Those that benefit from the status quo will not likely relinquish the benefits of the present arrangement willingly. The incentives of the political caste are to perpetuate and expand the benefits of perverted law at the expense of the rest of the population. It should come as no
surprise, then, that they will undermine, psychologically and physically, any attempts to abolish the parasitism and predation inherent to the political monopoly upon which they depend.
While, in alignment with the teachings of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, avoiding destructive conflict is the preferred outcome, efforts to re-establish self-government will probably encounter significant resistance (to put it mildly). Yet, the greatest challenge comes from awakening the majority of the population from the slumber of believing that “the government” is something other than themselves.
People naturally incline toward lethargy. The average person, busy pursuing their own happiness and satisfaction, is less inclined to monitor every nuanced detail of government activity and, therefore, makes way for political animals to shape the course of legislative and regulatory priorities.
This is why Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1788 that it is the “natural progress” for liberty to yield while political power coalesces into the hands of a privileged elite. Even Jefferson fell into the trap of generalizing “government” as some external entity with independent volition.
I recognize that it is convenient to speak in terms of abstractions. However, this is where falling back on scientific principle, which just so happens to conveniently align with universal truths, becomes so crucial.
The tool is marginal analysis. In the field of political-economy, marginal analysis is like the sword that cleaves open the Gordian Knot of confusion.
Marginal analysis means that each individual makes choices from their own limited view of circumstances. It recognizes that perspectives are subjective, pertaining to a specific time and place, and do not encompass entire categories of things or phenomena.
Marginal analysis revolutionized the entire field of political-economy around the 1870s and solved some of the most pressing questions that had stumped leading thinkers until that time. One such question was the water-diamond paradox, a problem also known as the paradox of value.
The question of why water, a consumption good that is crucial for sustaining human life, was less valuable than a superfluous luxury good like diamonds puzzled a variety of philosophers throughout history, including Plato, Copernicus, and John Locke.
It wasn’t until the great Austrian economist Carl Menger presented his Principles of Economics that an understanding of why a rational individual would be expected to rank order their preferred uses of a given quantity of a good became widely understood. The rank ordering of a given quantity, or unit, of a good is distinctive from the class, type, or category of that same good.
What this means is that value is assigned to a specific good as it is perceived by the individual at the time and place of their decision and not as some abstract concept or general category of goods. People decide how much they value a good, and most importantly, what they are willing to pay to have it, based on what they think it will do to satisfy their desires.
In so doing, people calculate what they are willing to give in order to get what they want.
When evaluating the utility of water versus diamonds, real people are not conceptualizing all water versus all diamonds. They are thinking about a specific bottle or glass of water (in the case of thirst) or a particular cut of diamond mineral. It is the unambiguous consumable good, with discrete quantities and properties, and not a theoretical concept that informs their evaluation.
Yet no such comparison, and therefore no accurate analysis, is available when referring to “the government” in the abstract. The devil is in the details and, conversely, so is liberation from foggy thinking.
The path to political liberty is analogous to the path of mindful liberation. It, too, is based on greater discernment and specificity.
Borrowing a phrase from the mindfulness teacher, Shinzen Young, the subtle is significant. To increase personal satisfaction and liberation from suffering requires monitoring the specific sensory perceptions that arise in subjective experience by categorizing what one sees, hears, or feels.
The more specificity the mindfulness practitioner develops, the greater their sensory clarity and concentration power they will have. Additionally, by separating the sense perceptions into distinct “bins” of see, hear, or feel, the more readily the practitioner can process any emotional content attached to those sensations without being overwhelmed. This then
adds the skill of equanimity, the ability to be fully present with whatever arises without any aversion or attachment to circumstances.
Armed with the core skills of concentration, clarity, and equanimity, an individual can act more proficiently in any set of given conditions. In this way, core mindfulness skills render an additional capacity for greater discernment and the ability to generate higher degrees of contentment or satisfaction.
There is much more involved in meditation practice and the mindfulness journey as it pertains to the End of Gun Control than what I’ll explain here. However, there is a strong reason why some form of Zen meditation was integrated into most Japanese martial arts. Not only did Buddhist establishments seek out opportunities to integrate more widely with civil society and everyday activities such as flower arranging, tea ceremony, and traditional dance, but also samurai political leaders, such as Hojo Tokimune, deliberately promoted mindfulness skills to make their warriors more potent on the battlefield.
I would also encourage everyone, especially those that put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line to secure a free state, to adopt a mindfulness practice. There are myriad benefits to having more concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity in all you do. One of them is greater discernment in analyzing issues of political-economy and geopolitics. Another is being able to cut through propaganda. Another still, is fortifying the will to act boldly despite apparent resistance or social pressures.
These examples also illustrate why there are so many texts from samurai tradition that focus on training the mind. One of my favorites is “The Unfettered Mind” by Takuan Soho.
Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. The two are functional equivalents. Therefore, it can just as easily be said that politics is war by other means. Sun Tzu wrote that war is the ground of survival and extinction, one cannot but consider it.
Taking Clausewitz and Sun Tzu together, one cannot but analyze the nature of politics and its derivative, war. Marginal thinking in politics means getting explicit details and defining the units of analysis with distinct specificity.
Sun Tzu advised that one of the keys to victory is spending time in “the temple” counting rods, an ancient Chinese mathematical technique. Abstractions are useful tools for conceptualization, yet accurate decision making, particularly in regard to security operations, requires greater specificity.
This same principle, the need for rational economic calculation, is why socialism always fails to produce the good that ‘everyone working together’ promises. It is no exaggeration to say that the socialist production of security and justice, as is currently the case everywhere in governmental operations, also fails on this account.
Abstractions do not have tangible substance; they cannot create real results. There can be no forests without actual trees. There can be no trees without the right mixture of seeds, soil, water, and sunlight left unimpeded over a sufficient amount of time to grow.
The same is true in politics. Social cooperation toward the mutual promotion of “The Good Life” cannot occur without an overwhelming preponderance of harmonious interactions at the individual level. There can be no just government without common legal and security values shared widely among a population.
The US Constitution uses the abstract term We The People. Obviously, the whole population cannot be involved in every facet of governmental activity, and especially not at the same time. Written political constitutions are used to specify the functions of departments, offices, and agencies within a government. The benefit of a written constitution is that it moves from generalities to specificity, yet even the most comprehensive contract cannot cover all cases. There are always implied powers, by necessity, and it is in these areas in which the political caste exercises discretion.
For instance, since the general government of the United States is tasked with protecting the member states from ‘invasion’. Yet, implied within that task is the ability to organize and deploy the resources in a variety of ways so long as it is done under the ‘spirit’ of the Constitution.
The specifics of how many border security agents to employ, the modes and quantities of vehicles they drive, where they buy fuel, what kind of equipment or weapons they carry, etc. are all implied tasks to that general authority. It is in the specific exercise of a general authority that opportunities for corruption, favoritism, policy shaping, and centralization of power manifest.
Again, people make decisions on the margins, from their own unique “slice” of reality. This includes politicians and bureaucrats who also cannot overcome the inherently human bias toward responding to incentives. Politicians are incentivized to make decisions that will help them get re-elected. Bureaucrats similarly cannot avoid making decisions that will increase their personal satisfaction. Usually, this involves conformity with bureaucratic regulations, which often puts ‘process’ at a higher priority to public satisfaction.
This phenomena is what economist Adam Smith called ‘the man of system’ in his 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments. Politicians and bureaucrats see regular people as chess pieces to be moved according to their plans, rather than a constituency to be served through faithfully carrying out their delegated functions with humility. Note how Smith acknowledges that the ‘men of system’ ignore marginal thinking and the inescapable fact that people’s preferences are heterogeneous, meaning, not everyone wants the same things in the same sequence of time.
While private businesses offer a variety of flavors to satisfy diverse tastes, monopoly states offer ‘one-size fits all’ policies without regard for individual preferences (aside from the preferences of the individuals setting policy). Decisions need to be made on the margins; it is inescapable, and the political caste will inevitably shape policy actions that favor themselves at the expense of everyone else.
It is the fog of abstraction that provides a smoke screen cover for political corruption, and all the attendant perverse outcomes, like gun control, to propagate. The solution is to, first, not settle for abstract terms, like ‘national interests’, ‘public health’, or ‘common good’, and second, apply marginal analysis to every policy proposal.
These abstractions are where the greatest resistance to ending gun control emerges. More specifically, it is We The People (with equality under the law) seeing “the government” as something other than themselves. Holding a vision of government as nameless, faceless public servants or a favorite politician places the authority and responsibility for upholding law, security, and justice as something external to the individual citizen.
Remember, We The People are the government. Politicians and bureaucrats are temporarily entrusted to wield limited authorities delegated to them for delineated terms of office. They are, at best, mere caretakers of the powers granted to them through an operating charter, or
constitution, that acts as a contract for services.
Most people are comfortable leaving many decisions in the hands of the political caste…and that is the fundamental problem that leads to the imposition of gun control. At the root of the problem is widespread political apathy, a resistance to exercise self-government.
Securing a free state requires conscious engagement with one’s political community. That is why the militia are deemed “necessary” in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment. Indeed the “arms” are free from infringement for an inherently governmental purpose yet, taken holistically, discipline and organization are equally important to maintaining the “republican form of government” guaranteed by the federal charter.
It is a lack of personal discipline, a passive streak on the part of most citizens that leaves room for ambitious politico-bureaucratic actors to leverage governmental power for their own benefit, to orchestrate the perversion of law in such a way that surreptitiously sets the conditions, gradually, to reduce the rights of everyone else under absolute despotism.
Just as mindfulness practice, as described by Shinzen Young, requires dividing sensory experience into the distinct categories of see, hear, and feel so that sensations are more easily processed, so too must political responsibilities be divided among those sovereignties best able to service constituent needs.
Within the United States federal system, this goes beyond the mere “three branches” of legislative, executive, and judicial. There are also levels within the system and differing parties to the contract. To economize political activities requires more decisive decisions, to consciously separate the functions of government into their proper spheres.
Most importantly, politics cannot be left in the hands of the political caste and, amid the flurry of distractions that inevitably come, sifting through the confusion of emotional pleading (“it’s for the children…”, “people will die if we don’t…”, or “this emergency calls for unprecedented action…”), to hold true to principle is the greatest challenge. This is another reason for the diffusion of discipline that can only come through martial training.
In religious terms, to sin implies an offense against moral law, a transgression of faith-based precepts, yet the origin derives from archery. To sin is to miss the mark, to be imprecise in execution, and to fail at impacting a target. Of course, this remains valid in terms or religious fidelity. To sin, means to fall astray of religious or moral precepts.
Avoiding sin, in both religious and political life, indicates precision and exactness in obeisance to established laws. Rather than avoiding the negative, upholding the principles of justice and sound political-economy requires accuracy in identifying the target, as well as engaging effectively with it.
Placing the functions of government into operational order is analogous to the original meaning avoiding sin. It is a martial term used in the employment of weapons. Justice, too, is literally and figuratively the action of a sword cleaving between righteous and harmful human action. Justice requires discernment, the separation of benign human conduct from the malignant.
Instead of leaving decisions about justice and security in the hands of a privileged caste entrusted to supposedly make decisions for the ‘common good’, there needs to be greater clarity on who will do what, using what resources and at whose expense. The contract for justice services needs greater precision as well as a termination clause for the eventuality of non-performance.
In the Enlightenment tradition that informed the Constitution for the United States, which includes the legal documents like the Declaration of Independence that preceded it, originally free people enter into governance arrangements for mutual benefit and, whenever that government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established those same people have the right to withdraw their consent and restructure the system of government,
however they see fit.
Notice that the impetus behind government formation, alteration, or abolishment remains with the people as the clients of the government and not at the pleasure or discretion of the people holding tax-funded public offices. Over time, the purpose for government has been skewed so that the tax-paying clients of the governmental system have been subverted by the imperatives and directives of rogue officials.
The Enlightenment theories behind establishing a federal republic as a ‘free state’ have been perverted to benefit, empower, and enrich the political caste. This is a reversion to the tyrannical forms of government the Framers specifically sought to avoid. Tyranny was the historical norm and the ‘natural progress’ for liberty to yield under the ever encroaching nature of governmental authority, as Thomas Jefferson observed in 1788, has come to pass due to a widespread public acceptance of political monopoly.