Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mr. President is not stupid

Mr. President says some pretty interesting things. Some of the things he says sound rather idiotic. If he actually believed them, he would be an idiot.

Here is an example. According to the Washington Post, Mr. President said:

We have the right to worship freely and safely — that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Obama said at a midday event.

The Washington Post headline for this report is "Obama invokes Constitution in arguing for gun control."

So, Mr. President seems to say —and the Washington Post seems to try to reenforce the notion— that the First Amendment guarantees that nothing bad will happen to you if you just want to worship freely and safely.

Of course, the First Amendment says nothing of the sort:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That is, the Congress is not allowed to pass law that, for example, bans Sikhism, makes it a crime to insult prophets, or for citizens to question either the IQ or the intentions of the President.

It doesn't say that you're immune to lightning strikes or being the target of a crazy murderer so long as all you want is to worship safely and freely.

Just like going to meditation to discover your inner oneness with a yoga mat on your pursuit of happiness does not guarantee that the building you are in won't collapse in an earthquake or won't be burned down by an angry mob of Muslims showing their disapproval of your latest insult against the prophet.

Mr. President went on to state:

Obama added that that most fundamental set of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate.

First, that is rather brave of Mr. President to invoke kids on street corners in Chicago. After all, he supposedly did extraordinary work, organizing the community there, making him eligible for a great political career.

If you haven't figured this out already, please understand there are some rather violent human beings out there. Most of us are OK. Most of the time, we go about our days, freely trading services we provide with the fruits of other people's labor, thereby making all of us happier and wealthier.

Sometimes, that basic fabric of society, free people, interacting freely, in peace, is punctured by violence.

When that happens, some people focus on the tools with which such violence was perpetrated. But, taking away a particular tool will not take away the violence. Surely, someone evil enough to kill defenseless people who're just minding their own business can think of many, many other tools s/he can use to carry out the violence.

Some focus on the specific activities the murderer engaged in: Quick! Ban bread cause, you know, the killer had eaten bread every day for the last 15 years.

You'll say bread and violent video games are not the same things. Well, I beg to differ. Look at not just how many copies of games like Halo or Grand Theft Auto (I am a fan) have been sold, but also imagine how many people have played those games all over the world. And, ask yourself, how many of them have committed mass murder.

If violent video games and movies caused violence, how have I survived among all those people who enjoy them? I mean, have you seen Pulp Fiction?

The argument is no different with regard to guns. According to a Gallup poll from 2011, there is at least one gun in almost half of U.S. households. 55% of Republican leaning households and 40% of Democrat leaning ones reported having a gun. Those make up large shares of the population.

Guns are commonplace in America. There is, however, not a commensurate level of violence in ordinary daily life. Where violence is a routine part of life, you usually find places like Chicago, Newark NJ, Washington D.C., New York City etc where ordinary citizens do not have the option to legally obtain an appropriate weapon with which to protect themselves.

Those are places where the government has robbed people of a tool they can use to protect their lives and property so they can continue to pursue happiness and worship freely and safely.

Speaking of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the whole point is to restrict the ways in which governments can interfere with the citizens' lives. Surely, some of that spirit has been lost when an individual can be sent to prison for collecting rain water on his property:

According to authorities, Harrington broke the law by collecting natural rain water and snow runoff, that landed on his property. Harrington said he stores the water mainly for fire protection.

When there is a fire on your property, you are on your own, at least initially. The fact that there might be a fire department that might be able to respond in time does not mean you should not have a fire extinguisher at home. It is your home, your property, where you intend to worship freely and safely and pursue happiness for yourself and your family.

We don't ban electricity, ovens and stoves, matches and lighters, gas, barbecues etc just because people die in fires. We take precautions.

Similarly, just because there might be a police department in your town should not preclude you being able to take measures to protect your life and property. It is, after all, where you can worship freely and safely and pursue happiness for yourself and your family.

We don't prohibit people from legally obtaining guns just because violent criminals exist. We allow people to defend themselves from violent criminals. Or, at least we ought to. Where we don't, we get citizens cowering in fear of armed criminals, not peace.

I know Mr. President can read. I know Mr. President was a senior lecturer just like I used to be at one point. So, I know he has the requisite intelligence to be able to understand the straightforward language of the Constitution.

Therefore, I must conclude that Mr. President is making stupid arguments on purpose.


  1. The point is that government fundamentally runs a protection business. That's their real product -- pay your tax and don't get hurt.

    The less people are able to protect themselves, the better the value proposition governments can offer. Think of it like running a coffee shop... you outlaw all vacuum flasks, and you can sell more coffee at a higher price.

    You might be tempted to argue that a good business would concentrate on improving its own products, rather than sabotaging competing products, right? That's a moral judgement though, economically both methods can work.

    1. What is the only way a third party can always protect you against a criminal at the point of commission of the crime (fantasies of a PreCrime unit notwithstanding)?

    2. You seem to be saying that the quality of government protection is not as good as it might be made out to be. But that's irrelevant if there are no other options. The beauty of being a monopoly supplier.

    3. @Tel says: "... there are no other options. The beauty of being a monopoly supplier."

      That's a common mistake to make. There are always alternatives.

      Being a monopoly does not guarantee that people are going to buy all that you want to sell at the price you want to sell it.

      There is a difference between something being banned and something (or its equivalent) being unavailable.

      There is also a difference between raising a price and collecting more revenue.

    4. @Tel: Think about the question I posed in my first response. I am not complaining about quality. I am talking about the impossibility and undesirability of having the police with you one way or another whereever you go.