Thursday, July 26, 2012

Someday Never Comes

So, the gun debate is back in the news.  Some guy went on a rampage in a movie theater.  What can we do about it?

I keep being told that in order to prevent gun-related death of all kinds, we either need more laws, stricter laws, or better enforcement of current laws.  Sounds fair.  But I can promise you that that's never going to happen, and I'll tell you why.

Let's assume it's true- that all we need are better laws.  Assume further that after these better laws are passed, gun crimes will either stop happening altogether or decrease to a frequency that we can all accept without wishing for more laws.

Notice I said after these laws are passed.  Right now is something different. Right now, millions of guns are already unregistered, untracked, and out there somewhere.  Many are already in the hands of bad (or potentially bad) people.  No matter how hard the government cracks down on guns, nothing can override the reality that they're already widely available, and have been for some time.  Arguing over who's at fault for that is useless.  That much is a done deal.

Until the day comes when the government gives us the better gun laws you might want, what are we all supposed to do?  All I can come up with is that we have to just live with the fact that we're helpless to defend ourselves against anyone who has a gun and wants to hurt people.  Sure, you could buy your own gun and carry it for self defense.  Just don't get caught with it outside your home or in any scenario where it could potentially save someone's life, because that will get you arrested and thrown into prison.*  Ironically, the people who will throw you into prison can already legally carry weapons and don't have to worry about the law.

When whatever government body you trust with your safety finally hammers out the perfect legislation, maybe things will be different.  But the perfect legislation has been on its way for decades now, and I'm starting to doubt whether it's even coming.  In the meantime, whose endlessness becomes more apparent with each shooting, don't be shocked when you see incidents like in Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech.  The gun-free zones and no-carry laws might score political points with the right people, but saying, "We'll get it right next time," probably doesn't mean as much to the families of the victims of gun violence.

The lesson here is that if you depend on the government for things that are ultimately and rightfully your responsibility, it means you're rolling the dice with your own future.  In the case of safety, it both fails to protect and removes the means of doing it yourself.  If you examine the many other things that government does, you will find many similar patterns.

Of course if government is the problem, then liberty is the answer.  I know that record sounds about as broken as the one that says we need more government, but trust me, it hasn't been playing as long.  Until we can get less of the former and more of the latter, we're going to be stuck in the same situations waiting for different outcomes.  When the next shooting happens, we'll find out.

*In NJ, for instance, it is basically illegal for anyone to carry any firearm- except the police.

Monday, July 16, 2012

If you don't vote, you can't complain

The grip that this fallacy has on people is incredible.  I wonder why it isn't questioned more often.
It is false because it is based on the assumption that, among the selection of candidates, there's something for everybody.  The assumption is flawed.  It implies that regardless of one's beliefs, there's a candidate who claims to represent those beliefs rigidly enough that he deserves one's vote.  This is simply untrue.

It wasn't until this election season that I understood the reality of this fallacy.  Usually I vote libertarian, but this year I'm not completely sold on the libertarian candidate.  I will examine my other options between now and November, but if I don't find someone else whom I feel would make a good President, I will write in Ron Paul.  And I will still have two good reasons to complain: 1) because the party I traditionally vote for will have let me down by tinkering with its platform too much, and more importantly 2) the winner of the election will enact policies that are completely against what I believe.

The alternative would be to abandon my principles and vote for for a candidate whom I don't actually want to win.  In so doing, I would forfeit my right to complain- particularly if that candidate won, for I would bear part of the responsibility of his agenda.  Even if he lost, while I couldn't be held responsible for the winner's policies, I still will have registered my support for the belief system of a candidate I did not endorse.  In effect, my vote will have said, "You have my support; better luck next time."

It wouldn't be a big deal if only a handful of people did this, but considering that this is how millions of Americans choose to perform their civic duty, it turns out to be a very dangerous and stupid thing to do.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "Anybody but Obama," as though merely replacing Obama with the most popular alternative won't bring about its own unique set of problems.

It's hard to imagine how so many people can genuinely adopt the "Anybody but [candidate/party]" doctrine and continue to vote that way forever, especially because even when they vote for the winner they still never run out of things to complain about.  But it does happen.

Then again it must be just as hard for most people to see why I vote the way I do, because I'm constantly berated about it.  Here's a short list of things I hear again and again, every election:

You're wasting your vote [if you don't vote Republican or Democrat]
My personal opinion is that voting for something you don't actually support is foolish.  This isn't some ivory tower libertarian philosophizing here- it's a simple observation.  What people who say this don't understand is that neither popular candidate has shown even the slightest sympathy towards anything resembling my values, and so I sincerely believe I would be shooting myself in the foot (or, if you prefer, wasting my vote) were I to have anything to do with electing either one of them.  I care who wins, and I don't want it to be either them.

You'll never win / What do you hope to accomplish by voting third party?
When I do vote, I'm well aware of the staggering improbability of my candidate winning.  I've taken that for granted for years.  But I've never heard a convincing reason as to why I should consider that a factor when deciding whom to vote for.  Yes, I know that my third party vote isn't going to tear down the establishment.  So when given the choice between actively supporting a system that I believe is a disgraceful sham, or not, I will happily opt for the latter in every instance.  There's no incentive not to.

A vote for a third party is a vote for [candidate].
The only people responsible for a candidate winning are the people who voted for that candidate.  It doesn't matter whether your candidate lost by a margin of less than some other candidate's votes.  It might be a bummer, but as someone whose candidates will likely never win an election, I'm just not sympathetic to that claim.  Besides, there are plenty of people who never vote at all- do they all deserve blame as well?

No, they do not deserve the blame.  People who refrain from voting probably do so for reasons similar to why I don't vote for popular candidates I don't like- they don't see the point.  Maybe they noticed after a few election cycles that no matter who wins, nothing substantial changes.  That so many people don't vote is a testament to how little the main candidates bring to the table.

I will end this by saying that if you're putting your faith in either Obama or Romney, you already lost the election.  I predict in another four years we'll all still be in the same boat: we'll still be engaged in pointless open-ended war, we'll be deeper in debt, thousands of people will still be imprisoned unjustly, the government will still have it's boot on the throat of our educational system, unemployment will still be high, the entitlement cans will be kicked a little further down the road, the cost of healthcare (and everything else) will continue to rise, and politicians will still be able to make up the rules as they go along.

Come to think of it, maybe all of our votes are wasted.