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Okay, here's a little scruples quiz for you ...
Imagine you're a fireman in a small town where you know everybody. You rush into a burning hotel, and there, unconscious on the floor of one of the rooms lie a pair of people you know to be a politician and a prostitute. You're by yourself, and you can only rescue one of the two.
Question: which one do you save?
Hint #1: one the two potential rescuees works long, hard hours and faces a great many dangers, to support herself by providing a service that, while it is illegal, some individuals in our culture want and are perfectly willing to pay her for. Hers is sometimes called "the world's oldest profession". What she does for her customers may only last for a moment, but in some cases it's the only moment of happiness and comfort they will ever know. She may even pay her bills promptly and in full and collect no welfare or any other sort of government handout.
Hint #2: the other person lying on the floor may never have earned an honest dollar in his life. He survives -- more handsomely than most of us -- by having money stolen from his neighbors by armed thugs. He talks a great deal -- especially whenever there are television cameras pointed at him -- about helping people, but in the final analysis, his only real thoughts are focused on extracting even more money from his neighbors, and extending his employment past the next election. It has become a folk-saying that you can tell he's lying because his mouth is moving.
Which one do you save?
Obvious: save the prostitute.
This question arose because, during any election season, a lot of comparisons are invariably made between politicians and "ladies of the evening". Some individuals with different values than mine might call me a square, I suppose, but I have never sought nor ever employed the services offered by the latter. Knowing history and human nature as I do, however, especially the history and nature of politicians -- and keeping in mind all of the tragedy, destruction, wastage, and death for which even the least of their ilk is historically responsible -- I have always believed that such comparisons were a grave insult to prostitutes.
Consider: did a prostitute ever show up on your doorstep demanding that you fork over a significant fraction of your income, whether you want her services or not? Did she have an entire bureaucracy of goons to threaten you and make sure you pay up? Has a prostitute ever thrown you into prison or stolen your house or car because you wouldn't pay her?
Has a prostitute ever told you what religion to practice or how to practice it? Has she ever threatened to censor you or punish you for something you wrote or said? Has she ever shut down a single newspaper or radio or TV station? Has she ever demanded that you purchase a license from her to hold a meeting or a march, or put you on a list of suspected terrorists just because you wrote her a letter she didn't like?
Politicians do that sort of thing all the time.
Probably more to the point here, did a prostitute ever promise you that your individual right to own and carry weapons would be just short of sacred -- and then spend the next two hundred years trying one different dirty scam after another to strip you of that "sacred" right?
Perhaps you believe I exaggerate. Let's look at just a tiny slice of history. In 1934, the socialist Franklin Roosevelt Administration, using "gangsters" as a boogie-man to frighten gullible idiots exactly the same way "communists" were used by politicians in the 1950s and George Bush is using "Islamofascistic terrorists" today, violated the highest law of the land by banning -- indirectly, at first, through the application of confiscatory taxes -- certain weapons it didn't like.
Interestingly, many of these weapons -- machineguns, and shortened shotguns and rifles -- were the very weapons most useful in resisting illegitimate authority. Banning them was probably a pretty good idea for an authoritarin regime that planned to steal people's livestock and crops (and destroy them in order to increase their scarcity and therefore their market price) along with every scrap of gold they possessed.
In 1939, the federal gun law was tested before a Supreme Court ill-prepared to understand the issues. By the time the case -- which involved a shotgun that was too short under the new law -- actually got to them, the defendant was dead and his lawyer apparently didn't even mount a defense on principle. The court ruled that only military weapons (presumably capable of overthrowing an illegitimate regime) were protected by the Bill of Rights, and that a sawed-off shotgun not being a military weapon, its possession by the defendant was therefore illegal.
Go to: read about the Miller case
There were lots of things wrong with that ruling. Nobody came down on a flaming pie to tell the Supremes that the Second Amendment only protects military weapons. It may be the notion that gave rise to the myth that only states' rights states are protected by the article in question.
And what about the part of the law that banned machinguns? Even the idiots on the Supreme Court must have known they had military applications.
Another problem: this ruling was arrived at only twenty years after the end of the First World War, and Supreme Court justices tend to be Old Guys. Apparently they were the sort of chickenhawks that run the government now, and found various alternatives to defending their country "Over There", since none of them seem to have been aware that short-barrelled shotguns -- called "trench brooms" -- played such an important role in that war that the Germans complained bitterly about them.
But the point was made: the Second Amendment protects military weapons. So why is it that the politicians and media hacks in the victim disarmament camp today have been whimpering for at least the past couple of decades that the black ugly guns they can't stand the sight of and want to outlaw -- mostly the Second-Amendment-friendly items I am learning to call "sport-utility rifles" -- are "weapons of war"?
Banned if they're not military, banned if they are military.
Let's call it "Catch Twenty-three".
Could it be because, lacking the scruples of a common prostitute, to which they are so frequently and unjustly compared, politicians will exploit any excuse at all -- reason, logic, or established legal principles be damned -- to get what they want, which is you and me, helpless?
Could it? --
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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