Monthly Archives: December 2005

What To Do About Iran

Iran’s Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad most recent rhetoric is bring comdemnation from the Europeans. In addition, the rhetorical battle between Iran and Israel has reached new levels of belligerence. There is also the potential that Iran could develop nuclear weapons and there is the long standing ties to terrorism. The big question is what do we do about Iran?

Iran’s ties to terrorism alone make it a threat to the United States. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, on its own does not make it threat, because it is entitled to nuclear technology for peaceful means under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. When you combine Iran’s nuclear ambitions with its ties to terrorism and rhetoric against Israel, then you have problems. The United States cannot launch a full scale invasion for the simple reason that it would be impossible to gain public support for it. That leaves one option left that is to support the Iranian resistance and its fight against the ayatollahs.

What the US needs to do is gather all opposition movements against the ayatollahs and bring them somewhere so they can set up a government and army in exile. Then, Green Berets and guns need to dropped for those in Iran who want to fight the regime. In addition, all Iranian opposition movements that are classified as terrorist organizations need to be taken off the terrorist organizations list. Finally, when the uprising does occur against the Iranian regime, the US needs to be there with air support. The policy must be regime change, but it must be the Iranians themselves who must change their regime.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Nothing More, Nothing Less

In a comment on another blog, someone said “I don’t see why people need submachine guns” and “I don’t see why anyone needs an arsenal”…

Heres the thing; you don’t need to see why someone could have “an arsenal” or a sub-machine gun, because limitations on rights aren’t about justifying why I should be able to do something, they are about you justifying why I shouldnt.

Oh and what exactly is “an arsenal” (no I dont want to get into the legal definition, I know it already, I’m talking about what the anti-gunners think an arsenal is)? One man can only shoot one gun at a time, how is it more dangerous that they have several? How is it more dangerous that someone has a lot of ammunition?

Disregarding that as the irrelevancy it is, why should a law abiding individual be treated like a criminal because his possesions could be used in an unlawful way?

The last time an automatic weapon (which is what a Sub-machine gun is) was generally avialable to the civilians outside of law enforcement was 1934. Since the passage of the National Firearms act of 1934 there have been extremely strict restrrictions as to who can buy or own an automatic weapon of any kind. ALL Firearms, from single shot to fully automatic, were restricted even further with the gun Control Act of 1968 (conventionally known as NFA and GCA’68 respectively).

Most new machine guns of any kind were banned in 1986, and the rest were banned by 1994 (actually back-banning items that were already here before ’86, but somehow missed being banned before), except for the most strictly limited purposes… or of course for the military and law enforcement.

You can still own the machine guns made before ’86, but you have to go throuh a 1 year FBI investigation and background check as well as a background check and approval from your local senior law enforcement official (police chief or sherrif generally).

Again, this is true unless you are in law enforcement. Ironically, since 1934 there has only been one murder commited with a legally owned machine gun, and it was a police officer who used a department owned weapon to kill his wife.

Stepping away from automatic weapons, the department of Justice estimates that approximately 70 million people legally own firearms in this country, out of a population of 295 million. Of those, one in 140,000 will commit a crime with that legally owned firearm.

1 in 140,000.

Almost all crimes commited with firearms are commited by prior felons who have been banned from owning firearms since 1968 federally, and in most states long before that.

Of all fatal shootings, at least 25%, and some estimate as much as 40% are one criminal killing another. Another notable statistic, 50% of all deaths from gunshot wounds are suicides (or more, considering some are reported as accidental). Further restriction of guns isn’t going to change the number of deaths here, it will jsut change the means; actually it probably wont even do that, because in many states it is FAR easier to purchase a gun illegally than legally. I can go jsut about anywhere in this country and get a gun for $100 in an hour.

Restricing legal gun ownership wont in any way change these problems; putting people who commit crimes with guns in jail will.

Justifying gun restrictions “for the greater good” is nothing but illogical rhetoric.

Thats just like saying that because 44.5% of all prisoners are black, and 28.5% of all black men in America will spend some time in prison, that black men are a menace and should be locked up.

Sure, not all black men are criminals, but given the percentage, isn’t it worth doing, for the greater good of society?

(statistics from human rights watch)

Please note again, the percentage of law abiding gun owners who commit crimes with those legally owned guns is ridiculously small. 1 in 140,000 is .0007%, and amounts to about 500 actual criminal acts performed per year with legally owned guns out of the 70 million owners of 200 million or so legally owned guns in this country.

Guns don’t make people into criminals, nor do they make them more likely to be criminals. A gun is a tool, a piece of metal, an inanimate object. Guns have no inherent danger; the danger is in the intent (or negligence) of the user.

Those who would restrict, or ban guns are simply saying that no-one but the state is responsible enough, or adult enough to own a gun. They are convinced that guns are the cause of crime, and that they must be controlled by the government. This is risible on it’s face. If you subscribe to this logic, let me point you to this:

Sensible Penis Control

What guns ARE to those who would misuse them, or who would ban them, is a symbol. To the immature and criminal, they are a symbol of power. To hoplophobes (people who are afraid of weapons), they are a symbol of hate, and fear, and evil.

But neither of these is a rational evaluation. Symbology is not reality.

Guns are tools which allow you to extend your reach and power. They allow the weak to defend themselves against the strong. They are a fine mechanical instrument, and skill in them is personally gratifying.

Used rationally, and responsibly, a gun is far less dangerous than common houshold chemicals, or your car (both of which kill far more people every year than guns do, especially if you factor out suicides, who will find a way to die whether they have a gun or not, and even more so criminals killing criminals).

People who want to ban, or restrict gun ownership are actually saying they dont believe that people are capable of being rational and responsible.

Of course they dont see it that way, they see themselves as “helping to reduce the danger”, but this is completely facetious. The danger exists in mens hearts, and minds, not in a piece of steel.

All they are doing is assuaging their emotions; fear, doubt, and irresponsibility.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Could this happen to <span style="font-style:italic;">you</span>?

The War on Drugs is reminiscent of the tyranny that our forbearers revolted against. Hyperbole? I think not. There’s a horrible miscarriage of justice, which Radly Balko summarizes this way:

Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frightened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns

out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

…with liberty and justice for all?

Battlepanda has a round-up of blogs—of all persuasions—that shed light on this travesty. Join the chorus so maybe, just maybe, those that support the criminalization of “drugs” will see the consequences of creeping authoritarianism.


The Gadsden Flag

Gadsden Info
For the Christmas party we had over the weekend, we decided to do a gift exchange. When we had to tell everyone what we wanted several weeks ago, I explained that I wanted a Gadsden Flag for my basement. That caused quite a bit of a controversy. I did end up getting the flag, but it brought on even more comments. One of our friends (the liberal lawyer, a former libertarian) said that she thought it was the kind of thing “someone in a militia would have”. Efforts to explain that I’m not a violent person, even with uses of terms like “gentle giant”, didn’t really get across why I love this flag.

For me, the Gadsden flag elicits an emotional response. To me, the American flag is a symbol of our nation, but it’s the refined, socially acceptable version. The Gadsden flag, however, seems like a symbol of our national spirit. And it is a distinctly American symbol. The rattlesnake is ours alone. “Don’t Tread On Me” could very well be an American motto. But I take the idea of “Don’t Tread On Me” and internalize it.

It is a personal issue. Eric’s essay on the Sovereign Individual explains it very succinctly. “Don’t Tread On Me” is a personal statement. It is the statement that I truly am a sovereign individual. It is the statement that I recognize myself, not the government, as the ruling authority in my life. And that recognition extends farther. My parents are not the ruling authority, although I look up to and respect them. My wife is not the ruling authority, although I usually defer authority to her most of the time. I follow my own ethical and moral code, and I believe that I’m a generally good person in doing so. But I do so for my own self-worth, not because society, or government, or the world tells me what to do. “Don’t Tread On Me” says that if you treat me like a servant or a subject, your commands carry absolutely no weight with me.

But it serves a different purpose at the same time. It is a reminder. Every person in this world makes a choice whether to be a sovereign individual. Most of them make the negative choice, and most of them do not make that choice consciously, they adopt it as a default position. They abdicate responsibility for their own lives and their own decisions, and when something like Katrina comes along to shock them into the reality that they alone are responsible for themselves, their world crashes down around them. My new Gadsden flag is a personal symbol that I have made that choice deliberately, and made it in the affirmative. It is a symbol that will hang proudly and prominently on the wall in my basement. As much as it is a reminder to me, it is a signal to all who enter that America is more than just a nation, it is an idea.

The Price Of Regulation

Today’s Washington Times tells a story that brings home, quite literally, the costs that government regulation impose on society.

Escalating prices that have made houses unaffordable for many people in Washington are mostly the result of homeowners using political and regulatory means to block construction of new housing, economic studies show.

The so-called “slow growth” movement has been a political force in the Washington DC area for several years. For the most part, these groups characterize their efforts to limit the construction of new homes as a method to put the reins on “out of control” growth which has led, supposedly, to crowded roads, crowded schools, and crowded neighborhoods. At the same time, the costs of housing the D.C. area has soared.

Washington home prices continued to soar last month despite a slowdown in sales, with gains of 21.5 percent and 18 percent over November 2004 in the District and Montgomery County, respectively, the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors reported this week.

It now costs $618,692 to buy an average-priced home in the District, and $560,327 in Montgomery County. Prices in Northern Virginia also have maintained breathtaking heights, among the highest in the country, despite some slackening of sales.

Until now, nobody has put the two together to see that it is in fact so called “slow growth” that is causing housing to become unaffordable for a growing segment of society.

Economists increasingly are concluding that the shortage of affordable housing in Washington and other major U.S. cities on the East and West coasts is a result more of man-made restrictions on development than high construction costs or other market forces.

“It simply takes too long and is too expensive to move through the development process,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Securities, pointing at “smart growth, slow growth and no growth” movements in many of the same areas where the population and demand for housing are growing the fastest.

What many economists have been proclaiming as a “bubble” in Washington and other high-cost areas can be mostly explained by the restrictions on development, combined with a rush to homeownership by renters taking advantage of low interest rates, he said.

The effects of these policies can be seen throughout the area:

Montgomery County imposed a temporary moratorium on building this year after a controversy over a developer’s violation of height restrictions in Clarksburg.

The county already had banned most development in one-third of the jurisdiction set aside as an agricultural reserve. Under pressure from residents’ groups, it is considering further restrictions on building in the reserve by churches and nonprofit institutions.

Loudoun County, one of the fastest-growing jurisdictions in the nation, put severe restrictions on the density of housing several years ago, but some of those restrictions were overturned later by a more pro-development Board of Supervisors.

Prices are booming in the District, where federal ownership of large tracts has limited the land available for development and height restrictions imposed by Congress have been in effect for more than a century.

Prince George’s County, with much land available for development, only recently lifted a restriction against building in areas where police and fire-safety infrastructure is not able to accommodate new residents.

Even Fairfax County, which gained fame in earlier decades for free-wheeling development policies that led to rapid job growth and construction, is contending with homeowners against plans to increase the density of housing near the Vienna Metro station.

Existing homeowners, in other words, have become more politically active and have been using the power of their local governments and zoning boards to prevent developers from building new homes regardless of whether the demand exists. The result, of course, is predictable, with a decreased supply of housing, the price of that housing increases. Hence, the housing market “bubble” that everyone talks about. And, since the market is not being permitted to operate in its normal fashion, distortions are inevitable:

The resulting shortage of housing causes an escalation of prices as new residents and renters seeking to become homeowners bid up prices to purchase the few homes available. That further serves the interests of the homeowners by pushing up the value of their houses.

The result is to turn the housing market on its head, the study found. High home prices should act as an inducement for developers to build more houses, increasing supply and lowering prices. But construction rates in Washington and other high-priced cities are substantially lower than those in the interior, less-pricey areas of the country.

Its not very often that we see the cost of government regulation so easily displayed in a monetary amount. For those of us in the D.C. area, all we have to do is glance at the weekly real estate listings.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway

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