The Prototypical American Candidate

The Pennsylvania 18th district special election appears to be a good teachable moment for Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.

Democrats should learn that they can win in red states and counties by nominating handsome moderates. Republicans should learn that campaign spending is not the key to victory. And Libertarians should learn that we are a permanent minority political point of view.

Since President Trump’s election, I have had several thoughts and discussions about what the Democrats should do in response to huge losses in 2016. My thinking is that Democrats have to choose between being the party of inclusion and the party of the working man. If they go full Social Justice Warrior, they will regain many of the minority votes that came out for Barack Obama yet stayed home for Hillary Clinton. If they go full working man, they will regain many of the working class white voters who voted for Obama twice and then switched to Trump.

I have another, more complex idea for what the Democrats or Republicans could look for in a candidate to have the best chance at winning just about any election in America outside of major metros like New York and Los Angeles which are unusually left-leaning. Unfortunately, the prototypical American candidate will be far from Libertarian.

Here are the qualities I believe would combine for a winning formula in almost all US elections:

Xenophobic

The prototypical American candidate must be ready to appeal to the American people’s fear of foreigners. This includes supporting trade barriers to prevent people in other countries from “stealing our jobs” and sending us “dangerous” products. The candidate must also be wary of immigration and outraged by crimes committed by foreign-born residents. Bombing countries that end in “stan” and enforcing travel bans are a plus too.

Buy American, Hire American, and America First are winning slogans.

Socially Moderate

Social Conservatism and Social Liberalism are both unappealing to the broader American public. Social Conservatism is stupid and hypocritical, and Social Liberalism is scary and dangerous in the mind of the average American voter. This means abortion bans and late-term abortions are both off-putting. It means supporting gay marriage, but not transgender students using the toilet of their choice. It means supporting medical marijuana use, but not full decriminalization. If you consider gun rights to be more of a social than a political issue, supporting a few restrictions on the gun trade while still believing in the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes is the way to go.

(This is as good as it’s going to get for Libertarians, by the way.)

Fiscally Apathetic

The national debt is concerning to Libertarians and Conservatives, but not concerning enough to most Americans that they would sacrifice a single penny to deal with it. The perfect political candidate would share this lack of concern. This means cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the military are out of the question, and spending increases are always welcome. Tax cuts, especially for a self-glorifying middle class, should be promoted as well, the deficit be damned.

Economically Socialist

Middle class tax cuts paired with upper class tax hikes might be the best policy position to win an election in America or anywhere else. Soaking the rich to pay for the middle class’s healthcare, education, social security, and infrastructure is irresistible for the average voter. Economic redistribution plays on tribalism, envy, greed, anger, hate, short-sighted arithmetic, and basically every other flaw in the human condition. Sharing is caring as long as you think you’re on the receiving end.

Constitutionally Ignorant

The Constitution requires reading. It contains antiquated vocabulary words that need to be researched. And, as the fable goes, it was used to justify slavery and subjugation of women. Why would any candidate intent on winning an election waste their time with this silly, old document?

That being said, shouting “The Constitution!” when it suits your argument doesn’t hurt. The prototypical candidate just has to avoid going into too much detail.

Young, Male, and Attractive

President Trump embodies the prototypical American candidate fairly well until it comes to his face, his hair, and his waistline. And this is a big deal. How many times have you heard voters who would otherwise agree with the bulk of his platform make horrid comments about Trump’s appearance? He is so unpleasant to look at that he’s probably turned a fair amount of populist moderates into left-wing radicals, Russophobic neocons, or even Libertarians (one can only hope).

The only thing Trump has going for him on paper is that he is male. However, I do not think this gave him much of an edge against Hillary Clinton. Trump is male, but not masculine in appearance. His voice is not deep and commanding either. He isn’t stoic, and he is more petulant and defiant than confident. Clinton was so unattractive, both physically and behaviorally, that Trump’s appearance and demeanor could probably be overlooked when the two were juxtaposed.

This video shows an experiment in which an exchange between Trump and Hillary are acted out by members of the opposite sexes. While the woman playing Trump might not be particularly appealing, the male playing Hillary sounds like nails on a chalkboard. This reaffirms my belief that the genders of the candidates played a very minor role in the 2016 election.

If you go back and look at the GOP primary candidates Trump defeated, you might notice that being young, male, and attractive was irrelevant. Jeb Bush looks dorky and weak, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are short, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are hard to look at, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are fidgety and spastic, and Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee are fat. Compared to this crew, Trump is tall and fills out a suit quite nicely.

I hate to be a bummer, but there is scant hope for the Libertarian Party and for more Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Rand Paul and Thomas Massie. Our views are terribly unpopular politically, and our candidates tend to be weird-looking and nutty.

Democracy is active organization and participation with little risk involved for those who take part. Making an organized, collective effort to win an election goes against our independent, non-interventionist, and anti-tyrannical nature. Spontaneous order and market forces are not the name of the game in politics.

So, what should we do? Moderate our platform to make it more palatable? Lie to voters about our intentions? Retreat from politics altogether and live our lives as if government doesn’t exist? Or am I underestimating the potential for Libertarians to make gains in elections around the country?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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The Prototypical American Candidate

Tariffs: Inhibiting Man’s Economic Genius and Encouraging His Political Idiocy

I am not going to sugar-coat the stupidity of President Trump’s proposed aluminum and steel tariffs. There is no justification for taxing foreign products that Americans want to buy. It is complete and utter idiocy.

On economic grounds, tariffs cause prices to rise and competition to soften. That means fewer and lower-quality products at an inflated price for all.

On moral grounds, the argument that a steel tariff will save American jobs in the steel-producing industry is quickly squelched by the much larger number of steel-using industries that lose jobs and opportunity. This is not simply a theoretical law of economics either. President George W. Bush placed tariffs on steel imports too. He protected a handful of steel jobs, caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of others, and then wisely repealed the tariffs. This was less than 20 years ago.

(If one is bright enough to understand that tariffs kill more jobs than they create, and still supports tariffs, he is corrupt, and his opinions need not be taken seriously.)

On political grounds, however, tariffs might be brilliant. They stir the masses and often result in short-term gains for a few sympathetic people (like a steel mill in rural America reopening). Protectionism masquerades as Patriotism, claiming to be in the interest of American workers and American industry. And by the time tariffs take their imminent toll, voters have been fed so much propaganda that they are unable to construe the negative effects of tariffs on the overall economy from Wall Street to Main Street. Tariffs secretively punish everyone, and ostentatiously benefit a few.

When it comes to understanding the Global economy or even the American economy, President Trump is a complete moron. But this is nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. President! Obama is a moron on this issue too! So are Gary Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman, Alan Greenspan, Neil Cavuto, every economist who has ever lived, and me! We are all complete morons when it comes to understanding the economy!

This is because the economy is far too complicated for any one person or group of people to even begin to grasp.

As I type this essay, I am looking at scattered items all over my table. There is a glass, a plastic cup, some dental floss, a box cutter, two pairs of scissors, many pens and pencils, a notebook, a remote control for my air conditioner, my iPhone, a calendar, two chargers, a ruler, a stapler, my glasses, a sock, my laptop, a mouse and mouse pad, a platform with a fan that keeps my laptop from overheating, and some tissues.

I don’t know where any of this stuff was made. I don’t know who manufactured it. I don’t know how it was manufactured. I don’t know how it was shipped to wholesalers and retailers. I don’t know who arranged the shipments and wholesale purchases. I don’t know precisely what raw materials these items are made of. I don’t know how or where the raw materials they consist of were harvested. I don’t know what equipment was used to harvest those raw materials. I don’t know how or where or by whom or with what materials the equipment used to harvest or synthesize the materials that were manufactured into the products sitting on my desk was made either!

I only know that I purchased them, where I purchased them, how much I paid for them, and that I use them. And if I run out of one or it breaks or I become dissatisfied with it, I will go out and replace it to the best of my ability (or not if I don’t think it’s necessary).

The great economist Frederick Hayek, in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” referred to someone like me as “the man on the spot”. Hayek begins by explaining that “If we possess all the relevant information, if we can start out from a given system of preferences, and if we command complete knowledge of available means, the problem which remains is purely one of logic.” This is a general idea that applies to all aspects of life. If it’s 10:00pm on Monday night, and you need to be in Reno by 11:30am on Tuesday, and it takes two hours to fly to Reno, and the red eye is sold out, and there are flights to Reno at 7:00am and 9:00am on Tuesday morning, and the 9:00am flight is out of your price range, you have to take the 7:00am flight. You and I can solve these problems by applying a smidgen of logic to the information at hand.

But when it comes to the world economy, possessing knowledge this concise is impossible for one individual or one group of people no matter how educated or informed they might be. As Hayek says:

The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.

The “dispersed bits of knowledge” are possessed by people like you and me and every other idiot in the world. Hayek calls each one of us with our own unique and specialized collection of data “the man on the spot.” As dumb as we are in comprehending the “economic order,” we are ingenious at making economic decisions in our everyday lives. And it does not take much more than half a brain to be a genius as a man on the spot:

How much knowledge does he [the man on the spot] need to do so [make good economic decisions] successfully? Which of the events which happen beyond the horizon of his immediate knowledge are of relevance to his immediate decision, and how much of them need he know?

There is hardly anything that happens anywhere in the world that might not have an effect on the decision he ought to make. But he need not know of these events as such, nor of all their effects. It does not matter for him why at the particular moment more screws of one size than of another are wanted, why paper bags are more readily available than canvas bags, or why skilled labor, or particular machine tools, have for the moment become more difficult to obtain. All that is significant for him is how much more or less difficult to procure they have become compared with other things with which he is also concerned, or how much more or less urgently wanted are the alternative things he produces or uses. It is always a question of the relative importance of the particular things with which he is concerned, and the causes which alter their relative importance are of no interest to him beyond the effect on those concrete things of his own environment.

If read in bad faith, one might come away with the impression that Hayek is an elitist snob talking down to a bunch of ants in a terrarium. “Those concrete things of his own environment” can come off as condescending. But Hayek is a man on the spot himself, and he knows it. Due to his profession as an economist, he is certainly slightly more informed than many of the other men on the spot around him. But when compared to the inconceivable number of events taking place around the world at all times, that extra information is largely insignificant.

It is often said that there are three kinds of knowledge. There is 1) what you know, 2) what you know that you don’t know, and 3) what you don’t know that you don’t know. You know that the Eagles won the Super Bowl. You know that you don’t know how nuclear power works. But did you know that there is a giant, mongoose-like creature in Madagascar called a fossa that hunts lemurs? See, you didn’t know that you didn’t know that (until I told you).

When Hayek explains that the man on the spot does not know and does not need to be aware of every event that takes place and its effect on the economy, he is not saying that he is the one who actually understands these things. Hayek is just like you! The only thing that makes his knowledge superior is his awareness that many events are taking place around the world that are beyond his knowledge. Hayek does not seek to assert himself as the arbiter of the global economic order. He is simply suggesting that a more humble approach is needed.

And this is where politics spoils everything.

Hayek’s approach to economics is to decentralize as much as possible. This runs counter to the ambitions of governments, bureaucrats, and special interest groups. Governments gain wealth and power by usurping controls of the means of production. Bureaucracies remain in demand only by setting up barriers between the man on the spot and his economic decisions. And special interest groups benefit from undermining their competition via legislative fiat because they can’t compete on an even playing field. All of this is incompatible with allowing the man on the spot to live and choose freely.

Ironically, the ingenious man on the spot is politically retarded, and is thereby encouraged to participate in politics as often as possible. His emotions and his ignorance are manipulated by politicians and activists to best serve their agendas. The man on the spot is told that we must take action, not that we must step aside and live our lives peacefully and reasonably. The unseen impacts of tariffs and rent-seeking are difficult to illustrate and conceptualize while a single steel mill hiring 500 new workers bedazzles and affirms mythical beliefs.

Thomas Sowell once said “the first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” President Trump and his populist base are disregarding all of the evidence and all of the facts. The country they claim to love will suffer as a result. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays of politically. My commitment to voting for the Libertarian candidate is growing stronger by the day.

***

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Tariffs: Inhibiting Man’s Economic Genius and Encouraging His Political Idiocy

A Few School Shooting Prevention Ideas

I once suggested that military veterans, reserves, or police officers should be hired to stand guard at schools as a way to prevent mass shootings. I do not think that is a good idea any more. This is for several reasons, but the two biggest are that 1) 99.99999% of students (that’s a real number and a conservative estimate if my calculations are correct) will not be killed via gunfire at schools if conditions remain unchanged and 2) large scale central planning tends to result in unwarranted disasters, not solutions.

I also think it’s a bad idea to arm teachers, depending on what exactly that means. Again, if we’re talking about a large scale scheme, it’s bound to fail. And offering bonuses to teachers who agree to carry a weapon, as President Trump recently suggested, seems like a breeding ground for perverse incentives. The teachers who are most desperate for supplemental income are probably the last ones who should be tasked with carrying a deadly weapon around kids.

A better approach that would require far less coordination, planning, and use of resources would be for schools and school districts to independently reconsider their gun-free zone statuses (Trump criticized gun-free zones too). Rather than setting a blanket policy that inadvertently gives violent criminals an edge, administrators should quietly conduct an inquiry to find out if anyone on their staff is a trained marksman who might be willing to carry a pistol at school. This does not need to be headline news or landmark legislation. This should be a local, not a global, initiative.

Though it may come as a surprise, legally-armed citizens are one of the least likely demographics to commit gun crimes and crimes overall. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, police officers are guilty of gun crimes at a rate of about 16.5 violations per 100,000 officers. Concealed carry permit holders, on the other hand, only commit 2.4 gun crimes per 100,000 individuals.

The overall crime rate among police officers is 103 crimes per 100,000 officers. While this rate is 37 times lower than the general population, it’s six times higher than Americans with concealed carry permits.

What’s more is that of all the gun crime committed in the United States, less than a fifth is done with legally-owned firearms. A whopping 79% of gun crimes are committed by individuals carrying a weapon of which they are not the legal owner.

Apart from schools themselves, news outlets may also be able to do their part. Ben Shapiro’s website The Daily Wire recently announced that it will no longer publish the names or images of mass murderers. Shapiro cites a 2016 psychological study to explain why:

“As Professor Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy of Western New Mexico University found in a paper presented to the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in 2016, ‘media contagion’ can help make mass shootings more common. ‘Unfortunately,’ said Johnston, ‘we find that a cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame.’ The rise of such a trait in mass shooters, she claimed, rose ‘in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hours news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period.’ Johnston recommended a media pact to ‘no longer share, reproduce, or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years.’”

Shapiro argues that “the value of public knowledge regarding specific names and photographs of mass shooters is significantly outweighed by the possibility of encouraging more mass shootings.” Even if the Johnson and Joy study is overzealous in its conclusions, I concur with Shapiro that the risk overshadows the reward tremendously.

I do not publish the names or images of mass shooters on How to Cure Your Liberalism, and I never will. I hope the mainstream media will follow suit, but I’m not keeping my hopes up.

If the media refuses to help, perhaps law enforcement could step up by actually doing their effing jobs. The performances by both local and federal authorities surrounding the Parkland shooting would make for excellent comedy if they hadn’t resulted in 17 deaths.

First off, it’s been reported that police were called to the shooter’s house 39 times for various reasons over the past seven years. Eight of those instances and their circumstances, which include explicit concerns over shooting up a school, occurred over the past two years and can be read about here.

At CNN’s recent town hall on gun policy, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel had the gall to blame gun policy and the NRA for the shooting instead of his own department’s incompetence.

Beyond local police, the FBI was tipped off directly on two separate occasions regarding the shooter’s potential to actually go through with it. A YouTube commenter with the shooter’s name wrote “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” in September 2017, and the uploader reported it to the FBI. On January 5th, the FBI was contacted again, this time by an individual close to the shooter who specifically warned of his potential to commit mass murder. The FBI did not follow up on either of these reports.

Maybe most egregiously, resource officer Scot Peterson was present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School throughout the entire massacre. Stunningly, he chose to remain outside instead of engaging the shooter.

But that’s not all. In 2015, the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s ‘resident on campus’ program was under audit. The program was designed to provide after-hours security for schools by having police officers live (rent-free) in trailers on campus. The chair of the 2015 audit was so embarrassed by the condition of the program that he said he would “shut it down immediately.” Officers were not available during times of need, did not file necessary paperwork, and were ineffective in reducing theft and vandalism altogether.

Amazingly, Peterson himself was quoted rebutting the results of the audit: “These colleagues work hard. We are crime prevention, an audit report will never show how much we prevent.”

Many people argue that to prevent gun crime, just enforce the laws on the books. Considering the pathetic performance in Broward County, I wonder whether or not we should be leaving so much of our security in the hands of law enforcement in the first place. Perhaps private citizens should start to look for solutions on their own instead of waiting for the government to take action.

One idea that puts people in control of violence prevention comes from National Review’s David French. French suggests that, instead of blanket gun control laws, individuals with good reason to believe that a family member or colleague is primed to commit an act of violence should request a gun-violence restraining order (GVRO) that would temporary suspend the subject’s Second Amendment rights. I highly recommend taking a look at French’s idea in more detail, but keep due process in mind as you think it through.

It’s a shame that this discussion needs to be had, but this is the deck we’ve been dealt. Let’s stay level-headed and put our best ideas forward.

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A Few School Shooting Prevention Ideas

The “in the NRA’s Pocket” Talking Point is the Most Poisonous in the Entire Gun Debate

As immoveable as I am in my support of the Second Amendment and my opposition to policies that restrict liberty, I can still concede that those who disagree with me have some fair arguments.

“No one needs an AR-15!”

“Gun laws ceased mass shootings in other countries!”

“Background checks don’t go far enough!”

“Your Liberty is not worth my life!”

These arguments are all flawed, but they are sensible enough to merit a serious intellectual discussion. I would never call someone stupid for employing one or all of them.

One point made by gun control advocates, that I seem to be hearing more and more lately, is not worthy of any consideration whatsoever. I am referring to the argument that some politicians are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association.

Marco Rubio, who courageously entered an anti-gun lion’s den to express his support for the Second Amendment, was on the receiving end of this accusation yesterday.

You can watch it go down here.

(My feelings about recently traumatized high school students being exploited by political opportunists, by the way, is a separate issue.)

The “in the NRA’s pocket” argument is one of the most mean-spirited, ignorant, and hypocritical in any mainstream political debate that I am aware of.

Take a look at what this argument implies:

  1. The accused politician is controlled by the NRA
  2. The politician’s support for the Second Amendment and against most gun control legislation is insincere
  3. The NRA and the politician likely have knowledge that proposed gun control legislation would make America safer without sacrificing meaningful rights or liberty
  4. The NRA and the politician care more about personal financial gain and political power than keeping Americans safe

If this were the case, it would be an extreme level of evil and deception.

Though it may come as a surprise, I generally do not imagine that politicians are consciously bad people (although there are exceptions). My resistance to big government has more to do with human nature and human fallibility than suspicion of foul play or conspiracy. In other words, I think Bernie Sanders and Lindsey Graham are probably well-intentioned and incompetent, not vicious and conniving. They aren’t as hypocritical as they are too big for their britches.

Projecting the kind of malevolence many gun control advocates foist upon the NRA and the politicians they promote says more about the advocates than it does about their targets. Besides, wouldn’t Occam’s Razor suggest that the NRA supports candidates who support the Second Amendment instead of politicians cleverly misleading the public in exchange for campaign contributions from the NRA? Wouldn’t the former option be a heck of a lot easier to pull off?

Beyond the unlikelihood of unadulterated wickedness, there is a common tendency to completely misinterpret what the NRA actually is. While Democrats and the media often portray the NRA as some sort of greedy corporation with no regard for human life, the organization is actually a grassroots non-profit that is first and foremost concerned with gun safety. The NRA has been training Americans to handle rifles safely and responsibly since the 1870s.

Over the course of their history, the NRA has become more and more involved in the political process. They are now one of the top lobbying groups in the United States.

Contrary to what their detractors say, the NRA is not simply funded by big money interests. The NRA has two funding pools. The first is their revenue stream. Per CNNMoney:

“The organization’s overall revenue, which includes membership dues, program fees and other contributions, has boomed in recent years – rising to nearly $350 million in 2013. The majority of this money funds NRA initiatives like member newsletters, sporting events and gun safety education and training programs.

“These help the NRA recruit new members and spread its pro-gun message. But to influence laws and keep its chosen leaders in power, it has a separate pool of money to use.”

This separate pool focuses on political action. Between 1998 and 2017, the NRA spent $203 million on political activities. Without question, we are not talking about chump change here. But the notion that the NRA is buying politicians is disproved once you take a closer look at how exactly those millions are spent. As NYT’s Bret Stephens wrote in response to an anti-NRA monologue made by Jimmy Kimmel:

“The National Rifle Association does not have Republican ‘balls in a money clip,’ as (late-night TV host) Jimmy Kimmel put it the other night. The NRA has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post, equivalent to about three months of Kimmel’s salary. The NRA doesn’t need to buy influence: It’s powerful because it’s popular.”

How popular? The NRA Political Victory Fund received over $85 million in individual contributions between 2012 and 2015. And these donations more closely resembled Bernie Sanders’ fundraising efforts than Hillary Clinton’s:

“Contributions came from nearly 30,000 donors, with around 90% of donations made by people who gave less than $200 in a single year. According to the NRA, the average donation is around $35.”

This should come as no surprise. The NRA has over 5 million official members and millions more who support their cause. To put it plainly and simply, the NRA is democracy in action. It’s real people with real concerns who want their representatives to respect their rights and political objectives. Rather than fight it out alone, they make a collective effort to see that their country is shaped according to their values.

Considering the Democratic, Progressive, and even Socialist leanings of most of the NRA’s greatest opponents, it seems quite hypocritical to assume that this group of individuals fighting for their rights is especially corrupt.

If we are to assume that politicians who receive donations from organizations are under those organizations’ control, wouldn’t we have to assume Hillary Clinton is nothing more than a puppet of Planned Parenthood?

The overwhelming majority of campaign spending by the NRA is devoted to Super-PACs. Much of this money goes towards campaign ads for or against particular candidates. They are the country’s ninth largest financier of outside spending. But, once again, this money flows up from the grassroots for the most part.

If you don’t like the NRA, the Second Amendment, or the current political process, fine. You have every right to your opinion. But I advise against smears and allegations of evil and corruption if you want the gun control debate to move in any kind of positive direction.

And please don’t make me stick up for Marco Rubio again.

***

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The “in the NRA’s Pocket” Talking Point is the Most Poisonous in the Entire Gun Debate

A Love Letter to a Proponent of Repealing the Second Amendment

Dear Political Activist Who Openly Calls for the Repeal of the Second Amendment,

Salutations! I hope this letter finds you well.

Let me first introduce myself. I am an American English teacher and amateur blogger currently living abroad. Although I once shared political and social views more akin to those of Progressives, I have since fallen head over heels for the US Constitution, Individual Liberty, the Free Market, and Negative Rights. I am now comfortable calling myself a Libertarian.

Please do not let my views scare you off. I am not writing you to attempt to change your position on any political issue, but instead to express my appreciation for your honesty.

You see, many on your side of the gun control debate are rife with ignorance and deceit. That is not to say that my side is perfectly up to snuff, but your side is calling for the most fundamental changes, so must in turn face the greatest deal of scrutiny.

But I am not writing you to scrutinize your views. I am writing you to commend them.

You and I both understand that the Second Amendment protects the inherent right of all individuals to own firearms against the legislative powers of Congress and the physical force of law enforcement. The Second Amendment was written as a way to safeguard against tyrannical government and preserve Liberty. “Shall not be infringed” is the conclusion, and the necessity of an armed militia to preserve “the security of a free state” is the explanation. There is no doubting that this law denotes an individual right.

It is true that we are at odds on the need for the Second Amendment, the government’s role in regulating the gun trade, and the right to keep and bear arms in general. But let us not become bogged down in our differences and instead celebrate what unites us: an even-keeled, intellectually sound interpretation of the Bill of Rights.

I look forward to sparring with you in gun debates of all shapes and sizes. We have an exhilarating future to look forward to.

But for now, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine a warm embrace between the two of us.

I love you.

Sincerely,

A Second Amendment Absolutist Who Recognizes Your Honor and Courage

***

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A Love Letter to a Proponent of Repealing the Second Amendment

Everytown is Every Scaremonger

Here’s a list of things that haven’t been involved in the deaths of anyone that I know personally:

  • Anthrax
  • Killer bees
  • Immigrants
  • Terrorists (though, being from New York, I know many people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and am lucky not to have lost any family or friends of my own)
  • Ebola
  • White Supremacists
  • Sharks
  • The Russians
  • North Korea
  • Mad Cow Disease
  • MS-13
  • Pitbulls
  • The mentally ill
  • Net neutrality repeal
  • Tax cuts
  • Zika
  • Mass shootings

I understand that I don’t know everyone and that almost everything on this list is responsible for deaths, sometimes tens of thousands of deaths or even much more if you count people outside of America. But I live my life without worrying about any of them. Outside of ranking West Africa near the bottom of my preferred travel destinations, they don’t really affect my life at all.

This, however, does not stop the media, politicians, advocacy groups, corporations, and others from telling me and anyone else within earshot that we are in perpetual peril. Death is lurking at our doorsteps, and we must do something or people will die.

Predictably enough, the something the scaremongers want us to do almost undoubtedly involves parting ways with our property or our liberty. We need to increase funding, pass legislation, build walls, ramp up security, limit access, and fortify our home defense systems to withstand nuclear winter.

Please…

My skepticism of buying what the scaremongers are selling does not mean I believe there are no threats to public safety, that there are no solutions to these threats, or that we should never do something. My points are that these threats are almost always blown out of proportion, and becoming freer and more secure in our persons, papers, and property never seems to be the formula the scaremongers want to try.

In the wake of another horrific mass shooting at a high school in Florida, the mainstream media and the bulk of the left are engaging in their typical calls for gun control. With apologies to honest Progressives who admit they want to confiscate large quantities of privately owned firearms and repeal the Second Amendment, not many people have put forward ideas that could actually prevent mass shootings or even ideas that are not already legislated.

To sow fear amongst the masses and push for more gun control, the mainstream media has been reporting that the incident in Florida is the 18th school shooting of 2018 (which is only a month and a half into its existence at the time I am writing this). If that were the case, it would mean a school shooting has taken place roughly every three days.

This statistic appears to originate with Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group which describes itself as follows:

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund seeks to improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it – by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge in the courts and the court of public opinion.

I do not intend to question the intentions of Everytown. In all likelihood, they believe what they are doing is right and just. But Everytown is being dishonest, and the mainstream media that cites their data is being irresponsible.

According to Everytown’s school shootings map, there have been 17 school shootings thus far in 2018 and 290 school shootings overall since 2013 (these numbers will jump to 18 and 291 respectively once the Florida shooting is accounted for). But after taking a closer look at the map, I noticed that Everytown’s definition of school shooting is not limited to the Columbine High School-like massacres the phrase brings to mind.

To put the 18 school shootings into perspective, I have divided them into five categories:

  • School Shooting (SS)-An instance in which one or several people brought at least one firearm to a school with the apparent intention of killing or harming others and fired at least one bullet at at least one person. Fatalities occurred in two of the three.
  • Red Zone Incident (RZ)-An instance in which a gun was brought to a school with plausible intent to kill or harm others, but no shots were intentionally fired at others. In one instance a shot was fired at the floor, in the other a student accidentally shot other students.
  • Suicide Attempt (SA)-An instance in which a person discharged a firearm at him or herself at a school, but not at anyone else. One instance involved a student, and one involved an adult from outside the school.
  • Miscellaneous (M)-An instance in which a gun was present at a school for any reason other than premeditated intent to harm or kill others, and at least one shot was fired. These instances include accidents, shots fired as a result of an altercation, and an attempted robbery.
  • Unknown (U)-An instance in which gunshots were reportedly fired in the direction of a school, but too few details are known about the incident to guess motive, and no one was shot. Gunfire at NET Charter High appears to have been directed towards students while the target is unclear in the other three instances.

Here is how the 17 school shootings plus the recent Florida massacre* fall under my definitions:

Type Number Schools # Shot # Killed
SS 3 -Marshall County High, Italy High, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High* 50+ 19
RZ 2 -Metropolitan High, Salvador B. Castro Middle 2 0
SA 2 Coronado Elementary, East Olive Elementary 2 2
M 7 Lincoln High, Oxon Hill High, Wake Forest University, Dearborn High, Murphy High, Harmony Learning Center, Grayson College 3 3
U 4 Wiley College, The NET Charter High, New Start High, California State University 0 0

There are many ways to interpret and react to this information. And I can understand the feeling and the logic behind the urge to want to do something about gun violence and the presence of guns at schools or in public life in general.

But the fact is that we have not had 18 Columbines this year.

According to the Department of Education, there are about 76.3 million students enrolled in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in America. If the 2018 pace continues, roughly 200 people will be killed in shootings at schools (though this is unlikely as 138 have been killed in total since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012). This means each student has a roughly 0.0000026% chance of being shot to death at school this year. If you factor in school faculty and individuals from outside schools, the odds go down even further.

Of course, it is obligatory to say that each unnecessary death is one too many. Every life is precious, and I have no respect for adults who do not see it as their duty to protect children. And perhaps there are ways to make schools safer even without infringing upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights or other liberties.

But the fear induced by the rare and tragic shootings that occur at schools is largely unfounded, and those who push Everytown’s numbers are peddling shoddy data at best and flat out fiction at worst.

Keep calm, and carry on.

***

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Everytown is Every Scaremonger

Total Legalization: The Only Libertarian Position on Drugs

Via Reason Magazine:

“San Francisco may end up being the first city in the United States to open injection sites where drug addicts can shoot up safely…

“…The facilities will be funded from private sources, though Garcia declined to say where specifically the money will come from.”

San Francisco might be the least economically Libertarian city in the United States. But permitting the existence of open injection sites is as Libertarian as it gets (well, aside from the fact that permission is needed).

From what I gather, this initiative will provide heroin users with a safe and supervised hideaway to use their drug of choice. Although maintaining consistent funding seems a bit fishy, the project will be privately sponsored, which means taxpayers won’t be forced to subsidize drug use against their conscience. Allowing drug addicts to seek refuge, depending on philanthropists to assist the needy, and keeping the public purse out of it is a hyper-Libertarian trifecta.

I also predict that, assuming the funds don’t dry up, this will make the world a better place. Drugs are a fact of human life. Alcohol, caffeine nicotine, and harder substances are as old as humanity itself, and well-intentioned laws don’t deliver on their promises. Alcohol prohibition in the 1920s was a gargantuan failure of government policy, and the 40-year War on Drugs has been equally ineffectual.

Instead of trying to alter human nature, the existence of human drug use should be accepted, and those interested in helping others should seek out ways to make the best of a difficult fact of life.

The main point I’d like to make in this piece is that Libertarians should not tolerate a moderate position on drug policy. Weed should be legal, but harder narcotics should be banned is a cowardly opinion for a lover of Liberty. Drug use should be decriminalized, but the drug trade should not be legalized is weak as well. The only acceptable Libertarian drug policy is total legalization of the manufacture, sale, and personal use of all substances.

(Since I speak through an American-Constitutional lens, I’ll add at the federal level to the end of the only acceptable Libertarian drug policy. If a state or locality that I don’t live in chooses to prohibit drugs in one way or another, it’s none of my nor the external public’s business.)

Total drug legalization highlights the merits of both ethical Libertarianism and practical Libertarianism. By moral Libertarianism, I mean the extreme Anarcho-Capitalist view that no one has any right to force any individual to do anything with his body or property that goes against his will.

By practical Libertarianism, I mean the broad spectrum of ideas that are often described as socially liberal and fiscally conservative or Classically Liberal. Practical Libertarianism, by my definition, encompasses the likes of Steven Pinker, Dave Rubin, and Jordan Peterson as well as Ron Paul, Stefan Molyneux, and Ayn Rand (though not all of them would embrace my label or support total drug legalization).

The moral Libertarian case for total drug legalization is obvious. If no one can tell you what you can trade, what you can do with what you own, or what you can do with your body, no one can force you to refrain from making, buying, selling, or taking drugs. Not much else needs to be said.

The practical Libertarian case is far more interesting and may require a certain degree of counterintuitive thinking.

The first point to make is that prohibition is destructive. As I alluded to earlier, alcohol prohibition led to a massive crime wave that only ceased when the 18th Amendment was repealed. The War on Drugs, which began in the early 1970s, has failed to make a dent in drug addiction while costing over $1.5 trillion (equal to ~8% of our national debt). Making drugs illegal creates new problems without solving old ones.

The second point to make is that legitimate businesses and non-profits are safer than cartels and gangs. Here, Conservatives and Progressives who oppose total drug legalization can have their own logic turned against them. When Conservatives are faced with anti-Second Amendment arguments, they often retort by noting that criminals who really want guns will find a way to acquire them. The only difference is that criminal organizations do not operate in accordance with rules and regulations, do not have legitimate businesses to keep on the up and up, and have no oversight in terms of training or licensing. Gun control laws interfere with the lives of law-abiding citizens while providing free reign to crooks.

On the Progressive end, consider abortion. Every pro-choice advocate is ready to note that women will not cease from having abortions if they are forbidden, but will instead go to back-alley clinics where there is little concern for medical degrees or hygiene. Banning abortion will spread death and disease without actually banning them.

The logic of each of these positions is accurate and sound, regardless of your feelings on firearm and reproductive rights. The same thinking should be applied to drug prohibition, which already provides glaring real world illustrations that the naked eye can see: the underground drug industry is unimaginably violent, drug abuse is as rampant as ever before, the quality and content of the drugs being taken is a mystery to dealers and users, and people who could benefit from some guidance wind up hurting themselves and others every single day. Name a legally-operating industry that experiences these problems, and I’ll delete this column.

The third point to make is that drug laws don’t stop people from doing drugs. I can prove this point from personal experience. For starters, I smoked pot regularly in high school and college and also experimented with psychedelics, cocaine, and opioids. The fact that these drugs were illegal for me to use made them easier for me to acquire than alcohol until I turned 21. Alcohol distributors that want to keep their licenses must follow the rules or lose a great source of revenue, so it took elaborate plans to fool them into selling booze to my friends and me. Drug dealers did not face this kind of dilemma, so all I needed to procure them was a contact and cash.

More importantly, prohibition laws did not deter my friends or me from buying drugs in any way. We were unafraid of the legal consequences, and did what we wanted. We did not, however, attempt to buy heroin or crystal meth. This is because we were afraid of what those drugs could do to our minds and bodies. It had nothing to with the law. As Ron Paul cleverly asked a GOP presidential debate audience in South Carolina, “How many people here would use heroin if it was legal?”

A total drug legalization policy initiative could include some modest regulations. Perhaps age limits, manufacturing protocols, advertising restrictions, distributor licensing, and some other rules could have a positive impact without meaningfully impeding Liberty. But the general proposition of treating drugs like any other consumer product is supported by evidence and common sense, and Libertarians should promote it unapologetically.

***

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Total Legalization: The Only Libertarian Position on Drugs