Monday, January 3, 2011

Why All the Fearmongering?

During this last Christmas vacation, I've been arguing with one James Kelly.  The post I've been commenting to seems to be the latest in a debate with Kevin Baker of The Smallest Minority.

James Kelly's position is derived from the only "freedom" he understands:  freedom from fear.  He fears that anyone he meets might be the owner--might even be carrying, at this moment--a gun, and so he wants to ban guns, to elliminate this fear.

Ironically, in order to get support for his position, James needs to get others to fear guns as well--and so he encourages fear in others.  In order to remove our fear of government, James then goes on and tries to convince us that fighting a government with weapons of mass destruction is impossible--so we might as well not revolt, and turn in all our guns right now.  In other words, he tries to cancel the gun-toter's fear of tyranny with the fear of government holocaust.

For someone who so detests fear, James seems to be so ready to reach for it when he thinks it will convince others to ban guns, and even knives.  Why is this?

But James Kelly isn't the only one:  as I discovered this last week, young adult author Gary Paulsen resorts to both fear and loathing, in an attempt to convince others that guns are evil.  Yet, if you try to put things in perspective, you would quickly discover that gun deaths are almost statistical noise.

Yes, every person who dies by gun is a tragedy.  But then, so is every car accident.  So is every swimming pool drowning.  All of these are risks we need to learn to deal with--and these are all risks we have been dealing with, for decades, without regulation.  This is because life itself is risky, and we naturally learn to balance these risks with our actions--and this is consistent with choosing to live in liberty.

There is a certain mindset among people, however, that says "We must get rid of all risk!" and to do this, it is necessary to restrict the actions of individuals.  Individuals, however, have come to accept that certain risks come with certain actions--thus, to justify limits to these actions, anti-risk types have to make the risk seem larger than it is.  Hence, they become fearmongers.  And they become tyrants--petty tyrants, if they want to ban only one or two types of actions (say, ownership of guns, or swimming pools without alarms, both of which are practically banned in New York State), and all-out dictators, if they want to control every aspect of an individual's life (Communists, Nazis, Progressives, and some Monarchists are all examples of the latter).

Unfortunately, as anti-risk folk gain traction, the society begins to suffer from enough petty tyrannies to become one grand tyranny. 

So, do you want a life without fear?  Well, I'm sorry:  no matter how hard you try to remove sources of fear, there will always be new sources that need to be treated.  The more you try to remove fear, the more you trample on freedom, and trample on individual responsibility...and, eventually, society gets overwhelmed and collapses anyway.

I, for one, want a life of freedom--and with freedom, comes responsibility.  Do I fear someone with a gun?  No, I do not.  Yet, it's my responsibility--one I should be free to choose to accept, or not--to carry a gun, in case someone threatens me or my family with danger to life or limb.  Should I fear swimming pools?  No, I should not--but I should learn to be careful around water, and learn to swim as well.  Should I fear car accidents?  No--even though they are common enough, I have seen several in my lifetime, and see or hear of the remains of one almost daily.  But I should wear a seat belt--yet, even car accidents are rare enough, that if I don't wear a seatbelt, I'm not likely to die any time soon!

An exercise for the reader:  how does attempting to remove fear through welfare agencies destroy freedom and responsibility?

UPDATE:  Here's another example of how fearmongering is used by anti-gun folk; this article dismantles a piece by Paul Helmke of Brady Campaign fame.

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