Benjamin Franklin’s famous quip about a society that surrenders essential liberty in order to gain a little temporary safety deserving neither perennially rings true. Unfortunately, Franklin wrote this to justify taxes to fortify rural Pennsylvania settlements against French and Indian attacks. The science of political-economy has evolved greatly since Franklin’s day and more efficient models for producing security provide for territorial defense without resort to aggression.
As a former local law enforcement and US Border Patrol Agent, I can attest that politically controlled and bureaucratically managed agencies grossly fail to provide the security and justice services the tax-paying public have been promised and rightly expect. The essential failing in this arrangement is inescapably embedded in the nature politics and bureaucracy.
Even the most well intentioned and selfless politician or bureaucrat must contend with decisions about resource allocation. This applies to the smallest sheriff’s office or police department as much as it does a four-star general or the American President as commander in chief.
Security needs are eternally evolving and deciding where to apply the resources at one’s disposal requires information and a prioritization process. Yet because a politician or bureaucrat is insulated from market competition, they lack the signals of customer demand that can only come from market prices. Instead, they follow the shifting winds of politics and the budget allocation process.
The budget allocation process in politics is a matter of squeaky wheels getting the grease and, decisively, not directing resources to where they will do the most good. It is crucial that I clarify that when I say ‘do the most good’ I am speaking from the standpoint of the security consumer, meaning the tax-payer on whose behalf the politician or bureaucrat is supposed to be acting.
In the science of political-economy there exists a concept known as demonstrated preference. The implications of demonstrated preference are that actual choices in the real world, demonstrated through human actions, are the foundation of logical economic analysis and, further, that making claims about people’s preferences in the absence of demonstrated action is unscientific.
What this means is that people can say that they want something yet their failure to take action toward the achievement of that specific end actually demonstrates that they prefer something else. People can say that they want government actors to do something on their behalf yet usually do so without considering the costs involved. When presented with the likely costs associated with a proposed course of action people’s choices and behaviors change.
This reality has tremendous impacts on public policy, particularly in the production of security and justice.
To illustrate, when I was young there was a cartoon character named Chilly Willy the Penguin that frequently sat down at a restaurant on a cold morning and ordered a high stack of pancakes. When the steaming hot plate of food was delivered to the table his server would offer butter and syrup.
Chilly Willy would load his pancakes up with those sweet and sticky condiments.
The server would ask, “More butter, more syrup”?
Chilly Willy would always answer, “Yes, please”!
Yet when presented with the bill for all he wanted to consume, Chilly Willy either couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for what he had ordered.
Popular opinion is like Chilly Willy the Penguin, asking for things from political institutions without considering the costs involved or how to pay for them.
Social Security Insurance? Yes, please!
Medicare, Medicaid? Yes, please!
Foreign Aid? Yes, please!
Housing Assistance? Yes, please!
War on Poverty? Yes, please!
Education grants? Yes, please!
Global War on Terror? Yes, please!
The key difference here is that, like Chilly Willy and his empty pockets, it is politicians and government office holders that lack the resources to provide all the attractive programs they offer to the public.
Remember this: Governments have no resources of their own. All that governments spend must first be taken from someone else, either in the form of taxation, debt, or inflation.
Yet through the pretext of “we owe it to ourselves” or “if we can provision the military, then why can’t we equip, house, and feed everyone”, politicians and socialists try to fool the public into believing that they can get something for nothing.
Unfortunately, entirely too many people have fallen into the delusion that they can have government provided “guns and butter” without considering who is actually paying the costs. They fail to see that they, themselves, are ultimately paying for any and all government spending.
This is an unfortunate consequence of democracy. It is also why constitutional order in a decentralized federal republic requires constraining the functions of government to limited and enumerated functions.
Moreover, preventing a politically induced “something for nothing” mentality requires active participation in self-government; namely the militia executing the laws, so as to simultaneously a) preclude all attempts at, and forms of, gun control and b) ensure that those holding public office are strictly confined to operating, only, within their delegated authorities.
Maintaining a system of self-government requires having skin in the game to evaluate the benefit to cost ratios while also remaining cognizant of reality in a situation inundated with distortions and noise.
It is relatively easy to shape popular opinion, particularly in an age where so many institutions, including the media, education, religious organizations, sports, and entertainment have been coopted to celebrate political centralization. Whipping up a frenzy about some perceived threat through these outlets enables state actors to generate public support for specific, authority-broadening, policy proposals.
It is important to remember that every authority governments have carries with it the power to tax so as to bring that authority into effect. The more authorities granted to government means the more a community’s wealth (e.g. the commonwealth) will be consumed by politicians and bureaucrats who, in the absence of market prices, cannot rationally calculate how to direct resources to the highest valued demonstrated preferences of the tax-payers.
One need look no further than the disastrous results of over one hundred years of drug prohibition to see just one example of this phenomenon. The vilification of narcotics, including organic and natural remedies used for centuries, has seeped into public consciousness to such degree that people have tolerated the transformation of law enforcement agencies to a condition comparable to standing armies in their hometowns.
The so-called War on Drugs is a euphemism. There can be no war against inanimate objects. War, according to the Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz, is an act of force to compel an enemy to do one’s will. War is the subjugation of individuals so that, once defeated, they act only within the constraints set forth by their conqueror.
War is always, and only can be, directed at people for the control of their resources, which includes their physical bodies.
War-makers pursue conflict so that they can bend people to their will. Usually this is to control the territory or the resources those people own, yet this can also be about prestige and ego gratification. Getting others to bow their heads or bend the proverbial knee is about control of resources in terms of physical bodies performing certain actions that please the conqueror.
All of this is hostile to the security of a free state, as found in the Second Amendment. Nor is it consistent with the Constitutional purpose of securing for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty. War is gives sustenance to a deepening state and, as Sun Tzu recognized in the Art of War (Chapter 2.8), nations do not benefit from protracted warfare.
Fear of drug abuse, whether it be justified as a “public health crisis”, a gateway to further substance abuse, or to prevent the precipitation of other crimes, are the usual pretexts for prosecuting narcotics prohibition. Yet none of these justify building a police state while undermining scientific, property-centric law.
Drug prohibition, like gun control, grants highly invasive authorities to political actors and violates the very purposes for establishing government in the first place. It bears repeating that the purpose of law is to set forth rules of human behavior so that people can enjoy conflict free interactions and property exchanges.
Remember, scientific and universally applicable law, through voluntary contracts and criminal torts, can be simply stated as:
Do all you have agreed to do and do not encroach upon other people or their justly held property.
Now, complexity arises in the application of this simple legal formula. The largest problem is determining how much security to produce and where to direct resources to their highest valued ends to achieve the optimal level of security.
What the economic calculation problem reveals is that political control and bureaucratic management is flying blind with regard to customer preferences in the absence of market prices and, further, is prone to abuse, corruption, and waste. This is why maintaining constitutional order deems a well-regulated, meaning robust and active, militia as necessary to the security of a free state.
Active self-government, through participation with one’s local militia, or their subcontracted agents, engaged in executing the law, ensures that time, energy, and resources are being directed toward authentic, and mutually shared, objectives. Since collecting taxes, “to provide for the common defense”, is also a function of the militia executing the laws, local communities are best positioned to address their concerns with the collected revenues and determine if the tax collections are justified.
Of course, currently the structure of the republic has been so thoroughly distorted that most people cannot even conceive of how self-government would function in practice. Yet, returning to Einstein’s statement about using a new level of mind to solve the problems created by existing paradigms, overcoming the political dysfunction threatening our lives, liberties, and property today requires thinking differently.
So, think about it.
If it was your decision to make, would you be able to look your neighbor in the eye and tell them that their hard-earned money was needed to prevent some stranger from taking drugs?
More so, what sized check would you, personally, be willing to write, consistently and over time, to stop someone from consuming what they want?
Any honest answer to these questions must admit that no one in their right mind would impose such a mandate upon their neighbors. Drug abuse is, undoubtedly, a problem. However, it is a personal problem and not a “public health” crisis.
While it appears almost silly to have to say this, it bears repeating that there is no such thing as ‘public health’. Only individual people with physical bodies have health. Abstractions such as society, the public, or government have no physical bodies.
Solving problems of drug abuse requires informed personal choices and self-discipline. Not, political mobilization and tax-funded treatment programs.
The solution to drug related crime is to focus on protecting people and their justly held property. So, the best way to prevent or interdict drug addicts from committing burglaries, robberies, or other scientifically verifiable crimes is by having a population armed, organized, and disciplined at executing the laws, repelling invasions, and suppressing insurrections.
Further, a population that is “disciplined” in the use of arms, and regularly organized at the local level to address every form of ‘public danger’, will have a culture and community that dissuades drug abuse and crime in the first place.
Here, again, we see that ending gun control and activating the full implications of the Second Amendment is the greatest solution to crime problems.