It’s somewhat off topic for this blog, but I say: allow non-crims be be armed!
It may yet happen. London, full of disarmed non-crims and armed crims, is rapidly becoming like New York used to be but is now so conspicuously not, a “crime capital”. Any decade now, something might just give. Or, to use the language of this blog, the lesson might be learned.
Something about the extreme savagery of that double murder yesterday made me think that now was the exact time to be saying such a thing, not just to those few of my devoted libertarian friends so devoted that they read that education blog of mine, but also to any eco-friendly home-schoolers or weary school teachers who happen to drop by there. Suddenly, the anti-gun-control message felt very right, like an idea whose time, finally, might have come. Having blogged my fill about that and other things, I read some bloggage by others, which happened to include a piece by Bishop Hill, which I really recommend you to read all of. The Bishop offers an interesting speculation about the origins of all the authoritarianism and surveillance that now afflicts our country.
He starts by noting the dramatic superiority of the USA now compared to Britain now, when it comes to public safety and sense of public menace. In the USA there is now lots of the former. Britain is rife with the latter. In the USA, they can now defend themselves. But here in Britain, we have surrendered the means of doing that, so we must depend upon the state to defend us, and must permit it to be ever more overbearing and intrusive and ever less impeded by safeguards that date from a time when people trusted themselves more than they trusted their rulers. It’s not that Britain is now ruled by pure totalitarians, or by any obvious totalitarian urge, merely that totalitarianism seems to be our only hope to protect us against chaos. It isn’t that we really do trust our rulers, merely that we feel we have no choice. But it isn’t working, not least because woolly liberals have refused to allow the necessary prison sentences to be handed down, even to those miscreants who are still caught.
Looked at this way the root cause of the wave of authoritarian legislation which threatens to swamp us is not authoritarianism so much as “woolly liberalism”. We won’t punish criminals adequately, so we get more criminals. We won’t allow the law-abiding to uphold the law, so our streets get swamped with CCTV. Witnesses can’t defend themselves, so we have to allow anonymous evidence in court. Women can’t defend themselves from rapists, so they shouldn’t go out alone. The opinionated can’t defend themselves from retribution, so better to legislate them into silence.
We find ourselves between the horns of a dilemma. The idea of rearming the populace is greeted by most “right-thinking” members of the middle classes as evidence of a kind of madness, an idea to get you cast out from polite society. “We don’t want to end up like America”, they will say, as they check the locks on their doors and windows, and test the burglar alarm one more time.
But the alternative is to continue our increasingly precipitous slide down the slippery slope that ends up with the UK resembling North Korea.
America or North Korea. You decide.
And, as I say, he already has decided. As did I, many years ago.
In the USA there has already been a sea-change, in favour of the right of the individual US citizen to bear an arm (forgive my imperfect grasp of the language of liberation here). The Supreme Court has decreed against only criminals having guns. And it is not now just the unwild West that is more peaceful and secure than Britain. New Jersey and New York are now far more comfortable to walk about in than they used to be.
But if Bishop Hill is right, then there is another sea-change happening in Britain which is relevant to all this. Oh, we are not yet willing to accept guns in our own hands, rather than just in those of criminals. But we do now seem to be turning against the surveillance state. It is yielding nothing in the way of safety against the criminals; it is merely becoming something else to fear. We sense that we are trading our birthright – “Magna Carta, did she die in vain?” as the old but now newly relevant Tony Hancock joke goes – in exchange for … nothing. Those woolly liberals may be reluctant to send robbers and murderers to prison, certainly not for long enough for them to be old and defeated when they get out again. But at least some of the woolly liberals remain uneasy about our Ancient Liberties. And now the general public is starting seriously to share such worries. All those lost data discs are working the very magic we here hoped they would. The Database State is starting to seem seriously scary, not just for the power it is amassing, but because of its inability to control this power, let alone use it for our benefit. It does not protect us. It is but one more huge thing to fear. It hoovers up everything it knows or thinks it knows about everyone and everything, and then leaves it all on trains and in taxis. Who knows where else it is leaking? The Database State has become like one of those medieval bad kings, tyrannical and ineffectual in equal measure, like Edward II or Richard II, or like King John, the original object of Magna Carta herself.
When, in politics, the question changes, the answers can be startling, to those who didn’t see what just happened. If the Database State will not – and, actually, must not – protect us, who, or what, will? If that now becomes the new question, then rolling back gun control might just become one of the new and newly respectable answers. At the root of the idea of the rule of law is that we do not trust Them, and prefer instead to trust ourselves, fallible though we may also be. When it comes to the use of violence to resist and deter violence, that notion may just be making a British comeback.