Welcome back, kids. I’m fisking my way through Walker Bragman’s Debunking 18 Pro-Gun Myths, so pull up a seat and we’ll press on. In part one, I only managed to rip apart one myth before hitting my self-imposed too-long-didn’t-read limit. In part deux I dealt with four more myths which gets us almost a third of the way through. So what pile of putrefied pap does Walker offer up as his Myth #6? . . .
“But I need a gun because the government might become tyrannical!”
The idea of government corruption is nothing new. The Founders understood that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
You know I was unaware that the Founders had time machines, because Lord Acton made his statement “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” in a letter to Bishop Creighton in 1887. But perhaps Walker meant that the Founders recognized it as a universal concept, not that they were channeling Lord Acton from 100 years in the future. Still Walker, don’t forget that power tends to corrupt, it is not inevitable.
They designed the system with checks and balances in order to combat this problem. Constant competition within the bureaucracy and between the three branches would assure no one person or group became too powerful.
No Walker, they designed a system of limited government with specific enumerated powers, not a sprawling Leviathan empowered by completely distorted versions of the commerce, necessary and proper and general welfare clauses. In fact there was an argument made that no Bill of Rights was needed because the limits of the enumerated powers would keep the government from infringing on peoples’ rights.
As an interesting side note, liberals used the same willful misreading of ‘regulate’ to bend the commerce clause into a pretzel that they used to try and say that the Second Amendment only applied to militias that are bound by regulations and red tape. But Walker continues:
A testament to the success of this system is the fact that we have seen people like Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby, and Jack Abramoff come and go, and the machinery has kept turning.
That corrupt and venal individuals have used the system to enrich themselves while beggaring others or uplifting their lackeys while punishing their foes is most assuredly not a “testament” to the system’s success. It’s instead a symptom of the system’s breakdown. Indeed Walker’s next paragraph only reinforces the fact that the FedGov is completely out of control:
There are 456 reported federal agencies in our government. Within each of these there are bureaucracies. What most people do not realize is that the size of government is actually a check on its power rather than a sign of it. It is true that as government grows, so too does the number of regulations, but the more people means more competition, and competition means security.
Maybe Walker should get a job at the Ministry of Truth. He’d fit right in with the “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” crowd. Walker’s trying to get us to believe that it’s bad when there is only one government bureaucracy regulating, say, our printing business and that we’d be much better off with a dozen different (often conflicting) sets of regulations and inspections.
If this were the free market then yes, competition begets freedom and security and we would be better off. With competing government bureaucracies, however, you wind up with bureaucrats in pissing matches over jurisdiction or which department is going to get the credit for a “bust” and so are treated to a double golden shower.
On top of this, inspectors are not promoted for finding that everyone and everything is in compliance, so while having 10 different inspectors looking for violations of 10 different sets of regulations may be competition, security it ain’t. Finally let’s think about what happens when budget time rolls around with agencies ABC and CBA:
Head of ABC: “We performed 127 snap inspections and found 94.5% compliance. Since the failures were limited to paperwork and filing issues we felt no punitive action was required.”
Head of CBA: “We performed 127 snap inspections and found 7 companies operating with flagrant disregard to safety regulations and so imposed fines averaging $150,000 apiece.”
Who’s going to get the bigger budget, the bigger office, and more personnel?
So what other thoughts does Walker have on tyranny vs. benevolence in government?
Still, safeguards against tyranny are not only systemic. America’s political culture is one with a deep-rooted, 200 year tradition of democracy. The American people are extremely wary of government infringing on individual liberty which can be traced back to our revolutionary experience. There is no way in our system for one person or party to consolidate power.
Walker seems to be under the misapprehension that since our government is not a dictatorship it can’t be tyrannical. Au contraire, mon ami. The first definition of tyranny at Dictionary.com is:
arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
So “one person or party” does not have to consolidate power; two or more people or parties can just as well act in concert (or turn a blind eye to another person or party) to order arbitrary detention for an indefinite period with no trial, no chance to confront your accusers, no ability to see the evidence against you, no notion of what you are being charged with, in fact with no sort of due process at all. And that’s not even going into the question of extraordinary rendition or assassination of American citizens, again without any sort of due process.
If you want to get away from War on Terror abuses, how about the increasingly popular “free speech zones” set up to exclude Americans with certain viewpoints from participating in the public discourse. Or eminent domain abuse stealing private property under the color of law, or civil forfeiture, or the use of police to spy on religious and political groups (shades of CoIntelPro), or the increasing militarization (and militance) of our police forces.
This paranoia has increased greatly among right wing groups since the election of President Obama even though he is by no means the first president to support gun control measures. He is different from previous president’s[sic] in one very superficial way.
Wait, just one paragraph earlier it seemed like we were patriotic to be extremely wary of government infringing on individual liberty which can be traced back to our revolutionary experience, but now Walker is saying that this wariness is, in fact, paranoia.
But if by paranoia you mean people buying lots of guns, as you can see by the chart below (showing year-to-year changes in the number of NICS checks) that buying spree started out significantly before Obama’s election; NICS checks rose 12% between 2005 and 2006 and, with the exception of 2010, have been increasing by double digit percentages since:
Finally, I wouldn’t call his long-standing and ongoing hostility to the Second Amendment (among other civil rights) a ‘superficial’ difference between him and previous Presidents. And his exploitation of the current crisis to push a number of punitive and ultimately confiscatory gun laws is no surprise to anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to his history.
“But Hitler and Stalin took away the guns and look what happened!”
Actually that myth is pretty well accepted as a myth among gunnies now, although I would point out that in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, between 200 and 250 ill-trained, ill-armed and just plain ill Jewish fighters halted a deportation and held the ghetto for four months. Eventually the Germans “took” it back, employing (according to Wikipedia):
[A] task force dispatched to put down the revolt and complete the deportation action numbered 2,090 men armed with artillery pieces, armored vehicles, minethrowers, 82 machine guns and 135 submachine guns. Its backbone consisted of 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier troops in five SS reserve and training battalions and one SS cavalry reserve and training battalion.
and burning almost the entire ghetto, block by block.
Then, of course, there was Tuvia Bielski (so ably portrayed by Daniel Craig in Defiance) and his brothers whose partisan group saved at least a thousand fellow Jews by hiding them in the forest while fighting the Nazis. Okay, so armed Jews might not have stopped the Holocaust, but the few that had arms certainly seemed pretty effective at monkey-wrenching the Nazi war machine.
Next time I’ll take on Walker’s mythical myths about cars v. guns, law-abiding permit-holders and other folderol. Stay tuned.