On Guns, Natural Rights, and Liberty

With the recent shooting in Florida, there is a reemergent call for gun control. A large number of Americans are asserting emotional appeals that the preservation of our individual right to bear arms in the second amendment is too high a price to pay at the cost of the safety of our children. Or that an individual does not possess a right to own “military-style” rifles. Another common tactic is to temper these lines of logic with platitudes about respect for the second amendment and a respect for the rights of lawful gun owners, but that there is no need for such weapons. Finally, they trot out the ever-popular statistic that the majority of Americans favor “common-sense” gun laws.

Unfortunately, at their core, all these arguments are inherently flawed because of either their intentional or unintentional oversight of natural rights. The only honest and accurate response to such talking points is one that most people are unwilling to say because such statements will naturally be completely distorted from the reality and truth it is grounded in. That truth is that when it comes to upholding the right to absolute gun ownership, or any right for that matter, feelings and emotions are irrelevant and do not matter in this discussion.

Let us look at the actual text: “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.” Note that nowhere in that sentence is the right contingent on “once the justification for possession is provided” or “unless the majority vote to ban them.” And a basic understanding of history is all that is needed to understand why that is.

Classical liberal thought had effectively reached its pinnacle of development by the end of the 18th century with the common acceptance of natural rights, amongst them the right to self-defense. Natural rights are not granted. These are rights we possess in a state of nature and to which others do not have the right to deprive us of whether by our own consent, the legislation of the majority or through the use of force by the state. The Founders had a term for those who deprived individuals of such rights: tyrant. The critical takeaway is that government does not grant us our rights. They are ours simply by a matter of our existence.

The Founding Fathers were well-educated on what constituted liberty and thus they wrote founding documents which sought to clearly enumerate those rights and provide protection against the usurpation by a tyrannical government, as experienced under George III. They created a federal government which was intentionally weak and cumbersome in order that the whims of the citizenry, whom the Founders heavily distrusted with safeguarding liberty, could not be quickly and haphazardly imposed to subvert the individual rights and consolidates power back to the hands of the few over the many. Natural rights are independent rights to be exercised by the individual and are not subject to the whims of others. This historically was aimed at restricting sovereigns and rulers, but also applies to other individuals within a society.

Chief among these rights is the right to life. Along with that right, is the right to take those measures necessary to protect that right, known as self-defense, against either other individuals or the state. If an individual, therefore, reserves the right to life and the right of self-defense, an individual also bears the right to determine and to acquire and possess, those means by which they deem necessary to secure these right, not the state or the will of the majority. Thus, the state reserves no authority to deny an individual the right to bear arms that individual may deem necessary to secure their rights. This was codified well before the establishment of the United States as a sovereign state and is rooted in English common law as an individually recognized right. Thus, it was reiterated by the Founders in the Constitution, as a natural safeguard for the preservation of one’s liberty.

The Constitution is foremost a framework and empowerment of government, not an all-encompassing document regarding the rights of the people. Our Bill of Rights does enumerate several of these natural, negative rights in the first and second amendments. As an added safeguard, the Founders included the 9th amendment so that people would not be confused by the wrongful notion that their lack of enumeration implied that a natural right did not exist. The Founders wanted to ensure that it was plainly known that the government and the will of the majority did not grant us our rights, but existed as part of our natural state.

Thus, gun ownership is among our absolute rights prominently ensconced within the Bill of Rights specifically written to assuage the fears of anti-Federalists who, in retrospect rightfully, believed that the original lack of enumerated rights could be interpreted as a way for the state to deny such rights to the citizenry. Even Federalist’s were willing to acquiesce to this demand that the individual right to bear arms be enumerated, despite claims that such a fear was absurd because individual rights were believed to be common knowledge of the day. Federalists relented to the demand so as to secure the central government they sought without believing they had conceded anything other than a simple enumeration of that which was commonly accepted: that the state had no authority to deprive the citizenry of their arms.

With that background, let us clear up the most prevalent misrepresentation of the second amendment: the popular, and false, narrative that the amendment is worded such that gun ownership is contingent upon membership in the militia. A basic understanding of grammar is all that is needed to accurately interpret this amendment. As expressed in the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, “the Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause.” In short, the first clause is why, and the second clause is the right. Yes, membership in the militia was compulsory in the 18th century and individual citizens were expected to maintain their own arms, but such militia membership was not the reason that the government was restrained from restricting the individual’s right. Rather, since the militia had taken the role of the standing army and already been used twice to suppress the people, it was history and fear of the dangers of the “well regulated militia” that prompted the Founders to limit the power of the state to disarm the citizenry and deny them the right to self-defense.

The second common misrepresenetation is the nonsensical proposal of “common sense” gun regulations. At the most basic level, there is a clear lack of common sense in violating an individual’s natural right. These “common sense” regulations typically fall into two general positions: 1) there is no “need” for specific weapons and 2) certain people should not be eligible to buy any weapon. Each has their own specific failures in logic, and both share some overlapping fallacies.

Let us address the first case of “need” in the broader sense. As we have established earlier, gun possession is a natural right due to its role as a means of self-defense. A natural right requires no justification of “need” or proof of purpose. The right exists of its own accord. A narrower version of this argument is that there is no “need” for “military-style” weapons. Ignoring the arbitrary verbal gymnastics, rights again are not contingent upon validation of a need, much less a validation of the method by which one exercises their right. The determination of the need for such a style of weapon is reserved to the individual based upon their own assessment of what is required to secure their life. Should we require the individual to provide what “need” they have to print a newspaper or post to a blog? Or what “need” they have to practice their faith? We, naturally would not reasonably expect to be required to do so, yet, our society has gradually begun to be misled into believing that the second amendment requires a different level of treatment as our right to free press or religion.

The second case of arguments is that we should inhibit certain select individuals, most popularly the mentally ill, from procuring weapons. So, let us ponder a hypothetical in this situation. Let us impose a regulation prohibiting all people with mental health issues from owning a gun. Common sense, right? But on what authority do we have to deny someone their natural right? Such tyrannous laws are typically justified on the assumption that these individuals will or are more likely to commit crimes with weapons, and therefore we as a society must preemptively strip them of their natural right to self-defense, and yet they have committed no actual crime. Instead, they are arbitrarily presumed to be more likely to commit a crime. Procedurally, ethically, and morally we require due process under the 5th and 14th amendments to deprive someone of such rights. But what crimes have our targeted mentally ill citizens committed that would warrant such a usurpation of liberty? Are we arguing that mental health issues themselves are the crime? If not, then upon what authority do we as a society have to collectively deprive the individual of their liberty without the application of due process? How have we not denied them equal protection under the law, guaranteed to all citizens? The answer to the objective observer is: of course we have treated them differently and thus relegated them to a different status than other citizens.

Finally, the most dangerous argument is the use of statistics that demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans feel that stronger gun control measures should be in place. As discussed above, rights were specifically enumerated to ensure the protection of individuals from tyranny by the state. But commonly overlooked is the equally, if not more so, dangerous tyranny of the masses. Popular acclaim and the demands of the citizenry have long been recognized as a pervasive threat to the liberty of the minority in a democracy. And while democracy remains an essential ally for the preservation of liberty, the steadfast protection of rights against the tyranny of the majority is essential to secure our individual liberties. In no society can the whims of the majority usurp the rights of the individual and be considered free.

This piece is chiefly written regarding the issue of gun rights, but the key points raised are universal across all natural rights. Emotional pleas, individual feelings, or worst-case hypothetical scenarios are not enough to warrant the unlawful suppression of our individual rights. Yet we have already begun seeing the encroachment on our civil liberties under the guise that there are “limits” to our freedom that can be arbitrarily imposed and regulated. This practice can also be seen in the calls for restrictions on speech such as “free speech zones” or prohibitions on “hate speech.” We should all fear a society that is willing to yield its rights, or demand it from others against their consent, to the state; for what limits could we then hold the state accountable to?

Natural rights come with inherent hazards. We chance the opportunity that slander and fabrications may be printed in our newspapers, or for petitioners to advocate for policies that may be based on bigotry or ignorance, or for individuals to commit murder with guns. The instinct of many is to falsely correlate that abolishing these rights will in itself prevent those acts of which we disapprove of, or are outright violations of other’s individual liberties. However, our rights and the free exercise thereof are neither crimes themselves nor the cause of unlawful violations of our liberties by others. It is action in exceedance beyond those rights where unlawfulness resides.

It is popular to use the phrase that rights have limits, but the reality is that it is the rights of others that demarcate the extent of our rights, not limits on the rights themselves. A common example is that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. The crime itself is not yelling “fire” or the exercise of free speech. The crime is the incitatement of panic and the violation of other individual’s right to well-being through mass hysteria based on false pretenses. That is the crime, not the recitation of the word “fire.” Even more simply, what immoral act or violation of another’s rights is occurring in my possession of a firearm? Murder, for example, has never occurred due to the free exercise of bearing arms. Murder is when an individual has unlawfully been deprived of their right to life. Arms may be a tool by which such acts may be perpetrated, but the free exercise of that right at no time violated another’s individual right to life, liberty, or property. The act of shooting someone, however, does. But then, the weapon itself is not an act, it is merely a tool. We do not have separate laws for killing another individual, whether by stabbing or shooting. They are both called murder, for murder is the violation of the other individual’s natural right. The tool is irrelevant to the crime that was committed.

So, what is the solution to gun violence? The first step is to recognize this for what it is and what it is not. We do not have a gun problem, we have a violence problem. As a society, we have sufficient laws on hands to deal reactively to such violations of individual rights. What we seek are preventative solutions. Due to the broad range of root causes for violence and the propensity of Americans to do so with firearms, it is not possible to comprehensively address all root causes in a few paragraphs, but as many analysts have come to realize, overarching bans and broad, generalized legislation do very little to actually prevent violence like this and only restrict the vast majority who have committed no crime from exercising their individual rights. Targeted actions at the root causes of violence are far more effective than ineffective legislation. When we as a society look to solve problems, we should be mindful that addressing symptoms does not cure the problem. The use of guns in the perpetration of violence is a mere symptom of an underlying cause. Addressing that cause is the only way to prevent such symptoms from appearing. The tool itself is not the cause of violence. And that root cause is a desire to cause violence against others.

Additional gun laws will do little to prevent these root cause of violence. Laws themselves, at best, deter actions. However, laws have proven one hundred percent ineffective at actually preventing such actions they prohibit from occurring. The law-abiding will be deterred from acting because they do not wish to be branded as a criminal nor suffer the repercussions of such violations, be it a fine or confinement. But those who are intent on committing criminal acts will not be prevented and will do so regardless of whether there is legislation against such action or not. History has born this out to be irrefutable fact. Legislation should serve one primary purpose: to provide objective standards of conduct between individuals in order to preserve individual liberty and those repercussions for such transgressions against said liberties. This is served by laws such as murder. It is not served by laws restricting types, times, or places for exercising individual liberties. Nor does the existence of a law itself, regardless of the size of the majority that voted for it, serve as valid justification for the violation of individual’s natural rights.

To possess a gun, one does not need permission, the permission of the general population, the government’s permission, a demonstration of firearm competency, or even a stated need. Individual liberties and rights will always trump others feelings, tears, fears, opinions, the will of the majority, or the demagoguery of an elected leader. To impose laws that suppress the rights of the individual is tyranny. A firm understanding of why rights are so critical to a free society is far more important than knee-jerk tyrannical responses to fear. Security cannot be bought at the price of liberty. And the cornerstone of liberty and a free society is the recognition and preservation of individual rights.

True Tax Reform

“If man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates.” – John Locke, Second Treatise on Government

The recent tax bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump has resulted in a massive cacophony of false narratives and blatant lies by both parties. The Republicans have been touting this as tax “reform” that will boost the economy, while the Democrats have been railing about the disproportionate benefit to the upper class, the supposed loss of health insurance, and the $1.5 trillion cost to the deficit. The debate has also illustrated the continued effectiveness of the Progressive movement in controlling the political narrative and convincing the American people that the state knows what’s best for them. Unfortunately, the Republicans are also historically all too happy to let the citizenry believe that government is best suited at dictating to the American people what is in their best interests, so long as they are at the helm. One cannot really get too mad about this problem when one looks at how complicit we as a citizenry have become to casting away our liberties to those who would promise us the moon if only we were to cede just an ounce more of power.

To understand the true depths of these hyperboles, we must look back to the founding of the nation. The Founding Fathers understood the dangers of tyrannical government, specifically that power to encroach upon the inalienable right to one’s property. Having already experienced multiple infringements on this right by George III, the Founders were very careful to craft a government which was hindered against such transgressions. The Founders recognized that government serves very few and highly limited roles in a free society; the two most fundamental roles being the preservation of individual liberties from others who would seek to violate them, and the enforcement of agreements between individuals.

Among the greatest powers a state can wield against its citizenry is that to levy taxes and deprive individuals of their property. The Founders were not oblivious to the essentiality of taxation in order for a government to properly fulfil the above stated fundamental purposes, having experienced the drawbacks of the Articles of Confederation, and thus the Constitution states that “Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” However, the Founders were also keenly aware that they had previously proclaimed about the criticality that there be “consent of the governed” and which is most strongly exercised at the lowest levels of local government. A strong national government with the power to tax could easily subjugate an entire state to the tyranny of the majority.

George Mason described the threat of unmitigated powers of taxation to the young nation in Antifederalist Paper No. 35 expressing, “The mode of levying taxes is of the utmost consequence; and yet here it is to be determined by those who have neither knowledge of our situation, nor a common interest with us, nor a fellow-feeling for us…Why, then, should we give up this dangerous power of individual taxation? Why leave the manner of laying taxes to those who, in the nature of things, cannot be acquainted with the situation of those on whom they are to impose them, when it can be done by those who are well acquainted with it?” Thus, the check on congressional abuse of power and the protection of state’s rights was preserved by requiring “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” and that “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

Following the ratification of the Constitution and the assumption of all state debts by the Federal government the nation began steadily reducing its percentage of debt-to-GDP utilizing almost exclusively tariffs and excise taxes, and by highly limiting spending until the Civil War by adhering to George Washington’s advisement on governing “that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it.” More plainly put, the public debt is a cherished asset that must be protected from abuse and, when used, expeditiously repaid via taxes, and that in order to minimize the unpleasantry of frequent taxation, conscientious oversight of judicious government spending must exist by the citizenry.

Gross Public Debt 1792-1910US spending 1792-1910

The Civil War saw a significant increase in spending, tax revenues, and debt as a percentage of GDP. Following the War, the US once again began to reduce the debt steadily until the Progressive movement began to dictate to the American public their best interests by introducing legislation including the 16th Amendment and the Federal Reserve in 1913, and Prohibition in 1919. Upon US entry into World War I, debt once again escalated. The introduction of the Welfare State under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 marked the true beginning of the runaway increase in government spending, continuing through World War II. Again, in 1965 with the creation of Medicaid and in 1966 with Medicare, the Welfare State monstrosity continued to prosper under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. These programs account for well over half of today’s Federal budget and are the crown tools of the unconstitutional and immoral redistribution of wealth by the Federal government.

US spending 1910-1960Gross Public Debt 1910-1960

Since the introduction of the income tax, government spending has sky-rocketed. Today, the need to fund entitlement and social welfare programs have crippled the budget, built on promises against the labor of future generations. Social Security in 2016 accounted for $910.3 billion, Medicare accounted for $961.6 billion, Medicaid accounted for $368.3 billion, and Income Security (SNAP, unemployment, etc.) accounted for $303.9 billion. All of these programs have continually grown since 1967 as Congress has been more than willing to be “charitable” with the citizenry’s money. However, charity cannot come from the barrel of a gun.

On the discretionary side, defense spending, while constitutionally mandated, accounted for $583.7 billion including the purchase of “warships” that break down while transiting from their factory to their homeport, Joint Strike Fighter aircraft that will never be combat capable, and continuing operations in Afghanistan which will soon be old enough to host troops born after 9/11 and with no clearly achievable strategic objective. But that only accounts for half of the discretionary pile. Among the various billions allotted, we also have the Department of Education spending $70.9 billion and “overseeing” the 24th ranked nation in science and reading, and 39th in mathematics.

US spending 1960-2020Gross Public Debt 1960-2020

The maxim that “the person with the greatest vested interest in the prudent use of one’s money is oneself” continues to ring true, and should be no less applicable to our tax dollars. Yet we continually turn to the state to decide how best to spend our money, a practice Congress has proven repeatedly to be widely ineffective at, if not outright reckless and negligent. All these burgeoning programs have gradually desensitized the American citizens from the incremental levels of thievery perpetrated by the government. We are left with a citizenry that has been indoctrinated into believing that taxes are a civic duty in service of the nation, rather than the reality of our serfdom to the state, by playing up national defense and roads while ignoring the rampant waste and abuse by our elected representatives catering to special interests and ushered along by a failed public education infrastructure conveniently propped up by those very taxes. We have come to embrace the lie that the reduction of taxes is somehow a theft perpetrated against the state and therefore the population as a whole. Thus, we can now circle back to the lies being bandied about by our elected representatives.

We shall begin with a few of the Democratic myths. The easiest is that it is only logical to expect that those who most heavily prop up the state’s system of taxation (i.e. the wealthy) are the ones who will see the greatest return on any positive changes to the tax system. Furthermore, we can expect that only those who bear an actual burden will experience any relief from tax reform, real or half-hearted, most notably those in the highest quintile who account for 68.8% of all Federal taxes, and the upper three quintiles that account for 95.5% of all taxes paid. Yet these facts don’t align with the desired talking point of Democrats who proffer the notion that the wealthy somehow do not pay their “fair share” of taxes. Therefore, those that do not pay into the system naturally have the most to “lose” in a system that effectively pilfers and redistributes property from those who rightfully possessed it.

The second falsehood is the “loss” of health insurance by 13 million individuals. We first must look past the basic fact that health insurance is a service and that no individual has an inherent right to any service without a voluntary exchange and the fact that government subsidies routinely cause the price of such commodities or services to increase beyond what the market would truly demand (see Education). Next, we can begin to address the false assumptions this claim is built upon. The first false assumption is that an insurance market that is artificially propped up through taxation and coercion is “providing” true greater access to health insurance services. The second false assumption is the notion that individuals whose health insurance is provided by or subsidized by the government through taxation can rightfully claim to have gained insurance in such a market and thus make claims that it is theirs to “lose” to begin with. The third false assumption is that the market suddenly will experience a decrease in the supply of services due to a mandate repeal and that this shrinkage of availability will cause individuals to lose their insurance. With these false assumptions removed, we can begin to address the claim. Per the former IRS Commissioner, 6.5 million Americans opted to not buy health insurance in 2016 demonstrating that Americans are more than willing to face fines rather than partake in services of which they have decided they do not have a need of. Naturally, these numbers should continue to climb as citizens, now free to decide how best to allocate their own resources and property, may exercise their own judgment and choose not to purchase health insurance, which can hardly be considered losing.

However, the segment of the population who would voluntarily not acquire insurance is likely not the one being cited, though they are conveniently lumped into the Democratic talking points. Therefore, let us turn to those in the population who would likely experience an increase in premiums such that they might not be able to afford insurance. The argument is that eliminating compulsory participation in the risk pool by more individuals will necessitate a rise in premiums. This relationship is certainly true, but only if we intentionally ignore the other variables in the full equation. Health insurance, as with many services, has many variables that in sum account for its cost to consumers. In a truly free market, consumers would negotiate with providers to find a service that meets their needs at a price they are willing to pay, or at a value which is determined by the market (i.e. its true value). What we as a nation have done, in the name of the citizen’s “best interests,” is lock several of these variables so that consumers no longer have the power to manipulate them in order to minimize their final costs. These include minimum coverage requirements, co-payment restrictions, and deductible restrictions. And the cherry on top is government’s prohibition against screening those with preexisting conditions, itself a notion that runs completely counter to the concept of health insurance. Now we find ourselves shocked that after all this state intervention in the market, the prices have rapidly risen. Lo! how “capitalism” has failed us!

The final, and most egregious, myth being perpetuated by the Democrats is the increased cost of the tax cuts towards the deficit. This embodies the entirety of effects that Democratic and Progressive messaging and policy have had on the American political discussion: the idea that somehow lower tax rates are robbing the state. Citizens don’t “pay” for tax cuts, either in the short term or in the deficit. Taxes are revenues. This is money that the state did not originally have and is raised (or more accurately, coerced). The programs that government funds (e.g. education, social security) cost money, are an outflow of funds and are thus “paid” for. Only the Progressives have successfully convinced the populace that somehow their money does not truly belong to them but rather to the state and that allowing individuals to retain their property is somehow depriving others (specifically the government) of money, which the state never had any right to in the first place.

Looking across the aisle, Republicans have rightfully avoided, for the most part, invoking the concept of “trickle-down economics” in the discussion. In part, this is because of the left’s success at vilifying the concept and also, more importantly, since the effects on the economy of returning wealth to the citizenry are not experienced via “trickle-down” anyways. Moving beyond the foundational inherent right of individuals and collections of individuals (i.e. corporations) to be secure in their property, returning wealth to the system allows for the market to best dictate the proper allocation of such resources. Even Keynesian economists believe in the injection of wealth into economies whether through tax cuts or deficit spending. The difference is the right of individuals influenced by the demands of the market to determine where those resources should be directed, rather than the self-stylized, omnipotent planners in Washington. This means that resources may not flow to those places most desired by politicians, but to those areas which the market most demands. The second half of this effort to condemn trickle-down economics is that those who benefit from the return of their property somehow horde these funds from returning to circulation. While it is certainly an option for people to place their dollars under a mattress or in a jar in the backyard, the other 99% will not simply allow the money to sit idly. Whether they spend the funds themselves, or invest in the markets, or simply store the money in a savings account, these resources are allowed to flow into those areas that the market best dictates. Again, what areas these resources may be directed normally do not match the desires of the politicians, but a free society should allow for individuals to dictate their optimum allocation of resources and not the state.

But the greatest myth is that merely tweaking the tax code somehow bears any semblance of actual tax reform. Actual tax reform would mean a true commitment to a limited government that hinders feckless spending by politicians and unelected bureaucrats. It would entail abolishing the 16th Amendment, drastically reducing Federal spending, and eliminating the dozens of bureaucratic agencies and executive departments that add exponential costs to government for little to no actual return and whose regulatory decisions, that circumvent the powers delegated to Congress, manipulate the true signals of the markets and raise costs for all concerned.

At its roots, the discussion over taxation is about power and where that power should reside. Control of the flow of money is one of the primary tools for exercising power. The Founders knew this and sought explicitly to minimize the transference of this power to the state through taxation. Taxation, when not applied equally, is a tool used by crony capitalists to manipulate the markets by favoring one force over another, and by power-seekers who would barter other people’s money via handouts in exchange for votes. These weapons can take the form of deductions that encourage individuals to spend money in a particular segment, or the healthcare mandate, recognized by the Supreme Court as an indirect tax, and its efforts to coerce the population into participation in the health insurance markets, or Medicare that promises insurance to some paid for by the stolen labors of others. All of these legislative actions seek to manipulate the markets, which we have seen the state catastrophically fail at time and time again as they mask the true signals of the market. And even when Congress still wants to spend and can’t make up the funds through increased taxation, debt is an always available failsafe as we turn to the Federal Reserve.

One of the greatest cons in history is the state’s ability to convince the population that not only do they know what’s best for us, but that we need a government that extends beyond its natural role to care for us. The Founders fully intended for politicians to be limited in true power, but the power to tax and decide where the gains of this theft are to be distributed is where the true power rests. Remove the money from Washington, and you will quickly see the influence of lobbyists and the leaches dwindle. What need is there to petition those who have no power (i.e. money) to implement beneficial actions towards my interests in exchange for my vote? Our government has exceeded its established natural purpose and proceeded even further still beyond its constitutional authorities that exist in order to preserve our individual liberties. None of these enumerated powers granted to government include the redistribution of wealth through taxation and spending nor for providing for those services which individuals can and should obtain of their own volition.

No individual has a right to the rightfully acquired property of another. This right is absolute and is not contingent upon the quantity of such property, the means of acquisition of such property, if lawful, or the intentions of the usurper. And certainly, no individual has the right to use the state to coerce such transfer of property. It is a shame that after centuries of enlightenment thinking, struggle, and revolution that we as a society should so gladly turnover those freedoms to which the Founders pledged their very lives for.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

“Let us understand that it is far better to live in an imperfect world than it is to live in a despotic world ruled by people who lord it over us through force and intimidation.” – Ron Paul, Liberty Defined

This wedding cake case will likely be a defining moment as to whether we have become so cowed as a society by those that would force individual freedom to take a back seat to people’s feelings masqueraded as “rights,” that we turn our backs on and abandon true liberty to the fist of populist totalitarianism. Nothing raises this concern quite like Justice Kennedy’s words during the hearing emphasizing on ensuring “the dignity of same sex couples” and preventing an “affront to the gay community” over securing the rights of free individuals. The arguments that are being put before the court are perfect examples of how the American citizenry have allowed the language of liberty to become distorted and bastardized. The complainants, with the backing of the ACLU, have asserted that this case is “about the right of gay people to receive equal service.” They further stage the question at hand as being “whether the Constitution grants businesses open to the public the right to violate laws against discrimination in the commercial marketplace if the business happens to sell an artistic product,” using a fearmongering, emotional appeal that “the bakery seeks a constitutional right to hang a sign in its shop window proclaiming, ‘Wedding Cakes for Heterosexuals Only.'”

The ACLU is correct in assessing that “this isn’t about artistic expression,” however, not for the reasons they think. It is somewhat related to freedom of religion and speech, but that too is not the dominant issue at hand here. This case is ultimately about, as unorthodox as it may sound for most, slavery. Namely the unconstitutionality of involuntary servitude.

This case is fundamentally very simple. Two people are requesting a service and the individual who provides that service has chosen that they do not wish to engage in that business exchange. Whether the baker is Christian or the two people are gay is irrelevant to the fundamental question at hand. Make the baker Jewish and the two patrons Klansmen, or even more simply just three random people of any shape and form: their backgrounds remain not pertinent to this impasse. That question, simply put, is it constitutional to place an individual in a condition in which one lacks liberty to determine one’s course of action and to compel them to perform a service against their will? And the very clear answer embodied in the 13th Amendment is: No, it is not, because “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The problem can be traced to government’s attempts to legislate against discrimination in the private sphere. Think about the actual definition of what it truly means to discriminate, rather than the distorted one that opponents of liberty have forced upon us over the past 60 years: to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit. Discrimination itself is neither positive or negative thing by default. It is purely the exercise of one’s judgment to determine a preferred choice. As a securer of individual rights and liberties, naturally, we cannot tolerate a government to discriminate unequally on the basis of some arbitrary measure since activities conducted by the government with a bias in favor of one on these grounds is innately a bias against another, creating unequal protection and treatment under the law which government is derived to administer equally. However, this is clearly not a government baker. This is a free citizen, and free individuals discriminate regularly in who they are friends with, what clothes they wear, what jobs they apply for, and who they marry. Yet we wish to criminalize the individual’s natural rights to exercise individual thought and preference in regards to those aspects of their private life we arbitrarily decree to be in violation of a small minority’s alleged positive rights. This is where the freedom of religion and speech become somewhat relevant, as they are claimed to be the basis for this individual’s position to refuse service. However, one can just as easily change the reasoning to refuse to engage in this business exchange based on the customer espousing hate speech; or using profanity; or no shirt, no shoes, no service. The reason for the individual’s decision to discriminate against providing equal service is extraneous to their natural right to elect not to engage in such services against their will, safeguarded by our 13th Amendment’s protection from involuntary servitude and compulsory action, and in unambiguous supremacy of any claim to positive rights by those demanding the service.

Laws that compel private individuals to provide services to another individual are, and ought to be struck down as, unconstitutional. This includes anti-discrimination laws imposed on the private sector. No man is entitled to the services of another, nor is a government within their authority to coerce such a transaction, regardless of any good intentions behind such legislation. And the government has even less authority to legislate the demands of the tyrannical masses to take precedence over the rights of individuals on the basis of morality; lest we wish to hurl open that door to significant further abuse.

There is nothing inherently unconstitutional with advocating for tolerance in society, or even members of government doing so in government chambers. However, history has shown that you cannot legislate acceptable points of view, including tolerance, into existence and expect it to change people’s opinions. If anything, we know that it regularly only further entrenches their opinions out of resentment. Even Justice Kennedy appears to understand this with his statement that “[t]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.” The court’s ruling will either uphold several of the essential protections of liberty enshrined in our constitution or sanction the usurpation of power by the state to negate the rights of the individual. Our rights exist to protect us from the tyranny of the majority and the forces of authoritarian government. The law of unintended consequences looms to take effect in this case, as any power to abuse and violate individual freedoms you grant to the government in the name of advancing “good” is the same power that can be used for suppressing the individual. Suppose you did choose to grant the state authority to legislate tolerance: why would you want to live in a state that has the authority to use force to ensure compliance with a sanctioned point of view? Imagine the most despicable person you can and their positions on the issues you hold most dear. Now imagine this individual is in control of this totalitarian system which compels purity of thought through violence and tell me you still believe that we are better served to entrust the state with this power to subvert individual liberty for the sake of the – darling of the collectivists – “common good.”

Net Neutrality vs. Basic Economics

The internet is a utility that is (and should be) provided by private companies. It costs capital to create, operate, and sustain. It is a capacity-limited resource. As demand grows, equilibrium is sought. This can normally be achieved by raising prices to discourage usage. This is the basic law of supply and demand. What the FCC has done is impose a mandated equal-cost floor for all consumers (either on the input or the output side). This burdens consumers by forcing companies to universally raise prices to offset the costs of meeting demand. Lifting net neutrality is a reasonable decision to remove government regulations that serve no purpose and would provide companies the power to charge those who impose the greatest burden on the system the highest proportion of the costs. And now that the government is attempting to decrease these burdens imposed on business, the misinformation campaigns have gone full-bore by those who wish to continue the dominate the markets through government coercion.

Those who would further the reach of government power and regulation evoke traditional fear tactics by claiming that consumers would bear a significantly increased cost burden or that they would be blocked from accessing certain sites and thus our great savior, big government, is needed to protect us from the free market. There are many fallacies in these assertions. The first is that costs would be passed onto output-side consumers. While an option, and possibly a solution for cable providers given the ability to spread costs across many users and thus mitigate the individual impact, this seems less likely than the costs being passed on directly to the sites being accessed. This would most certainly impose costs on those companies who wish to utilize this utility to share their content with consumers. But under net neutrality, it is the service provider or output-side consumers who are currently forced to bear this cost. An analogy would be requiring the New York Times to print all content submitted to them at the same cost regardless of how much was submitted by the writer. Naturally, we can see that this would not be sustainable for the NYT, but we don’t criticize them for charging by the line and thus are able to keep costs for readers relatively low.

Unsurprisingly many of the large and popular sites (Google, Facebook) oppose the lifting of net neutrality because a government-imposed regulation on prices is in their best interests and their bottom lines. Smaller sites would also likely bear a cost, but imposing an unreasonable cost on these sites is illogical for two reasons: 1) it is in the best interest of service provides to provide the greatest variety of content to subscribers and 2) imposing unduly harsh costs on sites would likely drive them from the revenue pool resulting in no revenue vice even a little revenue with more reasonable pricing structure. But, to address another fallacious assertion, in the event certain sites are unable to support the costs demanded by their site usage, their inability to pay the costs is no more “denying” consumers access to their site than it is the NYT “denying” customers access to advertiser’s ads in their papers.

Net neutrality itself has only been imposed since 2015 in the US, yet has been misrepresented as some essential liberty since the beginning of the internet. Instead, it is merely another regulation imposed by unelected bureaucrats circumventing the legislative process assigned to Congress by the Constitution. But that is not the key point of emphasis. Instead, net neutrality at its core is the product of further attempts by government bureaucracies to manipulate the markets while repeatedly ignoring the principle of unintended consequences. Governments loathe relinquishing power and are more than happy to ignore the fact that it is government that created the regional cable provider monopolies we consumers must suffer through by imposing, you guessed it, more regulations.