If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.
The priests and acolytes of big government, the inside-the-beltway crowd, are in denial. The government, the idol they worship and serve, is showing signs of weakness and decline. The social welfare state is unsustainable, doomed by the simple but strict rules of arithmetic. They cannot see this because they will not look at it squarely. So instead of realism and reduction of bloated budgets we have cries for more money, in an eerie echo of D.H. Lawrence. There must be more money!
There is, though, no more money after a certain point, even if you print more. At some point there is no more revenue to be had by squeezing distressed taxpayers. Business does not thrive when strangled. Investors hold back when returns appear uncertain.
The statist response is to blame businesses and investors. But this is not where the fault primarily lies. The problem is we can no longer afford our government. To the opponent of mega-government, the situation is oddly encouraging, for the long term, though the day-to-day reality is bleak. The system is falling of its own weight and the wisdom of limiting the size and scope of government is being reaffirmed.
It will be a rough ride for a number of years. Some people, maybe all, will be denied their government-paid benefits and all will feel the pinch of a disrupted and dysfunctional economy. The statist, for whom the government is the whole world, will feel the distress more keenly than anyone, for the thing in which he placed his faith is letting him down.
When we come out on the other side of this mess, it will be clear why government must be limited to a short list of enumerated powers and why fiat money is no good in the end. We may even turn our attention back to that old and dusty document that told us so, way back in our nation's first hours, the Constitution.
Our present troubles had their beginnings long ago, in 1913, with the 16th Amendment, which removed the Constitution's built-in limits on taxation. The first effects were relatively benign. The then-new taxes were minuscule. But giving government the power to tax as it pleases is like giving a sample of heroin to an addictive personality. He will always come back for more.
Indeed, the limitless power to tax was not enough for the government grown addicted to the power to wield money. Washington thus began to run up an enormous debt, for various causes, projects and programs. The debt is now of a size that boggles. The debt's guarantee? Why, the government's power to take as much wealth as it likes, in future taxes.
Of course the Constitution, as originally ratified, was not perfect. Its framers knew that and provided a process to amend it. Not all amendments are improvements, though. A limit on taxation was important in the scheme of checks and balances, something that became clearer, no doubt, in hindsight. Removing the restriction led to a vast growth of government and that in turn led to our present distress.
Let there be no mistake: Excessive government is the root cause of our malaise. The distributed decision making that characterizes a healthy economy is disrupted. Our system increasingly resembles the centralized planning model, which is notable for its history, which is a long string of failures.
Money taken out of the economy as taxes does not, for the moment, participate in the free, distributed decision making of laissez-faire, but is doled out according to government rules, some of them bizarre. It is money lost to the private system that distributes money for business and financial reasons, aiming at profit, growth and sustained business.
The system of free enterprise is, itself, now set about by so many government requirements, rules and restrictions as to make government like a partner in business, but an unproductive one, driving decisions and practices in ways that do not necessarily benefit the enterprise. A great deal of unproductive labor is expended on complying with rules on many topics, from taxes and reporting to whom you may fire and why.
In short the parasite has grown so large it endangers its host. The key social question in the 21st century is what it was in the 18th. How shall we free ourselves from excessive and intrusive government? Fortunately for us, the system is now poised to fall of its own weight. Unfortunately, it is going to cause a lot of distress for all, as it crumbles.
But it is very fortunate our country's framers realized it was important that the people be able to look out for themselves, if problems arose that disrupted the good order of society. As this is a guns and shooting publication, I will look at the Second Amendment's significance in light of social malfunction, but the Constitution contains other guarantees that are at least as important. These include the states' right to create their own money backed by silver or gold, and the freedom of speech and press, so we can keep one another informed of what is going on.
Of course the committed statist is uncomfortable with gun rights, gold money and the freedom to exchange and publish information however people see fit. These things make him uneasy because they reflect a viewpoint alien to him. I refer to the view that in a great many matters, people can do without a lot of supervision.
The Second Amendment and Social Disorder
Fortunately the courts have recognized the obvious in regard to the Second Amendment. It addresses two rights not one. The states may have militias and the people may arm themselves. To hold that it says the first but not the second thing is to make of it an empty tautology, equivalent to saying soldiers have weapons. As this is the case in all lands no matter how dictatorial, it makes no sense to say it in a declaration about human rights, which the Bill of Rights plainly is.
In a collapse of good order, the states retain the power to call up the citizenry and repel threats to society. As a citizen you may repel threats to you personally. Both these rights may be useful if things get as bad as they potentially could.
As an aside: Most state militias are inactive at present. This may mean that, for the purposes in view in the Second Amendment, the states are not now fully free and secure. But the right to call the people to arms remains, and that is the important thing.
Of course the rabbly bands of yahoos who today call themselves militias, but are not sanctioned by their state governments, are bogus within the constitutional frame of reference. As it is useless to tell them that, it is probably best to view them tongue in cheek, and hope they will accept the genuine call to service, should it ever come. They do, however, show us a useful lesson. An armed band of sorts can be gotten up with very little in the way of administration and finance. This may be valuable to know.
I have no desire to encourage the person with no knowledge of guns to buy one. Guns in the hands of tyros are unsafe. For the person schooled in the requisite safety lessons, or willing to acquire this knowledge before buying a gun, perhaps some thoughts are in order on the subject of general preparedness.
Like anyone else, I hope matters won't come to shooting. Who would ever want that? If a cataclysm is averted the following will not be useless, however. For example, you are certain to need spare parts whether there is a national emergency or not. The idea of preparedness simply suggests they should be in your gun bag, not at the gunsmith's shop.
- Reliabilty is paramount. If you have a gun but it doesn't go bang every time, get that rectified before anything else.
- Spares parts and tools. In reciprocating actions the parts most prone to failure are firing pins, extractors, ejectors and their associated springs and fasteners. This is a broad generalization but it holds up pretty well from what I've seen. Detachable box magazines go bad with fair regularity. Perhaps the best plan is to ask a gunsmith which parts are most prone to go bad on your gun and ask him for one of each.
- Ammunition. Your gun won't work without it. Enough said.
- Cleaning supplies. You can use motor oil and your shirt tail but there are better things to use.
- Knowledge. I don't own a military pattern AR-15 or an M16, but I know how to run one. Every citizen should know a bit about the service rifle. In times of societal instability, anywhere around the globe, military hardware turns up in abundance. If you only know how to operate your duck gun, you're limiting yourself unnecessarily.
- Marksmanship. Only hits count. Put another way, if you can't hit your target you are not shooting; you are merely making noise. Go practice.