There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. – Ayn Rand
Whenever something gets to be seen as a “problem”, you hear clamors for prohibition. People drink themselves to death, we need alcohol prohibition. People ruin their lives with drugs, we need drug prohibition. People spout hate speech, we need censorship. People shoot each other, we need gun prohibition, or at least gun control.
That’s because prohibition always works, you know, like government always works! See for yourself:
In 1919, the U.S. government decided that alcoholism was such a grave problem that they passed – not just a law but a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit the production, transportation, importation, sale and not least consumption of alcohol in the United States. This prohibition became such an enormous success that you couldn’t find alcoholic beverages anywhere within the U.S. of A. Ask any citizen, for example in Chicago, and they’d tell you there was nowhere to find so much as a can of beer.
Evidently, government control of alcohol was a giant success but for some reason the same government decided to abolish the prohibition in 1933. This so annoyed a large number of organized criminals that they went out of business, contributing to the unemployment problems of the 1930s and putting a serious dent in the violent crime statistics.
During the 1960s, habitual use of mind-altering drugs became fashionable among hippies and quickly spread to other groups. Such drugs had been illegal for some time but the prohibition had not been enforced. The governments of the world quickly realized that life without an enforced prohibition was life not worth living, and besides we couldn’t just let them damn hippies smoke pot, now could we? This was the start of the highly successful “War on Drugs” that revitalized the Organized Crime trade and made it impossible to obtain any kind of narcotics, anywhere in any country that took care to enforce the prohibition. I mean, just ask any teenager today if they know where to buy marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, LSD, or anything else illegal! They will probably look at you cross-eyed! This of course to signify that they don’t know, that stuff is ILLEGAL dude!
To take another example, up until the late 1960s, pornography was illegal in Denmark. Rest assured that, as a result, such filth didn’t exist in Denmark. At all. Just like people in those countries where pornography is still prohibited would never dream of surfing X-rated websites. Yup!
Another problem plaguing the world today is that of racism, bigotry, and intolerance. This, of course, is caused by hate speech. If people would stop saying ugly things about each other, they will also stop thinking those things. Political Correctness would have ended all kinds of hate speech decades ago if it were only enforced by governments, but sadly it isn’t. It would be just as great a success as the War on Pornography was or is. Or the War on Drugs. (Just ask anywhere in Europe where to find a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf! You won’t find a single copy, anywhere! Especially not in those countries where it is prohibited by law.)
The really great thing about censorship is that the government gets to decide what you can and cannot say, ensuring that the decision will be wise, unbiased, and will not be designed to protect those currently in power from criticism.
Guns. They kill people. People don’t kill people, only guns do. That is why we have strict gun control laws in Europe, so criminals don’t get their hands on dangerous firearms. It is such a great success that you never hear reports of armed criminals over here. Make guns illegal, and they vanish into thin air. Betcha! (I can prove this! I can point to no more than ten or twenty shooting episodes between rivaling gangs in the Greater Copenhagen area this year, and we’re nearly in April!)
In Mexico, I am sad to say, gun control is only a partial success. Citizens don’t have guns. Police officers have small sidearms. Army soldiers have rifles. Drug gangs (which don’t smuggle drugs, because drugs are illegal and therefore don’t exist) have pistols, rifles, shotguns, assault weapons, machine guns, mortars, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and whatever else they can lay their hands on. That is why I called it a partial success, because the honest part of Mexico’s population has no guns. Only the criminals do.
Yep, if anything offends you, the easiest solution is to get government to prohibit it. That will make it go away, immediately, and it will never offend your eyes again.
And if you believe this, I have a bridge for sale. Real cheap!
So I have been told repeatedly by someone who believes that competition is destructive and should be prohibited by law. Competition makes businesses fight one another for clients, forcing the less able out of business and causing stress to businesses and their employees alike.
And I have to agree! Competition can be a real pain in the ass! Take automobiles, for example:
If it hadn’t been for his destructive competitors, Henry Ford Sr. wouldn’t have had to rebuild his assembly line (in fact he wouldn’t have needed to build the assembly line that allowed him to rationalize and pay his workers better than any other industrialist of his time). He, and his successors, could have continued building Ford Ts until this day. They wouldn’t have had to worry about research and development, if nobody had tried to drive them out of business by giving the public better cars. We would all have been driving Ford Ts, and liking it! (If we could afford them!) OK, they weren’t as fast, or as economical, as modern cars, and they were also somewhat less comfortable and less safe. But at least the workers at the Ford factories wouldn’t have had to worry about Chrysler coming up with a new, smart model and forcing Ford to “restructure” and lay off workers.
(Of course Chrysler wouldn’t be hiring workers either…)
The Soviets understood this and granted a state monopoly to the Lada factories, ensuring that everybody in the USSR could have a Lada, if they had the patience to wait their turn for 10 or 12 years. Or had friends in the Party. And the Lada was a great car, really. Especially if the only alternatives – the competition – were East German Wartburgs or Yugoslavian Yugos.
Best of all, with the state owning the monopoly they also proved that, without the state nobody would own cars at all!
Destructive competition like this permeates everything. For example computers. In 1985, Intel Corporation produced the first 80386 processors, enabling the creation of Personal Computers that were more powerful than IBM’s middleware computers, the so-called minicomputers. IBM Corporation wisely decided not to produce PCs with the i386 processor, staying with the old and trustworthy i286 to protect their lucrative minicomputer market. Which would have worked like a charm if an upstart company called Compaq hadn’t taken the opportunity to get the jump on “Big Blue” by being the first to produce the new and powerful 386 PCs. IBM, who had until then been the undisputed leader on the computer market, suffered a devastating blow to their prestige.
Without Compaq’s destructive behavior, IBM wouldn’t have had to lay off hundreds of thousands of employees over the next ten years, forcing those employees to look for jobs with more forward-looking companies.
(Of course they wouldn’t have had to compete on giving the consumers newer and better computers, either. But the i286 was a fine processor, really. Who needs megabytes or even gigabytes of memory, terabytes of disk space, internet connections, graphical operating systems, and all that stuff anyway?)
On the software side, two young upstarts named Bill Gates and Paul Allen introduced a graphical operating system called Windows, which quickly drove most of the text-based user interfaces out of the market – forcing PC owners to learn to use the new graphical user interfaces.
Telephones are another example of the evils of competition:
Up until the 1990s, the telephone companies in Denmark held a state-guaranteed monopoly on telecommunication services, with a number of regional companies being granted a monopoly in their separate regions. Then the European Union stepped in and ruined everything by liberalizing the market. Which of course was a disaster for the existing companies.
It had happened regularly that phone customers in Denmark received huge bills for making calls to expensive phone numbers, for example phone sex lines. If the clients denied having made such calls, they were nonetheless forced to pay their bills, or their phone lines would be closed. Courts routinely ruled in favor of the telephone companies, since they could prove that the calls had been made on the lines, while the clients couldn’t prove that the calls hadn’t been made from the phones in their home, but rather from switch-boxes in the street.
With competition, the phone companies could no longer blackmail their clients and set their own prices for their “services”. They even had to offer push-button telephones some 20 or 30 years after these had been invented. (What’s wrong with dials? Just askin’!) And only a few years later came the cellular revolution, enabling clients to bring their phones everywhere.
It’s all competition’s fault! Without it, we wouldn’t constantly have to adapt to new technologies. Businesses could continue to produce the same old stuff year after year after year. Society would be at a safe, comfortable, stable standstill.
But of course, the most stable of all conditions is “death”! Which is what awaits a society without competition.
Throughout the last 11 years, I have constantly heard politicians telling me about the necessity to send Danish troops to fight terrorists and evil dictatorial regimes, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. The troops were to kill some people in order to set other people free. The theory was that, once we had removed the evil oppressors, the survivors would hail us as liberators, elect enlightened democratic governments like the ones we have in the west, and be happy ever after.
And they would never develop weapons of mass destruction like the ones Saddam Hussein was KNOWN to have – honest! He had hidden them so well that the UN inspectors couldn’t find them, but it was dead certain that he had tons of nukes and nerve gas hidden away in the Iraqi desert. (In fact they were hidden so well that the allied forces haven’t found them after nine years’ search in Iraq!)
Furthermore, we would soon kill off that wicked man Osama bin Laden, thus bringing an immediate end to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Which we did – after ten years of warfare in Afghanistan the American Navy Seals managed to kill Osama. Of course there was the embarrassing detail that he was killed, not in Afghanistan, but in neighboring Pakistan, which is one of our gallant allies in the war on terrorism and which we therefore (and because they have weapons of mass destruction; nuclear ones to be precise) don’t
dare wish to invade.
But on to my main point: Since the politicians believe it is absolutely essential that we, for our national safety and in order to set the locals free (or kill them), invade nations halfway around the globe, I am prepared to make the following offer to any politicians who voted in favor of the Danish participation in the wars
against in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since I do not have unlimited means, the offer is limited to the first five politicians who accept:
- A one-way ticket to whichever country the politician feels is in need of being liberated from evil oppressors.
- A return ticket on any date one year or later after the politician’s departure. I think a one-year stay should be minimum, given the importance of the issue.
- Should the politician be killed in the line of duty, payment for the return of his or her earthly remains to Denmark at any time.
- Personal equipment corresponding to that given to Danish soldiers serving in Afghanistan at this time.
That is my offer to those politicians who believe that others should put their lives on the line – while the politicians stay at home in safety! Here is a chance to practice what they preach.
Given that “we have to” liberate the suppressed and unhappy people from their evil oppressors (and, in hundreds of thousands of cases, liberate them of their lives), one would certainly expect politicians to line up outside my door.
Anybody want to bet there will be no takers?
On the night between December 2nd and 3rd, Danish poker star Theo Jørgensen returned home from a casino after winning several thousand dollars. He then went to bed.
Unfortunately for him, rumors of his winnings had already spread to Danish criminal circles. On the same night, three robbers shot their way through his front door, dragged him out of bed, and robbed him at gunpoint. When he told them that he couldn’t open a wall safe in his apartment – it had been there since before he moved in and he didn’t have the key or know the combination – one of the robbers shot him three times in the leg before making off.
So far, so bad…
But this sad story has gotten me thinking…
What if Theo Jørgensen had pulled out a gun and shot his assailants? Or what if a neighbor had heard the commotion, drawn his gun and entered the apartment to save his neighbor?
Chances are that Mr. Jørgensen, or his neighbor, would have been charged with illegal firearms possession, murder or attempted murder, vigilantism, and God only knows what else! Such is the wisdom of what we not very aptly call the “justice system”.
Common “wisdom” is that if you are subjected to a home robbery, you should cooperate with the robbers, give them what they ask for, and then they will leave without hurting you.
Which is about as true as the old, pre-9/11/01, advice if your plane was hijacked: Cooperate with the hijackers, don’t talk back to them, don’t try to fight them.
As Mr. Jørgensens case shows, robbers may just shoot you if they suspect you aren’t giving them what they demand. In at least one earlier case in Denmark, a gang of home robbers beat an elderly man to death. His wife had to pretend she was dead or unconscious, or she would also have been killed.
If you are shot in the leg at short range, chances are you’ll never walk normally again. That is if you’re lucky. You may also bleed to death. Or “just” lose a leg.
Theo Jørgensen was lucky. He is expected to recover fully.
But he was also unlucky to live in a country where self-defense against armed hoodlums is a worse crime than being an armed hoodlum!
(And yes, I know – if three armed men broke into my home and I decided to fight them, I might get shot myself. But if they are going to shoot me anyway, I might as well get it over with, and hope to take one or two of the bastards with me!)
Most people know that Germany during World War 2 built a battleship called Bismarck, and have heard about her short career and dramatic end.
Fewer people know that the Bismarck had a sister-ship called Tirpitz. But it can be argued that the Tirpitz had greater influence on the war than Bismarck.
The Bismarck departed Gotenhafen, Germany on May 19, 1941. On May 24 occurred the Battle of Denmark Strait in which the British battleship Hood was sunk and the battleship Prince of Wales was damaged and forced to flee. And on May 27 she was sunk in the Atlantic – less than two weeks after departing the homeland. (Actually, recent research indicates that she was scuttled by her own crew to prevent the British from capturing her.)
A short but glorious career!
Tirpitz, on the other hand, served almost four years in the German Kriegsmarine. Like her sister ship, she was completed in early 1941 and trained in the Baltic Sea. During this time, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Tirpitz became part of the Baltic Fleet designed to prevent the Soviet fleet from breaking out from Leningrad. In January of 1942 she departed for Norway in order to help disrupt the British/American convoys to Murmansk. She remained in Northern Norway for the rest of her active service career.
A sister ship of the Bismarck was of course a major thorn in the eyes of the English navy. The loss of the Hood wasn’t easily forgotten, and after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the English and later Americans tried to help their eastern ally by shipping supplies to them – which could only happen by sailing supplies north of Norway to the northern Russian city of Murmansk. The mere presence of the Tirpitz constituted a serious threat to these convoys and the Western Allies tried repeatedly to sink her, either bombing her from the air or sailing into the Narvik Fjord in miniature submarines and attaching mines to her. The attacks repeatedly damaged the ship but failed to sink her until, finally, in November 1944 the Royal Air Force managed to destroy her. Between 950 and 1200 (the numbers are uncertain) men lost their lives when she capsized.
But in the meantime, her mere presence in Norway had seriously disrupted the Murmansk convoys. The worst example (from an Allied point of view) came in July 1942 when the Tirpitz was launched to attack the PQ17 convoy. Several other German ships struck uncharted rocks and had to return for repairs, and in the end none of the German surface ships reached the convoy. But the threat of having to fight the Tirpitz had made the Allies order their escort ships to leave the convoy, leaving the 34 merchant ships at the mercy of German submarines. Only 11 of these 34 ships reached Murmansk. Tirpitz’ presence as a “fleet in being” had destroyed almost an entire convoy of much-needed supplies to the Soviet forces.
Ironically, the Tirpitz never fired her main cannons at another ship. The only time they were fired “in anger” (i.e., in combat) was against Allied positions on Spitzbergen in September 1943.
Today is Armistice Day, the day we celebrate the end of World War 1. Which set me thinking…
I was born in 1964, fifty years after the outbreak of World War 1; or as it was then known, The Great War. Later it would become The War to End All Wars until it was discovered that it hadn’t been. Only after the Second World War was the first to be known as the First World War.
To me and my generation, World War 1 was ancient history. We learned about World War 2 in school, and it was understood that Nazism could only happen in a country where people were inherently authoritarian minded and didn’t question the authorities (as in, Germany; as NOT in, Denmark. We liked hearing that). After all, World War 2 was still reasonably fresh in people’s minds, Denmark had been involved (and occupied), and many of us had parents or grandparents who remembered the five evil years. Those who remembered World War 1 were already a dying race. Well, maybe we can’t complain if young people today think World War 2 is ancient history…
We didn’t learn much about World War 1. About the cause, we learned that it had started because Archduke Ferdinand had been murdered in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia for this reason only, Germany had joined them because they were allied with Austria-Hungary, and Russia, France, and England had declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary because they were allied with Serbia. We learned little of what lead up to this catastrophe that lasted four years, devastated Europe, cost at least ten million people their lives, and eventually led to the creation of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
A pity, because there are plenty of lessons to be learned from both world wars, if we wish to learn them.
The killing of a single Archduke, even if his wife is killed along with him, doesn’t start a major international crises, such as a world war. Europe in 1914 was a powder keg waiting to explode, and the political leaders of all countries were playing with matches all around it. A small spark was all it took, and the killing of Ferdinand and Sophie proved the perfect excuse to jump at each other’s throats.
The ensuing slaughter would have taught a saner continent than Europe that when industrialized nations go to war, the result is a disaster. Four years later, Austria-Hungary was in shatters, Russia was in the power of the Bolsheviks, and Germany was forced to surrender on humiliating terms. The war had spread to Africa and Asia and soldiers from North America and Oceania had died in the trenches of Belgium and France. The map of Europe had been redrawn; Finland and Poland gained their independence while a number of nations who traditionally hate each other’s guts were “united” into Yugoslavia. As an aside, Denmark, which had remained neutral, regained a part of the land we had lost to Prussia after the war of 1864.
The scene had been set for the next disaster!
The soldiers who lie buried here, at Assistens Churchyard in Copenhagen, didn’t die in the war. This site is reserved for French and Belgium soldiers who were captured and taken to PoW camps in Germany. After the war, they came to Denmark to be fattened and treated before returning to their own countries. In a cruel twist of fate, they – who had survived the hell of the trenches and the prisoner camps – died of the Spanish Flu while waiting to be sent back home.
austria-hungary, barrel-maker, cats, cause and effect, england, france, germany, harry browne, interventionism, japan, mice, non-intervention, proverb, rats, russia, shamisen, wind, woodrow wilson, world war 1
The Japanese say that, “When the wind blows the barrel-maker gets rich”.
What they mean is that a seemingly innocent cause can have far-reaching and apparently unrelated effects.
The traditional occupation for blind people in Japan was to tell stories and play the shamisen, a traditional Japanese instrument. A shamisen is a stringed instrument and the skin is made of cat skin (or sometimes dog skin but this is rarer). So to make shamisens for all the blind people, you would kill a lot of cats.
With fewer cats, the rats and mice thrive, and people will want barrels in which to keep their produce safe. And so the barrel-maker becomes rich.
A case in point, as told by the late Libertarian Harry Browne: In early 1917, World War I had raged for almost three years in Europe. Millions had died at the front lines, more millions had died or suffered behind the front. And the governments of the warring nations were coming to the realization that even if they could win (technically, on the battlefields), the price of victory would be prohibitively high. Germany and Austria-Hungary had sent out feelers for a negotiated peace on the Western front, and neither England nor France were adverse to this.
A few months earlier, Woodrow Wilson had been inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States of America, on (among other things) promises to keep the USA out of the war in Europe. He broke that promise by entering the European war in April 1917, strengthening the French and English resolve. They rejected the German and Austrian-Hungarian peace proposals, instead demanding an unconditional surrender.
The following year, in 1918, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were forced to surrender on humiliating terms. In the meantime, however, the war had sparked the Russian revolutions of 1917, bringing the Bolsheviks to power in Russia. In fact, the Germans helped Lenin travel to Russia to lead the revolution in November (October by the Russian calendar; hence the name “The October Revolution”). If they hadn’t been pressed on the Western front, maybe they would have kept Lenin where he could do no harm and Russia – and ultimately Eastern Europe – would have been spared the years of “communist” dictatorship. We would probably not have heard of Lenin or Stalin (except maybe that the latter had been executed for robbing a stagecoach, which was how Stalin made a living before turning to politics).
Following the German and Austro-Hungarian defeat, Austria-Hungary split up into Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Germany was badly humiliated and nearly bancrupted by demands for “reparations”, and the emperor was forced to resign. A negotiated peace in 1917 would have kept him in power, and Germany would have remained a monarchy rather than a democracy for some years more. More importantly, the humiliation and economical devastation caused rampant nationalism and eventually would allow Hitler and the National Socialists to rise to power. The Treaty of Versailles became the first stepping stone towards Nazi Germany, and World War 2. Without the American intervention, Hitler would have been reduced to hanging wallpaper.
If only Woodrow Wilson had kept his campaign promises…
Could Wilson have known this? No! That is the whole point. He didn’t know that his “well-meaning” attempt to fix Europe’s problems would eventually bring two of the 20th century’s worst dictators to power. But he could have left Europe to solve its own problems, as he should have!
Politicians: We have to protect non-smokers in the workplace, so we need a “No Smoking” policy at work.
Politicians: People still go outside to smoke but they just go right outside the entrance so smoke gets back into the building. Smoking has to be prohibited within 50 feet from all buildings.
Politicians: Smoking also sets a bad example. It should be prohibited within 500 yards from schools.
Politicians: In order to protect the public, smoking should be prohibited anywhere (including in your own garden) if it can annoy others.
Politicians: And we need to prohibit smoking in peoples’ homes, to protect their children!
Citizens: We can’t smoke at work, at home, in our gardens, or in the street. Wouldn’t it be easier to just prohibit smoking?
Politicians: No, are you crazy? It’s a free country!
Disclaimer: Most (but not all) of the above is fiction. Danish politicians have suggested prohibiting smoking just about everywhere but for now you are still allowed to smoke in your own home. Or in the street. Employers in the private sector are also allowed to set up indoor smoking facilities, though they rarely do.
(I used to smoke; I quit 10 years ago. But that doesn’t mean I need to tell others they should quit, too!)