As modern-day statists decry or attempt to explain the Constitution; something they often neither respect nor understand, they use the example about yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater as an example of how the restrictions of government as enumerated in the Constitution are not absolute, are outdated, and sometimes just wrong.
Regarding the absolution of it; I assure you that while the Constitution was designed to be amendable if We the people overwhelmingly agree to do so, it is absolute; or at least it was intended to be. Yet, arresting someone for falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater, believe it or not, does not violate the 1st amendment in any way. It can, and should be a crime without freedom of speech having ever been infringed upon.
Last week in my article Why Can’t I have a Nuclear Warhead, I explained how owning an AR-15 versus owning a nuke is a frivolous argument that people who wish to abandon our Constitution often use. So this week, I’ll do my best to debunk this one as well.
If you are in a movie theater, you may freely say the words fire, bomb, I just farted, or whatever else you may exclaim that could scare the heck out of everyone if said loud enough.
Conversely, if there were a fire, you would be right, and frankly a hero, to warn everyone by yelling “Fire”. This being true, using those words in a theater will not get you arrested as a general rule either when appropriate.
The issue is not the action of exercising your free speech, it’s about creating a hazardous environment for people by virtue of yelling fire or any other method you might use. Because this then creates a panic, and thus a dangerous situation where people could be trampled or otherwise harmed in some way as they attempt to evade a danger that only existed in your sadistic mind. You could pull the fire alarm, not yell anything, and you’d be guilty of the same violation; so the speech used is never the issue.
By creating a panic, you infringe on someone’s right to life, as enumerated in the Constitution, since a panicked crowd becomes a serious health hazard to everyone involved.
Sadly, our Constitution is misunderstood, violated, and under attack every day. As Americans, we should understand that the Constitution was right long before we even fully understood how to implement it. We were slave owners declaring all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights, after all.
The Constitution has never been the problem—it had it right all along. People violating it has, and always will be. So let’s not let the left destroy it with false premises, logical fallacies, or misdirection. We the people should take the time to read, understand, protect, and promote the Constitution responsibly. Our liberty depends on debunking such false arguments. Hopefully, as people like me explain away them, you’ll be better prepared for your next debate.
In the course of endeavoring for reasoned debate, I often find people who either do not understand the word reasonable, or simply can’t be bothered with reason. These days, they’re often referred to as internet trolls. People who love to use hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and sometimes, just plain old personal insults to make their point.
In making the case for why the Armalite AR-15 should not be subject to some sort of ban, one of those folks asked me a question that was clearly born of hyperbole with the intent of destroying my arguments for why one should be allowed to own such a weapon. On the face of it, it’s actually a poignant question, but the tone of his asking it suggested he wasn’t interested in an answer; he felt the question was redundant, rhetorical, and had proved his point with no further dialogue needed.
The questions is often used by gun control zealots, and always given with the same smirky attitude that defines the fringe of any party who aren’t interested in debate, but merely getting you to agree with them. The question was this:
If you can have an AR-15 legally, why can’t you have a nuclear weapon?
After which, he snidely said, “yay, nukes for us all!” This of course being the point I knew he wasn’t interested in an answer.
When he first asked the question, I realized I’ve heard this before, and if I truly believe in ultimate liberty, then why would I not support allowing citizens to own a nuclear weapon? Being someone who strives for consistency in my beliefs, how do I reconcile this question without violating my ideology of liberty?
I’ve made it clear that I am not an anarchist, I am a libertarian. A person who believes in limited government, not a total lack of it. For me, the roles of government are defined as people employed by the populace to protect our rights. In my opinion, anything the government does outside that realm is oppression. This responsibility of government I’ve enunciated is where his argument falls apart.
I personally own an AR-15, and have easily shot thousands of rounds through it at a shooting range and other safe environments. No one has ever died, nor even been hit by a bullet fired from my gun. As such, I can make an argument that I can own and use an AR-15 without being a harm to anyone by virtue of having done so repeatedly. The only person at risk is the guy who thinks my TV should be his TV and has no qualms about attempting to make it so.
However, while I am not a nuclear physicist, I am pretty comfortable in claiming that I could likely not detonate a nuclear weapon without likely threatening the rights to life, liberty, and/or property of another. So the line is pretty simple to me as to what weapons should be legal versus those that must be banned.
If the weapon is one that can be used without harming others, you should have the right to own it—period. If however, that weapon or item is a danger to society with little to no ability to be used without harming someone, it must remain illegal as it is a threat to the rights of another. If you could own a piece of property so remote and isolated from the world that you could detonate an H-bomb on it without risking anyone’s life but your own, then frankly, I’d be OK with it.
So there you have it, a logical answer to a question many assume has no reasonable answer, and consistency in my beliefs about liberty are still in tact. Next question!
Previously, I showed that stats don’t add up when making the case that gun owners are dangerous. Conservative estimates show that for every one person who murders with a gun in a given year, there are approximately 100,000 that own guns without incident—1:100,000 does not a pattern make, by any standard.
I do not subscribe to the, do-something-even-if-it’s-wrong mantra. If the desired outcome is a positive result, doing the wrong thing is fundamentally illogical, and will in all likelihood make matters worse—the infamous Washington DC Gun Ban is a prime example.
When children die, it’s always tragic. Being the intelligent beings we humans are, it’s in our nature to solve problems—that’s a basic part of our evolution. A tragedy such as Sandy Hook would push anyone to action, even if that action was contrary to their own long-held beliefs.
For instance, the famous skeptic Dr Michael Shermer, someone whom I greatly admire and partially credit for shaping my way of thinking, wrote this article in January of 2012, only to reverse course a bit in the wake of this recent tragedy; he now compassionately asks for a restriction on guns.
I respect the passion with which people have decided to come out in favor of banning so-called “Assault” rifles (a made up term), their concern is understandable. The fact that someone famous for always putting logic over passion like Dr. Shermer can change his opinion shows this issue can move anyone.
But, I believe removing guns from law-abiding and sane citizens will only save one potential victim while making a potential victim out of another. It seems more of a knee-jerk reaction than a logically deduced solution.
We know how many lives were ended by guns, however we can never know the lives saved because a killer was stopped by a good Samaritan with a gun.
For instance, if the Sandy Hook shooter had been shot by a teacher immediately after killing his first victim, there would have been no way to know he would have went on to kill 25 more. As such, you should be wary of anyone who says they have data proving that guns kill more lives than they save. Such numbers are purely theoretical and often swayed by the writer’s opinion.
One common attack levied at gun control dissenters is, “Yes, let’s do nothing.” Sadly, this is a straw man argument that does nothing to further intelligent discussion. Most rational people are not proposing we do nothing, certainly not me. So making that statement towards gun control skeptics as if we advocate doing nothing, then attacking us for being do-nothing people is insulting and wrong.
So in the wake of this awful tragedy, I am proposing we use good science to improve this issue.
In order to keep this story reasonably short, I’m going to focus on spree killers such as the Sandy Hook shooter (for the record, I am purposefully not mentioning the name). If we are to get serious about reducing all violent crime, repealing “vice” laws against certain drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc., is needed. We know this because repealing prohibition worked, yet for reasons of religious ideology, we continue to ban many other victimless crimes because zealots consider them to be immoral.
One of the traits that seems very common amongst spree killers of any type, whether they use a gun, bomb, arson, or any other deadly means of attack, is that they often had a documented history of mental illness and/or psychopathic behavior.
Based on this information, I believe there is usable data that is not being fully taken advantage of. What I am proposing is that the American Psychological Association (APA) have a convention where an open invitation is sent to any psychiatrist who has treated a patient who went on to commit these heinous acts.
Those doctors would confer and collect data about common traits that were exhibited amongst most or all of the attackers they worked with. This data would be published in medical journals for other mental health professionals to review and provide relevant feedback. The APA would then assemble a list of traits they feel are consistent among spree killers while ruling out those traits that were consistent among killers and non-killers alike. Once we have done this, we should have a reasonable collection of warning signs that can be shared with the public so that we can be aware of what to look for amongst society.
This approach is similar to what was asked of us after 9/11 where the public was given warning signs to look out for to prevent terrorism. If a family member, friend, or acquaintance is behaving in a manner consistent with the behavioral patterns of these killers, we can be more prepared to act.
Gun owners like me for instance, might lock up our guns in a secure safe or remove them from the house altogether. We could call a local medical health facility about what we’ve seen to determine if the person in question may need evaluated. If the person has already been diagnosed and prescribed medication for their issues, we must be diligent about reporting if they go off their meds, which may result in violence.
One look at the Giffords shooter’s (Also not mentioning his name) YouTube videos was rather convincing that the man needed help. I feel that if mental health professionals worked harder at getting info to the public about what to look for and when to report it, the caring among us would do exactly that, and unlike gun bans, lives could be saved with few deadly unintended consequences.
Murder rate statistics of the United States show we are well below average among the rest of the world, so being an alarmist is hyperbole at best—we are not experiencing an epidemic, and immediate action isn’t needed. Other studies have shown that violent crime is simply in steady decline around the world. As we evolve as a species, we become more intelligent, and less violent.
But politicians use hyperbole to advance a political agenda like Gordon Ramsay uses swear words to make a point. There is no epidemic, spike in violence, or reason for panic. What is needed are clear thinking medical scientists applying the scientific method towards mental health issues, then educating the public on how best to deal with them.
As a libertarian, I cringe at the notion of government locking someone up on the premise they might be a threat before they’ve actually done anything wrong. So I believe incarceration should only be done at the behest of licensed medical professionals, and there should be appeals in place to help these people get a second opinion if they feel they are being unfairly detained.
While I’m advocating for advancements in mental health science, and using those advancements to identify threats and potentially get them out of society until they are no longer deemed a threat, it is imperative that like our prison system, we take every step to not detain someone who is of little threat to society.
Logical Americans must demand we use science, not knee-jerk reactions and politically motivated legislation to solve our problems. There’s a reason we have cures for thousands of diseases, rovers on Mars, and mobile phones the size of a playing card—it’s called the scientific method. Unlike politicians and hyperbole, it leads to truths and it actually works—let’s stick with it.
As we consider how America should respond to recent gun violence and other issues in our country, those eager to take away constitutional freedoms from millions of law-abiding citizens to thwart future bad acts of a few, often resort to tried and true arguments with little concern for the fact they are completely illogical.
For instance, if you’ve been watching the gun debate recently, one critic of gun rights, CNN’s Piers Morgan, routinely states that no one can make an argument why people need guns such as the Armalite AR-15 platform (contrary to belief, the A is for Armalite, not assault). This statement would only be relevant or logical in a country where freedom is not the default.
I cannot stress enough that in a free country, the starting point is that everything should be legal. From there, we make a case with a well-reasoned argument where We the people agree that something should be made illegal because one person’s right to do it infringes on the rights of another.
So as we move into the well-reasoned arguments for criminalization and regulation, let me outline one that is commonly improperly formulated; the cause-and-effect argument.
Starting with the aforementioned gun debate, some argue that gun owners are dangerous people. However, a proper analysis of the numbers clearly refutes this. There are approximately 80 million adults in America who own guns and nearly 11,000 criminal gun deaths. That means that 0.01% of gun owners kill, leaving 99.99% who don’t. So by no proper mathematical analysis can you argue gun owners are unsafe when for every one killer among us gun owners, there are 9,999 who are not.
Another similar false cause-and-effect argument is that marijuana is a gateway drug. People assert that by virtue of using marijuana, the drug triggers the user to gravitate to harder and more dangerous drugs. The first issue with this argument is that studies show alcohol is usually the drug that addicts of harder drugs start with. Once bored with that, they may gravitate to marijuana, then harder drugs after that. But because alcohol is legal, it is often removed from the dialogue.
But the reason alcohol and marijuana are the drugs people usually start with in the first place is by virtue of their abundance in the marketplace. They are simply the ones most readily available, and therefore, the ones people most often initially experiment with.
But I want to focus on these cause-and-effect arguments as they are completely backwards. In order to argue cause-and-effect, we first start with the cause (in this case marijuana users) and then see how many effects (harder drug use) result. But, the opposite is occurring.
Let me give an example to prove my point. We know that all Boston Celtics are basketball players, but not all basketball players are Boston Celtics—thousands in fact are not, nor ever will be. So those making the marijuana gateway drug cause-and-effect argument falsely are arguing that by virtue of being a basketball player, you are likely to become a Boston Celtic. While many kids with a basketball in their hands might love this notion, there are almost infinitely more with broken dreams and a regular job.
While I have never used marijuana, I happen to know many habitual users. They’re in the millions across America, so I’m sure you do to.
Like me, I would hope you’ve noticed that most of them have used it for years without ever graduating to cocaine, meth, or anything else. So I’d like to think you knew all along this argument was wrong, but simply hard a hard time refuting the math people gave you because you weren’t aware of their flawed methodology. Now that you realize it’s a false premise, you’ll be better prepared to refute such nonsense in the future.
As a poker player, I’ve seen how such arguments destroy liberty and ruin lives. Look no further than online poker’s infamous Black Friday. Thousands of American rounders were literally forced into unemployment as they were denied their rights to earn an honest living playing a game of skill based on the cause-and-effect argument that gambling ruins lives and therefore should be regulated or outlawed completely.
Millions of people visit casinos every year without losing their house, car, or child’s college fund, yet because every gambling addict who did lose everything started in a casino, the significantly greater portion who can responsibly lay a few bucks on the line get punished. We can no longer enjoy the one form of entertainment that might actually pay us back.
So next time someone uses the false cause-and-effect argument to take away your rights, I hope this will help you to be better prepared to take them down by destroying their poor methodology. More importantly, the next time someone says to you, “Why do you need that gun, drug, etc.?,” you can respond by saying something like this:
This is a free country, I don’t have to make such an argument—everything should be legal here. The onus is on you to make a case for making it illegal by explaining how me enjoying that freedom infringes upon your rights. If you cannot make such a case, we’re done here.
If we’re lucky, they will either have an epiphany and embrace freedom like you and I, or they will remain swathed in a blanket of ignorance and intolerance as they wrongly argue to oppress you by using false arguments and logical fallacies under the guise that it’s “For your own good.”
Libertarians and capitalists rightfully despise regulations in a free market since it erodes, thwarts, and deincentivizes innovation. But one thing that has always caused me to wrestle with my non-regulation-is-king beliefs is the concept of regulating involuntary collusion. I’m coining the phrase mind you, so don’t bother Googling it.
Companies are supposed to compete with one another by either lowering prices, increasing quality, or both—each one taking a unique approach to the same end. If they are free to innovate, the consumers win as companies go to war on the gridiron of commerce. Anyone who has ever ran faster than the person next to them, solely because that person was running faster than them, knows that competition yields greater performance.
Now let’s talk about collusion. It is illegal for business heads to get together and agree to cooperate in some way as to benefit themselves at the expense of the consumer or worker.
For instance, NFL team owners could not collectively decide that they are paying the players too much and all agree to cut payroll across the board. Nor could they decide they don’t consider game jersey profits high enough and agree to bump the price 10% across the board. I’m not going to go into the history of collusion, but suffice it to say that it violates the concept of free market capitalism because it’s the opposite of competition; it’s cooperation.
The astute of you will notice I used the word collectively that last paragraph. So you might ask why it’s OK for employees to collectively bargain? It is certainly legalized collusion after all. Short answer—I have no %$#&ing idea why it’s allowed. I covered this in my article Why is this even legal? so I won’t go into it here.
Now that we understand what a free market is supposed to be and what collusion is, what do I mean by involuntary collusion?
Free market capitalism allows for consumers who don’t like what one company is doing, to find another that doesn’t engage in that practice. However, in industry there exists the term IndustryStandards which threaten this principle. Sometimes it just refers to a best practice where years of competing have brought all companies to a similar ultimate conclusion. For instance: tool companies like Mac or Snap-On who give a lifetime warranty on their tools because their competition is doing it and they need to keep up. Since you can’t “one-up” a lifetime warranty, it just becomes an industry standard best practice. But other times it involves companies doing something that the public despises, yet because all companies do it, consumers can no longer avoid the practice.
A perfect example of government regulating this is the National Do-Not-Call List. Companies found that automated telemarketing was cheap, easy, and effective. Even though consumers hated these robo-calls, many corporations adopted this practice leaving consumers without the ability to avoid it. So we the people had to look to government to make them stop.
In these situations, companies all do the same thing, just as they would be if they were colluding against the consumer, but they never agreed to it—it just happened involuntarily through corporate evolution.
Let me give a non-government example of how such legislation can be effective and important. In auto racing, weight is the enemy; therefore nothing is needlessly added to a car that would add weight, unless that thing generates more speed that overcomes the loss of speed from the added weight.
However, safety equipment doesn’t make a car go faster, the weight is a hindrance; it exists solely to protect the driver in an accident. So race series directors often must enact regulations that require such safety equipment be on the cars of all participants. Race teams are paid to win, so if you don’t force them all to comply, the ones who do, always lose to the teams who throw caution to the wind. The only way to get one team to comply and make life safe for their drivers is to require they all comply—leaving no one with a competitive advantage. Think of it as the governing body of racing protecting the rights to life of the driver.
So in the same vein, I do believe that because our country is based on free market capitalist principles, it’s important our government ensure the market is indeed free. It isn’t enough to know there are multiple companies in the marketplace—we must insure they are indeed competing with each other.
With this in mind, I feel it important to say that even as a libertarian and free market guy, I am 100% behind the new laws in six states prohibiting employers from requiring employees to disclose personal online passwords and data. Companies are hiring you for your ability to work. Whether you like to bathe in peanut oil and play with Barbies while watching Big Bang Theory reruns on your own time has no consequence on your ability to enter data into a computer. What you do in the privacy of your own home or amongst friends is none of their business.
My right to privacy is directly linked to my right to pursue happiness, something our Declaration of Independence says I was born with, and my government has a duty to protect.
Businesses are supposed to succeed by appealing to consumers, not by collectively taking advantage of them. We’ve seen what happens when we allow companies to collude by watching business tycoons past. It was anything but good for the people, the workers, or the economy—it becomes, in effect, a conglomerate monopoly.
So while I want us to deregulate on a massive scale that would cause Republicans and Democrats alike to shiver from the cold harshness of liberty, I do think lawmakers would be well served to find instances where companies have adopted an industry standard where by which businesses are no longer competing; unwittingly or not, against the consumer, and then quash it accordingly. The strength of our economy and our liberty depend on it.
Socialism: an interesting concept. Depending on who you are, your reasons for supporting it may vary.
Let’s start first with the basic concept which is inherently altruistic in nature. The idea that we should all pull together in an ultimate show of social equality—no winners or losers.
The people who have never lived under socialist rule who describe themselves as socialists, or their less extreme quasi-socialists who simply believe equal opportunity should be synonymous with equal result (We’ll call them quocialists), see socialism as a means of helping the less fortunate.
I find Hollywood ironic—they are composed of America’s most outspoken quocialists. However, think back to every movie where the plot line was a government that tried to create a socialistic utopia. 1984 and others all had one common thread: utopias suck and a government that tries to create one is inherently evil. There are hundreds of movies based on this concept, yet the hero is always someone yearning for freedom who leads a rebellion to fight the power. Government is never the benevolent protagonist.
So are Hollywood writers smart, yet actors blissfully ignorant?
If so, actors are either dupes or hypocrites. They take roles that reflect that big government is evil, while promoting it as the answer to everyone’s problems off the silver screen.
So then why do quocialists continue to pound the drum of more government? If you’re ignorant of history, and want to be loved by everyone, you fight to take away the bread crumbs from the rich and assume that will be enough to feed the poor.
The problem with this, is that they’re not taking just the bread crumbs—that’s never enough. They’re trying to take three or more courses of a five-course meal. Plus, they aren’t doing all of the giving, they’re forcing others to do it.
The reason I say they are ignorant is because we have many real-world examples of socialism to learn from. I cannot recall one socialist nation whose people don’t live in squalor. Hollywood writes these movies—even they can’t make it seem awesome. History shows it leads to deplorable economies; yet these folks, mired in ideology so thick they can no longer see through it, promote something that anyone with a modicum of knowledge has seen, never works to the benefit of the people.
So let’s throw out full-blown socialism for the half-hearted version our president routinely proposes; you know, the one where he says he loves business, but conveniently leaves out the “so I can tax them to hell and back” part.
Apparently these folks again are ignoring that no government has ever taxed itself into prosperity, and conversely ignoring that as a country embraces free markets and liberty, it thrives.
Look at Hong Kong vs China as a prime example. As the people of mainland China jump to their death from the Foxconn plant because conditions are so bad; a mere boat ride away, Hong Kong is a massively growing economy where people thrive and prosper making nearly 2-1/2 times as much per capita. Similar culture and people, just communism vs capitalism.
Compare the number of people fleeing socialist nations for America versus the number of Americans fleeing to go live in a socialist nation—then try to make your best case for socialism.
The problem is that Hollywood literally lives in a land of make-believe; where if something can be written, through imagination and companies like Industrial Light & Magic, it can be turned into an on-screen reality. When you live with a mantra that anything is possible, you start to believe that anything really is possible; such as making sure no one is left behind. The intentions are good. But much like science-fiction, it’s always lacking in real science that actually works.
Now to look at other paradigms, let’s talk about the people who live under socialist rule.
We know that people living under socialism often are dying to get out. Why do we know this? Because they are literally dying to get out. If you’ve not yet been disarmed, you become a rebel, fight the power, and likely die a martyr. If you have been disarmed; cutting and running is the soup du jour, with dreams of asylum yet nightmares of a watery grave on your mind.
Some are exactly what socialist rulers hope they would be: loyal servants of the state. They’ve been ingrained with the notion that serving your country is the most noble cause imaginable just as we’ve been ingrained that freedom is an unalienable right. If every person were born without a sense of individualism and a desire to want more, this socialism fad might just work. Too bad that’s not in the nature of mankind. Even the most loyal patriot drives 60 mph in a 55 mph zone. We just want to be free!
Many stay and take advantage of the hard work of others. They are beaten down, convinced there’s no reason for hard work (in their world there isn’t), and just do what they can to stay off the radar while working as little as possible and living off of the state.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in being any one of those people.
The last group I want to emphasize the most: socialist leaders. From Adolf Hitler, Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro et al., they all have one thing in common. They expect everyone to pull their “fair share” and work together as a unified state. Name me one socialist leader however who doesn’t own several mansions, diamond encrusted Mercedes Benzes, and servants to wash their family jewels—yes, those jewels.
I’ll believe real-world socialism isn’t evil hypocrisy when I see one socialist leader that lives on the same income as the people they govern.
The quocialists of America continue to assert that income disparity here in America is bad, but in China you have a couple of billionaires thanks to government corruption, then the other 99% who are lucky if they’re making a fifth of what we do here. Maybe American quocialists ought to take notice that while the real socialists build the iPhone and iPad, it’s those of us who live under capitalism that can actually afford to own one.
There are thousands of people in the United States that make far more money than the presidential salary our current POTUS rakes in. but that would rarely be tolerated under socialist rule?
So for Americans, socialism in any form is just a means for them to convince you they want what is best for you. Some are altruistic, but most are doing it to feel good about themselves. For people under socialism, they’re miserable, live in conditions I wouldn’t subject my dog to, or they die on a boat or a revolution dying to escape. Can you cite examples of anyone dying while trying to flee America or any other free country?
For socialist leaders, they have no intention of giving the people anything other than what is needed to convince the people not to revolt—not a penny more. To them, the food provided is merely fuel for the workhorses of their economy. Promises of primary needs are merely done for self-preservation of the socialist ruler, not the benefit of the people. Like Hollywood, they want to be worshiped and loved, but just can’t be bothered to do any actual work to earn that worship and love.
So are socialist leaders evil? All the socialist leaders I know of are.
Are Hollywood quocialists evil? No, They’re just altruistic, but lazy and ignorant.
Are people who live under socialist rule evil? No, they’re victims.
log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action