Libertarians vs Conservatives on Guns
by Mark R. Crovelli
by Mark R. Crovelli: Is
It Exceptionally Smart or Insanely Stupid To Invest in Real Estate
highlight the gaping philosophical divide between libertarians and
modern conservatives more starkly than the issue of guns. This might
seem counterintuitive, because libertarians and modern conservatives
often stand shoulder to shoulder against liberals and progressives
to defend individual gun rights. The convenient alliance between
modern conservatives and libertarians in the political trenches,
however, conceals a fundamental and serious philosophical disagreement.
In order to
fully grasp the division between libertarians and modern conservatives
on this issue, it is important to understand why libertarians and
conservatives think gun rights are so important. At the most general
level, both libertarians and modern conservatives agree that all
men have a natural right to defend themselves against aggression.
More specifically, every man has a natural right to repel with violent
force any unjust aggression against his life or his property.
Libertarians and modern conservatives do not defend individual gun
rights out of some bizarre and loony obsession with a 200-year-old
piece of parchment called "The Constitution." On the contrary,
they hold that the Constitution of the United States merely articulated
something about man’s nature that has always been and always will
implication of this, both libertarians and modern conservatives
agree, is that individuals have a natural right not just to defend
their lives and their property against aggression from individual
murderers and thieves, but that they have a natural right to defend
themselves from unjust aggression by government. Hollow indeed would
be the right to self-defense if it did not include the right to
defend oneself against aggression by government – including one’s
own government, because governments
have killed and robbed exponentially more people than have private
criminals. Recognizing this fact, libertarians and modern conservatives
agree that the natural right to self-defense must include a right
to defend oneself against unjust government aggression, and that
doing so usually requires more than simply a stick or a slingshot.
A population armed with modern guns is not easily cowed, robbed,
or massacred unless governments resort to wildly
immoral and indiscriminate tactics or weapons of mass destruction.
So far so good.
Libertarians and modern conservatives agree that the right to keep
and bear arms stems from the natural right to defend oneself against
aggression, including unjust aggression by governments. From here
on out, however, libertarians and modern conservatives scarcely
agree at all, and the conservative position on guns becomes more
and more self-contradictory and absurd.
hold that armed individuals are indeed capable of effectively resisting
and defending themselves from aggression by their own government.
If this were not so, then there would be no point whatsoever in
defending the right to bear arms so vehemently. If individual gun
ownership does not offer a real and substantial defense against
our own government, and guns are merely symbolic or for hunting
or self-defense against burglars, then why the big fuss over laying
down our M-14’s and AR-15’s? Why not, as the Vice President suggests,
keep only double-barreled shotguns for hunting and defense? Why
would we care about losing the ability to own an AR-15 any more
than we care about losing
the ability to buy incandescent light bulbs? The government
is constantly restricting our ability to buy and sell all types
of things, so what makes guns so sacred if they can’t even effectively
be used to defend ourselves against our own government?
answer is that well-armed populations can indeed effectively
defend themselves against their own governments, and this is precisely
why we value the right to own powerful firearms so dearly. Gun ownership
is not merely a symbol, but a real and effective means
for people to protect their lives and property from private criminals
and from tyrannous government. The libertarian understands that
the nature of asymmetrical
warfare today is such that even very small bands of determined
and principled people can fight a purely defensive war against a
vastly more powerful foe and come out victorious. In fact, in a
guerrilla fight, the odds are in favor of the
smaller group of determined and principled fighters, as the
U.S. and Soviet militaries discovered in Afghanistan.
consistent libertarian position with the absurd position of the
modern conservative. The modern conservative holds two contradictory
ideas about guns simultaneously. On the one hand, he is likely to
agree with the libertarian that individual gun ownership is not
merely symbolic, but rather a real and effective means for the American
people to protect themselves against aggression by their own government.
At the same time, however, he is bound to say that a strong military
is needed to protect the American people against foreign threats.
In other words, the modern conservative implicitly believes that
our guns are insufficient to protect us against the Chinese or the
Irish or whomever.
of these two positions should be patently obvious, because if the
American people are capable of effectively defending themselves
against aggression by their own government – the most powerful
and heavily armed government in the history of the world – then
the American people obviously don’t need help from a military to
defend them against aggression from relatively dinky powers abroad!
The modern conservative would have us believe that We The People
are capable of repelling the aggressions of the most powerful government
in the history of the world, but that we somehow miraculously lose
this capacity if the soldiers or politicians we are confronting
have a different uniform or speak a different language.
While the modern
conservative is bizarrely capable of simultaneously entertaining
these two contradictory positions in his head, it should be obvious
that only one of them can possibly be true. If the American people
are not capable of effectively defending themselves from their own
government with their guns, then gun ownership is merely symbolic
and surrendering our AR-15’s to Barry Obama is completely meaningless.
If, on the other hand, the American people are indeed capable of
defending themselves against their own insanely powerful government,
when they finally
choose to do so as the libertarian asserts, then the extravagant
and wasteful military that they finance is totally superfluous and
unnecessary, because no foreign government can possibly pose even
a fraction of the threat to the American people that the powerful
American government and military do.
conservative has gotten himself into this quandary because he has
allowed himself to become irrationally terrified by nonexistent
foreign bogeymen that are no real threat to him (as if the Chinese
or the Iranians could ever be a threat to Coloradoans!), while ignoring
the massive danger to life and property that his own government
poses. He has ignored the history of the 20th century,
century in which people were slaughtered by the tens of millions
by their own governments, and has allowed irrational fear of
Koreans, Afghan shepherds, communists, Vietnamese, Chinese and Iranians
to overwhelm his rational thinking. His fear has blinded him to
the phenomenal hatred
that his own government has engendered around the world by meddling
with, terrorizing, and killing people everywhere. He has forgotten
of a standing army that the Founders warned us about, and he
has lost confidence in his own ability to defend himself.
when the government finally comes for the modern conservative’s
guns, he will no doubt puff out his chest and scream out that he’d
rather die than surrender them. However, the modern conservative’s
irrational fear of foreigners and his idolatrous love affair with
the American military will prevent him from putting up much of a
fight. After all, the military and the chickenhawk politicians that
lead it around are what the modern conservative believes keep him
safe and "free." His delusional belief in the invincibility
of the American military will paralyze him with fear of ever defying
it. In the end, he will surrender his arms, and he will learn to
call it "freedom" in due time.
At that point,
the fight will be left to the true lovers of liberty, the libertarians,
who understand the fragility and absurdity of the fascist American
economy, the unsustainability of the American military empire, and
the perfect beauty and justness of individual liberty.
Crovelli [send him mail]
writes from Denver, Colorado.
© 2013 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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