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Posts Tagged ‘tyrannical government’

The Folly of “Ask What You Can Do for Your Country” | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 25, 2020

But asking citizens to sacrifice for the country, especially when the government is misleadingly used as a proxy for American society, implies that we were made for the government’s benefit, rather than it for ours.

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Recently, I was reminded of John F. Kennedy’s most famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” when I heard it among several famous sound bites leading into a radio show segment. It also reminded me that we will hear it more soon, as we are approaching JFK’s May 29 birthday. However, it is worth reconsidering what it means.

Of particular importance is Milton Friedman’s response that “Ask not” was “at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny….[It] implies the government is the master…the citizen, the servant.”

You can see the reason by noting that “Ask not” is completely consistent with what a tyrannical government—the kind that has beset people throughout most of recorded history—expects of its relationship with citizens. Governors did not exist for the good of the governed; those governed existed for the good of their governors. So citizens shouldn’t waste their time asking what the government will do for them.

But when John Locke argued that government should be for the good of the citizens, not for the good of the governors, he turned that historic reality upside down. And America was formed based on that idea (as illustrated by Richard Henry Lee’s claim that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence from Locke).

To Locke, a justifiable government would exist for the good of all. If that were so, every citizen would be willing to voluntarily join that society if given the choice. However, most aren’t given that choice. So Locke used the idea of a state of nature—in which one is not automatically committed to being a member of a particular society—to ask what a government that citizens would all willingly join would do for them. That is the opposite of what JFK told us to do. And the answer—very little—is quite different from the government we have.

At heart, what we all want government to do is what John Locke laid out in chapter 9 of his Second Treatise on Government:

Why…subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power?….[T]he enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure…[so] he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others…for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property. The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.

The most basic functions of government amount to better protecting property rights. National defense protects our lives, liberties, and estates from foreigners; police, courts, and jails protect them from our neighbors; and the Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) protects them from our most powerful and dangerous neighbor—the federal government itself. How do those protections benefit us all? They better protect us from coercion by those who might overcome our ability to protect our property rights with superior force. That protection is the basis that enables uncountable acts of voluntary cooperation to jointly benefit us all, and which have made us incomparably better off than our forebears.

Given the apparent chasm between what Friedman recognized as the theory that inspired America and JFK’s inaugural address, is there a way to reconcile them? Yes. The key is who is being addressed by the statement. The inspiration for “Ask not” addressed politicians, not citizens. It was a Kahlil Gibran article, whose Arabic title translates as “The New Frontier.” It said “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you, or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in the desert.”

Clearly, politicians who abuse their positions to benefit themselves are parasites on their society. We can condemn them for asking what the country can do for them. But applying “ask what you can do for your country” to citizens instead of politicians turns America’s founding upside down. Advancing the general welfare means advancing the welfare of the individuals that comprise our country. But asking citizens to sacrifice for the country, especially when the government is misleadingly used as a proxy for American society, implies that we were made for the government’s benefit, rather than it for ours.

If we take what politicians should not do to citizens and extend it to citizens who conspire with politicians to get special treatment at others’ expense, the same criticism applies. We can condemn both those politicians and their special friends that pick the pockets of the rest of us. To that extent, “Ask not” also applies to citizens, and Americans broadly endorse the sentiment against special treatment.

However, that latter step puts the blame in the wrong place. If government followed the principle of “give not” special favors, we wouldn’t need to worry that people might seek them. In other words, we should not blame citizens for asking for what it is a central purpose of politicians in our constitutional system to say no to.

Even the recognition of how something that was originally addressed to politicians can also apply to citizens, however, does not answer Friedman’s critique. That requires asking something more. It is impossible to have a government that advances the interests of all its citizens—that will benefit all of us—unless we first ask the Lockean question of what government will be empowered to do. If what it is allowed to do goes far beyond the Lockean purpose of defending of our property rights against coercion, which enables far more mutually cooperative arrangements, then both politicians and citizens will violate America’s founding principles. Rather than advancing freedom, we will sacrifice people’s lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to the unjustifiable violations of rights that will consequently dominate politics.

Once we think about what we must ask, we might actually find more useful inspiration in what Richard Nixon said we must ask and ask not: “In our own lives, let each of us ask not what government will do for me, but what can I do for myself,” because nothing is more inspiring than what individuals can achieve by pursuing their own advancement in liberty, through peaceful, voluntary cooperation that respects others’ equal rights. But when government and its special friends use its coercive power to interfere in such arrangements and impose their own dictates, it punishes rather than promotes the greatest source of societal advancement that exists.

Americans need to recognize that “ask not what your country can do for you,” beyond what advances our joint interests, is good advice, but that to “ask what you can do for your country” has been used to rewrite our founding principles. What government now demands of us “for our country” offers no guarantee to advance our interests.

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In Defense of the Right – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on January 18, 2020

There is a reason why Antifa, communists and progressives like governor Northam of Virginia want to limit your rights. Especially defense from government violence.

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And that right implies the right to defend life — the right to self-defense. If I am about to assault you in the nose, you can duck, run away or punch me first. If I am about to strike your children, you can strike me first. If I am about to do either of those things with a gun, you can shoot me first, and no reasonable jury will convict you. In fact, no reasonable prosecutor will charge you.

The reason for all this is natural. It is natural to defend yourself — your life — and your children. The Framers recognized this right when they ratified the Second Amendment. They wrote it to ensure that all governments would respect the right to keep and bear arms as a natural extension of the right to self-defense.

In Defense of the Right

The Ash Wednesday massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, seems to have broken more hearts than similar tragedies that preceded it. It was no more senseless than other American school shootings, but there is something about the innocence and bravery and eloquence of the youthful survivors that has touched the souls of Americans deeply.

After burying their dead, the survivors have mobilized into a mighty political force that loosely seeks more laws to regulate the right to keep and bear arms. The young people, traumatized and terrified with memories of unspeakable horror that will not fade, somehow think that a person bent on murder will obey gun laws.

Every time I watch these beautiful young people, I wince, because in their understandable sadness is the potential for madness — “madness” being defined as the passionate and stubborn refusal to accept reason. This often happens after tragedy. After watching the government railroad Abraham Lincoln’s killer’s conspirators — and even some folks who had nothing to do with the assassination — the poet Herman Melville wrote: “Beware the People weeping. When they bare the iron hand.”

It is nearly impossible to argue rationally with tears and pain, which is why we all need to take a step back from this tragedy before legally addressing its causes.

If you believe in an all-knowing, all-loving God as I do, then you accept the concept of natural rights. These are the claims and privileges that are attached to humanity as God’s gifts. If you do not accept the existence of a Supreme Being, you can still accept the concept of natural rights, as it is obvious that humans are the superior rational beings on earth. Our exercise of reason draws us all to the exercise of freedoms, and we can do this independent of the government. Stated differently, both the theist and the atheist can accept the concept of natural human rights.

Thomas Jefferson, who claimed to be neither theist nor atheist, wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Such rights cannot be separated from us, as they are integral to our humanity. Foremost among our unalienable rights is the right to life — the right to be and to remain alive.

And that right implies the right to defend life — the right to self-defense. If I am about to assault you in the nose, you can duck, run away or punch me first. If I am about to strike your children, you can strike me first. If I am about to do either of those things with a gun, you can shoot me first, and no reasonable jury will convict you. In fact, no reasonable prosecutor will charge you.

The reason for all this is natural. It is natural to defend yourself — your life — and your children. The Framers recognized this right when they ratified the Second Amendment. They wrote it to ensure that all governments would respect the right to keep and bear arms as a natural extension of the right to self-defense.

In its two most recent interpretations of the right to self-defense, the Supreme Court characterized that right as “pre-political.” That means the right pre-existed the government. If it pre-existed the government, it must come from our human nature. I once asked Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the majority’s opinion in the first of those cases, called the District of Columbia v. Heller, why he used the term “pre-political” instead of “natural.” He replied, “You and I know they mean the same thing, but ‘natural’ sounds too Catholic, and I am interpreting the Constitution, not Aquinas.”

With the Heller case, the court went on to characterize this pre-political right as an individual and personal one. It also recognized that the people who wrote the Second Amendment had just fought a war against a king and his army — a war that they surely would have lost had they not kept and carried arms that were equal to or better than what the British army had.

They didn’t write the Second Amendment to protect the right to shoot deer; they wrote it to protect the right to self-defense — whether against bad guys, crazy people or a tyrannical government bent on destroying personal liberty.

In Heller, the court also articulated that the right to use guns means the right to use guns that are at the same level of sophistication as the guns your potential adversary might have, whether that adversary be a bad guy, a crazy person or a soldier of a tyrannical government.

But even after Heller, governments have found ways to infringe on the right to self-defense. Government does not like competition. Essentially, government is the entity among us that monopolizes force. The more force it monopolizes the more power it has. So it has enacted, in the name of safety, the least safe places on earth — gun-free zones. The nightclub in Orlando, the government offices in San Bernardino, the schools in Columbine, Newtown and Parkland were all killing zones because the government prohibited guns there and the killers knew this.

We all need to face a painful fact of life: The police make mistakes like the rest of us and simply cannot be everywhere when we need them. When government fails to recognize this and it disarms us in selected zones, we become helpless before our enemies.

But it could be worse. One of my Fox News colleagues asked me on-air the other day: Suppose we confiscated all guns; wouldn’t that keep us safe? I replied that we’d need to start with the government’s guns. Oh, no, he said. He just meant confiscation among the civilian population. I replied that then we wouldn’t be a civilian population any longer. We’d be a nation of sheep.

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antifa

The ISIS head chopper look. Cultural appropriation!

 

 

 

 

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