Wednesday, May 28, 2014

L.E.A.P. Of Faith

It's some sort of measure of the speed at which things happen in this era that the killing spree undertaken by Elliot Rodger just a few days ago already has an entry in Wikipedia. It's equally a gauge of the intellectual and psychological weakness of our era that so many people are crying out "Why wasn't he stopped before he could do such a thing?"

Mostly, they are not idiots. They just haven't thought through the implications...which your humble servant will now explicate for you.

A regime in which no man could hurt another would be one in which we are all strapped into foam cradles at birth and kept strictly apart from one another. Pabulum prepared by automata would be all we'd get to eat. Our entertainment would consist of children's picture books on soft paper. Personal interaction with others would be forbidden. Even telephonic contact and contact over the Internet would be heavily restricted. And we'd be as safe as a human under the veil of time can be...until we died of boredom.

This is the world our Safety Nazis often seem to be demanding. It recalls Jack Williamson's novelette "With Folded Hands," and not in a way I, for one, find attractive. But then, our Safety Nazis aren't really interested in eliminating all risk to life or limb. What they really want is power -- political power over the rest of us -- and the more stringent, the better. They will choose what risks we're to endure -- the risk of dying of heat stroke during a summer power outage or freezing to death during a frigid winter storm would be deemed preferable to the risk of "global warming" via carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, for example -- while quietly exempting themselves from any consequent restrictions. All in the name of the public good, of course.

Whenever you hear some gun-control advocate demanding greater restrictions on the Constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms, he's far less concerned with guns than with control: specifically, control of you. That applies to such persons as Gabby Giffords and Elliot Rodger's father with only a shade less force.

The debate of the moment is, of course, why Elliot Rodger wasn't prevented from going on his rampage. Surely there was sufficient evidence of his psychopathy and his intentions. He'd had two prior interactions with the police, had posted several clearly insane videos to YouTube, and had endured fifteen years of therapy. So why wasn't he stopped before he could kill?

As the World Wide Web's premier Asker of Inconvenient Questions, I shall now fulfill my function:

  • Who was to do so?
  • On what grounds?
  • And for how long?

Jerry Pournelle relates a relevant story in the anthology The Survival of Freedom. I don't have the book to hand, so this is from memory and might be inaccurate in some of its details.

A man committed indecent exposure on a street corner in California. He was arrested for it and brought before a judge. After some wrangling, he was sent to be psychiatrically examined. Two psychiatrists concluded that he was mentally ill and bound him over for temporary therapeutic commitment. So far, this would seem to be within the normal operations of American Twentieth-Century justice.

But some time later, after the prescribed therapy had run its course, two psychiatrists -- I don't remember if they were the original two -- concluded that the offender had not been "cured." Moreover, they expressed a firm opinion that no "cure" was possible. On their authority, the offender was committed to permanent involuntary confinement in a state mental hospital.

The offender had received, de facto, a life sentence for indecent exposure. Howzzat grab ya?

There's a happy ending. The offender eventually challenged this procedure in court and won -- I am not making this up -- the right to be punished for his offense as statutorily defined, which was far more consistent with California law and at that point clearly preferable to what had been decreed for him by those "caring, compassionate" psychiatrists. The "mental health community" was not pleased, of course; no one wants to see his occupation stripped of authority, no matter how unjust or specious. But justice was served.

Over the years since then it's become much harder for "caring, compassionate" types with State-issued licenses to practice voodoo psychiatry to lock a law-abiding American away against his will. Not impossible, mind you, but today all such proceedings begin with detention by the police and must pass muster before at least one judge and potentially several more.

In the usual case, such a proceeding is initiated by a request by members of the family. The potential for conflicts of interest there is considerable, but on net balance it's preferable to allowing State functionaries to violate habeas corpus on the strength of subjective and wholly arbitrary conclusions about one's "mental health."

According to several reports, Elliot Rodger's parents did entreat the police to do something about their insane son. Whatever the reasons, nothing followed. But up to the day of his rampage, Rodger had committed no crime for which he could be compelled to answer and perhaps be incarcerated. As he was legally an adult, the only possibility for restraining him was a proceeding of the sort described above, which the police would have had to initiate.

Elliot Rodger's YouTube videos were not unique. There are others as threatening there, and on other video-sharing sites. But only Rodger, so far, has acted out his predicted "vengeance." Should we, then, detain and commit all the others on the strength of that precedent? Or would it be better to swallow hard, to admit that a free society incurs certain risks merely in the nature of freedom, and cease to flagellate everyone even tangentially involved for not having prevented this atrocity?

The Safety Nazis want much more, of course: the complete elimination of the right to keep and bear arms. However, on the subject of the three victims Rodger killed with a knife and the one he ran over with his car, they're completely silent. No one wants to ban cars! They're too useful! It's only those nasty guns we have to get rid of! What purpose do they have in our civilized, well-policed society?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking up having all gun purchases within the Chicago city limits videotaped. Think you'd like that any better?

No one promised us a complete absence of risk.
Freedom is more valuable than that.
Even if it gets some of us killed.

Whether the State can loose and bind
    In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
    Before or after the birth--
These are matters of high concern
    Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
    Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
    Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
    Or cheaper to die by vote--
These are things we have dealt with once,
    (And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
    Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
    Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
    Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King--
    Or Holy People's Will--
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
    Order the guns and kill!


Once there was The People--Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People--it shall never be again!

[Rudyard Kipling, "Macdonough's Song"]

And for those of you who've wondered about the title of this piece, "L.E.A.P." stands for:

is A

How much faith would you have in law enforcement a priori -- that is, before the commission of a crime? Enough to endure the rule of Philip K. Dick's Department of Pre-Crime? Or perhaps a smidgen less?

Think it over.


Bitmap said...

Do not use the term "gun control". Instead, use the term "personal disarmament".

Anonymous said...

"No one wants to ban cars!"

Absolutely they do. I don't know what to call Google's self-driving vehicle, that doesn't even have a steering wheel, but it certainly isn't a "car". Anything I cannot cause to stop by the road to examine something I've seen, or simply to relieve myself, isn't a car — it's a tin can into which I commit myself for the duration of the trip.

There are quite a lot of people who seem infatuated with the idea of giving up yet another basic freedom.

CGHill said...

The Googlemobile apparently is designed for speeds of 25 mph or less, like the golf carts it vaguely resembled. So not only is your trip involuntary, it's longer than it needs to be.