"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
Isle of the Free
To paraphrase one infamous historical figure, 'political (or government) power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' The maxim is equally true when it comes to self-government ' it only exists where it can be backed up by force. I make a distinction between freedom of the self-governing kind and of the spiritual kind. A free spirit will elude domination by another human being, though his body may be held captive. A self-governing individual, on the other hand, is the final authority of his own labor, property, and body. That condition will exist only where that person has the will and means to repulse all other people who harbor ideas to the contrary.
In my comments of last week, I argued that a society aiming toward anarchy is both possible and unequivocally better than the big government-run kind. I believe the NY Times op-ed I received in an e-mail the next day was a response to it. Summarizing the op-ed by author Dea Birkett, the descendants of the British ship Bounty mutineers, living on the island of Pitcairn , had a less than ideal life. Several men on the island, including the mayor, had established a practice of sexually preying on the women and girls of the colony. Because there was no authority to which these criminals had to answer, they turned this evil practice into a tradition stretching into decades. The final paragraphs captures the author's analysis of the situation:
'At a distance, a small community like Pitcairn seems an Eden compared to the dangers of urban life. We feel such a self-reliant place will provide a blueprint for a rosier future. But as this week's verdicts reveal, isolated communities are neither happier nor healthier places to raise our children. Free from the moderating gaze of outsiders and the rule of impartial law, abuse can continue unchecked. There are no police officers or lawyers to turn to, no place to escape. Big amorphous cities, not small homogenous communities, are where we have the opportunity to flourish.
If anything, the lesson from Pitcairn Island is, for your children's sake, live in New York .'
Of course, the author drew exactly the wrong conclusion. The indictment of homogeneity and self-reliance are red herrings indicative of the author's bias. As far as keeping themselves safe was concerned, self-reliant was exactly what the female victims on the island were not. As for blaming homogeneity, I have absolutely no clue how she connects that with criminal behavior. Finally, police and lawyers are not the foundation of a safe community. Police, lawyers and other government authorities run the gamut from helpful (a state cop helped me push my broken-down car off the road once), to being bureaucratic functionaries, to preying on the people they are supposed to protect. This writer was so blinded by government worship, she couldn't even recognize the facts of her own reporting: the top cop on the island that the women depended on for safety ' the mayor ' was one of the criminals. A community will thrive in safety not because it has lots of police and lawyers running around, but rather because its majority of people have integrity and the means of defending themselves! If the women and girls of Pitcairn had been strapped with pistols loaded with 'man-stopping' rounds, trained themselves to proficiency with the weapons, and been mentally conditioned to use them, they would have stopped the perpetrators with IQs low enough to keep coming after them once and for all. In any case, the majority of the predators, I'm sure, would have left them alone, because the natural inclination of a predator is to pick a weak target, whether that creature is a mountain lion or a human reprobate.
The example of the Pitcairn sexual criminals is a variant of the 'people would be victimized by the ruthless and the powerful on your government-free island' argument. I'm afraid that isn't so ' the people would not be victimized if they were of the pistol-packing libertarian variety. So, the op-ed was a nice riposte from the 'libertarians are loony' camp, but I think I've scored first blood. Please do send me another article, however. I'd like to become the libertarian 'Dear Abby.'