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On The Occasion of Libertopia 2010

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Ultimate Authority: The Bill of Rights

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Political Poison

Let the other guy offer compromises. Think of them as rungs on the ladder you're climbing. Keep your own goals fixed firmly in your mind and make sure you never move any direction but upward. That's how the other side got where they are. It works.
—L. Neil Smith

As American kids grow up, authority figures all around them—public school teachers, local and national political leaders, the broadcast and print media, ministers and priests, and other useless busybodies—are always very enthusiastic about the idea of compromise.

Compromise, these judas goats and stable ponies always proclaim in the most glowing terms, is the one absolutely indispensible, magical key to living and working within that best of all possible political worlds, a democracy. If everybody takes a stance and won't budge, if nobody is willing to give at least an inch (if not a mile), why, then nothing will ever get done! This, of course, overlooks the obvious fact that there are a great many circumstances—almost all of which involve government in some way—in which nothing ever should get done.

Somewhere around the fourth grade, if we have anything like half a brain left after all the indoctrination, we begin to notice certain things about this compromise bonnet-bee that make it clear that it's something less than the wonderful notion its proponents always say it is.

The first is that, since neither side can reasonably expect to get what it really wants. The best that anyone can ever hope for, from a properly engineered compromise, is that both sides will wind up equally dissatisfied. This is not, we submit, an acceptable way to run a civilization. It is a recipe to guarantee the perpetuation of bitter conflict, creating the ideal breeding ground for politicians (like puddles for mosquitos), for whom solved problems are a threat to their livelihood.

The second thing one notices, thanks to the left-wing politicians in Congress who are usually the principal advocates of compromise, is that it always seems to be the other guy who's supposed to be willing to give way. (Sort of same the way you never get to be "others" when "others" are the entities we're all supposed to live to serve.) It's the leftists' opponents who are always accused—usually at big press conferences and in newspaper columns—of being stiff-necked and unwilling to accept even the most reasonable, "common-sense" amount of legislation.

Somehow, it always turns out to be reasonable, "common-sense" legislation that will tear another bleeding chunk out of the Bill of Rights. (You may also have observed that the only time the left ever gives a rat's ass about the Bill of Rights is when the right is in power.)

The third thing that even a nine-year-old kid notices is that, having finally been badgered and brow-beaten into accepting a compromise of some kind, whoever has been sucker enough to do it will be expected to do it all over again, the next time the subject comes up.

"What's mine is mine," goes the saying, "and what's yours is negotiable."

Which is exactly how we ended up in the mess we're in now.

For example, many of us are old enough to remember clearly, as children, watching and listening to the American Medical Association cravenly give way, one step at a time, to slimy leftist politicians— of course they would have called it "compromise"—until today, even if Americans succeed in repealing "Obamacare", they will still be afflicted with a situation (it never deserved to be called a "system") that is neither free market nor socialist, but combines of the worst aspects of both—which is why we need separation of medicine and state.

Now I ask you: if a fourth grader could see all of that clearly, what's wrong with the people—the glorious leadership of the National Rifle Association comes to mind—who still can't see it as adults?

Time and time again, the NRA has allowed itself to get beaten and bloodied—along with us and our rights—because its leaders dullwittedly believe they can negotiate with the enemies of freedom. The badguys know what they want—absolute elimination of private weapons ownership in America, almost certainly, history warns us, as a prelude to the kind of mass killing called "demicide"—while the NRA doesn't have a clue what it's supposed to be fighting for, and never did.

I guess we'll eventually see whether the Tea Parties and the next two elections can manage to teach them anything. Somebody badly needs to knock them down, sit on their chests, and scream down their hairy nostrils that any compromise at all with evil is—guess what— evil!

Don't believe it? Let's try a simple thought experiment. Suppose a crazed serial killer invades your home, gets the drop on you (you did have your carry-piece on you, didn't you?) and ties you to a kitchen chair. You see that he's done the same with each member of your family—for present purposes, let's say that you have a spouse and three kids. The killer tells you that he's looking forward to eviscerating your spouse and three kids while you watch, and then doing the same to you.

Clearly, this is an evil idea.

You reply that you would rather see your family and yourself unharmed.

This is a good idea.

The killer admits that he can see your point. He'll offer you a compromise. He'll only kill two of your family, and you get to choose which.

Okay, is this compromise a good idea or a bad one? While it allows two members of your family to stay alive (provided the killer keeps his word—and we haven't gotten around to discussing your life, yet), it implicitly demands that you go along with the deaths of the other two, and even requires that you to seal the deal by doing the choosing.

So much for "the lesser of two evils"—there ain't no such animal.

But if you still think it's a good idea, then you belong in the NRA, which let our enemies pass the National Firearms Acts in the 30s, the 1968 Gun Control Act, the "cop-killer bullet" ban that lets government to tell us what kind of ammunition we can purchase in order to defend ourselves from it, the Brady Bill and Ugly Gun and Adequate Magazine Ban in the 90s, and recently, HR 2640, the "NICS Improvement Act" which tightens the noose around our necks just a little bit more—all because, reportedly, they were afraid something worse might pass.

So they compromised.

Ain't compromise swell?

But the NRA is far from alone in its idiotic eagerness to make compromises with evil. In 1977, when I was a member of the National Platform Committee of no less freedom-oriented an organization than the Libertarian Party, I warned my colleagues and compatriots that the insufferable violations of everybody's unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights most of them had just experienced in the process of flying to the convention city of San Francisco— "security measures" were just getting started at the nation's airports and seem mild, today, by comparison—represented the beginning of a fascist regimen that would eventually spread out to engulf the entire country.

I was laughed at, and exactly the same excuses were mouthed—by "leading thinkers" of the freedom movement—that you now hear from "useful idiots" in "man in the street" interviews on television. In the thirty-something years that followed, not one of those former committee members ever thought to acknowledge that I was ahead of my time.

Some activists in the general freedom movement suggest that, in a broader sense, it is all of us, to one degree or another, who are to blame for advancing tyranny, simply by being willing to make deals with it. We're always too polite with individuals who are evil, crazy, or just plain stupid, meekly going along with their outrageous nonsense instead of dealing with it—and them—appropriately. How would Thomas Jefferson have responded to a demand that he provide urine and other intimate bodily substances before he was allowed to have a job, an idea that would have had our ancestors priming their flintlocks?

Without pausing to read the damned thing, the Congress passed the USA Patriot Act—which, for all intents and purposes, cancelled out the Bill of Rights—and scarcely anybody so much as whimpered. But this kind of travesty was hardly unprecedented. Before that, it was warrantless wiretapping, no-knock raids, RICO (designed specifically to deny legal representation to the accused), and legalized black bag jobs of the kind the Watergate burglars went to jail for. Of course now they can enter and search your house and never even tell you about it.

All because most of us are just too bloody polite.

In a matter of less than twenty years, our campuses, the media, and thdn our places of business were taken over by a kind of social disease we now call "political correctness" in which it's considered unacceptable to call a thing by its true name, to want to know who started the fight, to judge individuals by their actual abilities or virtues, or to enjoy anything that might make the most hypchondriacal lunatic among us whimper or sniffle that he's allergic to anyone who smokes tobacco, wears perfume, or even thinks about consuming peanut butter.

What we should have done is laugh in our correctors' fascistic faces, gone right ahead telling ethnic jokes about each other, and sent the hypochondriacal loonies off to their bins. Our moral sword and shield should have been the Bill of Rights. Instead—because we were too dadblasted polite again—we allowed them to walk all over us.

There are, in fact, two kinds of compromise, trivial and moral. A trivial compromise concerns issues unrelated to questions of good and evil. "What shall we have on our pizza?" is an excellent example. (Yes, I know some people think anchovies are evil—more for me.) So are "What movie shall see tonight?" and "Where shall we take our next vacation?"

There's nothing bad with this trivial kind of compromise. It's how marriages and friendships manage to last. Knowing that, the enemies of freedom try to make the other kind of compromising they want you to do—a compromise between good and evil—seem just as ordinary and trivial.

So let me offer you this simple pair of moral and political guidelines.

First, if a political proposal is made that weakens or destroys the Bill of Rights—you must never accept the other guy's word about this—or if it generally threatens to limit or damage individual liberty, then it's evil. It cannot be compromised with. It can only be opposed and ultimately obliterated by any and all of the means at our disposal.

Second, as libertarians know, if a proposal calls for government (or any other) use of force against anyone who hasn't initiated force first, or plainly offered to, it's evil, and it cannot be compromised with.

If you try, all you'll end up with is more evil.

A final thought. There are some freedoms that are so fundamental, so vitally important, that they must never be subjected to voting, to the passage of legislation, or to the latest whims or fads of judges at whatever level. That's why the Founding Fathers (some of them, anyway) insisted upon a Bill of Rights, so that some individual rights would be sacrosanct, set above politics—among those rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from search and seizure, freedom from drumhead and kangaroo courts, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and most notably, the freedom to own and carry weapons.

Obviously, it didn't work out that way in the end, and the primary reason it didn't was compromise. Now, if we want any of our freedoms back, what we have to give up is compromise. We need a Constitutional amendment, just as an example, that puts real teeth in the Bill of Rights, severely punishing anybody—any politician, any bureaucrat, or any policeman—who attempts to violate, eliminate, or get around it.

And there can be no compromise about that.

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