved, if often ignored, Tenth Amendment says "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Not only is it incorrect to speak of states' rights, but the expression was the rallying cry of segregationists. Since no right-thinking conservative abides such arguments, let’s just drop the term "states' rights" once and for all.

If you're concerned about federal encroachments on state sovereignty or the erosion of federalism -- as you should be -- then speak of federal encroachments on state sovereignty or the erosion of federalism. Or, of the need to restore limited constitutional government, reinvigorate local self-government, decentralize power, and check the growth of out-of-control government. With so many great formulations to choose from, why weaken the case for liberty by relying on "states' rights"?

"That's Socialism"

American conservatives needlessly undermine their arguments by labeling every liberal program or policy as "socialism." This claim is incorrect -- American liberals are generally progressives, not socialists. Socialism, strictly speaking, involves the government’s ownership of the means of production in a society. In a socialist economy, there are no private corporations that manufacture goods. Factories and companies belong to the state. By contrast, progressives are more insidious in allowing for markets and private ownership of corporations, while controlling them through extensive regulation and government spending.

Conservatives need not rely on the S word to argue against liberals -- there's plenty wrong with progressivism. Better yet, demonstrate what's wrong in principle and in practice with a particular liberal program instead of relying on a debatable label.

"Small Government"

We conservatives are against "big government," so we must be for "small government," right? Wrong. We're for limited government. Here is the difference. The Constitution creates a federal government of enumerated (read: limited) powers. When Congress acts within its legitimate scope -- for instance, national defense -- then it can do a lot. There is nothing inherently contradictory about a limited government conservative supporting strong national defense, because that is within the federal government's constitutional responsibility. On the other hand, for areas outside of the federal government's constitutional scope (Obamacare, anyone?), there is no role -- big, small, or medium.

Conservatives use clichés, but not because we shy away from arguments or deny having an ideology. Clichés can be true statements summarizing a longer argument: "there's no such thing as a free lunch" demonstrates that everything has a cost that someone must shoulder. Or clichés can be incorrect arguments masquerading as obvious statements. It's the latter that conservatives should eradicate from our language.

Only one of these guys is right

Here's a hint: It's not Donald Trump. (Sorry if I spoiled the surprise.)

On Sunday's edition of ABC News "This Week," columnist George Will questioned why Mitt Romney is hosting a fundraising event today with Trump, a notorious birther:
"I do not understand the cost benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefit -- what voter is going to vote for him because he is seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics."
Typically, this was Trump's retort via Twitter:
"George Will may be the dumbest (and most overrated) political commentator of all time. If the Republicans listen to him, they will lose."
George Will crystallized perfectly Donald Trump's value to the political process. Positively brilliant.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Decoration Day, Ingersoll

"These heroes are dead. They died for liberty. They died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solid pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or storm, each in a windowless palace of rest. Earth may run red with other wars; they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for the soldier, living and dead. Cheers for the living, and tears for the dead."

(From speaker's notes attributed to Robert Green Ingersoll, said to have been delivered in his hometown of Dresden, New York on what we know now as Memorial Day, 1866. Mrs. KintlaLake gifted me with Ingersoll's words this morning.)


If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say
you loved them
though you may
or may not have always.

Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.

And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.

(Written on 1 January 1970 by U.S. Army Maj. Michael D. O'Donnell, a native of Columbus, Ohio. Maj. O'Donnell was listed as MIA on 24 March 1970 at Dak To, Vietnam, declared KIA on 7 February 1978.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

First words to the new soldier

I've collected hundreds of military manuals, in pdf form, over the last several years. It often strikes me how changes in mission and culture, beyond tactics and technology, have shaped their messages.

For example, the 2003 edition of The Soldier's Guide begins:
The Soldier is the ultimate guardian of America's freedom. In over 120 countries around the world, Soldiers like you are protecting our Nation's freedom and working to provide a better life for oppressed or impoverished peoples. It is no accident our Army succeeds everywhere we are called to serve -- the loyalty and selfless service of the American Soldier guarantee it.

Today our Army is fighting directly for the American people. This global war on terrorism is about our future. It's about ensuring our children and grandchildren enjoy the same liberties we cherish. While difficult tasks remain, victory is certain. The efforts and sacrifices of the American Soldier will assure it.
Compare that to the opening paragraph of the 1941 edition of the Soldier's Handbook:
You are now a member of the Army of the United States. That Army is made up of free citizens chosen from among a free people. The American people of their own will, and through the men they have elected to represent them in Congress, have determined that the free institutions of this country will continue to exist. They have declared that, if necessary, we will defend our right to live in our own American way and continue to enjoy the benefits and privileges which are granted to the citizens of no other nation. It is upon you, and the many thousands of your comrades now in the military service, that our country has placed its confident faith that this defense will succeed should it ever be challenged.
Notice that the more current version of the basic field manual alludes to (so-called) "nation building" and carries an unmistakably political tone. Sixty years earlier, it was all about defending the homeland.

This independent citizen-patriot, for one, favors the 1941 version.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Decided (2012 edition)

In 2008, I didn't share my choice for President until the Friday before Election Day. This time 'round I needed far less time to deliberate.

Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama represents, in my view, what's best for my country. Neither proposes to restore what we've lost. Neither has the courage to suggest that he intends to fix what's truly broken. And most important to me, neither Romney nor Obama has demonstrated that he values Liberty.

So today, 166 days before casting my ballot, I've decided to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

I categorically reject the simple-minded notion that I have only two viable choices, or that voting for anyone but the Republican nominee virtually guarantees the incumbent a second term.

The dominant parties and their wind-sock ideologies have failed us. Their candidates haven't earned my support.

On November 6th my vote will be a product of conscience, not calculation. Will yours?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fig 1

(U.S. Patent 984,519 was awarded to John Moses Browning on February 14, 1911. The U.S. Military would adopt this design a month later as the M1911 pistol.)

(U.S. Patent 4,539,889 was awarded to Gaston Glock on September 10, 1985. This was the dawn of the Glock pistol in America. For a more familiar-looking design, check out Fig 24 of the same patent.)

(U.S. Patent 632,094 was awarded to John Moses Browning on August 29, 1899. This design would become the Winchester Model 1900 bolt-action .22 rifle, forerunner of my trusty Winchester Model 67.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More Savage hype

Savage Arms Company produced more than 200,000 copies of the diminutive Savage Automatic Pistol -- a.k.a. Model 1907 -- between 1908 and 1920. As I said in yesterday's post, the gun is remembered more for over-the-top advertising than for defensive prowess.

Consider this 1914 pitch, pulled from The Saturday Evening Post.

Again, let's take a closer look at the hyperbolic, chauvinistic copy:
Is Your Wife Helpless or Dangerous --
in these times when more
make more burglars and brutes?

These times make more idlers. More idlers mean more Burglars and Brutes. Burglars and Brutes break your house; shock your wife into permanent hysteria and mark your children with a horrible fear for life.

A ten shot, easy-to-aim Savage Automatic converts your helpless wife into a dangerous defender of her children -- more dangerous to face than a mother grizzly bear.

Fathers, it is a serious duty in these times to arm your home by day and by night with a Savage Automatic -- the one arm which every Brute and Burglar fears. They fear its 10 lightning shots, 2 to 4 more than others; they fear the novice's power to aim it as easy as pointing your finger. Therefore take pains that you get the Savage -- the one the thugs fear.

As harmless as a cat around the house, because it is the only automatic that tells by glance or touch whether loaded or empty.

Take home a Savage today. Or at least send for free booklet, "If You Hear a Burglar," written by a famous detective.
Allow me to state the obvious -- a quick flip through any modern-day gun magazine reveals that manufacturers' approach to women has changed dramatically over the last 98 years. Ads now speak directly to women, acknowledging their role as gun owners and empowered (not "helpless") defenders of life and Castle. That's a good thing.

Knowing Mrs. KintlaLake as I do, it's also a sure thing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You want me to do what?

Back in the early 1900s, venerable Savage Arms produced a small-frame semi-automatic pistol chambered in .32. The marketing angle was an appeal to women in need of protection but afraid of firearms.

Most of the ads for this gun were either hyperbolic or chauvinist -- and usually both -- but this one takes the prize for lousy advice.

Here's a taste of the copy:
Shoot the First Shots Out of the Window!

That is the very best thing to do when you find a burglar in the house, says Wm. P. Sheridan, famous detective, in the
Woman's World Magazine. Arouse the whole neighborhood with shots! These first two or three shots will cause neighbors to jump to the 'phone and call the police.

Save the rest of your shots in case the burglar attacks you.
Yes, you read that right -- exactly 100 years ago, encouraging an inexperienced shooter facing an intruder to fire a few rounds out the window was considered a good idea. I know we're talking about deadly force and home defense here, but honestly, I can't help laughing.

Notice that the ad included an offer of even more such wisdom. By mail, for six cents, a reader could get a copy of The Tenderfoot's Turn (written, incidentally, by one Bat Masterson). Can you imagine?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The truth about football -- and a whole lot more

"Talent will get you seven or eight wins. Discipline gets you to around nine. Leadership is when the magic starts happening."

(Urban Meyer, Ohio State Head Football Coach, speaking to the media today)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Still more from Iver Johnson

"Could you answer a call for help, meet a criminal, handle him without danger to yourself? Unarmed, you'd be helpless. Armed, you could uphold law and order."

(From a 1922 issue of The Outlook magazine -- and no, buying a gun to "uphold law and order" isn't particularly sound advice.)

"The whole truth of this preparedness idea just hit me. For years I have carried insurance on my life, health, house and household goods. I have tucked away a comfortable nest egg in the bank to forestall a rainy day and financial reverses. And all this while I have kidded myself into thinking that this was all the protection that any husband and father could throw around his family.

"Defending the lives of my loved ones against the felonious attacks of prowling burglars -- this never occurred to me.

"There isn't a streak of yellow in me. I've never been called a coward in all my life. I just didn't give it a thought. I've been so busy with -- "

(From a 1917 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Now, as then, we can be sure that most Americans won't have this conversation with themselves and will not be prepared.)

Our entitlement culture (illustrated)

In "Our entitlement culture, defined" I shared a study which found that almost half of all Americans lives in households receiving government assistance. The accompanying graph is startling, but here's a much simpler illustration of the parasitic masses:

That's probably not the kind of "poster girl" that Sandra Fluke aspired to be, but it's precisely the pictorial notoriety she deserves.

This graphic, by the way, captures perfectly my response:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rewind: 'Farming in the 21st Century' (1960)

by John L. Russell, Jr.

What will farms be like 50 years from now? How will the average farmer live? Will there even be farms?

Dr. James Bonner, professor of biology, California Institute of Technology answers yes to the last question.

He says people will still be eating food and plenty of it. They won't be taking their daily supply of energy directly as electrical current nor will they be satisfied with a pink pill.

But of course farming will change radically by the year 2000. The silo, farm house, and the old red barn will be replaced with sleek, modern, streamlined, air-conditioned structures filled with electronic equipment.

Growth regulators will control the rate and type of animal and vegetable produced. Chemistry will make possible producing three-pound broilers in eight weeks instead of 11 and 2,000 pounds of beef will be produced in the same length of time it now takes to make 500.

Frozen sperm irradiated in nuclear reactors will furnish mutation offsprings stronger and better for bigger market prices. Farmyard manure will still be used but will be supplemented with sewage sludge and waste products.

Weeding crops and worrying about diseases or insects will be a thing of the past, and even the weather will be controlled by satellites.

Computer and photo-electric sensing devices and programming on magnetic tapes will allow farmers to plow, sow, cultivate, and reap several fields of crops at the same time. By simply monitoring at the console of a television receiver, robots will do most of the labor.

All timber will be cut electrically to any shape desired by a form of electric charge -- thus cutting out the double processes of sawing and planing. Electricity will be furnished by collector plates that will soak up the sun's heat to provide energy for your own little electric power plant which will operate the many electrical appliances around the farm.

The farmer clothes will be very different 50 years from now. There will be no weaving or knitting. Fabrics will be poured in liquid form from giant pastry tubes or rolled into large sheets and cut in tremendous quantities. But you will be growing the very products from which these new materials are made.

From the central electronic center in your home or office, you will be able to see on your closed circuit TV all that goes on anywhere on the farm without leaving your easy chair. If you want to give orders, you will simply use your intercommunication system or your pocket telephone.

You won't be shipping your goods long distances any more. With the coming of automation there will be no need for people to congregate in big cities. Farmers will tend to "live in" rather than inhabit the countryside; farms will be near their markets in smaller cities of around 10,000 which will be self-sufficient and independent.

No longer will any farmer have to do without city luxuries. The typical farm house of the year 2000, powered from a small local atomic power plant, can have heating and cooling systems, germicidal lamps, water and sewage systems and many other things.

Charles H. Weaver, vice president in charge of atomic power activities for Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and Francis K. McCune, vice president for atomic business development of General Electric Company, both see the typical home 50 years from now with an automatic control center that will take the labor out of housework and provide a very easy and rich living for all.

With a magic wand the furniture can be dusted. Floors and furniture will be scuff-proof and indestructible. You will have wall-sized TV in color and 3-D.

Your electronic oven will prepare food in seconds. Dishes will be washed in a soapless, super-sonic wave cleaning chamber and automatically put away.

John L. Burns, president of the Radio Corporation of America, foresees the miracle home of tomorrow being run by a pushbutton household electronic center. This center will get you up with the chickens -- if you still want to -- close the windows, start the coffee going, cook the bacon and eggs, and what all else.

Frederick R. Kappel, president of American Telephone and Telegraph Company, predicts you may be able to make cheap phone calls anywhere in the world when satellites begin to take over relays.

Going to town to shop will be unnecessary. The wife will just dial a department store on her TV and a salesperson will hold up the various articles.

You can buy your farm equipment the same way too. After making your decision, just press your charge plate into a machine. An electronic eye then goes into action and the price will be telemetered to central billing at the store's main office located 100 miles away. Central billing will automatically mail you a bill at the end of the month.

Spray washing will be used to clean both people and laundry, eliminating expensive plumbing. A pint of water an hour is all that will be required for the average farm house, and this will evaporate into the air. Sewage will be disposed of chemically on the premises or turned into valuable fertilizer.

All your vehicles, including farm machinery, will be powered by atomic energy. The vehicles will require little maintenance and will need fuel only once a year -- if that often.

With almost totally automatic farms, there will be plenty of time for travel. Supersonic jets and rocket airlines will be popular and cheap to fly by this time, so you can spend the weekends in Europe.

See you down on the farm in 2000 A.D.

["Farming in the 21st Century" appeared in the August/September 1960 issue of The National Future Farmer. John L. Russell, Jr. also wrote The Shape of Things to Come, a book published by the Popular Mechanics Company in June 1960.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reprise: Iver Johnson & the Second Amendment

Among the most popular posts here on KintlaLake Blog is "Castle Doctrine, with a Norwegian accent." It features a 1917 ad for Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works, noting its unapologetic expression of a citizen's right to defend home and family.

Here's another, clipped from a 1922 issue of Hearst's International:

The ad's bold headline -- "Self-preservation is the first law" -- sets the table for the copy that follows:
"Our forefathers who framed the Constitution of the United States recognized the right of citizens to protect their persons and property.

"And so the second amendment was inserted, which says, '...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'"
If Iver Johnson or his sons were around today, I'd like to think that they'd be advocating for our Second Amendment rights -- with or without a commercial interest, political correctness be damned.

Sharps: 'The Woodsman's Tools' (1948)

On this rainy Sunday morning I'm compelled to return to that 1948 Handbook for Boys (1953 printing) and what it has to say about edged tools. Chapter 15 opens with this paragraph:
"Pioneers who settled America and built homes, and cut farms and roads out of a wilderness, depended more on their axes and knives than on any other equipment except their guns. A knife and axe still are a woodsman's most useful tools."
I'm not suggesting that these eight pages, crafted over 60 years ago as a primer for young Scouts, are either comprehensive or conclusive. The information is, however, fundamentally sound and has aged well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

'Federal inmate makes strong showing against Obama in West Virginia primary'

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) -- Just how unpopular is President Barack Obama in some parts of the country? Enough that a man in prison in Texas is getting 4 out of 10 votes in West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary.

The inmate, Keith Judd, is serving time at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. With 93% of precincts reporting, Obama was receiving just under 60% of the vote to Judd's 40%.

[Some media are reporting that Inmate No. 11593-051 actually won nine of West Virginia's 55 counties in yesterday's Democratic primary. You can't make this shit up -- read the rest of the AP story here.]

May 9, 1754

On this date 258 years ago, the iconic Join, or Die. political cartoon, conceived (and perhaps drawn) by Benjamin Franklin, was published for the first time. It appeared in Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nanny says: 'No bake sales!'

"If a bake sale is going on, it's reported to [Montgomery County Public Schools] administration and it's taken care of. You can't sell Girl Scout cookies, candy, cakes, any of that stuff."

(Marla Caplon of Montgomery County, Maryland's Food & Nutrition Services Department, explaining the strict enforcement of the state's ban on bake sales in public schools. Similar rules are imposed on school fundraisers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Texas.)

"If we didn't have so many kids that were obese, we could have let things go. But this is a major public health problem and these kids deserve a chance at a good, long, healthy life."

(Massachusetts State Sen. Susan Fargo, chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, explaining why the state will ban fundraisers selling "non-nutritious" food in public schools beginning August 1st. Under the new regs, Massachusetts schoolkids won't even be allowed to give cookies or other "unhealthy" treats to classmates on their birthdays.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

'The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense'

Today I'm going to return briefly to the words of Frédéric Bastiat -- specifically, to the opening paragraphs of his 1850 essay, The Law:
We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life -- physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

Life, faculties, production -- in other words, individuality, liberty, property -- this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right -- from God -- to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force -- his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right -- its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force -- for the same reason -- cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.
Feel free to swap "nature" for "God" and "Creator," should you find Bastiat's deism bothersome -- it doesn't alter the meaning one bit.

Bastiat's fundamental premise (and indeed, the American ideal he so admired) is that individuals are superior to the governments they establish. We create law to collect and to protect, to organize and to represent -- not to replace and not to abdicate.

Life, liberty and property aren't granted to us by the governments we form and the laws we enact. The individual precedes and supersedes the collective construct.

Anything short of that ideal is "legal plunder, organized injustice."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This he understood

In this era of talk-radio klaxons and political opportunists, we'd be wise to make the acquaintance of one Frédéric Bastiat, the 19th-century French economist and essayist.

Of Bastiat's many works on economics and Liberty, perhaps the most relevant to our time is The Law, published in 1850. An excerpt:
You say: "There are persons who have no money," and you turn to the law. But the law is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the law supplied with milk from a source outside the society. Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in. If every person draws from the treasury the amount that he has put in it, it is true that the law then plunders nobody. But this procedure does nothing for the persons who have no money. It does not promote equality of income. The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder.

With this in mind, examine the protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works. You will find that they are always based on legal plunder, organized injustice.

You say: "There are persons who lack education," and you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of learning which shines its light abroad. The law extends over a society where some persons have knowledge and others do not; where some citizens need to learn, and others can teach. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in this second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property.

You say: "Here are persons who are lacking in morality or religion," and you turn to the law. But law is force. And need I point out what a violent and futile effort it is to use force in the matters of morality and religion?

It would seem that socialists, however self-complacent, could not avoid seeing this monstrous legal plunder that results from such systems and such efforts. But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others -- and even from themselves -- under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association. Because we ask so little from the law — only justice -- the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association. The socialists brand us with the name

But we assure the socialists that we repudiate only
forced organization, not natural organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association. We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity. We repudiate the artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility. We do not repudiate the natural unity of mankind under Providence.

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
If you can't read that without hearing Limbaugh or Beck or Palin, your ideology has crippled you -- but if Bastiat's words stir in you echoes of the Founders, you get it.

The Law, penned by a Frenchman 162 years ago, belongs in every Liberty-loving American's library today.

[For a very readable plain-English translation of Bastiat's The Law, click here; for a more formal translation, click here. Both versions are presented in pdf format.]

Looking back: 'The preparedness mindset'

This post, admittedly a re-hash, follows naturally from yesterday's nod to the Scout Motto. It's also timely, I think, in light of today's news out of Cleveland, and the May Day push by Occupy, and the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's demise, and much more that percolates beneath the surface of our fractured society.

Over the last four years I've invoked the term "preparedness mindset" a number of times. I humbly offer these posts for further reading:
Cold, cold water (June 16, 2008)

Been there? Done that? (June 22, 2009)

Back fifty-two to 'Fifty-nine (February 11, 2011)

EDC vs. EWC (August 19, 2011)

On channeling Glenn (November 1, 2011)

The Scout Motto: 'Be Prepared' (April 30, 2012)
I hope that my thoughts provoke yours. Better yet, maybe my words will kick-start a dinner-table conversation or two.