I Was Wrong

Those of you that have followed this website for a while will know that I have been off the radar for quite some time. So before going into what I was wrong about, an explanation seems to be in place.

A lot has happened over the past two years or so: I moved from Europe to South America (where I ended up both penniless and jobless before climbing my way out of that rut), I developed an intimate, personal relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ, I met the love of my life and married her 11 months later, and we ended up moving back to the place I thought I had left for good. In the midst of all this writing articles has, shall we say, not been my priority.

In my first article since a long time, however, I want to do something unusual and rebuke my own article. Specifically this relates to a position I took publicly on this very site about four years ago, and it was something I firmly believed in. But hey, sometimes one comes to new insights and, as they say, if you never changed your mind, you never learned a thing! So here we go.

stockvault-white-house139532In this article in the run-up to the U.S. presidential elections of 2012, I made the emphatic case (or so I thought) that Gary Johnson should be the next president of the United States. I was wrong.

The reason I now feel slightly embarrassed for having written that piece, is not because of Johnson’s infamous “Aleppo moment”, or the other gaffe about which foreign leader he looks up to. Far be it from me to let those incidents, or even his running mate Bill Weld sticking up for Hillary Clinton, surprise or disappoint me anymore! (Although admittedly that last one was particularly appalling). The problem with not just this libertarian ticket but the general idea of “voting yourself free” goes much deeper than that.

As unimaginative as I find my viewpoint looking back on it four years later, the subject of my writing was and is even more unimaginative – and indeed utterly uninspiring and downright boring. Now I realize the odds of my ranting ever reaching his desk or that of anyone close to him are infinitesimal, but I feel compelled to take this stance nonetheless. Not only because my argumentation had as many holes as Swiss cheese, but also because I am frankly disgusted with the “libertarian” standpoints the Libertarian Party takes and the terrible job it does of representing the best ideas mankind has ever known. While I am not personally involved with the U.S. Libertarian Party in any way, shape, or form, as a freedom advocate I am disgusted with the way the principles and values I hold near and dear to my heart with are being bent and twisted everywhere Gary Johnson shows his face.

For starters, what kind of a signal does the slogan “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”, send? That is like saying, “Well, you know, both the Republicans and the Democrats have some really great ideas, and if you don’t know which to choose, you can always vote Libertarian!”. People like Johnson can certainly debate how and to what extent the government should rob people of the fruits of their labor through taxation, but let’s not get extreme and entertain the thought that stealing people’s belongings is the definition of theft and therefore immoral in the first place!

In my 2012 article I also write that the Libertarian candidate “wants to audit and reform the Federal Reserve”. Yawn. Why not take (economic) freedom right to its logical and rightful conclusion and take a stance against legal tender laws and central banks’ monopoly on the issuance of money? Why can’t the two parties in a transaction decide for themselves what monetary instrument they want to use to compensate one another?

I then state that Johnson “wants to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana” before claiming that he “believes in civil liberties”. Yet one who truly believes in civil liberties would not dare argue in favor of the government’s authority to tell us when, how, and where to consume a plant – let alone try to make a buck off of our voluntary choices while at the same time attempting to manipulate those choices by way of taxation.

In response to the above, some will tell me I am just a hopeless ideologue and that my utopian vision of a libertarian paradise is just as unlikely to come about by not voting than by voting. However my advocacy is only partially concerned with voting, whereas sticking to the libertarian principles of non-aggression and self-ownership is absolutely non-negotiable, period. By now it has become more than obvious that Gary Johnson is not a good example of a principled libertarian, and as such I take offense at his claiming to be so. In that respect the above only scratches the surface, but then again he is just another politician that we should not waste much time or effort thinking or talking about.

The State of Firearm Freedom in Brazil

Walking down the street here in Brazil it quickly becomes apparent political campaigns are in full swing. Signs displaying the slick smiles and hollow rhetoric of (would-be) politicians abound, and the same rhetoric emanates from megaphones on small vans driving around town. But besides the more high-profile presidential elections there will also be state elections injecting more specific issues into the public debate.

Recently one such sign immediately caught my eye. With an image of a firearm and the text “contra o desarmamento” (against disarmament) it was impossible to miss. A firm believer in the right to self-defense, I felt compelled to find out more about a gun debate I was unaware even existed here. Having found out that gun laws are very much like the ones in my native country of the Netherlands I figured the issue would not even be on the table. Fortunately I was wrong.

StateofGunRightsIn 2003 the Brazilian government passed a law dramatically restricting gun sales while all but outlawing their carrying by civilians. Termed the Disarmament Statute it forces potential legal gun owners to go through a litany of paperwork, checks, and tests just to own a firearm and keep it at home. A carry permit can still be denied if it authorities determine “genuine reason” was not provided. Yet in terms of bringing down crime rates the Statute has been a dismal failure; a decade after its adoption Brazil has 50 percent more gun deaths than the United States despite having110 million fewer citizens.

Undeterred, Brasilia put forth another initiative to further clamp down on gun ownership in 2005. Luckily this time lawmakers at least had the decency to call a referendum – the first of its kind in the world. The proposed law was meant to entirely ban the sale of firearms and ammunition to anyone except security firms, sports clubs, and the government. Much to the surprise and chagrin of its proponents, however, it was met with a resounding no. Based on early polls ostensibly indicating overwhelming support for the ban they were expecting a win, but equal time on television in the final weeks prior to the referendum resulted in more than 60 percent of voters opposing it.

Now it seems the debate has come full circle and gun rights advocates have the upper hand. It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the campaigns and subsequent elections early October. If fought well this battle might go a long way toward winning the victim disarmament war. Then again, leave it to politicians to talk a good game about something on the campaign trail and then suffer from acute memory loss after taking office. Perhaps a grassroots campaign focused on educating people about natural rights would help keep their feet to the fire.

Given the corrupt reputation and consequent distrust of the police it goes without saying that Brazilians don’t feel protected by uniformed gunmen. Rather than further the case for gun control, the 2005 referendum might well have backfired. Anti self-defense groups were forced to begrudgingly admit that the other side had successfully linked owning a firearm with freedom, using images of Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall. Furthermore, current restrictions are (predictably) leading to much different outcomes than predicted. Residents of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro can attest to that.