“The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.” — H.L. Mencken
I have often considered the possibility that I am the guy that Mencken described. But for those involved in the traditional political realm of left and right, I am simply delusional, labeled a “radical” by those on the right and a “reactionary” by those on the left. In fact, I am neither. Rather, I am the dreaded Libertarian who believes that government, if it must exist at all, must be structurally limited. And it is clear that in that belief I am a part of a small minority.
To suggest to the majority (who remain emotionally invested in the pseudo left-right paradigm) that democracy is perhaps the worst form of government will get you written off quickly. To most, such an assertion is worse than delusional. It is traitorous. Most members of the herd don’t understand that the Founding Fathers likewise believed democracies were doomed to failure and that, left unchecked, ended up as nothing more than another form of tyranny: the tyranny of the majority. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies:
…have . . . been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found compatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. (The Federalist, No. 10)
It results in a deep and angry consternation that such a radical notion, an indictment of the revered democracy that America now exports at the end of a gun, was not suggested by the likes of radicals or reactionaries, but by James Madison, the U.S. President referred to on the White House’s own website as the “Father of the Constitution.” Few people believe he was radical or reactionary. Even fewer people know of his disdain for unfettered democracy. And that is unfortunate.
Democracy, as a form of government, is like a ship without a rudder. It will move, but it is impossible to determine a direction. Each of the individual liberties so many Americans are proud of come from a republic with a constitution firmly protecting individual rights against intrusion by government, not a democracy that fundamentally assumes that 51 percent of the people are correct 100 percent of the time. In a pure democracy, if 51 percent of the people want to enslave a group or steal their personal property, they have the legal (and moral) right to do so. No property rights, no personal freedoms and no individual rights, regardless of genesis, are immune to a majority wanting to eliminate them. As did Madison, Ayn Rand, the often-reviled objectivist philosopher and novelist, railed against such tyranny, saying that individual rights should not be subject to a public vote and that the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities, noting that the smallest minority on Earth is the individual. Simply put, without effective structural limitation, the majority in a democracy can (and will) oppress the minority by simply having or buying more votes. The irony of a democracy is that it functions only if it can be restrained from actually being one. Such was the idea of the framers of the United States Constitution, and they were right.
Where they got it wrong was to assume a determined majority could not and would not trample the structural hurdles put in front of them. They will and they have. A good example is the 2nd Amendment, simple in its wording, clear in its intent:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The anti-gun minority — or majority, or whatever the current polls shows them to be — argues that the words do not mean what they say. In a disgraceful and intellectually deceitful rewriting of history, they suggest that the Founders meant the right to have a hunting rifle, since so many people hunted for food at that time in history.
But, in fact, history tells a different story. To wit, the 2nd Amendment’s purpose was to ensure that if and when another government needed to be overthrown, the people would have the armament to get it done.
Such clarity is lost on those with an agenda to rewrite the 2nd Amendment, and so they do. Recently, a textbook in the state of Texas for students in Advanced Placement programs quoted a new version of the old 2nd Amendment:
The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.
Such difference is not a simple oversight. An oversight is leaving out a marginally important phrase or a misspelling a word, not a dramatic sentence restructuring that changes the entire meaning of the sentence. And it is not as if there is any historical support for that revised language.
To the contrary, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” And, if that wasn’t clear enough, he left no doubt of the Framers’ intent when he wrote:
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
“Arms” meant then (and still mean today) everything necessary to fight a war against a tyrannical government, not necessarily to overthrow it but to protect oneself from its abuses. Any comment to the contrary is merely ignorance of history or the worst form of disingenuous historical revisionism. To that end, I am reminded of former Senator Daniel Moynihan’s admonishment: “You are entitled to your own viewpoint, just not to your own facts.”
The ability to protect oneself from government is best evidenced in modernity by the increasingly frequent abuses of citizens by government agents. An elderly man in my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, was killed when a half dozen police broke into his house and he pointed a gun at what he believed to be intruders. Indeed, they were intruders; but they wore badges and bulletproof vests. It turns out they had the wrong address, which government writes off as merely being a mistake and which resulted in his being killed. Murdered is a better term, if only because it is more accurate.
Last week, cops killed a Florida State athlete when he ran to their car trying to get help. They shot him 11 times and used a Taser on him. A few months ago, police in Los Angeles shot up a truck carrying two women delivering newspapers. Officers riddled the pickup with bullets and shot the women because their truck was similar to a fugitive’s truck. In the minds of government officials, that gave the police the right to do what they did: open fire without warning.
These are but examples among dozens from a rapidly growing police state — the very kind the Framers worried would one day grow out of a failed Republic and a successful democracy. Rarely are the agents of government punished. The message of government is clear: We will protect our own, no matter how egregious their acts.
Just as the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting, it likewise isn’t about protecting ourselves from the bad guys. Rather, it is to protect ourselves from the good guys who become bad guys, which is the eventuality of any democracy, the regrettable, but necessary, end game.
–Dr. Kenneth Karger
Dr. Kenneth Karger lives with his wife in Fort Worth, Texas, and Chetumal, Mexico. He is the brother of Jim Karger, a frequent contributor to The Dollar Vigilante and TDV’s concierge in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.