Happy 2nd Amendment Day!

This date will go down in history as the date the Supreme Court finally affirmed the individual right of American citizens to keep and bear arms.

Taken in context, that was clearly the intent of the founding fathers from the beginning. The whole purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect individual rights from usurpation by the government. However, there are those who disdain individual rights, who trust in the power of government more than in the rights of their fellow citizens. Those people have conducted a long and hard-fought campaign to focus attention exclusively on the clause about a militia, and to interpret that clause as somehow setting the 2nd Amendment apart from the rest of the Bill of Rights and excluding that particular amendment from applying to individuals.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has now affirmed the intent of our founding fathers that we, the people of the United States of America, do have the individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the government does not have the legitimate power to strip that right from us.

God bless America!

God bless America! The principles of our founding fathers live on.


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What is Conservatism?

To me, conservatism is about believing in the principles on which this country was founded. Those principles are grounded, not in the unlimited powers of government to regulate every aspect of our lives, but in our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone understands what’s meant by life and liberty, but the pursuit of happiness clause is not always clear to people. The government doesn’t guarantee anybody’s happiness. But what it does guarantee is that each of us has the right to pursue whatever happiness may mean to us, as individuals, in whatever way we see fit, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of anybody else. That’s a powerful concept.

What makes this country unique among all nations is the fact that our founding fathers believed so strongly in individualism that they placed the rights of the individual above the rights of the collective society, or the “common good.” From its inception, this country was founded on the precepts of individual freedom and individual responsibility. As an American, you have the freedom to live your life however you choose to live it. But the corollary of that freedom is that you also have to take responsibility for your life, and the choices you make, and the consequences of those choices.

It’s not the role of the government to protect you from yourself, or from your own bad choices, poor judgment, or ignorance. That’s up to you. It’s also not up to the government to provide you with basic necessities, like food, shelter, medical care, employment, recreation, or anything else, save the protection of your individual rights. All those are your responsibility to provide for yourself and your dependents. But, by the same token, neither does the government have the right to take away what is yours to provide those things for others.

The concept of private property is fundamental to the realization of individual freedom. What you earn by the fruits of your labor, your mind, your creativity, talents, and the skills you’ve worked to develop, belongs to you and you alone. You may choose to share what’s yours with whomever you want, but that, too, is up to you. It’s not up to the government to take what you earn and redistribute it to those who can’t, or won’t, or don’t earn.

Our founding fathers recognized that, to maximize individual freedom, you have to limit the powers of government. The only truly legitimate role of the government is to protect your rights from being infringed upon by others. Quite simply, the purpose of government is to protect me from you, and you from me, and both of us from a common enemy. Locally, that means law enforcement and criminal justice. Nationally, that means a strong military. I support both.

I’m not against all taxation. I recognize that you don’t get something for nothing. The protection of my rights as a citizen, and our national sovereignty, is worth a lot to me. And I’m willing to pay for that. But I’m not willing to pay for everything else anybody wants that they can’t afford to pay for themselves. If you want something of value, you have to provide value in return. Just because you can’t afford something, doesn’t give you the right to take it out of my pocket. Nobody owes you anything, except what you earn.

The other fundamental building block of a free society is the free market. Some people confuse the phrase “free market” with “big business.” Those two concepts are orthogonal. A free market simply means that every transaction is entered into by the free will of the participants, with no coercion. A free market transaction is always win-win because, if either party doesn’t believe he’s getting more value than what he’s exchanging for it, he can walk away from the transaction. When the government imposes subsidies, tariffs, price controls, quotas, or other regulatory constraints upon the free market, it only serves to circumvent the free will of the people to choose how best to spend the money we earn, under the premise that the government knows what’s best for us better than we do.

The basic building blocks of freedom are free will, free markets, private property, and limited government. And that’s what conservatism in America is about.


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The Supreme Court Takes On the Second Amendment

The last time the Supreme Court entertained a 2nd amendment case was almost 70 years ago. At that time they focused on minutiae around the concept of a militia, and concluded that the 2nd amendment only applies to types of firearms that would be pertinent to the preservation of a well-regulated militia. They did not address whether the right iself applies to all individuals, or only those belonging to a militia, perhaps assuming that was clear enough in context. Nevertheless, that ruling has bolstered the anti-gun lobby by focusing on the militia aspect of the 2nd amendment, rather than acknowledging the imperative that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Perhaps, this time, the Supreme Court will get it right. Or perhaps not. It’s always a crap shoot when the Supreme Court takes up interpretation of a Constitutional amendment. Once they rule, either all of us win or all of us lose. However, if they’re going to undertake it, better to have them do it now. The next administration may pack the court with liberals who would rule that the amendment doesn’t apply to individuals at all, and only those belonging to a state militia (e.g., National Guard) have the right to keep or bear arms.

Those who argue that the 2nd amendment does not apply to individuals base their argument on the ambiguous wording of the dangling participle at the beginning of the amendment, which refers to “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” It is not clear from the wording in the amendment whether that participle represents a condition upon which the right to keep and bear arms is contingent, or an example of a reason why the right was considered important. Nothing in the text of the amendment specifies that the existence of a militia is a required condition for the people to maintain their right to keep and bear arms. Neither does it say that is the only reason why this right should be protected. It simply mentions the importance of a militia, and then leaves it dangling. The grammatical taboo against dangling participles lies in their inherent ambiguity. Now that the framers of the amendment are long gone, there’s no way to clarify with absolute certainty what they intended, — at least not by simply by reading the text of the amendment itself.

Therefore, to understand their intended meaning, one must look further than that specific amendment, and take into account the context in which it was written, specifically the fact that it was included in the Bill of Rights. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to secure protection for individual rights from infringement by the government. If all of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights are intended to secure the rights of individuals, why would the framers have slipped one in that had nothing to do with securing the rights of the individual, but rather applied to some abstract collective body?

The same people who want to wield a dangling participle to abridge our individual rights also claim that the term “the people,” as used in the 2nd amendment, does not refer to individuals, but rather to the collective population, or representatives thereof (e.g., the militia). The 4th amendment also refers to “the right of the people” to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. Would anybody seriously argue that the 4th amendment does not protect the right of individuals to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, but rather the right of some abstract body that represents the collective population? Perhaps what the founding fathers really meant was that only the police should be secure against unreasonable search and seizure…

Given the context of the 2nd amendment, and its prominent inclusion in the Bill of Rights, it could not be more clear that it refers to the rights of individuals. It would have had to have been included by accident if it truly had the singular characteristic that it, alone among the amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, was not intended to protect the rights of individuals from being infringed by government.


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What’s So Great About America?

Above all else, what makes our nation great is that it was founded on the principle of individualism. The fundamental precept that every individual has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness ensures that each one of us has the freedom to live our own life however we see fit, with minimal government intervention except to prevent us from infringing on the rights of others. The natural corollary of individual freedom is individual responsibility.

A society that values individuality assumes that individuals are responsible for their own lives, their own actions, and the rewards or consequences of whatever choices they make. Nobody is guaranteed anything but the freedom to carve out their own life and succeed or fail on their own merits. A society that places a high value on individualism encourages entrepreneurship, invention, and advances in all fields of endeavor by allowing individuals who develop and enable valuable innovations to reap the natural benefits of their imagination, enterprise, insight, and skill.

In a collectivist society, the right of the collective supercedes any rights an individual may have. The purpose of government is to ensure that all resources are equally allocated, and that nobody gets a greater share than anybody else. (It never works out that way in reality, but that’s the principle.) Individuality is suppressed in the interest of levelling, and good citizens must always be willing to sacrifice their individuality for the greater good of the collective.

A society that values the collective over the individual assumes that people are not capable of taking responsibility for their own lives, and that the government must assume the responsibility of making sure everybody’s welfare is provided for. Individuals who create more value do not reap the natural rewards of their efforts, but their profits are redistributed to those who can’t or don’t contribute as much. Collectivist societies work best with homogenous populations where people are considered essentially interchangeable. Uniqueness and diversity are not valued, and independence of thought and action are considered a potential threat to the welfare of the masses and the stability of the government.

Most nations lie somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum. But our nation is the only nation that was explicitly founded on the principle of individual rights and dedicated to the preservation of individual freedoms. From my perspective, that’s what makes America the greatest nation on Earth.


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Welcome to Government is Not Your Daddy

How much government do we need?

  • We need as much government as is necessary and sufficient to protect our individual rights and freedoms.
     
  • We don’t need so much government that we expect it to assume our individual responsibilities.

The best solution to most problems is the solution that maximizes individual freedom and individual responsibility. (Wouldn’t it be nice if more people practiced self-control rather than trying to control other people?)

Old-Fashioned Values

  1. Work hard and take pride in your work.
  2. Save money.
  3. Don’t spend what you haven’t earned.
  4. If you incur debt, pay it off promptly.
  5. Expect nothing from others.
  6. Express gratittude toward those who help you and respect toward those you admire.
  7. Flatter no one.
  8. Treat everyone fairly.
  9. Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences.
  10. And get off of my lawn!

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