Basic Minimum Income and Free Lunch

It is a truism that the demand for a free good will be infinite.

It is also a truism that unrestrained capitalism will result in human flesh being sold on street corners.

Much of the last fifty years or so has been an experiment in unrestrained capitalism. With each passing year more regulations are stripped away, or the desire to implement new regulations is sufficiently repressed as to be nonexistent. The end result is predictable and predicted: the vast majority of material wealth is concentrated among an increasingly small percentage of the overall population, while the rest are left competing for table scraps.

The concept of a basic minimum income has been raised as a possible remedy, and as a means of leveling the playing field, off and on for decades. In a country like the United States, where certain segments of the population proudly proclaim (and rightfully so) that There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, the root of the arguments against this concept are centered around the question of “Why should I pay my hard-earned tax money to some useless underclass scum who can’t manage to keep food on his own plate much less support his family?”

Apparently the thought of simple Christian charity never entered their minds at all.

Matters are somewhat different in a country like Canada, which already has a tradition of redistributing material wealth.

Thus we turn our attention to more practical considerations:

If we were to implement a Basic Minimum Income, then how much would we pay out? How much of that would come from the provincial governments, and how much of that would come from the Federal government?

Do we simply pay out enough to level the playing field between the richest among us and the poorest among us? Or should we be paying out a living wage and eliminate the need for a not insignificant percentage of the population to ever work another day in their lives, unless they choose to? Do we really have the right to ask our taxpayers to support a group of individuals who are perfectly capable of working and contributing to the tax base, but simply choose not to?

The details matter, as do the consequences.

Here in Canada a large portion of our earnings goes to the provinces and the feds as taxes. There are countries out there that pay more and are perfectly happy to do so. Good for them, but they are not us. There are also countries out there that pay less and achieve better outcomes for their citizens. There’s a reason for that: they’re better managers than we are.

With the world changing around us on a daily basis it is now more important than ever for us, as a society, to have a reasoned adult discussion about exactly what we want our governments (municipal, provincial, and federal) to do for us, what outcomes we expect, and how much we’re willing to pay for those services achieving those outcomes. A central tenet of these discussions has to be the realization that we cannot simply increase taxes and hope that the citizenry will fall into line.

There is an invisible line drawn in the sand that represents the limit of what we, as taxpayers, are willing to pay to have our government function. Is it really in our best interests as a society to keep blindly shuffling closer and closer to that mark, if for no other reason than to simply find out where it is?

Posted in Canadian Politics, Politics, Poverty | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Brian Jean and Jason Kenney

Gentlemen:

I have watched with rapt interest and growing unease the goings on between the Progressive Conservative Party and the Wildrose Party. Rapt interest because I have the strong sense of history repeating itself, and growing unease because I have the strong sense of history repeating itself.

The merger between the federal Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance was touted as the best chance for the principled right to win an election. And while a unified right wing certainly takes care of the vote splitting problem, I questioned then and I question now whether two disparate right wing parties, each with its own specific set of beliefs and principles, and a small amount of common ground between them, could ever truly be united.

With the Federal merger it was made obvious early on that the Reformers of the Canadian Alliance were the senior partners in the new party and any PC’s who stuck around should keep their bloody mouths shut and be thankful that they’ve been allowed to go along for the ride. Since then, the only time the new amalgamated party has been successful is when it is being led by someone who is savvy enough to balance the conflicting demands of the reformist base and the PC base.

I have no great desire to see the same thing happen in Alberta. And yet with the anticipated merger of the PC’s and the Wildrose I expect that’s exactly what will happen.

I believe in my heart of hearts that the anticipated merger is a mistake.

I believe in my heart of hearts that the only thing the merger will accomplish is to read more moderate conservative voices out of the conservative movement in favor of more “ideologically pure” reformist voices.

As for those of us with more libertarian leanings … we’ll just have to keep our heads down and be thankful that we’re being allowed to go along for the ride.

I hope that I am wrong.

I do not believe that I am.

And so I am looking to you, as the leaders of this movement, to at least try to show me that I am wrong.

I do not expect that will happen.

I am well aware that you and yours have limited amounts of time to spend on the concerns of your constituents, and that assuaging the fears of someone who may or may not be a guaranteed vote for a united party probably falls pretty low on that list. Such is the nature of politics, I suppose.

For the record I bear neither of you ill will. I simply believe that your pursuit of a united right wing in Alberta is severely misguided.

I remain faithfully Albertan,

Posted in Canadian Politics, Politics | Leave a comment

I Am …

I am many things. There are also many things that I am not. 

I am not a liberal. And I am not trying to be. 
 
I am not a progressive. And I am not trying to be. 
 
I am not what a vast majority of the so-called Conservative grassroots would recognize as a conservative. Which suits me fine because I find a great many of these people to be vapid and self-centered and lacking in almost any sort of simple manners. So I am not trying to be them either. 
 
I would like to be able to say that I am a Lumberjack, simply so that, for the first time in my life, I could then say with conviction that I’m okay. But, sadly, I am not a Lumberjack, so therefore I am not okay. 
 
I am something else. I do not, at this moment, know what that something else is (which is an interesting state of affairs when you’re in your forties, and even more so when you’re a depressive), but I know that I am it. 
 
I have decided that, for the time being, that will have to do.
 
 
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The Strategy of Technology Party of Canada – A Modest Proposal

The first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is one.

In the first episode of the HBO series The Newsroom cable anchor Will MacAvoy, while participating in a panel in front of a room full of college students, was asked the question, “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” At that moment in the series Will had a reputation for being the Jay Leno of Cable News, meaning that he was popular because he didn’t piss people off. Naturally he tried to duck the question, but eventually reached a point where he couldn’t. And so he launched into a tirade about all the myriad things that are wrong with America and how and why it never used to be that way.

It’s a truly epic piece of television. And every time I see it I start thinking about the fact that even though his tirade was clearly directed at all the shortcomings of the modern United States a great deal of what he said can be attributed to Canada as well. Because we have lost our way. We have become a shadow of our former selves. And, like the United States, the simple fact of the matter is that we did it to ourselves.

* * *

Once upon a time we stood up for what was right. When we fought it was for moral reasons, because there was genuine evil in this world that needed to be brought down. And when we weren’t fighting against genuine evil Canadian soldiers served with honor and distinction in peacekeeping operations all over the world. We didn’t feel the need that the Americans did to act as the police force for the world. We were content insead to stand between two disparate groups of people who wanted little more than to kill each other and said, “Not on my watch.” And we were good at it.

We went where we were invited. We went where we were asked to go. And when our job was done we packed our bags and moved on.

I won’t say that we’ve waged war on poverty, because I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. But over the decades the Canadian government has certainly done a great deal to ameliorate the effects of poverty within our own borders. We’ve fielded a myriad array of social programs and initiatives, some of which have been more effective than others. But at least we weren’t afraid to try.

And while our health care system is far from perfect, it can honestly be said that every single Canadian has access to basic medical care at the very least. And we can also say that our system is sufficiently effective at what it does that few, if any, people have gone bankrupt because of medical expenses the way some have in the states.

We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. Need proof? Look at the Canadian response to the stranded airline passengers on 9/11. The generous people of Newfoundland opened their homes to complete strangers because they were in shock, and in pain, and they needed someplace to go. Once upon a time that generousity of spirit was a defining characteristic of Canadians. And while some Canadians seem to retain that defining quality, the number of people who do seems to decline with each passing year. And no one seems to catch wise.

We built great things. We made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases. I won’t say we’ve cultivated the world’s greatest economy, nor will I say that we’ve cultivated the world’s greatest artists, but I will say that we’ve cultivated some damn fine artists and thinkers, people who have a unique view of the world and whose contributions to the arts and sciences have earned Canada legions of accolades from all over the world.

Once upon a time we aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it, and being exposed to legitimately intelligent people didn’t make us fell inferior. We didn’t need to muzzle our scientists because of fear that their findings would conflict with our chosen narrative, because once upon a time it wasn’t the narrative that was important.

We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election. We were Canadians, united and proud.

And we didn’t scare so easily. We weren’t so content to allow our government to gradually strip away our hard-won freedoms, guaranteed and enshrined in the law of the land, in the name of security. All we really asked was that our government keep the really rotten things the world had to offer outside our borders.

How the mighty have fallen.

* * *

The state of politics in Canada is troubling.

Any and all traces of civility and respect between our elected Members of Parliament, even during the most heated disagreements, has vanished. It has been replaced with an atmosphere of hyper-partisanship in which Members of Parliament are less concerned about serving their constituents than they are about keeping the party whips happy. Their level of discourse has devolved from rational debate to an endless repetition of hoary old talking points and applause lines, punctuated by biting insults, accusations, the occasional threat, and no small amount of fear mongering and spin.

What thinkers were present on the right have been replaced by a legion of brash, bellicose, belligerent, blatantly hostile, apoplectic bullies who see themselves as some great preacher promising fire and brimstone from the heavens if the unwashed, uneducated masses don’t assume their proper role and blindly do as they are told, utterly and completely ignorant of the fact that they are instead perceived as the bedraggled, dishevelled street preachers of old, spinning lies and nonsense for the promise of a handful of silver. So utterly and completely convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the favour with which their god looks down upon them are they that these individuals are completely incapable of responding to reason. They cannot be argued with and they refuse to compromise. Why should they when God is on their side?

The left is not in any better shape. The newer generation of progressives being relentlessly churned out by our universities are intent not only on ruthlessly destroying any reasonable semblance of free speech to avoid having to face potentially uncomfortable alternative points of view that profoundly challenge their own, but also on equally ruthlessly rewriting episodes of our history to remove any and all episodes that they believe might cause someone an element of unwelcome discomfort. Aided and abetted by the tacit approval of the earlier generation of progressives these well meaning weak willed simpletons continue to run roughshod over our heritage and our history, while simultaneously, and at the same time, shouting down any and all who would challenge their good intentions with accusations of prejudice, bigotry, phobia, and all-around meanness. Wilfully ignorant of the fact that life is not supposed to be fair, these individuals seek to make life fair, so that people can’t ever have their feelings hurt or be made to feel uncomfortable.

Regardless of their position on the left or the right, the vast majority of our political creatures all suffer from the same tragic malady: they all wear blinders that keep them from seeing and recognizing anyone or anything that does not fit with their ideology and world view. There is no context. There is no history. There are no extenuating circumstances. There is only hatred and prejudice.

The sole and only saving grace of both progressive and more conservative ideologies is the fact that they both, on occasion, have a point.

The fact that both sides of the equation continue to breed and to pass their hateful ideologies on to their offspring is not only troubling, it is tragic. It does not give one hope for the future.

It does not help to consider that as a society we seem to have fallen into a pattern of electing our political parties to government based not on a careful and thoughtful analysis of the promises that they are making, what it will take to fulfil those promises, and the consequences of those promises, but by which party is telling us exactly what we want to hear at any given moment. We’ve become completely ignorant of past history and performance, even of the character and integrity of the people that we are electing to office (except if its someone we don’t like. Then we’re right careful about looking into character and integrity). We elect our parties to government based entirely on which segment of the lowest common denominator is pissed off the most, and thus does a better job of getting the vote out.

It is any wonder, then, that our politics have become stagnant to the point of indolence and beyond.

It has become increasingly obvious over the last twenty years or so that our politics are inherently broken. Not the system itself, mind you. The overall political system is sound. The electoral process is sound as well, despite the reservations of many about the systems overall fairness.

Part of the reason why our politics are broken is because the quality of the candidates that we are electing to office is, in some cases, questionable at best. In other cases it seems impossible to fathom what could possibly drive a community of supposedly intelligent individuals to elect the people they have representing them. The problem with electing representatives of questionable character, questionable motives, and questionable merit is that a great deal of time is spent defending the sometimes indefensible actions of these individuals instead of applying a reasonable, objective analysis to their overall performance as elected representatives. It does not help that, in Canada, there is no such thing as recall legislation.

Elections have become nothing more or less than a popularity contest whose results are entirely dependent on which of a group of questionable candidates is best able to convince their myriad supporters to actually get off their fat asses and cast their vote. This is why we have our traditional pattern of alternating between liberal and conservatives governments every decade or so.

Sadly, it is obvious that this particular tendency hasn’t done us a shred of good as a country. In fact, what progress we might have made to alleviate some of our shortcomings has been entirely impeded by this tendency, regardless of which party is actually holding office at the time.

It is a truism that none of the current mainstream political parties actually represents a unified majority of the beliefs of average, ordinary Canadians. It is also a truism that none of the fringe parties do either. And since it is increasingly obvious that none of these entities are capable of being reformed from within then that leaves only one viable strategy to try to make our country better: We, as Canadians, need to rise up and form a new political party, one that leaves the trappings, pomp, and circumstance of the traditional parties behind in favour of facing head on the realities of the modern world.

Thus, I propose the creation of the Strategy of Technology Party of Canada.

One of the things that will set the Strategy of Technology Party apart from most traditional Canadian political parties is our complete and utter abandonment of the traditional Left-Wing/Right-Wing paradigm. It doesn’t matter if you’re liberal, conservative, social democrat, or anything in-between. What matters is an overwhelming desire to see the great nation of Canada live up to its full and unbridled potential and the understanding that all of our traditional political parties have been falling far short in that regard.

Pandering to your base, and to the lowest common denominator is no longer enough. We must cast as wide a net as possible, get our message out to as many people as possible. We must encourage them to think, to ask questions above and beyond what the traditional parties are spitting out in pre-approved talking points. We are capable of thinking for ourselves, of applying the tenets of reason and logical thought, of reaching conclusions without having them spoon-fed to us. And now, more than ever, we need to start doing exactly that.

The other thing that will set the Strategy of Technology Party apart will be the people who we choose to put forward as electoral candidates. Professional politicians will not be welcome. You lot have had over a hundred years to bring our great nation to its full potential, and you’ve failed miserably. Your time is over. It’s time for a new breed to step forward: military officers, front line soldiers, first responders, law enforcement officers, scientists, technologists, doctors, engineers, average ordinary every-day people who have been systematically silenced, who have been denied a voice of their own in the affairs of our nation because they don’t subscribe to the traditional mindset of the Eastern Elite. Those are the people that we want to step forward and speak for their fellow Canadians in our Parliament.

Above all, the most outstanding feature of our party will be a standing policy of setting policies based not on philosophy or ideology, but on science and reason and old-fashioned common sense. And an overwhelming desire to structure those policies so that they advantage all Canadians everywhere, not just the ones living in a specific region or the ones who belong to a specific industry.

For the sake of our continued survival the good of the Nation must come first.

We won’t be the party of fear-mongering, nor will we be the party of hope and change. What we will be is the party of reality, the party that not only shares with our constituents the truth about the state of our nation and the dangers that we face, but also shares with our people the means to resolve those problems, to better ourselves and our country, and to share equally in the benefits that flow naturally from achieving all of those goals.

Canadian politics as we know it is inherently broken. Will you join your brothers and sisters in rising up and putting our nation back on its proper course, before its too late? I know where I stand. Where do you stand?

Posted in Canadian Politics, Strategy of Technology | Leave a comment

A Letter to Premier Rachel Notley of Alberta

Before I begin I think that it is important for you to know that I did not vote New Democrat in the last election. When it comes to politics my ideology tends to fall more on the conservative side of the spectrum. However, I am not one of the more rabid ideological zealots that seems to have taken over the conservative movement in the last twenty years or so. Rather, I am from a much older and more honorable tradition that requires me to think for myself instead of taking my arguments from pre-approved party talking points and applause lines, and, despite the fact that you and I disagree vehemently on the best way to run a government, calls for me to treat you as I would any other human person, and not resort to name calling, threats, or other useless vitriol that does nothing to encourage rational debate. 
This much I can promise you: no matter how vehemently I disagree with you I will always treat you with the utmost respect, not because you are the Prime Minister of my province but because you are a human being and because I believe that disagreeing with someone on matters of political ideology or government policy is no excuse to behave like an ass. 
That being said, Mrs. Notley, I must confess to some concern.
I am well aware that the Alberta Government, regardless of who is in power, has absolutely no control over the world price of oil, and is thus not responsible for the fact that said price has tanked. The Saudis and the Iranians are responsible for that: The first drop was because the Saudi’s released an enormous quantity of their reserves to the open market as a means of exercising a measure of control over the financial resources available to Iran after all the nuclear sanctions had been lifted, and the second drop was caused by Iran playing monkey-see-monkey-do and mirroring the Saudi strategy for reasons that I am quite certain make sense only to the leaders of Iran. Holding you to account for the current price of oil is, thus, useless. 
But various actions have been taken by this government since the price drop that do cause me concern. 
Before I outline these concerns, let me make it clear that my concern is not for myself, but rather for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. I will either prosper or I will die, and the worlds will keep turning regardless, but there are good and honest people out there whose sole and only crime is the misfortune of not having a comparable level of financial resources relative to their neighbors down the street. They deserve a better standard of care and attention than they have been given in the past. And I see no indication that this is going to change anytime soon. 
I am primarily troubled by the new Carbon Tax. 
On a purely intellectual level I understand the rationale behind the new tax. I understand that various learned individuals have been quite vocal in professing that a carbon tax, coupled with a cap-and-trade-scheme, are the best policy measures a government can undertake in order to reduce greenhouse gas emmissions. And I understand that the primary purpose behind these schemes is to make the people directly responsible for these emmissions pay a price for their activities. It is a truism that if you want someone to stop doing something then you should tax it. 
But I wonder if you and your advisors have taken the time to consider both the actual and potential consequences of this policy. 
Consider the following: Any corporate entity to which this tax is applied is going to respond by raising the prices of the goods that they sell or the services they provide, resulting in an increased financial burden on the various people who are dependent on those goods and services and who are, themselves, paying their fair share of the carbon tax, along with various other user fee increases imposed by the government, as a result of their own individual activities. Indeed, Edmonton Transit has already implemented an across-the-board fare increase. Given that there has been no corresponding increase in service I can only conclude that the fare increase is to keep pace with inflation whilst simultaneously, and at the same time, compensating for the expected additional burden of the carbon tax. I believe it is only a matter of time before the utility companies start raising their rates as well, if they haven’t already. Price increases on off-the-shelf commodities will surely follow in short order. 
A typical Middle Class or Upper Middle Class family should have the resources to be able to weather this increased financial burden, to a point. Senior citizens and other people currently living below the poverty line, not so much. We already have people out there who are forced, on a disturbingly regular basis, to choose between rent, groceries, and utilities on the grounds that they can’t always afford all three. The potential consequences of this policy will only make these occurances more frequent. 
I am aware that there is a rebate mechanism in place to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable among us are not disproportianately affected by this new tax and the associated user fee increases. However, I question whether this mechanism is going to function as advertised. Its function depends entirely on the effectiveness of the associated bureaucracy, and every bureaucracy known to man is populated thus: twenty-five percent of the people employed by the bureaucracy are dedicated to actually helping the people that the bureaucracy has been commissioned to assist, whilst the other seventy-five percent are simply dedicated to perpetuating the bureaucracy. I question whether or not there will be sufficient oversight in place to ensure that the rebate program functions as advertised. 
As a result of these and other concerns your government has dedicated itself to pursuing a policy which will gradually increase the minimum wage until it reaches $15/hour. Again, intellectually I understand the rationale behind this policy. Increasing the minimum wage will increase the amount of disposable income available to consumers, thus making it easier for them to weather the increased burdens associated with the new taxes and user fees. I also agree that all workers should be paid a fair wage for the jobs that they do. And, again, I question if you and your advisors have considered all of the consequences of this policy. 
My concern in this matter is not for large corporations. Those particular entities are sufficiently protected that they can weather a far greater burden than the one being imposed upon them. But what about smaller businesses, particularily single-man operations or family businesses? An increase in the minimum wage, coupled with the additional financial burden of the aforementioned tax and user fee increases, and their associated consequences, results in an increased financial burden on entities that may or may not have sufficient resources to weather these burdens. 
The best case scenario is that these businesses delay hiring new staff until they have the resources to meet these increased burdens. Equally likely is that these increased burdens will result in these businesses scaling back operations, and potentially laying off existing staff. Worst case scenario, these businesses are forced to shut their doors, leaving not only their existing employees but also their clients out in the cold. How is any of this beneficial to an economy that has already been struggling for the better part of a year?
Thousands of people have already lost their jobs, Mrs. Notley. These are not nameless and faceless individuals, these are our friends and our families and our neighbors. They are people we see every single day who have suddenly found their lives turned upside down. 
I understand that you and your caucus have taken it upon yourself to rectify the substandard state of affairs that you inherited from past governments, and I absolutely agree that in a great many ways those governments have short changed us. But while you are making Alberta a better place do you not think that there is a duty of care which requires you to minimize the effect of these changes on those who are least capable of weathering them?
I don’t exoect policies to change over night, nor do I expect that anything I have said will cause you to have a sudden epiphany and reverse some of these policies. I am nowhere near that eloquent. Rather it is my hope that you will take these concerns to heart, and in doing so carry with you an understanding that despite the best of intentions the consequences of our actions matter. And, sometimes, it is the unintended consequences that matter most of all. 
Thank you for your time, Mrs. Notley. 
Posted in Carbon Tax, Minimum Wage, Poverty | Leave a comment

Whither Conservatives

Once upon a time there was a creature called a Moderate Conservatives. These individuals were politically engaged, and their point of view tended to be a smattering of fiscal conservativism mixed with a hint of social progressivism. These individuals rightly recognized that while the majority of Canadians were slightly to the left of centre, they were best governed by a group of individuals who were slightly to the right of centre, primarily because the people to the right of centre were somewhat more cautious and conscious of consequences. 
For the most part, over the course of Canadian history, we, as a nation, were governed in turns by small-l liberals, alternating with these moderate conservaitves. And, while there were certainly issues, for the most part our government worked reasonably well, our nation worked reasonably well, and all was right with the world. 
Enter the Reform Party. 
The Reform Party was a spontaneous uprising of average, ordinary, everyday people who were of the belief that the vast majority of Western Canada, with the exception of British Columbia, had argely been ignored by the eastern-based federal government. Why? Because the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba weren’t cut from the same cloth as the eastern elites, didn’t share the same beliefs as the eastern elites, and certainly didn’t have the same outlook on life as the eastern elites. So they banded together under the banner of a charismatic leader who organized them into a political movement with a simple message: “The West Wants In.”
The Reform party was able to succeed because the conservative side of the political spectrum isn’t as united as people seem to think it is. There are many different flavors and varieties of conservative, just as there are many different flavors and varieties of progressive. The moderate conservatives who made up the traditional Progressive Conservative Party spoke only for themselves and their beliefs, and not for the silent masses who viewed the PC’s as deeply flawed and morally bankrupt. Disaffected individuals who viewed the moderates as liberals in conservative clothing flocked to the reform banner en masse. 
Eventually this more rabid flavor of conservative outnumbered and overpowered the moderates, resulting in the ill-advised merger between the Canadian Alliance (Reform’s political successor) and the federal Progressive Conservative Party. Within hours of the completion of the merger all of the moderates had been effectively read out of the conservative movement by the reform class, and have been regarded as persona non grata ever since. 
In order to understand the true ramifications of this event it is important to understand the differene between moderate conservatives, and their reform bretheren: Your average reformist conservative would, by and large, be described as an evangelical conservative were he to live and operate south of the border. These people are largely devout christian, and fiercely proud of it. They look to the teachings of the bible to inform their day-to-day decisions and to fuel their political ideology. These people do not negotiate, they do not compromise (why should they when they believe that God is on their side and smiling down upon them), and they view anyone who even things of negotiation or compromise as inherently weak, ideologically impure, and an existential threat to the overall movement. These people, when detected, are dispatched quickly using a variety of means designed to turn the overall conservative community against them. And since these people are quick to take their cues from individuals that they believe to be leaders and their information from sources that have been blessed by said leaders this negative PR campaign is one hunderd percent effective every single time. 
More moderate conservatives, on the other hand, understand that ideology and religion are only the beginning of wisdom, and not the destination. They understand that we must look to ourselves for answers and make decisions not only for the purpose of satiating our consciences but also to benefit as many people as possible while negatively effecting as few people as possible. This, more often than not, necessitates a modicum of discourse, negotiation, and compromise with liberals and progressives. To do so is the natural process of government, and this element of mutual consultation has worked well for more than a hundred years. 
Until the rise of the reformer. 
The arrogance and intractableness of the reformist movement has colored peoples perceptions of conservatives in general, not because people actually believe that these individuals speak for all conservatives, but because their voice is so loud that it drowns out all dissenting opinion to the point that their voice is the only one that is heard. Thus, though we share very few of the same beliefs, we are painted with the same brush as they are and find ourselves living in a world that no longer wants us because all of us are “on the wrong side of history.”
I know that it sounds as if I am being overly dramatic. Truly I wish that were the case. 
At this stage it is impossible for the moderate wing of conservative belief to recapture the hearts and minds of those who have been swallowed by the evangelical movement. They are simply too entrenched. Thus we are left with a choice: We can splinter off and form our own movement dedicated to our traditional beliefs and ideology, or we can jump ship, hold our noses, and sign on with our more liberal counterparts. And since we live in a world where any party that is not the Liberals, Conservatives, or Social Democrats is regarded as little more than a legion of nutbars and tin-foil-hat enthusiasts I leave it as a lesson to the student which outcome is more frequently the result. 
Matters are even worse south of the border, where the evangelical hold on the conservative movement is so complete that congressional members who have previously demonstrated intellect, awareness, and a willingness to put ideology aside on occasion to do something worthwhile, are forced to cater to the lowest common denominator who would have them oppose potential laws and programs based entirely on which side of the floor the proposal originates from. 
Is there hope on the horizon, a light at the end of the tunnel? If there is I can’t find a way to see it. And so I sit here, contemplating the fact that I seem to be a member of an all but extinct species of rational conservative. 
And people wonder why I say that I no longer recognize the world that I live in. 
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An Adult Discussion of Mass Shootings and Gun Control – Part 2

Before we can begin to understand what steps we need to curb the current spike in gun violence, we need to examine and understand the role that firearms play in our society.

America, as a land mass, was colonized largely by puritans, a group of individuals fleeing the increasing liberalization of Europe because the new laws and new ideas that were bring brought to the forefront as a result of this movement meant that they would face unwanted attention, perhaps even reprisals, simply for being who they were. They emigrated not so much for the purpose of founding a nation that would serve as a guiding beacon of hope for the world around them, but for the purpose of being able to continue discriminating against people as they saw fit. Their religious liberty meant more to them than anything.

America, as a nation, was founded in an act of rebellion. Originally a British colony, the American settlers and landowners bristled under the increasing levels of taxation foisted upon them by a distant and intractable king. They wanted independence, and when it became apparent that the British were not about to give it to them they decided to take it by force. The first American army was founded through the recruitment of volunteers who believed that not only could America govern itself as a nation, but it should be allowed to.

These first patriots had one very important thing in common: they were armed. Most of them already had their own rifles and pistols. They were farmers, and they were hunters. Firearms were essential to their way of life, both as a means of feeding their families and of keeping predators at bay. But now those weapons had a new purpose.

The war was long, and hard-fought on both sides, but eventually the newly-founded American army, with some assistance around the edges from the French, successfully drove off their British overlords. The American nation was founded shortly thereafter.

One of the biggest lessons the founders took from the revolution was that the whole reason the people were able to stand up against the British was because they were armed, and it was not lost on the founders that there was a very good chance that the people were going to have to rise up again, sooner or later. So they crafted a Constitution that could be amended, and the second amendment they made to the Constitution gave American citizens the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of having a readily available militia in times of need.

Notice, the amendment is both specific and vague. It gives all citizens the right to keep and bear arms but does not specify which arms may be kept, nor does it specify how many arms may be kept. This will be very important later.

It seems self-evident, then, that the founders intended for citizens to have the ability to defend themselves from tyrants both at home and abroad, by arms if necessary. When you consider the overall state of the world at the time this makes perfect sense. The British Empire, like most, if not all, other empires at the time was both exploitative and vindictive. It was easy to envision a scenario in which British forces came back to retake what they had lost. An armed populace would be essential to preventing that from happening. And, at the time, firearms had other uses as well: pest control on farms, and as a tool for hunting.

All well and good, but what about the world as it exists now? What role do firearms play in modern society? For that matter, is there a role for firearms in modern society?

The question is deceptively simple.

To those on the American right the answer is the same as it always has been: to enable citizens to resist the rise of a tyranical government in Washington by giving them the tools they need to carry out such resistance. To these individuals, the ability to openly carry, or to carry concealed fierarms is essential to this ability. It also, not coincidentally, provides for an element of self defense against more real and immediate personal threats posed by the more virulent members of the lower classes who actively seek to harm anyone they view as vulnerable.

To those on the American left there is an inherent distrust of, and thus fear of, people who openly carry or carry concealed firearms. There is an equal distrust of people who own firearms. According to a great many on the American left, if you have trust and faith in your government then you must also have trust and faith in that governments ability to protect you. Thus, privately owned and openly carried firearms are utterly unnecessary, and, quite frankly, provocative.

Passions on both sides of the argument are inflamed by the National Rifle Association, a pro-firearms advocacy group whose goal is to ensure that every single American can have any weapon they want with no restrictions. In the view of the NRA the fact that the Second Amendment doesn’t give any sort of restrictions on the types of firearms that citizens can own, or the number of weapons that citizens can own, means that there are no restrictions. This fits in with their generally Libertarian view of the world in which reglation of any kind is inherently unwelcome as it impedes a citizens ability to ensure and to take advantage of their own liberty.

In the United States, not only is it possible for citizens to own handguns and hunting rifles, it is also possible for citizens to own near-military or military-grade weapons such as certain types of assault rifles. The AR-15 is a popular choice. I’ve even heard of instances in some states where average, ordinary people have been able to gain access to military surplus weapons, such as .50 calibre rifles.

In the view of the NRA the only truly safe society is one in which any and all citizens are armed. The NRA has gone to great lengths to promote this point of view in the wake of recent mass shooting incidents. As of this writing there was even one occasion in which NRA supporters staged a mock mass-shooting to demonstrate what would happen if these shooters faced an armed citizenry. As predicted, the whole operation was over in something on the order of four minutes. Typically, the local police generally take as long as fifteen minutes to respond to emergencies.

The entirely scripted outcome of the mock shooting is presupposed on two assumptions: that simply carrying a firearm somehow qualifies one to intervene in such a situation, and that having said firearm means that you’re likely to react in an appropriate manner when faced with such a situation. A far more likely outcome is that while some individuals will have the presence of mind to react appropriately when faced with an active shooter situation, the majority of people involved in such a scenario are far more likely to either freeze up, or miss their target entirely and take out innocents along the way.

The idea that simply owning a firearm means enables you to act as a vigilante in these situations is little more than an expression of the American ego, a state of mind in which the concept of american exceptionalism is somehow stretched to include the idea that simply being an American makes you a hero. Being an American with a firearm, even more so. This presupposition completely ignores the hundreds of hours of training in tactics and strategy that law enforcement officers are put through before they are allowed to put on the badge and the duty belt and start protecting the public.

Contrary to what appears to be popular belief, there’s a lot more to what they do than simply drawing their weapon and solving whatever problem is in front of them with a hail of bullets.

What nobody seems to have realized is that using an armed citizenry as a deterrent to violent crime only works if there is an inherent respect for life built into that society. Once upon a time there was. Now, not so much.

Consider the following:

American action movies generally feature ridiculously stereotypical hero archetypes armed to the teeth with exotic weaponry solving whatever ridiculous and unlikely problem they are faced with with a hail of bullets, completely disregarding the collateral damage associated with these epic battles. At the end the hero always walks away into the sunset with his shotgun resting on his shoulder.

Gangster Rap takes this phenomena a step farther. I hesitate to call it music because I’m not all that certain that it is, but this particular form of music is infamous for its complete and utter disregard for life in any form. Gangster Rap artists frequently wax poetic about putting a bullet to someone who has pissed them off in one way or another. Under normal circumstances people shouldn’t really care that much: these individuals live in a very violent world and an argument could be made that this is simply their way of dealing wtih the violence. But this particular form of entertainment is seen and heard most often by young people who are still learning, stil developing, still feeling their way throught the world, and the obvious lessons of the acquisition and use of power that are at the heart of Gangster Rap speak very loudly to these individuals. It doesn’t take much for them to be suckered into that world as well. And what happens then?

Video games are just as bad. Consider the Grand Theft Auto series. This is a series of games that not only makes light of but also glorifies the commission of terrible, horrific crimes, and this particular series of games isn’t alone on that regard. In a world where our young people spend so much time sitting in front of a TV screen while their absentee parents leave them to their own devices, it doesn’t take much to envision a state of affairs in which impressionable hardcore gamers learn their morality from games like this rather than learning it from their parents and their community like they’re supposed to.

In this type of environment it seems perfectly reasonable to conclude that perhaps there is some value in reconsidering the rold that firearms have in American society. It also seems reasonable to conclude that there is perhaps some value in establishing certain restrictions designed to attempt to prevent people who are likely to allow the voices in their heads to convince them that shooting up a bunch of folk is a good thing from obtaining the means to do so.

Sadly this is a discussion that neither the NRA nor the GOP, nor any of their more rabid supporters, are likely to condone anytime soon. Conservative philosophy in the United States has been hijacked by rabid evangelicals who are convinced that everything they do is in accordance with God’s wishes, and therefore they need to neither negotiate nor debate nor compromise.

Perhaps the fault in this matter lies more with the practicioners of hyper-partisan politics. While it is certainly true that these individuals do bear a measure of responsibility for this issue, assigning them 100% of the blams absolves the people executing these rampages of any responsibility for their actions, thus denying the victims of their crimes any real measure of justice. What a pity lawmakers seem more interested in debating the contents of the Second Amendment. 

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