Sunday, April 15, 2012

Harmful Government 2/2

This model of governmental approach is important because it doesn’t attribute a value on the size of government or on rights themselves. Rights are not bestowed on the people by the government but are taken away as a means to secure a society. Rights based governments then are not good or bad, right or wrong, big or small, but functional to the needs of their societies and citizens.

The Second Amendment is a powder keg debate. Gun advocates have pushed for looser restrictions on gun ownership regulations for years. The push and pull is based largely on the argument that restrictions on ownership are infringements on the Second Amendment. But that’s patently false. Just like not all forms of speech can be protected, not all forms of gun ownership can be either. Waiting periods, background checks, and restrictions on type of gun are all limitations that have been put into place to reduce the potential harm that can be inflicted on the citizenry.

The Republicans’ Amendment has a much lower threshold for harm than the Democrats’ Amendment because arms are associated with direct action. In contrast, restrictions on the First Amendment have a high threshold for restriction because there is a bright bold border that separates words from action. And many criminals take advantage of the second amendment to commit grave infractions against other members of society.

The debate then is about how to manage the criminal miscreants against the rights of the law abiding citizenry. To properly hammer out the debate, arguments over the size or scope of the regulations are merely a factor in assuring Americans’ rights and safety.

These Amendments illustrate some key issues. One, that a right, however inalienable, is not absolute in scope. Two, that American government is a conglomeration of diverse perspectives and is not malevolent or benevolent but rather the product of consenting adults trying to create a civil society where everyone feels safe and reasonably unrestricted.

Conversely, citizens also have a responsibility to maintain civil order. When there are infractions or disruption it is only reasonable to try to minimize future risk through legislation. The difficulty comes in assessing risk at a less direct level. A classic example is the tragedy of the commons where the removal of part of a resource does not cause a direct harm to anyone but compounded use results in the complete depletion of the resource. In this case restrictions on resource usage can seem unduly severe to a single user. In a larger context though, it clearly makes sense to have an authority restrict the over-allocation of resources.

Clearly, the debate over government size bypasses the substance of the argument in these instances. The implicit allocation of good or bad as directly correlated to the size of a government is a fiction that will never lead to lasting satisfaction with government. It is akin to drinking diet soda as a weight loss tool while adding calories in other areas.