Trump’s Epically Anti-Libertarian Moment

Note: I had previously adopted a ‘no profanity’ rule on HowToCureYourLiberalism.com. It is no longer in effect.

President Trump’s trade war is officially under way. After stupidly placing tariffs on steel, aluminum, and a laundry list of Chinese imports, the PRC has announced plans to return the favor with tariffs on hundreds of American exports. While this may be helpful to a handful of workers in domestic and Chinese industries, it will be a headache for far more workers and nearly all consumers in both countries. Presidents Trump and Xi, however, live on the taxpayer’s dole, so will probably not be subjected to any of the negative consequences their stupid tariffs bring about.

While it has been clear all along that Trump is in no way a free trader, the most recent advisor he has appointed is a dramatic departure from his anti-interventionist palaver. John Bolton is Trump’s new national security advisor. John Bolton. The big mustache guy who’s never met a war he didn’t like. That guy. Is now. Trump’s. National. Security. Advisor.

While I hate to be cynical (although I am enjoying it right now), I really wish Trump had “colluded” with the Russians to steal the 2016 election. If he had and was now remaining loyal to Putin, there is no way Trump would consider regime change and Iraq-esque permanent occupation in Syria. But since it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump did not collude with Russia and as more and more neo-cons swamp the White House, war with Russia and/or Iran seems likelier by the day.

This is all very frustrating and un-libertarian. But what Trump tweeted out yesterday might possibly be the worst 47 words I or any Libertarian has ever come across. Take a look:

Everything in this tweet is bad. Let’s take it from the top:

Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border,

We don’t need a wall on the southern border. The southern border is very big. A massive chunk of illegal immigration is a result of visa overstays, not just border crossings. And Illegal immigration isn’t that big of a problem to begin with.

$1.6 billion is a lot of money. But it’s not nearly enough to build a wall to separate Mexico and the United States, which share the 10th longest international land border in the entire world.

Immigration is supposed to be a state issue, not a federal issue anyway.

rest will be forthcoming.

If he were talking about taking a rest from doing things, that would be great. Tragically, he’s referring to the other $16-17 billion needed to build the wall (which is not needed or legal and will never be built).

Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military,

Our military is already built. It’s the most powerful and most expensive in the world. Since it’s already built, rebuilding it is not important, let alone most important. $700 billion is too much money for the military. In fact, it’s too much money for anything. Any time you pay $700 billion for something, you are getting ripped off.

$716 Billion next year…

Shit!

most ever.

SHIT!

Had to waste money

No! You didn’t have to waste money. You are supposed to veto things that waste money or are otherwise bad. What the heck did you waste it on?

Dem giveaways

SHIT!!! WTF?!?! WHY?!?!

in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.

I’m not saying whether or not I support a military pay increase or “new equipment”. Maybe it’s appropriate. I don’t know.

But you know what would have been a better way of accomplishing both of these goals, Mr. President?

Come a little closer so I can whisper it in your ear. Ready? Here goes:

BRINGING OUR TROOPS HOME AND PUTTING AN END TO OUR PSYCHOTIC FOREIGN POLICY, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!!! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH THAT SHIT COSTS?!?! YOU MUST REALIZE BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN RANTING AND RAVING ABOUT IT FOR 30 FUCKING YEARS!!!

You used to talk about America First. I kind of liked that. The wild idea that a nation’s government would put its nation’s interests above, say, Israel’s or a bunch of politically well-connected cronies’ is a really swell idea. Even though I disagreed with many of your domestic ideas, I actually considered voting for you and wrote why Hillary was a worse choice for president simply because you said you wanted to concern yourself with issues at home exclusively.

But it looks like either that was all talk or you have become a full-fledged neocon cuck.

It’s silly for me to be angry at President Trump. He never claimed to be a Libertarian, Constitutionalist, or Budget Hawk. And he always lies and contradicts himself, so there’s that too.

There is a bright side in all of this, though, if you look hard enough.

Let me know if you find it.

***

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Trump’s Epically Anti-Libertarian Moment

Bring on the Blue Wave

This is going to be quick.

Considering the omnibus package and John Bolton’s appointment as national security advisor, there is officially no reason for Libertarians to prefer President Trump and the Republicans over the Democrats.

The omnibus package and its ensuing passage were summed up quite well by Senator Mike Lee:

‘Nuff said.

As for John Bolton, just imagine a caricature of an American war hawk so over the top that it loses all comedic value. That’s who is now in the president’s ear regarding national security.

I am not going vote for any Democrats in this year’s midterm elections or in 2020 unless they magically nominate a dovish free marketer. But at this point, I think I’d like the Democrats to take the house and senate. I don’t want them to win for the sake of their party’s platform, but to give the Republicans a well-deserved loss.

Vote Libertarian or stay home.

***

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Bring on the Blue Wave

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

***

If you enjoyed this post, please follow me at www.howtocureyourliberalism.com. Also check out my podcast on iTunes  and like my Facebook page.

A Love Letter to a Proponent of Repealing the Second Amendment