Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Joy of... 2

The following are the last three comments in TF Stern’s post “Right To Bear Arms A God-Given Right?” As I have already intimated, I have no desire to do a total rehash on that tired old argument of RKBA. Adding God in the equation for me makes the debate an oxymoron.
There are two points that I want to take up though, that fell out of this series of comments quite unexpectedly. In their context they are the pieces bolded …
T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 8:22 am | #
Probligo said:

"I suspect, from reading TF’s context, that he sees these two levels as interchangeable, perhaps even identical."

The individual is more important than the nation or country. I have been reading your point of view for quite some time and often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye. The entire experience of being here in mortality rests on the individual; granted, the interaction that the individual has with everyone else is factored in.

The origins of thought, those letters of correspondence between the founding fathers of the US and those in Europe contain the essence of a government which would recognize that the individual is the most important factor, not the group and certainly not the nation. The purpose of our government was originally to protect individual rights from government's natural tendency to encroach on the individual's God given rights.

It has taken a little over 200 years for our government to encroach upon the individual’s God given rights to such a degree as to ignore them almost entirely; it’s called Creeping Socialism by some, in any case the heard mentality has swept aside the intent of our Constitution.

This most recent 2nd Amendment decision has reignited the hope for freedom, the slim chance that government can be put back in its place, that the individual’s God given rights are more important than the government’s quest to control all aspects of society.
________________________________________
probligo | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 3:48 pm | #

It is a frightening prospect, TF, when you speak thus.

To have the brave and valourous men and women of your own armed services branded as victims (I hesitate a very long while before suggesting willing participants) in a "socialist plot" is a shocking thought indeed.

Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.

Well, I said I was not going to debate the RKBA and I am very close to, if not past, breaching that promise.

I leave it there.

________________________________________
T F Stern | Homepage | 03.19.07 - 4:14 pm | #
Probligo,

Actually, you nailed it better than I could have said it,

"Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors."

History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.

_________________________________________
The thread that runs through these highlights is the opposition of the individual with the heard (I think he really means “herd”, as in cows) mentality of socialism. Now I hope that I can follow this without breaching my word on RKBA, and without launching into the same faux-political labels…
_________________________________________

First point, “…often as not the individual takes a back seat to the heard mentality of socialism. That is where we do not see eye to eye.”

No, TF, the difference is something more fundamental than that. As an NZer, as a small member of a small culture and a small nation I think that I can see just a little further than can you.

In this instance, I am referring to where and how I live in exactly the same way as you have.

You see the greatest threat to you and yours as being your own government. I would have thought that recent events (like the last 60 to 70 years, the last average lifetime) would have well put the lie to that as a debating point. Pearl Harbour could never happen again? Perhaps it did in New York?

I see the greatest threats to my lifestyle coming from two sources. First and most likely is the direct attack from an enemy country. I can imagine that the popgun under my pillow will be of great effect in warding off an Indonesian tank, or a Chinese gunboat. Second and less likely might come from a total breakdown in NZ social structure – the kind of situation where it becomes every man for himself. The causes of such a breakdown might be the radicalisation of the Maori, it could be the consequences of catastrophic events elsewhere on the planet, it might be the result of a meltdown in the international trade and finance systems. One of the more likely (if still remote) possibilities would be for a disease such as avian flu to become pandemic.

In any of those instances, having a means of defending my family and my means of survival would become a paramount.

So, I leave open the question of the individual being more important than the group. That is not really a part of this debate. I have individual and group responsibilities. More important is how I react to different threats.
_________________________________________

Second point –
Even worse in my mind is the idea that you see the Second Amendment as justifying the citizens right to bear arms solely for the overthrow of your own government and for defence against your fellow citizen. That your Founding Fathers apparently saw the need to provide thus shows that they had very little faith in their fellow man, or the State they were trying to create, or the religion that they intended should be its foundation; or all of those factors.

I can not believe that you read my statement carefully before saying outright that you agreed with it. My mind though puts the stress heavily into the first two words. Take another look, TF, and particularly at that second sentence.

I guess that the NZ equivalent of the Second Amendment is called “The Ballot Box”. There are a number of governments who have suffered at the business end of that particular weapon; Muldoon, Lange, English all led their respective governments into the political wilderness through playing fast and loose with the electorate. Auntie Helen will be the next at the end of this term. It will not be the use of taxpayer funds for electioneering, or gay rights, or child smacking, or financial policies that will knock her government over. It will be attitude, and the lack of new workable ideas that will cost her the Treasury benches.

There is another aspect to this statement of mine which is clearly stated, and when I wrote the original I pondered long and hard on how best to address it. If you read up on South Pacific news at all over the past three months you will know that Fiji has once again become a “no-go area”. Once again it is because an individual, this time the Head of Defence Forces (Bainimarama), has unilaterally determined that the current Fijian government is corrupt and should be dismissed.

Is this likely to happen in NZ? No. Could it happen in NZ? Yes it most certainly could. The success of a military takeover would depend in very large degree upon the level of popular support for the military’s action.

Looking at a citizens uprising, there is again very direct and pertinent recent history available. One could use as examples the Tienanmen Square uprising, or the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the Velvet Revolution in Poland, even the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The interesting thing about all of those examples, apart from the fact that they were against (true) Socialist governments, is that only one can be considered to result from the actions of “individuals”. All the remainder were the consequence of large groups adopting a herd mentality and acting in concert – far from individual action. The one exception would be Tienanmen Square.

And there I invite you to recall the images that came out of Tienanmen Square to our tv news. Just how effective would an uprising of individuals be against the US Federal Government? I could equally ask that question with “could” in place of “would”. I guess that one could point to Baghdad as some kind of evidence for the possibilities and a direct parallel.

But then it would be unfair to leave this without putting such an uprising to the same test as I put NZ. Is such an uprising likely in the US? I very much doubt it. Evidence in support? The herd mentality of many Americans who have taken the past six years to work out the truth. Could such an uprising happen in the US? I can not rule it out, but if Mugabe can maintain his rule for twenty years and more just from bribery and corruption alone then the prospects for the US are poor indeed.
_________________________________________

Final point –
History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites and that an unarmed public becomes slaves to government if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry. Our founding fathers knew this and built in the limited protection afforded by the 2nd Amendment.

Piece by piece –

“History has proven that governments are power hungry with limitless appetites” – AGREED

“…an unarmed public becomes slaves to government…” – qualified agreement. Yes, I am a “slave” in that I am required (I have read the word “coerced” used in this context) to pay taxes on my income. In general I am reasonably happy with the amount that I pay, and the use to which the money is put. I am not a slave to the government in that I have free will and free choice in how I run my life, as has every other citizen of NZ except those who are criminals or are unable to take care of themselves. There is no life decision that I have ever made that has in any way been influenced directly or indirectly by the Government. The nearest would have been being balloted for National Service – our version of the draft. That was at the time of Vietnam, so NZ was not a unique instance then. The draft was cancelled – by the government – three days before I was required to report for medicals.

“…if that government is not held in check by an armed citizenry”. - As I have said before, the greatest weapon in that armoury is The Ballot Box.
_________________________________________

Now, if I may, I want to return to the idea of “herd mentality” and the perceptions that you attach to it.

If you consider any electoral democracy – we could look at either NZ or US, or Britain as you wish – the first very fundamental feature is that the shape and form of a government is in large part due to the actions of individuals. When you accumulate individuals with common attributes into groups, you suddenly have herds of electors acting with a herd mentality. The “membership” of groups might change as the selection criteria change – lower taxes, more spending on health and education, fewer members of parliament… It has to be a political foundation stone that group can achieve far better and effective results than the same number of individuals. That is why political parties exist, the Republicans and the Democrats, National and Labour, are the result of that truth.

That may result in a “socialist” government (note the small “s”) as one which is operating within and for the benefit of a society. It may result in a Socialist government, which term could as easily and equally be applied to US and USSR in the sense that you might use it. Certainly the term can cover a multitude of sins.

Even in its purest form, democracy is far from perfect. I have seen it suggested that the only true modern democracy is Switzerland. I could accept that as a principle, but it would require minor tweaking to my thoughts on the political democratic process. I recall a considerable hooha coming out of Switzerland a few years back – something to do with citizenship and immigration. A proposal from the government was put to the popular vote and the row started when a very small number of voters (75 if I am right) were able to stymie the law change.

On this basis at least, one could accuse any agreed and common action taken by a group of people as being “following the herd mentality”.
_________________________________________

Can I now turn to “action as a group” in relation to the process of democracy and governance.

I do not know of any government that exists today where there has not existed some form of political grouping. The rationale and justification equates with the structure of the military – even in its most modern form like alQaeda, IJ, or Hezbollah, Republicans or Democrats. The strength comes from combined effort, from constancy of purpose. But then I should be preaching to the converted here; this is surely the principle behind the organisation of a religion into “churches”?

“Action as a group” in the communities we live in does not (as a matter of course) require adherence, demand constant and unquestioning obedience, nor does it stifle the freedom of individual choice. I could point at some groups that do limit the individual to that extent; including specific religious sects and political systems. I am fortunate, as I believe that you are TF, to live with freedom to choose.

There is another aspect of “action as a group” that is both the heart of democracy and its potential death. It is the ability or power that a small number might have (with completely valid application of the law) to frustrate the wishes of the majority. We see it in NZ under our MMP system where the power wielded by a small group can be far in excess of their political backing. In the US it might take the form of a small group that succeed in “making law” through SCOTUS which does not have the backing of a majority of people – Roe v Wade might suffice as an example.
_________________________________________

At this point I have used the word “freedom” several times, and I want to end on that note.

Which is the most important freedom? Speech? RKBA? Choice? If you were allowed only one freedom, which would it be?

I think I know my choice. And when I think about it, it lies at the heart of every other freedom, and at the very base of democracy.

10 comments:

Dave said...

"Which is the most important freedom? Speech? RKBA? Choice? If you were allowed only one freedom, which would it be?"

The question is nonsensical. It is like asking if you could only have one color on a color TV, which would you choose? If you only have one, you don't have a color TV. Similarly, if you are only 'allowed' one freedom, you don't have any freedom at all.

The right to defend yourself, rather then being reliant upon others to defend you is what seperates a sovreign from a slave. I suspect that small nations like New Zealand will be able to maintian their liberal nature, without a right to weaponry, only so long as that remains popular on the internation scene, bouyed up by other leading nations, the U.S. in particular, who do treat their citizens as sovreigns, both capable and able to be responsible for their own defense.

As long as the U.S. maintains the right to keep and bear arms, I very much doubt that we will ever need to use it.

The probligo said...

The question is nonsensical only in your mind Dave, because you like so many others are unable to see a wider view.

Watch this space, because I am not going to foreclose debate from other people by revealing my personal choice.

I am not going to debate RKBA because that is about as meaningful as whipping a dead donkey.

Dave said...

That is a crap response.

If their is some wider view that I am incapble of seeing, I think it would behove you to make some sort of arguement for that wider view, at the least eluciating what it is, even if you can't construct a complete argument for why it is the correct view.

In effect, you are saying "you are worng because I say so, nya nya nya." While that is a common debating tactic for five year olds, I expect better from you.

The probligo said...

Dave, explain then for me please how the US RKBA will help you when armoured tanks come over the hill, or the heavy bombers fly overhead?

Would you be taking arms against the US Army? Would the US Air Force bomb New York because of a popular uprising? Would the US Marines start house to house fighting through the streets of Austin, Tx?


Can you imagine that? Is that really the threat against which you need the right to arms? Because that is the only means a rogue US government could use... in either defence or offence.

The truth is that if your government were to go rogue, there would be no need of an armed militia. That argument is a total crock. The US Army would NOT (in my wildest imaginations I can not see it happening) wage war against the American people. The defence, the solution would come back inevitably to the ballot box.

Or, as I have said so many times before, is your argument a conflate of national security on the one hand and personal security on the other. If it is, then there is an honesty required to show how RKBA might be effective against an invasion or other external threat.

At the moment your argument (not personal, reference is to the standard NRA and similar claptrap) is a disorganised waffle about "protection" and "defence" against your own government? It ignores any and all of the realities that such a paranoiac response might have to face.

Dave said...

Since I didn't mention national security at all, nor did I say anything about defending against the government I am unsure how I am 'conflating' these things. I talked about defending oneself, period.

As I tried to make clear, as long as the people believe that their fellow citizens are sovreign, their will be neither major restrictions in the right to be armed, or in other areas of liberty. The first to fall though will almost certainly be the right to bear weapons, so well before 'the government' becomes intolerably totalitarian that right will have disappeared. In that regard, the right to keep and bear arms serves as a useful 'canary in the coal mine'.

However, the idea that a less armed populace can't fight against a better armed military seems somewhat foolish for you to be making as a blanket assumption. Certainly in Iraq right now we are seeing a minority of people, relatively poorly armed, being able to cause signifigant problems for the very military you claim that the U.S. people would be powerless against.

I don't hold that though as being a primary reason for the right to keep and bear arms. The primary reason is that the individual is sovreign and thus should not be required to rely upon the state for his personal defense in the face of aggression. I as an individual should have the capability to defend myself should I require it. Denying me the tools to do so is denying my very sovreignty, making me a dependant.

The probligo said...

"The right to defend yourself... The right to defend yourself, rather then being reliant upon others to defend you is what seperates a sovreign from a slave. "

Defend against whom, Dave?

"I hold it’s most important reason for existing is that basic idea that an individual has a right to be able to defend themselves, both against their fellow citizen and, if need be, against their very government. Yes, their is a cost to this freedom, as their is to all freedoms, but I hold the cost to be worth it. I also hold that our constitution wisely prohibits the government from infringing on this freedom without good reason, which they must clearly show."

Comment date 12/29/04

How, using what, Dave? Against whom? The US Army? The Marines?

But then you refer to NZ having to rely upon the US for national security. OK, so what manner of arms do you possess (or think I should possess) to provide protection against an invasion by China or Indonesia?

Dave said...

I stand by that comment.

You have the right to defend yourself, against any who would take away your essential freedoms, whether it is a criminal depriving you of your life for a few bucks or a government wishing to establish their totalitarian rule. So long as governments respect that fundamental right of self defense though, their will be no need to use force against them. So I don't ever expect the second ammendment to be useful in rebeling against the U.S. government, because before that rebellion would be justified the second ammendment would have long fallen by the wayside. That though is, I would think, a reason to keep and protect it, not a reason to say it is unneccessary.

I wasn't talking about China invading New Zealand. What I was talking about is that any government, such as New Zealand's, that displays such a fundamental lack of respect for the sovreignty of its citzenry will maintain the other freedoms we associate with a liberal democracy only so long as it is popular, easy and convenient. The U.S. and some other nations have made liberal democracy the easy and popular thing to do. This has absolutely nothing to do with China.

I have never owned a gun. I don't feel any need to own that particular tool at this point in my life. That has nothing to do with how the state regards me as being entitled to defend myself, because my own individual dignity and sovreignty is an end unto itself and not just a means to some other end.

The probligo said...

"What I was talking about is that any government, such as New Zealand's, that displays such a fundamental lack of respect for the sovreignty of its citzenry will maintain the other freedoms we associate with a liberal democracy only so long as it is popular, easy and convenient."

OK, so we use a ballot box rather than the threat of a gun... There are some here in NZ who prefer the use guns, your approach.

I still do not know who you would be "fighting" against that would need weapons.

I can imagine the 200 or so parliamentarians we have at present taking weapons of war to defend the Beehive against an angry populace. Helen and Jeanette standing shoulder to shoulder trying to work out which end of an RPG launcher they point where!! :D :D :D

Can you imagine GWB standing in the front line waving a Peacemaker and yelling "Make my day, punk!!"

As a beer ad says down this way - "Yeah, right!"

T. F. Stern said...

I'll jump in a little later, not that I'm not enjoying this. I'm not feeling well and must beg off a day or so.

T. F. Stern said...

I’m of a firm belief that when there is a huge difference between God given rights and powers granted to government by the governed. That one sentence may summarize what America is in comparison to all the other countries in the world, our founding fathers acknowledged that God given rights must supersede those powers granted to government by the governed.

I posted a longer version that goes into details if you would like to see more.

Also, I'm feeling much better now thanks for your kind thoughts.