From time to time I peruse the web site of libertarian author L. Neil Smith. Here’s one of my favorites of his works, Why Did it Have to be … Guns? Follow the link and read it all. Excerpts, with my comments, follow:
Make no mistake: all politicians—even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership—hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it’s an X-ray machine. It’s a Vulcan mind-meld. It’s the ultimate test to which any politician—or political philosophy—can be put.
If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash—for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.
If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.
What his attitude—toward your ownership and use of weapons—conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?
And, yes, it’s all about trust. Even the most Second Amendment-friendly pols on tap today eventually hit that issue of trust. There is always some point beyond which they don’t trust the population at large.
If he doesn’t want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?
If he makes excuses about obeying a law he’s sworn to uphold and defend—the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights—do you want to entrust him with anything?
If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil—like “Constitutionalist”—when you insist that he account for himself, hasn’t he betrayed his oath, isn’t he unfit to hold office, and doesn’t he really belong in jail?
Sure, these are all leading questions. They’re the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician—or political philosophy—is really made of.
He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn’t have a gun—but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn’t you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school—or the military? Isn’t it an essentially European notion, anyway—Prussian, maybe—and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?
And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.
It’s always about someone else. It’s always about criminals, or nutjobs, or anyone else other than the regular citizen who happens to have an old 12-gauge stuck in a closet somewhere.
But what Mr. Smith doesn’t bring up is the outcry from would-be gun-grabbers to institute all of their policies at the Imperial level. “All laws should apply to the whole country,” they cry, claiming that places like Chicago have high crime rates in spite of having strict gun laws because criminals are apparently organizing convoys to buy and import guns from Indiana, where gun laws are much less onerous but for some mysterious reason the crime rate is much lower. These pols would put in New Jersey-style gun laws for people like me, in rural Alaska, where I can guaran-damn-tee you the result will be massive and defiant non-compliance.
So, yes, the Second Amendment is a good litmus test for political candidates. But if it’s important at the state and local level, it’s goddamn vital at the Imperial level, where they have the ability and the will to screw with all of us. After all, if your state pisses you off, you can find another – as Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. just did – but finding a new country is quite another thing.
Ever wonder why leftist mobs tend to shit where they live? Ah, but Tabletmag has the answer! Excerpts, with my comments, follow:
The Democratic Party has had a problem. It’s a small, incoherent, and privileged clique funded by billionaire oligarchs to push policies that even mainstream Democratic voters oppose. How to bridge the gap? The solution they chose, which party officials made clear this week, was simple: the way third-world elites always do—by using street violence to keep their clients in line.
There’s a long history of radical political and social movements doing precisely this; it’s a cruel tactic to retain control, not to gain control.
This week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators auditioned for the chance to join already established Democratic Party militias antifa and Black Lives Matter by attacking Jews in New York and Los Angeles. Apologists for the violence reason that the demonstrators are angry about the deaths of innocent Palestinian babies under Israeli fire in Gaza so they’re taking their frustrations—admittedly misplaced!—out on American Jews.
That is not what’s happening.
Who knows how many of the activists waving the Palestinian flag as they beat Jews and detonate fireworks in front of Jewish-owned businesses are genuinely Palestinian Americans? Maybe some aren’t even Arab or Muslim, but that’s irrelevant—they are staking their claim to recruit, promote, and represent Arabs and Muslims as an interest group. And so the flag they’re really flying isn’t for the Palestinians but rather for the Democratic Party.
Precisely so. It’s not about principles; none of this is. There are no principles involved, only politics, and it’s all about The Side. And yes, they shit where they live, but the present situation is a little different than it has been in other places, at other times, and here’s why:
ince the late spring, many have noted that these blue militias have typically avoided laying waste to red regions. And it is strange, if you think the Democrats have mobilized criminals and psychopaths and other semitragic misfits to target those they claim are the true enemies of democracy, tolerance, and brotherly love—the more than 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump. Presumably, blue militias know that if they campaigned in rural or even suburban America they would be met by a well-armed citizenry.
That’s one reason; I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to be the poor
AntiProfa son of a bitch who tried to march a bunch of danger-hair rioters through the Allamakee County hills of my youth, or into my present stomping grounds in the Susitna Valley. It would surely end badly for the rioters. But there’ s a larger purpose being served:
Still, why burn down their own neighborhoods? Again, here the Middle East is the key to understanding. And if you know anything about that region, you know that the answer is because that’s their job—not to confront their alleged red state enemies, but to remind their neighbors and fellow Joe Biden voters that their security, indeed even their lives, depend on them keeping the faith, no matter how much the party’s pet projects might hurt or offend them personally.
Ay, there’s the rub. The idiots organizing these
peaceful protests riots aren’t smart enough to realize this, but their political enablers in the Democratic party are; they provide cover for the goons pour encourager les autres, to make sure the regular folks in those areas continue to play their parts.
It’s a protection racket, nothing but. “Nice home, small business and community you’ve got there,” is the message, “be a shame if anything… happened to it.”
But the red areas will continue to be left untouched, for the most part. I’m reminded when some Antifa types showed up in Greeley, Colorado, not all that long ago, and were turned away by the townsfolks pretty smartly – no guns involved, just a vigorous response.
This, True Believers, is another aspect of the urban/rural divide that is our current political situation. The cities have the numbers but the rural areas have the food – and the guns. And the very real danger, one that is coming to seem more likely than I could have possibly imagined a year ago, is that the very tools the political Left is using to keep folks in the blue cities in check is the one that will blow up in their faces – and when it does, it will blow up in ours, too. It won’t end well for the rioters – but it won’t end all that well for us, either.
In a staggering bit of First World paternalism, EU nations are effectively denying African nations access to technologies that could make them prosperous. Excerpts, with my comments, follow:
In the bizarre maze of modern cultural geopolitics, European progressives spend a lot of time rending garments about their history of colonialism, slavery, and exploitation while engaging in it – using financial blockades if former colonies do not comply.
If a small trading partner wants to export food to Europe, it cannot use any science that Europe bans, and European progressives have a level of control over science that American activists only wish they could attain.
There’s one big big problem with that; it cripples small countries. They are already at a disadvantage that science can fix. Europe prevents them from using it.
Well, of course. Then thinking of Africa, it’s common for Westerners to think of tropical jungles, dry savannas or deserts, but Africa is a huge damn place, and contains a lot of excellent farmland. But African farmers are effectively locked out of the world markets by this and other stupid policies.
For those not lucky enough to be born in Europe, science is the great equalizer. It can help land prone to drought or previously only suitable for grazing grow enough to feed people, and even grow enough to export it. Unless European activists use logic like ‘science we paid to get banned in Europe is still used in other countries and it should not be imported here.'(1)
Despite knowing how important it is, affordable food is what Europe is against for developing nations. How much does it cripple other countries? Up to $4 trillion a year – just from invasive species.
That’s 150 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all African countries combined – lost. The tangible losses due to food being choked out are obvious; things like corn, maize, cassava, and mango. The real killer in productivity is labor. With unchecked invasive species that aren’t allowed to be killed by chemicals, laborers must do it by hand.
The one thing not mentioned in this article: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
Speaking as a biologist: Every food crop grown by humans today is genetically modified; only the techniques have changed. And already, today, in Africa and Asia, modern GMO crops like insect-resistant cotton and insect-resistant and drought-tolerant corn and rice are changing the way Africa and Asian farmers produce. But ignorant activists in the EU and North America still work tirelessly to shut these crops out of world markets, and in so doing condemn these nations to permanent Third World status.
For a nation’s economy to develop into modernity, the first thing that must happen is for modern agricultural technology to greatly reduce the portion of each person’s resources required for food. This happened in the U.S. and Europe a century ago, and now well-meaning but stupid policies are preventing it from happening elsewhere. Another major step is entry into global markets, and idiots in Europe are now preventing that as well.
It’s funny. I thought we were supposed to ‘follow the science,’ but in this case as in many others, that’s clearly not the case.
It’s that time of year again, when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the seventh year, I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes. And this year, this speech is dedicated to our granddaughter, who is graduating high school and entering a pre-med program this fall – on a full academic scholarship.
So, here it is. Enjoy.
“Graduates of the Class of 2021, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.
For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.
Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.
In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.
Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.
If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.
Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.
But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.
Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.
- Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
- Work a little harder than the other guy,
- Never pass up a chance to learn something new.
Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.
Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.
How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:
Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.
Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.
Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.
Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.
Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:
Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.
Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:
All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.
There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.
Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.
In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:
‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’
Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.
Go out and do it.
Thank you and good luck.”
If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.
This is a couple of weeks old, but I stumbled across it the other day and took a few days to digest it: The Great American Freak-Out And How To Address It. Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
Shortly before the 1928 presidential election between Herbert Hoover and New York Governor Al Smith, a well-known Baptist minister named Mordecai Ham wrote, “[I]f Smith is elected…it can be interpreted no other way except a fulfillment of prophecy of the latter-day perilous times.”
A sense of the apocalyptic a century ago was not limited to religious and populist agitators. Harvard humanist Irving Babbitt wrote in 1924 that self-indulgent materialism in America had likely surpassed that of ancient Rome, which “portends the end of our constitutional liberties and the rise of a decadent imperialism.”
This type of commentary abounded in the 1920s, and it echoes a century later. Now, as then, concerns about cultural decline often morph into a kind of apocalypticism.
No argument here. However, the article, as you’ll see, goes on to engage in a little “as it was, so shall it be,” but I think they are missing a few key things.
The problem with the apocalyptic style—or even its slightly less adrenalized cousin, the paranoid style—of politics is twofold. First, it corrupts public life by reducing the non-political complexity of life to political warfare. According to a 2018 survey by More in Common, the most ideologically extreme people on the right and the left are about twice as likely as the average American to list politics as a hobby. National surveys by the American Enterprise Institute have found that people whose only civic outlet is politics are lonelier than others and have a dimmer view of institutions of civil society outside of politics. Seeing life’s major challenges through the narrow lens of political power produces an anxious class of people with too much hope in what politics can achieve and too little hope in anything else.
This is certainly happening in the United States today, with the overwhelming influence of social media and the politicization of, well, everything. Not everyone has fallen into this trap, of course; one of my most valued friendships has only survived between me, a staunch minarchist libertarian and my friend, a deep-blue East Coast urban progressive, because we both feel there is much more to life and personalities than political opinions. But, yes, life has become increasingly politicized of late.
Second, the apocalyptic style blinds its adherents to all the things that are actually going well in the world, an understanding of which is necessary for progress. If your fears are extreme, you have a harder time seeing the world as it actually is. Most of our lives are not lived in the extreme. We live in the everyday, where the building blocks of forward progress are actually all around. Every generation needs to be engaged in an effort of recovery—of first principles, enduring practices and institutions, and the good things that we take for granted at our peril.
And, yes, things in general, at least in the Western nations, are overall going very well. No society in the history of mankind has produced the standard of living enjoyed by even the “poor” in the United States today. In most of the Western nations, we have eliminated – not reduced, eliminated abject poverty; only relative poverty exists now.
So what are the good things hiding in plain sight on which to build?
For starters, the value of a two-parent, married family is more widely recognized as the best environment for children than it was a generation ago. The divorce rate is down, having fallen by more than 30 percent since peaking around 1980, and the long upward trend of out-of-wedlock births has now begun to dip as well. Since 2014, the share of kids in intact families has thus begun to climb. This does not mean that declining marriage rates among young adults is not a cause of concern, but it does mean that a strong focus on healthy, intact families resonates with millions of Americans in ways recoverists can build on.
Next, Americans are patriots and localists at least as much, if not more, than they are ideological partisans. When asked in a large national AEI survey about where they derive a sense of community, a greater share of Americans named their American identity and local neighborhood than their political or ethnic identities. For instance, nearly a third (32 percent) of Americans say they get a “strong sense of community” from their American identity, compared to only 17 percent who feel the same about their race or ethnicity. Even amidst a slight drop in intense patriotism in 2020 amidst a pandemic and racial unrest, YouGov poll results showed robust levels of patriotism among a majority of Americans and even a slight uptick among young adults, Democrats, and Black Americans. You wouldn’t know this from the prevailing media narrative.
There is a lot more going well in America, from the balance of judges in our courts to an openness to more family-centric work environments and policies to drops in crime over the past 25 years that have made our streets safer to breakthroughs in medical technology that will diminish pain and suffering in ways formerly unknown.
It is important for recoverists within American political life to find each other and coalesce around common projects so that alarmism has less of an effect on policymakers. For recoverists hoping to make the future better by building on the past, it is worth pulling a page from the century-old playbook to find new ways to defend the first principles, practices, and institutions on which all of these good things depend. Neither the Mont Pelerin Society nor the Great Books nor C.S. Lewis was inventing entirely new ideas. All of them were recovering anew those things without which a healthy and flourishing society is not possible.
The problem is that these things aren’t happening.
We aren’t finding new ways to defend old principles. But more than that, the other side – the political Left – isn’t playing by the old rules. While Franklin Roosevelt proposed packing the Supreme Court, he failed to do so, but now Democrats are openly advocating that again – and failing that, proposing to add new states and imposing unconstitutional Imperial election rules to cement one-party rule. They did so successfully in California; now they want to take the show on the road.
Conditions have changed, as well. Folks in the time periods mentioned in this article weren’t drinking from the information fire hose represented by Derpbook, Twatter and so on. The 24/7 inundation of information, much of it political or cast in a political light, is unprecedented. Add to that the fact that the major providers are unabashedly biased; they aren’t putting their thumbs on the scale, they are piling cinder blocks on it.
Read the whole article. It strikes an optimistic tone, and I do try to strive towards optimism myself. But these days, it’s getting hard to maintain. Read it yourselves, though, and make up your own minds; the point that things aren’t all bad is a good one. Life can be pretty damn good these days, if you can just ignore politics and politicians for a while.