Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From Citizen To Subject

[This thoughtful and eloquent post got me thinking about the transition described in the above title. In particular, this snippet:
History shows that when government interventions in free trade become oppressive, they are ignored or broken. That is part of what started the American Revolution, colonists ignoring English trade constraints and taxes, and smuggling, and local juries, knowing their historical right to judge both the facts AND the law, refusing to convict smugglers who were caught red-handed. That led the King to revoke trial by jury and ship the offenders to England for secret trials. Today, the man who would be King declares that he can unilaterally declare you an enemy combatant and imprison or kill you without a trial and sends agents to foment racial hatred, among dozens of other outrages.

Why do you consent to such outrageous violations of your freedoms?

The parallels are alarming; already in this country there is widespread disdain for Federal regulation in all sorts of fields. In colonial times, agents of the King who meddled in colonial business were often tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail (ruining their expensive high status clothes), and tax collectors often had their windows ( glass being an expensive status symbol) smashed. I don't know what the modern equivalent is going to be, but I suspect that Federal agents who attempt to enforce these unConstitutional 'laws' are soon going to find out.

What are you doing to stand up for your rights?

Those who would rule us had better pay close attention to the lessons of history; my guess is that they won't like the rhymes that I hear on the wind. Nobody in authority saw the reorganization of the Soviet Union coming, either. The Fourth Branch may indeed be too big to prune, but it is certain that without significant pruning, it WILL destroy the Tree. What will grow from that, nobody knows. It is up to you, gentle reader, to decide what will happen.

Do you consent to being a subject, or not?

...caused me to wonder how close we are to "voluntarily" surrendering our weapons -- our last-ditch provisions against the encroachments of tyrants -- for some unimaginable consideration. With that ugly possibility ringing in my head, I decided to reprint the following, which first appeared at Eternity Road on September 15, 2004. -- FWP]

Under The Yoke

Call a Briton a "citizen" of the United Kingdom, and he'll correct you at once. He's not a "citizen" but a "British subject." I've made this "mistake" about two dozen times and have always been hauled up sharply for it. The folks to whom I've done it were unaware that I was probing for something, rather than exhibiting "typical American ignorance."

Apparently government-run schooling has fallen to as low an estate in Britain as it has in America. None of the two dozen Britons whom I've "subjected" to this little test were aware of what makes a man a citizen or a subject. A few were baffled by the suggestion that there was a difference -- even though they had just upbraided me for having used the "wrong" term.

A subject is one whose rights are a grant from some prior and superior source. A citizen is one whose rights are inborn.

In the days of absolute monarchy and the "divine right of kings," this was explicit and well understood. The King owned the country and everything in it. His authority was unlimited in principle. What latitude any "lesser" man possessed was by royal permission, whether explicit or implicit. The King could extend or retract men's "rights" according to his own notions, without let or hindrance from any other man or institution.

Under those conditions, even the breath of life was the King's to grant or withhold. Nor could he be held to account for a mistake, for one of the corollaries of divine-right absolute monarchy was that "the King can do no wrong." He could make or unmake any law, on any subject, entirely at his pleasure.

The word "subject" means "under the yoke." As a concept of authority, it's a yoke around the necks of those who accept it. Far more persons accept it than you might expect. Too many of them are Americans.

Weapons control was an important feature of divine-right monarchies. As the King was the dispenser of all rights, the right to keep and bear arms was also at his whim. Kings being as desirous of long life and unchallenged power as any modern officeholder, they tried their best to keep weapons out of the hands of anyone who might be a threat to them. In class terms, that excluded the peasantry and the bourgeois class from the ownership of weapons, as they were the groups most likely to want to pull the monarchy down. Only nobles who had sworn fealty to the King were permitted to bear arms and to arm their retainers. The King would often make assurance doubly sure by taking a member from each noble family as a ward of the Court -- in plainer terms, a hostage for the family's good behavior.

The citizens of a republic don't have to trouble themselves over such they?

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired just this past Monday, as a result of the operation of its sunset clause. Gun enthusiasts are celebrating, but various pundits from the Left are screaming about "the return of machine guns to our streets." It's nonsense, of course; "assault weapons" as defined by the ban were semi-automatic long arms; that is, one pull of the trigger would fire one shot. They were characterized almost entirely by accessories and furniture: bayonet lugs, folding stocks, flash suppressors, and so forth. Fully automatic long arms were banned from private acquisition, with the exception of dealers specially licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, by the Volkmer-McClure Act of 1986.

So if "machine guns" of the sort leftists are exercised about remain illegal, just what is their concern?

Those of us who are sensitive to infringements on the right to keep and bear arms maintain that every gun control bill of any sort is just "one slice of the salami": that is, the goal is the elimination of all private firearms, and any particular gun control law is just a step in that direction. Indeed, some of the less cagey among the gun-control types have admitted that that's what they'd really like to see.

The controllers' overt argument is that "guns kill people." Yes, some ten thousand or so homicides are committed with firearms each year. But when one looks at specifics, it develops that:

  1. A healthy majority of those homicides are committed "in support" of some other illegal activity, for example armed robbery or a turf war between drug gangs;
  2. Many of the rest are suicides or killings committed in self-defense;
  3. The controllers often target gun types that are uninvolved in homicides to any significant extent. For example, "assault weapons" as defined by the ban have been responsible for a vanishingly small number of deaths over the years before 1994;
  4. The controllers give no consideration to the number of crimes prevented each year by the use of privately owned guns -- crimes which, if they were permitted to occur, would have occasioned an unknown, but probably substantial, number of homicides.

The insubstantial nature of the controllers' arguments reveals them to be merely a smokescreen for deeper causes -- "a reason they do not wish to tell." In some cases, it's an unarticulated fear of weapons (hoplophobia). This is a potentially curable condition. However, the other major reason for hostility toward private firearms ownership is less benign: statism.

The sole difference between monarchic statism and our modern, democratic-bureaucratic variety is in the rationale: we no longer speak of rulers possessing "divine right." Yet now that the Supreme Court has essentially nullified the Constitution with its notion of "compelling government interest," what our rulers may do to us in principle is no less extensive than the power of an absolute divine-right monarch. To move that infinite power from de jure theory to de facto practicality requires that the means of resistance be denied to the State's subjects.

As I've written before, the subjugation of a free people -- their conversion from citizens to subjects -- requires that the State assume unchallenged authority over three things: communications, education, and weaponry. The latter two are now firmly in the State's hands; only the first remains largely unfettered.

Every slightest rescission of the government's stranglehold over weaponry is resisted by the statists with the frenzy of a crusading evangelist. In every state that has recently enacted "shall issue" laws for private, concealed carriage of handguns, the gun controllers have mounted unrestrained attacks against both the suggestion and the motives of the suggesters. When they've lost, and the doomsday scenarios they've predicted have not come to pass, they haven't altered their stances, but only changed their tactics. This is a dead giveaway of a hidden motive.

The controllers will not rest until they've banished the private ownership of all means of resistance to the State's decrees. Only then can their social engineering efforts proceed in confidence.

To those rejoicing at the expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, I would say only this: Stay focused. Enjoy the victory, but don't be satisfied by it. There is more work to be done. The National Firearms Acts of 1934 and 1968, and the Volkmer-McClure act of 1986, must also be repealed, as must all state-level infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. Government in these United States would never have grown to its current size and arrogance had ordinary citizens retained the means to restrain it by threatening revolution. If we are to remain citizens, whose rights are no one else's to grant or deny, rather than being made willy-nilly into subjects whose "rights" are whatever our political masters fancy might dictate, we must become a people in arms once again.

UPDATE: Kevin Baker, whose The Smallest Minority website concentrates heavily on weapons-related matters, has noted the following corrections:

Full-auto long arms were not banned by the ‘86 McClure-Volkmer act. That act just prohibited the manufacture of any NEW full-auto weapons for purchase by average citizens. The result of this law was that gun manufacturers cranked out as many “pre-ban” licensed receivers as they could prior to the deadline, and essentially doubled the number of full-auto weapons in private hands in this country as of 1986. Of course, short of repealing that law, there will be no more, but currently there’s something like 200,000 machine guns in private hands throughout the country.

Second, the majority of firearm homicides are suicides, followed by criminal homicide. Accidental death is quite low. Legal intervention deaths are barely recorded in the statistics, (for instance, the CDC reports 323 legal intervention in 2001 vs. 802 accidental deaths.) I suspect that there are a number of legal intervention deaths that enter the statistics as criminal homicide, but I doubt the number exceeds 1,000 per annum.

Well, Kevin would know. (That's what happens when I write without my reference books near to hand.)


Kevin said...

I did? I have no recollection of doing so. But the information is accurate and thanks for the link!

A Reader said...

I think that 'Stay Focused' advice still applies. So many of our victories are bought dearly after years of court wrangling. Each one is like a defensive line which previously belonged to us and has just been retaken during a counter-attack. The lines were lost years, and sometimes generations, ago. We ought not think of these victories as the expansion of our rights, but the recovery of them. To think that we expand a right is to cede, subconsciously the granting of rights to government.

I learned something interesting recently while reading a book on the Texas Rangers. There is a provision in the Texas State Constitution of 1878 granting the State police powers over the wearing of arms. It annoys me to no end. (As an aside, Texas had two Constitutions in the years after the War. The first, the Constitution of 1868, was a reconstruction Constitution. The second is the one under which we still live.) I had always assumed that the Constitution of 1878 was written to disarm free blacks and disarmed whites as an unintended consequence, as did so many other carry laws across the Old South. However, Texas was in such turmoil during that period as a result of the Indian wars, the tension on the Border, and internal lawlessness, that apparently the majority (or at least the urban majority) thought it wise to dispense with the 'and bear' part of RKBA. This is a bitter pill to swallow for a Texan. We were not as brave or as free as we might like to think.