L. Neil Smith's

Number 20, December 15, 1996.

Patching The Patches

By L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         By now you've heard of children and petite women being injured or killed by the airbags safety "experts" fought for 30 years to impose on the American public. Leave it to Gordon Liddy to describe what happens, saying the rapidly deploying bags, designed to hit large males in the chest, propel their smaller victims' heads like soccer balls straight back into the trunk at 200 miles per hour.
         Nobody suggests repealing laws compelling automobile manufacturers to use airbags. Just don't put your children in the front seat. Install switches to defeat airbags when little people sit in their lethal vicinity. Build "smart" airbags (as a substitute for smart politicians). And the all-around socialist favorite: command manufacturers to slap big red warning labels on visors and dashboards.
         Remember the flap, 20 years ago, over sleepwear? Kids were "deliberately exposed to carcinogenic chemicals" by heartless pajama capitalists. Socialist politicians, spraying saliva gobbets in their gibbering hysteria, organized a lynching until it was pointed out that manufacturers had been forced earlier, by the same politicians, to soak sleepwear with the gunk in question in order to retard flames. Whereupon, mysteriously, the whole affair dissolved without a whimper.
         Which brings to mind Love Canal: homes, malls, churches, schoolyards, and what would later be known as soccer moms, built on an industrial dump capable of mutating every yard-ape within klicks into Ninja Turtles. Angry peasants grabbed pitchforks and torches to converge en masse on company headquarters (the situation being only slightly complicated by the fact that said company had gone out of business decades earlier) demanding justice or something like it.
         We don't hear about Love Canal any more; the only role private enterprise played was a vain attempt to stop construction of the subdivision in the first place. Thanks to Reason magazine, we learned it was the Army who destroyed the land, later sold to a chemical company and subsequently stolen (the term is "Imminent Domain") by a school board which sold it to a developer. Company officials begged the board -- in writing -- never to let anyone build homes or schools on the land. Their warnings were filed away until Reason dug them out.
         When I got interested in guns, media and left-wing politicians had just created a straw-man they labelled "Saturday Night Specials": cheap, imported revolvers in small calibers. Impecunious blacks were equipping themselves in unprecedented numbers at a time when minority sections of America's largest cities were aflame. Not being original enough to generate a catch-phrase of their own, anti-gunners had revived a rude expression circulating a generation earlier, one that originally included a second N-word between "Night" and "Specials".
         One result was 1968's Gun Control Act. Analysis of the victim disarmament movement reveals that every gun law ever written meant to strip some racial or ethnic minority of the means of self-defense. New York's Sullivan Act was directed against Italians. California's semiauto ban was driven by terror of Asian gangs (created by drug prohibition and minimum wage laws). The Brady Bill passed because women, in the view of politicians, were acquiring too many guns.
         The technological result (as columnist Vin Suprynowicz reminds us) was an inner city arms race. Banning cheap, small-caliber revolvers created a vogue for the high-caliber, high-capacity semi-automatic pistols legislators are now trying to outlaw (note that gangs only started carrying guns when switchblades were banned). If socialists had kept their ignorant mouths shut, homies would still be poking .22 caliber holes in each other (whenever their die-cast zinc popguns actually went off as the trigger got jerked); innocent kids wouldn't be catching stray nine millimeter slugs penetrating building walls and car doors.
         Similarly, if you'll review gun publications of a decade ago, you'll find that nobody was interested in "assault rifles" (weapons chambered for medium-powered cartridges fed by high-capacity magazines) before right-wing socialist William Bennet, left-wing fascist Charles Schumer, and clueless mouthbreather George Bush began applying pressure to them. Airliner bombings didn't begin until passengers were searched for weapons. Militias didn't arise until Bill Clinton -- threatening the Constitution they're meant to defend -- made them necessary.
         Are we safer since government forced gas companies to replace lead with carcinogenic additives? Are racial relations any better after two generations of forced integration and affirmative action? Were you aware that thalidomide doesn't cause birth defects, as the FDA still asserts, but simply prevents the perfectly natural, highly desirable, and spontaneous abortion of malformed fetuses?
         As Robert LeFevre put it, "Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure." It's in the business of putting patches over non-existent punctures in the social fabric, and then, when the patches inevitably cause greater trouble than they were meant to repair, putting patches on the patches. At last count there were more than five million federal laws. And "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Multiply each of these ugly situations by five million, you'll begin to have an idea how we got into this mess. But how do we get out? I hesitate to propose another law, but a Constitutional amendment may be called for.
         What we need is a Moratorium (100 years would be a nice round figure) on legislation at any level of government. Five million federal laws certainly strikes me as enough. If weapons laws (for example) worked, wouldn't 20,000 of them have done the job already? The single exception would be bills of repeal.
         The same amendment would nullify Sovereign Immunity (and with it, Imminent Domain) which should have been junked along with other royal trappings during the Revolution, and exercise a Power of Congress to remove everything from the jurisdiction of a Supreme Court which, of the three mythically separated branches of government, has been by far the worst custodian of the Bill of Rights.

L. Neil Smith's Prometheus Award-winning The Probability Broach offers a window onto a Libertarian civilization -- and enough sex and violence to keep even the most apolitical reader turning pages. Buy it at bookstores anywhere, or call Laissez Faire Books 1-800-326-0996

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