Category Archives: Right to Bear Arms

The rights to life and to keep and bear arms are inseparable

TAMPA, December 16, 2012 ― The right to keep and bear arms is not granted to Americans in the U.S. Constitution, nor in the “Bill of Rights.” The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, inextricably linked to the right to life.

The 2nd Amendment recognizes this. It does not say the right “shall be granted.” It assumes the right already exists and says it “shall not be infringed.”

All rights are negative. We do not have a positive right to anything. Rights merely prohibit other people from aggressing against us. If someone is struck by lightning and killed, we feel bad about it, but we do not say his right to life was violated. Neither do we say so if he is eaten by a lion.

The right to life is very narrowly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being, other than in self-defense. The only way to exercise this right is to defend oneself if attacked. There is no other circumstance in which the “right to life” has any meaning.

Given that an aggressor may have weapons or may be a more capable fighter, individuals must be able to arm themselves sufficiently to overcome these disadvantages in order to exercise their right to life.

Natural rights preexist government. They exist in what Enlightenment philosophers called “the state of nature,” which is the state without government. These thinkers had different ideas about nature and society, but all agreed on one thing. Self-preservation is the first law of nature.

John Locke’s “Essay Concerning the true origin, extent and end of Civil Government (1690)” inspired the entire American philosophy, according to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson thought it so important that posterity understand this that he had a resolution passed to proclaim it.

This was due to the important differences between Locke’s philosophy and others. Unlike Rousseau, who claimed that when joining society man had to agree to “the total alienation of all of his natural rights,” Locke said that man entered society to preserve those rights. That’s why the Declaration of Independence says that certain rights are inalienable.

The only rights that man gives up upon entering society is the right to judge his own case in a dispute and to enforce that judgment. These he gives up to the government in return for the superior protection of his life, liberty and property the government supposedly provides.

However, these powers only pertain to crimes that occurred in the past. The government has no power over the future or the present. It cannot prosecute someone for a crime that he will commit tomorrow and it cannot protect the individual from a crime occurring right now.

Therefore, the individual retains the right to defend himself against aggression occurring in the present, even after giving up other powers to the government. Locke is very clear about this:

“Thus a thief, whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, if lost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defence, and the right of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge…” [emphasis added]

Reason inevitably leads to this conclusion. The right to keep and bear arms exists in nature and is never given up in any social contract, because no government is able to defend its citizen in the present.

This also clears up a common misconception. Since the government is unable to defend you in the present, it is not true that by surrendering the right to bear arms you place care of your life in the hands of the government. You must be placing it elsewhere.

Since it no longer resides in you either, the care of your life must now reside in your attacker.

This is not some theoretical exercise only true in a classroom or lecture hall. This was the very real situation that defenseless teachers and children found themselves in on Friday. The school was a “gun-free zone,” meaning all who entered it agreed to surrender their right to keep and bear arms.

The government didn’t defend them because it couldn’t. The government was only able to respond after the attack commenced. The only one able to make a decision whether they lived or died was Adam Lanza.

One would think tragedies like this and in other gun-free zones like the City of Aurora, Colorado, Ft. Hood or Columbine High School would have taught Americans a very clear lesson. Do not put the lives of our children and their teachers into the hands of homicidal maniacs.

Instead, the hue and cry is for precisely the opposite. Not only should schoolchildren be deprived of their right to life, but all of society.

Locke called any social contract where the individual accepts even worse protection of his life and property than he had in the state of nature “too gross an absurdity for any man to own.” He would call most reactions to this latest school shooting downright insane.

*This article originally appeared in Washington Times Communities

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Free Excerpt – A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America

Kindle edition now available here!

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Hello friends,

Americans are waking up to the reality that our once free republic is in serious trouble. They are searching for answers to what seem like unsolvable problems: economic depression, unending war, political corruption, and vanishing liberties. What if there were just one answer – freedom? The American republic was founded upon that principle, yet few suggest it is the solution to any of our problems,  much less all of them. But if freedom is the answer, we first must know what it is. Sadly, most Americans do not. That is why I wrote this book.

I hope you enjoy the Introduction and Chapter One: What is Freedom?, which I am making available for free below. The subsequent chapters discuss how freedom can solve the many challenges we face.

To read the rest of this book, you can get the Kindle Edition here.

I look forward to fighting with you to restore our liberty.  – Tom Mullen

Reviews

“Thomas Mullen is a knowledgeable and passionate libertarian and A Return to Common Sense is a valuable addition to the libertarian literature. Those new to the freedom movement will benefit from Tom’s introduction to both the practical and moral arguments for freedom. Long-time activists will benefit from Tom’s explanation of why strict adherence to principle is vital to the future success of the liberty movement.”

Representative Ron Paul (TX-14)

Congressman and author of The Revolution: A Manifesto and End the Fed.

“A well written primer on economics, liberty, and government that even avid Austrians will enjoy. If you have been blinded by government and Wall Street propaganda, A Return to Common Sense will help open your eyes. I not only recommend that you add this book to your freedom library, but that you buy a few copies for your friends.”

Peter Schiff, President of Euro Pacific Capital, Inc and author of Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.

Tom Mullen has written a thorough and useful book. Those for whom a discussion of liberty is a new experience will discover in A Return to Common Sense a clear, easy to understand guide to the nature of freedom, and why it is essential to our fondest hopes for a civil society of opportunity, peace, and prosperity. For those who already share these values, it’s a welcome resource for perfecting our own knowledge and advancing our cause.

– Charles Goyette, author of THE DOLLAR MELTDOWN: Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments and RED AND BLUE AND BROKE ALL OVER: Restoring America’s Free Economy

Chapter 1

What is Freedom?

And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world?”

 – Frederic Bastiat1 (1850)

If there is one thing uniquely associated with America, it is freedom.  From the moment Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, America has been a symbol of liberty to the entire world.  Since the end of World War II, when the United States assumed a worldwide leadership role, it has been the leader of the “free world.”  At sporting events, standing crowds begin their ovation when the vocalist singing the national anthem gets to the words, “O’er the land of the free.”  Even in everyday conversations, scarcely a day goes by that one does not hear someone say, “Do what you like, it’s a free country.”

Although we all agree that America is the “land of the free,” there are questions about freedom that might be more difficult to answer.  What is freedom?  How is it defined?  What makes America the land of the free?  How would we know if we were to lose our freedom?  What is it that our soldiers die for and our politicians swear to defend?

We have been told a lot of things about what freedom is not.  From the end of World War II until 1991, most Americans understood that freedom was not communism.  For almost three generations, Americans lived in the “free world” during its cold war with the communist Eastern Bloc.  Without further thought or instruction, many children of the 20th century think of freedom merely as the antithesis of communism.  In some ways, this is not completely untrue, although it hardly provides a complete answer to our question.

Certainly, the mere absence of communism doesn’t necessarily guarantee freedom.  The 18th century British monarchy wasn’t communist, but the American colonists nevertheless considered it tyrannical enough to rebel against.  Likewise, the Royal House of Saud may be an ally of the U.S. government, but most Americans would not regard Saudi Arabia as a “free country.”

In addition to monarchies, there are plenty of dictatorships around the world that don’t enforce a communist system but are nevertheless oppressive.  While they also may be allies of the U.S. government, they certainly aren’t free countries, either.  So, a society is not free merely because it is not communist.

On the other hand, monarchy doesn’t seem to necessarily preclude freedom, either. Great Britain has been a relatively free country throughout much of its history, even when the monarchy was much more than a figurehead.  The American Revolution notwithstanding, Great Britain was at that time one of the freest societies in the world.  Therefore, rather than conclude that no freedom is possible under a monarchy, one might instead conclude that monarchies neither guarantee nor necessarily exclude freedom. Freedom or tyranny seems possible under almost any system of government.

Perhaps we can define freedom more easily by looking at its antithesis.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists slavery among antonyms for freedom.  Surely, we have found a start here.  Most people would agree that slavery is the complete absence of freedom.  Who can we imagine that is less free than the slave?  This is helpful in beginning to try to frame an answer, but freedom cannot be merely the absence of slavery.  Surely our founding fathers bled to give us a higher standard than this!

If we are told anything about what freedom is, it is that freedom is democracy.  If you ask most Americans, this is the answer you will get.  This is reinforced ad nauseum by politicians, media, and teachers in our public schools.  When Iraq held its first elections after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, politicians and journalists universally celebrated the Iraqis’ “first taste of freedom.”

Certainly, democracy is a vast improvement over the autocratic rule of a dictator. But does democracy automatically mean freedom?  If democracy is rule by the majority, what about the minority?  What if 51 % of the people voted to oppress the other 49%?  Would that society truly be free?

Most Americans would be quite surprised to learn what our founding fathers thought about democracy.  Any objective analysis would conclude that their feelings lay somewhere between suspicion and contempt.

James Madison said, “Democracy is the most vile form of government … democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths,”2

In a letter to James Monroe, he also said,

“There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.”3

While often extolling the virtue of majority rule, Thomas Jefferson nevertheless wrote,

“…that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”4

Can this be true?  The founding fathers were ambivalent about democracy?  For many people, this is tantamount to sacrilege.  More shocking still is what the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution say about democracy: nothing.  Nowhere in our founding documents will you find the word “democracy” or the assertion, implicit or explicit, that our government is a democracy.  How can this be?

Despite what we are taught virtually from birth, the United States of America has never been a democracy.  As only contrarians point out these days, it is a constitutional republic.  We choose our leaders using the democratic process of majority vote, but that is the extent to which the United States involves itself with democracy.

Like monarchy, democracy neither guarantees nor necessarily prohibits freedom.  Our founders actually feared that democracy poses a danger to freedom.  Apart from the pure heresy of the idea, it leaves us with a problem.  We are no closer to defining freedom.  If even democracy is not freedom, perhaps freedom doesn’t really exist!  If we are not to find freedom in democracy, where else can we look?

We certainly won’t learn what freedom is from our politicians.  While terrorism, healthcare, unemployment, gay marriage, and a host of other “major issues” dominate public debate, freedom is just too quaint, too academic, or too forgotten to get any airplay.  Yet, as we shall see as we explore the different subjects of this book, freedom is the fundamental issue.  In fact, despite what we perceive as a myriad of different problems facing the United States of America today, freedom is actually the only issue.  That may be hard to accept, given the decades of shoddy history, obfuscation, and plain old bad ideas we’ve been bombarded with.  Nevertheless, our greatest challenges and their solutions revolve around freedom.  If freedom is really that important, we’d better be absolutely sure we know what it is.

In order to answer the question posed by Bastiat at the beginning of this chapter, we will have to go back to the beginning.  Our founding fathers faced no such quandary about the definition of freedom. They knew exactly what it was.  They were children of the Enlightenment, and derived their ideas about freedom directly from its philosophers, especially John Locke.  While these philosophers were powerful thinkers and their ideas were (no pun intended) revolutionary at the time, the principles of liberty are relatively simple.  They are, as the namesake of this book concluded, common sense.  It was an understanding of these revolutionary ideas by average American colonists that inspired the revolution that gave birth to a nation.

The idea that opens the door to the true meaning of freedom is individual rights.  Despite the emphasis today on the “general welfare” and the “common good,” the American tradition of liberty has nothing to do with either.  Instead, the founders believed each individual was born with natural, inalienable rights.  The Declaration of Independence states,

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” 5

This passage is quoted widely in popular culture.  Invariably, the words emphasized are “that all men are created equal.”  Certainly, these are fine words and worthy of veneration.  However, the rest of this passage is equally important.  Every human being, because of his equality with all other human beings, has rights no earthly power can take away.  These rights are “unalienable,” so that governments, even democratically elected governments, have no power to revoke them.  To the founding fathers this was self-evident.  It was true based purely upon man’s existence itself.

This idea is drawn directly from the philosophy of John Locke, who wrote,

“A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection,”6

While these rights are endowed by a Creator, the founders did not specify who the Creator was.  Too often, those arguing for the ideals of our republic make the fatal mistake of basing the natural rights upon belief not only in God, but specifically upon the Christian God.  While the founders were by no means opposed to Christianity, belief in it or even in God is not a prerequisite for the existence of the natural rights.  The beauty of this idea is that it transcends religion and thus welcomes members of all religions, and those with no religious beliefs at all.  Therefore, the first building block of freedom, individual, inalienable rights, can be claimed by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, by every person on earth.

So what are these inalienable rights, which cannot be taken away?  The Declaration goes on to say, “That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”7

At first glance, this statement might be a bit deceiving, maybe even a little disappointing.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?  Is that all?  Surely we have more rights than these!  Of course, the Declaration says “among these,” so it does not limit the natural rights to these three.  But these three are important.  It is worthwhile to determine the meaning of each.

The right to life is pretty easy to understand.  Most civilized societies have laws against murder.  Each individual has a right not to be killed by another human being, except in self-defense.  So far, so good.  What about the other two?  We are in the midst of trying to define liberty, or freedom, so let us put that aside for the moment.  The third right listed is “the pursuit of happiness.”  What does that mean?  Does it mean nothing?  Or does it mean everything?  What if it makes me happy to steal cars or blow up buildings?  Surely, I don’t have a right to pursue happiness like that!

No. There is a natural limit on liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, we can find the answer in Locke,

“To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” 8

While people are free to do what they want, they must do so “within the bounds of the law of nature.”  What is the law of nature?  Locke goes on to tell us,

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and Reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions…” 9

Finally, we have some indication of what freedom is, rather than what it is not.  Liberty is not the unlimited ability to do whatever you want, nor is it confined to the arbitrary limits placed upon people by governments.  Contrary to the spurious argument that unfettered liberty would result in chaos, we see that the law of nature, Reason, very clearly and unambiguously prohibits some actions, even for people in a state of absolute liberty.  They are:

1.   Initiating the use of force or violence

2.   Infringing upon another person’s liberty

3.   Harming them in their possessions.

This last limit upon the actions of free individuals is important.  Locke spends an entire chapter of his Second Treatise talking about it.  It is related to property, which is arguably the most important right, while at the same time the least understood.  Property is important enough that we will spend the next chapter examining the subject.  To do this we will have to come to a clear definition of property, including how it is acquired, how it is exchanged, and what right the owner has to it.

More importantly, we have arrived at a definition of liberty.  It is the right of any person to do as they please, as long as they do not violate the equal rights of anyone else.  The latter half of this definition is generally referred to as the “non-aggression principle.”  Political activists associate this principle with libertarians, while intellectuals associate it with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.  Certainly both movements recognize and venerate it, but it is important to realize that neither is its source.  In fact, the non-aggression principle has been articulated with very little variation by all writers in the liberal tradition, including Locke, Jefferson, Paine, Bastiat, Mill, and later Rand and other 20th century writers and thinkers.

By applying this principle, the most complicated societal issues become astoundingly simple.  The ambiguous becomes unambiguous.  The answers become clear.  Virtually every problem facing America today can be solved by applying the principle of freedom.

There are a few points we should review for emphasis.  First, the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and drawn out of Locke’s philosophy are inalienable.  They cannot be taken away by any power on earth, including a majority vote.  The reason the founders were suspicious of democracy was because of their fear that the majority would oppress the individual by voting away the individual’s rights, especially property rights.  This was the reason for the separation of powers and the limits on government authority.  Even a majority vote can be a threat to freedom.

The difference between a right and a privilege is a vital concept to understand.  A right is something you are born with, that you possess merely because you exist.  A privilege is something that is granted by another person, group, or a government.  Our country was founded upon the principle that all people have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away, not privileges granted by their government.  As John Adams so eloquently put it,

“I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.”10

There is no need to be “thankful for the rights we have in America.”  All people have those rights and gratitude is neither necessary nor appropriate.  Rather, people are justified in demanding their rights, and any violation of them should be recognized as an act of aggression.

Second, in any conflict between individual liberty and the will of the majority, individual liberty prevails without compromise.  The majority has no right to violate the rights of the individual.   This is to some extent merely making the first point in reverse, but it is important enough to say in more than one way.  Society doesn’t have rights; individuals do.  Society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, so protecting each individual in society protects society.

Despite these seemingly undeniable truths, individual liberty is today under constant attack because of its perceived conflict with the common good or “the needs of society.”  While living together and agreeing not to initiate aggression against each other seems astoundingly simple, our politicians would have us believe there is something incredibly complicated about it.  They create a world in which civil society is a maze of moral dilemmas that only their astute guidance can lead us safely through.  Once liberty is properly understood and applied, all of these supposed dilemmas disappear.

End Notes

Introduction: The American Crisis

1 Paine, Thomas The American Crisis “The Crisis No. 1” December 19, 1776 from Paine Collected Writings edited by Eric Foner Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, NY 1955 pg. 91

Chapter 1: What is Freedom?

1 Bastiat, Frederic The Law 1850 from The Bastiat Collection 2 Volumes Vol. 1 Ludwig Von Mises Institute Auburn, AL 2007 pg. 79

2 Madison,James Federalist #10    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fedi.htm http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed10.htm

3 Madison, James Letter to James Monroe October 5th, 1786 James Madison Center, The http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/home.htm Phillip Bigler, Director, James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/main_pages/madison_archives/quotes/supremacy.htm

4 Jefferson, Thomas To Dupont de Nemours from Jefferson Writings edited by Merrill D. Peterson New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 1984 pg. 1387

5 Declaration of Independence, United States 1776 National Archives and Records (website) http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

6 John Locke Second Treatise on Civil Government from Two Treatises of Government C. and J. Rivington, 1824 (Harvard University Library Copy) pg. 132

7 Declaration of Independence, United States 1776 National Archives…

8 Locke Second Treatise pgs. 131-32

9 Locke Second Treatise pg. 133

10 Adams, John A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law 1765 Ashland Center for Public Affairs (website) Ashland University  http://www.ashbrook.org/library/18/adams/canonlaw.html

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Is the Patriot Act Unpatriotic?

Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had an interesting exchange at the National Security Debate hosted by CNN on November 22nd. Not surprisingly, Gingrich supported the Patriot Act, going so far as to say that it should be “strengthened.” Paul argued that “the Patriot Act is unpatriotic,” because the legislation undermines American liberties. He thinks it should be abolished. Both men did well making their points and each got enthusiastic applause from their supporters. But who was right?

At first glance, it might have seemed as if Paul had stumbled into a “gotcha” by bringing up Timothy McVeigh. In supporting his assertion that one must never give up liberty for security, Paul argued that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was prosecuted, convicted, and executed under the existing laws, without the “tools” that the Patriot Act provides to law enforcers. Gingrich replied:

“Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.”

Paul responded:

“This is like saying we want a policeman in every house, a camera in every house, because we want to prevent child beating and wife beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So, if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms and we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.”

It is likely that uncommitted observers – those not passionately for Paul or Gingrich – thought that both men made good points and that the right answer is “somewhere in the middle.” To be moderate is always viewed as being more reasonable. But is that really true? I believe that the question debated here between Paul and Gingrich is a fundamental question and compromise is impossible. To use a well-worn but appropriate cliche, Gingrich wants America to cross the Rubicon. Once we do, there is no going back.

The crux of the matter is preemptive government. Not just preemptive war, but the ability of the government to act preemptively in any situation. Paul takes the libertarian position that is based upon the non-aggression principle. Government force may never be employed against anyone until that person has invaded the person or property of another. Gingrich takes the more Hobbesian-conservative position: if the government is not all-powerful, we will all be killed.

If “patriotic” means the love of one’s country’s ideals, the highest being liberty for Americans, then you have to agree with Paul. That’s because not only is non-aggression the libertarian position, it’s the founding principle underlying the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The meaning of the word “liberty” is to be free from coercion, which is free from other people initiating force against you. Once the government or anyone else is legally empowered to do so, rather than limited to responding with force in defense against an aggression that you’ve already committed, then liberty as Thomas Jefferson understood it is gone.

Non-aggression is the concept expressed in the statement that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, the government can’t use force against you until it is not only asserted but proven that you have committed an aggression against the person or property of someone else.

If you’re reading this to mean that the government is powerless against individuals until after they’ve committed a crime, then you’re correct. That is the price of liberty and there really is no way to compromise it. Force must always be initiated by someone. To be free means that it is never initiated against the innocent, at least not with the endorsement of the law. A person is innocent until they actually commit a crime. You cannot prosecute someone for what might be in his mind – at least not in a free country. As Paul argued, once you throw out the principle of liberty, you have invited the police state, complete with ubiquitous surveillance, unwarranted searches, curfews, and the rest. It is astounding how much of it is already in place in a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.”

The obvious concern with this line of reasoning is that it would seem that to be free, one must set oneself up as a sitting duck for criminals and terrorists, powerless to resist them until it is too late. Ed Meese cited the “42 terrorists attacks, amied at the United States…thwarted since 9/11,” and went on to say, “Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.”

I don’t know how Meese arrived at that number, but it doesn’t jibe with reality. I suspect that it includes all of the entrapment schemes that have been perpetrated by federal law enforcement officers, whereby an undercover agent poses as a terrorist and approaches a mentally unstable person for the purpose of convincing him to participate in a phoney terrorist plot. Once the hapless “terrorist” agrees, the undercover agent arrests him and charges him with a crime.

All of the attempted terrorist attacks that the American public know about since 9/11 have defeated the Patriot Act and other security “tools” insituted since that crime was committed. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were both overpowered by private citizens acting in their own defense, after the would be terrorists had defeated the security measures within the Patriot Act and the TSA. Even on 9/11, with the federal government already in charge of security, albeit without the “tools” of the Patriot Act, the only crime that was prevented was the one that would have been perpetrated using Flight 93. Again, it was private citizens acting in their own defense and defense of their neighbors that thwarted the attack. While they were unsuccessful in defending their own lives, they prevented the loss of many, many more.

This illustrates another fundamental element of liberty – the right of each person to be allowed to provide for their own defense. The right and duty of each individual to defend themselves to the best of their ability replaces absolute power in the hands of the government. Consistent with this idea, Paul has been a staunch advocate of the 2nd amendment, while Gingrich, although he supports the right to bear arms in rhetoric, also voted for the Lautenburg Gun Ban and the Criminal Safezones Act, sponsored by Nancy Pelosi.

Gingrich tries to qualify his position on the Patriot Act by drawing a conceptual line between criminal law enforcement and national security. He says that “criminal law – the government should be on defense and you should be innocent until proven guilty. National security – the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.”

In other words, if the government decides that “national security” is threatened, you are  no longer innocent until proven guilty. He also says that Americans must “build an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.”

Do the math.

This exchange between Paul and Gingrich represents a fundamental choice that the American people have to make. They can take personal responsibility for their security and take power back from the federal government or they can hand unchecked power to the federal government along with their liberty. There is no “centrist” or “moderate” position, because once the principle is conceded, liberty is gone.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, the choice between liberty and security is a false one. No, there were not nuclear weapons in 1755, but to think that the existence of nuclear weapons changes the principle is counterintuitive. Franklin spoke those words in 1755 because the same choice existed then as now. Those who sacrifice liberty in the hopes of greater security deserve neither and will get neither. The most immediate threat to one’s security is always the closest one – the government itself.

In deciding who was right in this debate, Americans are really deciding whether liberty is something they cherish or whether Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest were wrong. If they were wrong or if we’ve decided that there is something fundamentally different today that trumps those timeless principles, let’s at least dispense with the notion that we live in the “land of the free.” At the next sporting event, let the singer end with “o’er the land of the secure, and the home of the safe.” It may not be pleasing to the ear, but neither is Gingrich’s plan for a “secure” America.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

Tom Mullen: Disband the Army

Adam vs Man 20010706RT’s Adam VS The Man – Tom Mullen Joins Adam Kokesh live in Washington DC to discuss the Constitution, founding fathers and what they meant by no standing armies.

How Can Conservatives Support Sanctions Against Iran?

Many have decried that the so-called “liberal left” has abandoned its anti-war stance and thrown its support behind President Obama’s intent to impose sanctions on Iran. As the reason for the sanctions is Iran’s supposed pursuit of nuclear weapons, the left actually remains more philosophically consistent than the right. Liberals have always attacked the natural right of self defense, usually as it manifests itself in the individual right  to keep and bear arms. They have also traditionally supported large-scale warfare, as long as the war was started by a member of their party. Remember that U.S. involvement in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Viet Nam was initiated in each case by a liberal Democratic president with the support of a Democratic majority in Congress. There is nothing out-of-character about liberals supporting President Obama’s war agenda with Iran.

What is harder to understand is how conservatives can defend the 2nd Amendment and still support these sanctions, given the stated reason for their imposition. As a sovereign nation, Iran could make all of the same arguments regarding their right to develop nuclear weapons as conservatives make regarding the individual right to keep and bear arms. Iran lives in a world in which many of its neighbors possess nuclear weapons. In the event of a nuclear attack against Iran, there is nothing the “international community” can do until it is too late, just as there is nothing the police can do for an individual at the moment he is attacked by an aggressor. Like any potential mugging victim, Iran is much safer armed with a deterrent than at the mercy of those who wish her harm.

Liberals often argue for gun controls or bans based upon what an armed civilian might do with a weapon. Conservatives correctly argue there is not justice in using government force against people because of “what they might do.” Until an individual actually commits some form of aggression, conservatives  argue it is no one’s right to infringe upon another’s right to keep and bear arms. This certainly applies equally to nations in relation to one another. How can conservatives deny this right to Iran?

Liberals make the argument that the world is safer without handguns and so oppose them indiscriminately for everyone except government employees. Conservatives correctly argue an armed citizenry is much safer against criminals than an unarmed one. They remind us that every known statistic shows neighborhoods under stricter gun controls have a higher incidence of violent crime, because the criminals still have guns and  know law abiding citizens are helpless. Conservatives understand this implicitly in terms of individuals, but it completely eludes them when applied to the relationships between nations. They also fail to recognize that history supports this argument: the only nuclear attack in human history was perpetrated by a nuclear-armed nation against one that did not possess nuclear weapons.

Conservatives make the argument that to deny Iran the right to develop nuclear weapons is not the same as disarming them. They would still be “allowed” to retain a conventional military force. How ironic this argument is coming from conservatives, who become red in the face when liberals argue that they are not violating the 2nd amendment by limiting the types of firearms that civilians can carry or by banning “assault weapons (is there another kind?).” Conservatives recognize that the word “allow” has no place in the same conversation when discussing a right, including the right to keep and bear arms.

Denying one individual or group the right to keep weapons relatively equal to those possessed by his peers nullifies his ability to effectively defend himself. Conservatives routinely make this argument, saying law abiding citizens need weapons of comparable fire power to the average gang-banger. Otherwise, the poorly armed citizen is still at a disadvantage against the well-armed criminal.

Their reasoning is sound. Why does it not apply to Iran? To deny Iran’s right to possess weaponry equal to that of any other sovereign nation – especially those that habitually threaten her – is to deny Iranians their right to provide for their own defense.

Conservatives respond that Iran is a “rogue nation” and therefore cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. This is nothing more than cultural bias which is flatly refuted by reality. During the past 200 years, Iran has never invaded another country or initiated military force against anyone. Beyond the 1979 hostage crisis, they have burned a few U.S. flags and said some very nasty things about the U.S. and Israel. Otherwise, they have been content to screw up their own country and leave the rest of the world alone.

In contrast, the United States has invaded doezens of nations in just the past 50 years and has committed direct acts of war against Iran, including overthrowing their democratically-elected government and installing an American puppet in its place. When Iran responded by deposing the Shah and taking U.S. hostages, the U.S. waged a decade-long proxy war against Iran through another of its puppets, Saddam Hussein.

This is not to condone Iran’s seizure of civilian hostages in 1979. Violence against civilians is never justified. But given that the hostages were returned relatively unharmed just over a year after their capture, the U.S. government’s conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and secret prisons throughout the world seems to overshadow Iran’s “rogueness” in this area rather considerably. Using the “rogue nation” standard, there is a long list of nations that should be sanctioned ahead of Iran, starting with our own.

Conservatives  recognize the right of self defense is the foundation of freedom and equality. They understand that if all men are created equal, there is no justification for one person to deny to another the right to defend themselves, nor to deny another person the right to determine for themselves what weapons are necessary to that end. In order to defend themselves against aggression by other nations, individuals delegate that aspect of self defense to their government’s military force. Based on the same principles as our own Constitution, this is as much their right as the individual right to keep and bear arms. As in the case of individuals, no nation has a right to decide for another what weapons it will keep for that purpose.

The people of Iran as a sovereign nation have all of the same rights that the people of the United States. It is not for the United States to decide what weapons Iran possesses any more than it is Iran’s place to decide what weapons the United States possesses. One would have to employ the most convoluted logic imaginable to arrive at any other conclusion.

The United States was born defending the right to keep and bear arms, a fact  glossed over when American history is taught in public schools. Despite the “intolerable” taxes, quartering of troops, monetary manipulation, and a host of other offenses by their government, the American colonists did not fire upon their own troops until those troops attempted to disarm them. The colonists recognized that if they were disarmed they were no longer free. Why would Iran think any differently?

The United States government claims to be promoting freedom in the Middle East. These sanctions demonstrate it has forgotten about what freedom really is. In order for Iraq, Iran, or any other Middle Eastern nation to be free, they must be recognized as equals by the other nations of the world, with all of the same rights that equals are entitled to. The most important right is the right of self preservation, often called the “first law of nature.” Until we recognize Iran in this way, we will be in a perpetual state of war with her, with nothing to gain and so much to lose. It is time to stop playing emperor with Iran and start practicing what we preach. Liberals have always been confused about the relationship between self defense and freedom, but conservatives should know better than to deny Iran’s right to keep and bear arms.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

The Hypocrisy of Civil Discourse

“…nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.”

John Adams (1765)[1]

There is a politeness, a delicacy, a decency – perhaps what might today be called a “political correctness” – that is nothing more than the hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice that Adams warned of. It is both mistakenly practiced by the innocent and maliciously utilized by the guilty. It is an evil falsehood masquerading as a noble truth. It is a rotten vice disguised as an exalted virtue. It is one more device of the tyrant used to persuade the people to enslave themselves. Like so many of the mantras repeated ad nauseum by our political machine, it is universally accepted as wisdom when in fact it is the most ludicrous logical fallacy.

It is the erroneous axiom that all opinions should be respected.

Already the reader is experiencing a conditioned repulsion similar to that felt by the religious fanatic when confronted with what he believes to be some great heresy. From the time we are old enough to understand (perhaps before), we are taught that it is the ultimate ignorance, arrogance, or stubbornness not to respect all opinions. Our minds are enriched and our reasoning powers sharpened by considering different perspectives. It is only the fascist or the despot that does not grant to all people that they are “entitled to their opinion.” Often polite adversaries will conclude that they “agree to disagree.” Other costumes that this fraud may don are “civil discourse,” “spirited debate,” and “diverse perspectives.” In the well-mannered company of yuppie pseudo-intellectuals, it is at the very least impolite and may even approach grotesqueness to deny anyone the right to their opinion, no matter what that opinion may be.

Having been raised Cheektowaga, N.Y., I am grateful that I have been provided with no more manners than the bare minimum that I need to survive. Therefore, I will speak the unspeakable and let the reader either confront the truth or retreat in horror. As a warning to the politically correct, what follows is not suitable for the overly accommodating or the timidly polite.

There are some opinions to which you are not entitled.

You are not entitled to the opinion that you may use the threat of violence (government) to prevent me from doing what I please, provided that I harm no one else.

You are not entitled to the opinion that the government may use my tax money and risk my life to prosecute wars of aggression.

You are not entitled to the opinion that you may extort the fruits of my labor in order to provide yourself or someone else with healthcare, retirement benefits, or other stolen property.

You are not entitled to the opinion that you may use the threat of violence to prevent voluntary exchanges of property between free individuals (a.k.a. “economic policy”).

You are not entitled to the opinion that the coercive power of government can be used for anything other than the protection of my life, liberty, and property.

To put the above statements more succinctly, you are not entitled to the opinion that you have the right to make me a slave, whether fully or by some degree. THIS is the underlying assumption supporting all of these opinions.

I suppose that you could answer this entire argument with the sickeningly passive-aggressive refrain, “we will just have to agree to disagree.” I do not agree to disagree. You are either ignorant of our relationship or trying to obfuscate it, so let me make it perfectly clear. If you hold one of the aforementioned opinions, you have openly declared a state of war to exist between us. You have become an aggressor and have given me every right to defend myself by whatever means necessary in order to prevent the crimes which you have stated that you intend to perpetrate against me. You have made a threat of violence which I have no reason to believe that you will not carry out if I do not take immediate action to prevent it.

There are only two reasons why I respond with words at all, instead of action. One, I have a genuine wish to resolve differences peacefully, if they can be resolved in such a manner. I do not wish for nor condone violence, nor do I condone any violent rebellions against our American government. However, these principles do not eliminate my own instinct for self-preservation, nor will they prevent me from defending myself. Two, since the triumph of democracy over republicanism has given tyrannical power to your majority; it has occurred to me that the odds are too great against me in defending my rights against your acts of aggression, however justifiably. Therefore, I may have to capitulate to your tyranny until such time as I have a more reasonable hope of success in defending myself.

However, let there be no mistake about what our relationship is. You are the criminal and I am the victim. You are openly engaged in acts of armed theft, violence, and enslavement against me. I will no longer allow you to hide behind quaint sophistries to characterize this relationship as a mere “difference of opinion.” Do not insult my intelligence by misrepresenting your declaration of war as “civil discourse” or “spirited debate.” Perpetrate your crimes if you feel you must, but at least have the decency to acknowledge them. Be warned of the risks that accompany your actions.

[1] Adams, John A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law 1765

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