Woe to he or she who kindles the fire of envy.

In his book Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, author Shelby Steele asserts that in the 1960s the political elite took it upon themselves to set aside values such as fair competition by merit, individual initiative, and equality of opportunity in an attempt to achieve racial parity. We traded these previous values for a “new post-1960s liberalism [that] screamed…[limited government] was not enough.” Steele notes that the politicians believed we “needed a proactive liberalism that could guarantee results, not simply refrain from discrimination.” Steele explicitly calls out policies like affirmative action and President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty as misguided culprits and inhibitors of progress among minorities. Elizabeth Warren’s plan is guilty of many of these same flaws.

The government vs. reality!

If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.” Exodus 22:6

“But what restitution can he make who casts abroad the fire-brands of error, or the coals of lasciviousness, and sets men’s souls on a blaze with the fire of hell? The guilt is beyond estimate, and the result is irretrievable. If such an offender be forgiven, what grief it will cause him in the retrospect, since he cannot undo the mischief which he has done! An ill example may kindle a flame which years of amended character cannot quench. To burn the food of man is bad enough, but how much worse to destroy the soul! The fire of strife is a terrible evil when it breaks out in a Christian church. Where converts were multiplied, and God was glorified, jealousy and envy do the devil’s work most effectually. Where the golden grain was being housed to reward the toil, the fire of enmity comes in and leaves little else but smoke and a heap of blackness. Woe unto those by whom offences come. May they never come through us, for although we cannot make restitution, we shall certainly be the chief sufferers if we are the chief offenders. Those who feed the fire deserve just censure, but he who first kindles it is most to blame. Discord usually takes first hold upon the thorns; it is nurtured among the hypocrites and base professors in the church, and away it goes among the righteous, blown by the winds of hell, and no one knows where it may end. O thou Lord and giver of peace, make us peacemakers, and never let us aid and abet the men of strife, or even unintentionally cause the least division among thy people.” Charles Spurgeon.

The Warren plan incorrectly uses the term “equity.” In reality, Warren is proposing a redistribution of wealth from one group to another. It’s a grant, or maybe even a subsidy, but not equity. According to private equity researcher Matthew Barch, equity isthe right to all residual cash flow of an entity after all other liabilities and debt have been satisfied; but it’s also the basic form of ownership. Equity equals ownership.” And debt, simply defined, is the “right to receive periodic payments of principal and interest, until the original amount borrowed is paid in full.” Whether it’s a venture capitalist or a private equity firm, successful investors provide capital in exchange for equity. Senator Warren has also proposed quelling private equity, which would further reduce the options available to entrepreneurs. Politics has been, for years now, the art of cultivating envy. The demi-ubiquitous rallying cry of envy is wealth inequality! I have written of this before and will not shut up about it. The wealthiest person in the world gave me a chance to be a multimillionaire in 1998. I owned 45 shares of Amazon in 1998, which I sold because I lacked the vision and accountability that Jeff Bezos had. Those shares would be worth millions today. Shall I console myself by stoking envy of his wealth?

Warren loves talking about accountability, but she means accountability to politicians and bureaucrats and fails to recognize the accountability built into private investments. The entrepreneur must be accountable to investors or lenders for the use of the borrowed/invested funds. Whether as debt or equity, investors will insist on investor rights or covenants that limit the “use of proceeds.” Founders of early-stage startups don’t get a payday when a venture capitalist injects $5 million into a business. Instead, the founder may essentially enjoy a bonus (and have back pay finally caught up), but the investor will insist the funds are used as growth capital.

The class of people Warren wants to tax to fund the program is often referred to as the investor class. They are experienced in making investments and allocating capital. The federal bureaucrats her plan would replace them with? Not so much. Investors are often close enough to the investee that they’re readily able to allocate capital based on the expected return on investment. Warren’s plan deprives entrepreneurs of this meaningful mentorship and oversight and instead places bureaucrats at the helm of capital allocation. To the extent that her plan can be called a plan, it’s a recipe for crony capitalism and abuse, teaching entrepreneurs that the path to dollars is merely a matter of satisfying bureaucrats, not actual customers. Regardless of whether Warren’s plan ever becomes law, an earnest hustle, a well-executed business plan, and flesh and blood relationships with investors, peers, and mentors would be a much more reliable path to long-term entrepreneurial success for Americans of every hue.

“Extreme risk protection orders”: Gateway to totalitarianism.

Mind reading on a vast scale: Pre-crime monitors

Individuals who find themselves involved in these proceedings often have no clear constitutional right to counsel, civil libertarians point out.” Foundation for Economic Education, by John Miltimore. What are these “extreme risk protection orders?” Congress is seriously considering red flag gun laws. These laws, also called “extreme risk protection orders,” allow courts to issue orders allowing law enforcement to seize firearms from people who’ve committed no crime but are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. Why do I say they are a gateway to totalitarianism?

  • Regulating firearms is not among the powers listed in the Constitution (though this has not always stopped lawmakers from regulating them). In fact, the document expressly forbids the federal government from doing so, stating in the Second Amendment that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Those who dismiss the second amendment are dismissing constitutional rule, the political foundation of our freedom.
  • Federalism: Unlike the federal government, whose powers, James Madison noted, are “few and defined,” states possess powers that “are numerous and indefinite.” Indeed, 17 states and the District of Columbia already have red flag laws, and many more states are in the process of adding them. This shows that the people and their representatives are fully capable of passing such laws if they choose. If red flag laws are deemed desirable, this is the appropriate place to pursue such laws, assuming they pass constitutional muster. But do they? Those who automatically call for the central government to regulate things that can be accomplished by the smallest jurisdictions don’t want safety, they want control.
  • The Constitution mandates that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Seizing the property of individuals who have been convicted of no crime violates this provision. Gun control advocates claim due process is not violated because people whose firearms are taken can appeal to courts to reclaim their property. However, as economist Raheem Williams has observed, “this backward process would imply that the Second Amendment is a privilege, not a right.” Depriving individuals of a clearly established, constitutionally-guaranteed right in the absence of criminal charges or trial is an affront to civil liberties. Which control freaks don’t believe in anyway.
  • In theory, red flag laws are supposed to target individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. In practice, they can work quite differently. Individuals who find themselves involved in these proceedings often have no clear constitutional right to counsel, civil libertarians point out.
  • Red flag laws are essentially a form of pre-crime, a theme explored in the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report, based on a 1956 Philip K. Dick novel. Surveillance states like China are well on their way. Neutered populations in nominally free countries like Canada and most of Western Europe have slid into exchanging their freedom for security. Are we next?
  • The idea that governments can prevent crimes before they occur may sound like sci-fi fantasy (which it is), but the threat such ideas pose to civil liberties is quite real. Compromising civil liberties and property rights to prevent acts of violence that have yet to occur are policies more suited for dystopian thrillers⁠—and police states⁠—than a free society. It’s clear that laws of this magnitude should not be passed as an emotional or political response to an event, even a tragic one.
  • I live in Washington state. If our state had a red flag law, the fact of my writing this blog and the fact that I own one pistol (with my state issued concealed carry permit) would be enough justification to enter my home without my permission and confiscate my gun, as well as search for other dangerous weapons (I have a stiletto I use as a letter opener).
  • If you “like” this blog post, keep in mind that a college student in Florida also lost his property rights under their red flag law as a result criticizing a blog post by the “young skull full of mush” (thanks Rush) named David Hogg, a very prominent gun control fanatic.

I have made my case. “Extreme risk protection orders” aka “red flag laws” are a gateway to totalitarianism! President Trump, shame on you for promoting them. Are you also a totalitarian?

Disability is helping me amend my judging on appearances.

The other day, as I was gingerly making my way from the car to Walmart, I noticed coming towards me four hispanic men in their 20’s, heavily tattooed, head-banded, face-piercings. Get the picture in your mind. A little nervous, I dropped my cane. Before I could bend over, one of the men hustled over and picked it up, handed it back to me. Another of the group got me a shopping cart. Another asked me if I needed help. I thanked them, we really looked at each other, I think at a level deeper than superficial appearances. I was ashamed of my initial thoughts. I wonder now who they really are, and what their choice of clothing and body decoration means to them.

I suffered a stroke over three years ago, and ever since have been experiencing acts of grace and mercy: at the post office, the store, the coffee shop, strangers hustle to offer a helping hand, rendering appearance irrelevant. Two years ago, I attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports clinic, which I also blogged about. All the participants were U.S. veterans, all were disabled in some way, but acts of grace were expected in that venue. In front of Walmart? Not so much.

Look at the photo above. Who would not be nervous if a group that looked like that were walking towards them? Regardless of your ethnicity, or theirs (I would be just as nervous about a bunch of white skinheads with Nazi tattoos and accessories), we hold certain expectations and judgments about appearance, and the nervousness factors tend to be: young males; visible, especially facial, tattoos and piercings; baggy pants, especially when underwear is exposed; bandannas and backward baseball caps; dirty or torn clothing (though “artful” tears seem to be a part of young female fashion).

Yes, I AM stereotyping appearance. Even Jesse Jackson once said he would be a lot more nervous encountering at night a group of shabbily dressed black males than a group of well dressed white males. Our style-appearance is something we each control, and our decisions usually say a lot about the culture we value and how we want others to relate to us. There was a funny dialogue between Jerry and George on Seinfeld. Jerry always tended to dress very well, whereas George sometimes was a slob. This day, he was wearing sweatpants. Jerry’s take was,”George, wearing sweatpants during the day is for losers. You look like a person who has given up caring about your appearance.” George said he just wanted to be comfortable, but I agree with Jerry. How you show up in public is a statement about you.

But there are stereotypes that acknowledge very frequent cultural manifestations. Let’s take an example. Match the clothing and/or accessories with the following individuals: 1. white stock broker; 2. Russian mobster; 3. black African- studies professor; 4. MS-13 gang member. a. polyester track suit with heavy gold jewelry; b. facial tattoos and multiple piercings; c. Brooks Brothers suit; d. dashiki and agbada.

Unless you deliberately answer wrong to avoid charges of racism, you will have no trouble matching the (stereotypical) clothing with the category of person. You might say, “there is no right answer.” Okay, there ARE definitely wrong answers. Matching 1 with a, b or d is definitely wrong. Matching 2 with d is wrong, unless the mobster is infiltrating an African gang. Matching 3 with a or b is probably wrong. Matching 4 with c or d is wrong. Always? No, just 98% of the time. Does appearance tell us the truth about the individual? Not necessarily, but more oftenm than pure chance. There may be many exceptions. The white stock broker might actually act like a Russian mobster after hours. The Russian mobster and the MS-13 gang member might be gentle souls who “joined” the group to avoid being beaten or killed. The African studies prof might be a Nobel laureate economist or a pastor of an African Anglican church. However, when you are walking alone late at night in Baltimore or Detroit, you are more likely to respond to appearance in stereotypical ways, regardless of your race. Which appearance letter, a-d, will you be least nervous about? You could say “that depends on my race or gender,” and I think that’s disingenuous.

Nevertheless, my main point is that kindness can inhabit unexpected appearances. In front of or inside the store, post office or coffee shop, give kindness a chance. Or, get a cane and pretend to be disabled.

An ethics professor explains his concealed weapon on campus.

Just don’t check your gun and fire your phone

Timothy Hsiao starts out “I am an ethics professor, and I carry a concealed handgun in the classroom. In the event of a mass shooting, I am the first line of defense between my students and an attacker. I refuse to let myself and my students be victims. Campus carry is simply an extension of our natural right of self-defense. Our right to life follows us wherever we go, so the right to defend our lives must also accompany us. Whether I am at home, in my car, at work, or in the classroom, I possess the absolute and unrelenting right to defend myself against unjust aggression. Because firearms enhance that right, there exists a strong presumption in favor of being allowed to own and carry a firearm as I go about my daily business.

As he advances his argument, it becomes clear how irrelevant virtually all the noise about “gun control”, “mass shooting” numbers, Trump’s rhetoric, the Second Amendment, 8Chan, “white supremacy” and yada yada yada is. The only issues worth discussing are YOUR right of self-defense, and whether carrying a gun increases or lessens your own anxiety. Murders, shootings, assault, etc. WILL happen, no matter what. Will you defend yourself and others, or will you be a victim?

He continues: “That presumption may sometimes be overcome (such as in courthouses, prisons, or airports), but only if the government assumes the special responsibility of protecting those citizens whom it disarms through the coercive power of the law. In other words, if the government is going to tell us we can’t carry guns in a specific area, thus impairing our ability to defend ourselves, it must assume a special responsibility to protect us. It must serve the function our guns would provide had we been allowed to carry them. If the government requires us to disarm ourselves before entering a specific area, it knowingly puts us in a position of increased vulnerability. It must therefore assume the special responsibility of making up for the gap it has created by increasing protective measures.”

How quickly and effectively can we be protected from an armed assailant when we are unarmed? How long will we have to wait, how many shots will be fired, before the police show up? “Police responses almost always come after someone has already committed a crime. According to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, only 47.3 percent of all personal crimes in 2008 were even reported to police. Of these crimes, only 28 percent of police responses came within five minutes of reporting, 30.3 percent within six to 10 minutes, and 33.5 percent within 11 minutes to one hour of reporting.

It is absurd to think one forfeits the right to defend his life simply by entering a classroom. The right of self-defense is essential to our very dignity as human beings. Although we may sometimes partially delegate this responsibility to others, we can never delegate it completely. Even in the most secure college campus, the police response to an active shooter is measured in minutes. But when seconds matter, it is up to students and faculty to defend their own lives. And they cannot do this without a reasonable and effective means of self-defense.

Many opponents of campus carry argue college-aged students are prone to excessive alcohol consumption and other reckless behavior that would make carrying more dangerous. While this may be true when considering college students in general, this does not take into account the fact that concealed carry permit holders tend to be more law-abiding than non-permit holders across all age groups. The common stereotype of college students as reckless party animals does not apply to the subset of students who are licensed to carry weapons.

Another objection is that civilians don’t have enough training to defend themselves and others while under pressure. This objection is simply false. First, one does not need to be an expert with firearms to use them successfully. As I’ve pointed out, studies consistently show that individuals do just fine when defending themselves with firearms, despite their relative lack of training compared to police officers. Even for the untrained, guns are still their best bet. Just as some defense is better than no defense, having a weapon is better than having no weapon at all.”

The final objection I wish to consider is that guns don’t belong in classrooms because they have a “chilling effect” on the free exchange of ideas. As a professor who lectures on controversial topics all the time, I regard this as pure nonsense. Self-protection is the guardian of free expression, not its enemy. A world in which we are the most free to express our ideas is one in which we are entitled to protect ourselves from persecution for holding the ideas we have. This isn’t to say we all must carry guns on us at all times, but that self-protection complements free speech.

While his arguments are logical, he left out the most important reason NOT to carry a gun around with you. Read this little meditation by Wyatt Edward Gates: “However, it is possible to escape fear and anxiety by understanding the fundamental impossibility of security. Fear evaporates when we realize there is no safety possible, and that striving for it only makes us suffer more. There is no safety or security. We are fundamentally impermanent. We will end. There is nothing to defend.” The best reason NOT TO carry a gun around: Striving for safety (from unpredictable events) can heighten your anxiety by reminding you of what you are anxious about. The best reason TO carry a gun: Believing you are safer can lessen anxiety, even if you really aren’t safer.

Am I “speaking out of both sides of my mouth?” Yes I am, because both principles–opposites of each other–are true. Given that the “probability” of being killed by a “mass shooter” is significantly less than the probability of dying in or from a vehicle, but no one is suggesting making access to vehicles more difficult, what are the real issues? Personal anxiety is the most obvious, and the subjective nature of anxiety makes both carrying a gun and not carrying a gun equally irrelevant for policy decisions. Policy decisions must be based on more enduring principles, if we want our freedom-loving culture to survive, and even thrive.

It is a universal normative truth that individuals are responsible for their own actions. Only a culture that rejects this truth—as the current academically-fueled culture does—could claim that access to weapons is the cause of people choosing to use weapons to kill other people. More than that, such a culture encourages people to think along its lines and to act willfully and violently but without responsibility; after all, responsibility is a cultural belief that is only “true” to the extent that one agrees with the culture. Do you believe in personal responsibility? If you’re a “policy maker” and you tout “solutions” which restrict access to the inanimate object that can be misused, rather than allowing responsible individuals–most of us–to discharge their duty of self-defense, you don’t believe in personal responsibility. Which countries produce politicians and policies who scream the loudest for GUN CONTROL? Those countries which operate the most pervasive welfare states, abdicating personal responsibility for an illusion of security. They’ve already lost the battle for freedom.