On the “March for Our Lives”

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Last month I had the opportunity to attend the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C.

For those unfamiliar, the protest was conceived by survivors of the February 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to petition for more restrictive gun laws. I attended primarily to observe the fanaticism, of which there was no shortage.

If you want an idea of the climate of this rally, take the fallacious, guttersnipe abuse by the gun control advocates at CNN’s February 21 town hall, add over $2 million in celebrity funding, and multiply it by any number on the expansive dartboard that was attendance estimates: Somewhere between 200,000 and 800,000 sign-wielding policy experts. Also in attendance were several progressive intellectual titans including Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Jimmy Fallon.

The media has, since its inception, portrayed the “Never Again” movement and March for Our Lives protests as entirely student led and organized, which is manifestly untrue. The March 14 student walkout was organized by the same band of people who organized the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. On this board sits the charming Linda Sarsour, whose anti-Western activism has included defending and speaking alongside convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, another Women’s March organizer, deported from the United States late last year for immigration fraud.

In the weeks leading up to the March for Our Lives rally, Deena Katz, one of the executive directors of the Los Angeles Women’s March Foundation, was also brought on as an organizer; and the help of the nonprofit organization “Everytown for Gun Safety” was employed, the leadership of which is composed of seven former Democrat politicians and a handful of wealthy donors who brought you projects such as The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and StoptheNRA.com.

Regardless, headlines would have you believe that we are finally seeing the newest (or soon-to-be newest) generation of voters revolting against the “mass shooting epidemic” as Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic described it. Come midterms, under the direction of celebrities they admire, teachers who sanctioned the national school walkout, and parents who fervently waved placards alongside them, whispering catchy slogans in their ears, students will take to the polls to reject the NRA, vote away their own freedoms (and yours), and most importantly, take down Donald Trump.

This of course is most likely not reflective of reality, but rather a fantasy being masturbated in headlines. Because for every David Hogg, every Emma Gonzalez, every Cameron Kasky, there are people like Patrick Petty and Kyle Kashuv: Two MSD students who (the first having lost his sister in the shooting) have received far less media attention due to their positive view of the Second Amendment.

A recent survey by University of Maryland, College Park professor Dana R. Fisher has added to doubts of a potential 2018 “Blue Wave” led by incensed children. Dr. Fisher writes in a recent Washington Post article: “Contrary to what’s been reported in many media accounts, the D.C. March for Our Lives crowd was not primarily made up of teenagers. Only about 10 percent of the participants were under 18. The average age of the adults in the crowd was just under 49 years old, which is older than participants at the other marches I’ve surveyed but similar to the age of the average participant at the Million Moms March in 2000, which was also about gun control.”

I cannot delegitimize the Never Again movement based solely on the unsavory people they have in their employ, or the giddy forecasting of a Democrat upset by supposedly nonpartisan media personalities. I attended the march. I heard the slogans. I saw the posters, and the children being wielded as props. Every display, every placard, every speech at this rally was infuriating. As was the media coverage surrounding it. However, disturbing as it all may be, each of these things was equally reassuring. The anti-gun lobby, once again, has demonstrated their incompetence; their inability to recognize and understand the purpose and principle of the Second Amendment.

I believe it is fair to say that most, if not all people in the “progressive” political camp, from which the anti-gun movement draws much of its following, plainly do not accept the concept of rights.  They use the word endlessly as a rhetorical strategy – “rights” win elections – but as a philosophical concept it means nothing to them. Rights are principles which recognize man’s freedom of action. This means freedom from compulsion, coercion, and violence by others. Peel back all the layers of society, rewind all of history to the most remote, primitive existence of the modern anatomical man, and the Rights of Man are still present. The concept is immutable. So long as man is man, rights are rights. You cannot flippantly, erratically add to or subtract from the list of rights, as this renders the concept useless. You either recognize the Rights of Man or you prioritize and collectivize life. The progressives belong to an unprincipled movement that suggests select state institutions are human rights, such as education and healthcare, but defense against the state is not.

This is highly ironic seeing as how many of these people have revolutionary socialist sympathies. How one can revere the leaders of such great tragedies as the Bolshevik and Cuban revolutions, believe the United States is a force for evil in the world, and denounce the sitting president as a tyrant, all while begging the U.S. government to disarm them is beyond me.

If you recognize the Rights of Man you must necessarily believe that an armed populace is the sine qua non of a free and open society. It is the difference between a government by the people and a government and the people. If regulations must be legislated, they can exist only to keep conventional civilian weapons out of the hands of the irresponsible, ill-intentioned, and mentally incompetent.

The single most important defense of the Second Amendment is the idea of a right to individual and collective self-defense, as was outlined in The Federalist No. 46:

“Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government…The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms…To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties…Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

The immediate response to this idea is, “But modern governments have artillery and weapons of mass destruction, so the principle is moot,” to which my response is, “Don’t waste my time.” First, civilians can possess artillery; however, it is expensive and impractical. Why civilians cannot own WMD while governments can should be obvious even to someone making such a cheap point. We as a nation are among many signatories to conventions and treaties recognized in the U.S. Constitution as the “supreme law of the land” that prohibit the proliferation of such materials. Second, is that response meant to comfort me? “Surrender yourself, the enemy is stronger” is not a virtuous attitude, it is defeatism.

Critics often follow this with a more logical question, “How can you reconcile the criminalization of certain types of firearms (fully-automatic firearms, sawed-off shotguns, etc.) with the idea that the populace ought to be equally armed as the standing army?” The answer is simple. What is a fully-automatic rifle? What is a sawed-off shotgun? It is a variant of an original: A machine modified to serve a more specific function. The government may criminalize certain modifications to a firearm if there is no immediate use for them but a criminal one. This does not hinder the ability of the people to defend against a potential tyranny because at any point, under any conditions, a man can make these modifications and suffer the consequences accordingly.

At present, the cost of making such modifications may be a prison sentence and a sizable fine, with no recognizable benefit. There is no consequence to not modifying your weapon to serve these specific functions. Under a tyranny, however, the cost of modifying a weapon (or more realistically, simply owning a weapon) may be prison or death, but the cost of not modifying (or owning) a firearm, the cost of not doing everything in your power to put yourself on equal footing with the government’s monopoly on force, may be a life of slavery. The people must have the ability to make these decisions. Rational people can recognize the conditions under which the benefits of breaking the law outweigh the risks. Thus, the base weapons to which these modifications can be made must be readily accessible. If a man chooses to illegally purchase and equip a suppressor, saw the barrel of his shotgun down to an easily concealable nub, or alter his semi-automatic rifle to have fully-automatic capabilities, that is his decision to make.

It is crucial that defenders of the Second Amendment understand their own principles. You must learn to appropriately respond to the rhetoric. The opposition has been spoiled living in a free society for so long that the roots of freedom, the ideas that inspired America’s struggle against an illegitimate monarchical tyranny, have been lost on them. Flattering as it may be to hear progressives say by implication that the United States government is perfect enough so as to be impervious to dictatorship, this is untrue. This is utopian. Every institution has the potential to become corrupted. Every man, therefore, must have access to the tools necessary for defense and revolution.

The Parkland student activists, those featured on the April 2 Time magazine cover, are not interested in discourse. Nor are the people trotting them out on television as a shield for their power fantasies. This is why they erroneously say you must first be on the receiving end of a shooter’s barrel before you are allowed to talk about gun policy. This is why they attack the financiers and business partners of people with whom they disagree, rather than the people’s ideas themselves. The principle actors within this movement care not about saving lives, but about having things conducted their way. They demand from their ivory towers that the public surrender their arms for the “common good.” They gloat within their circles about how many lives they have saved, and sneer at you for wanting the security of your life, your family, and your property to rest in no-one’s hands but your own.

Appreciate, now, this timeless exchange from the 1966 film adaptation of Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons, about the life of Sir Thomas More, who in confronting a witch-hunting Catholic prosecutor asks the following:

“[Would you] cut a great road through the law to [punish] the devil?”

The prosecutor replies, “Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

“And when the last law was down, and the devil turned ‘round on you,” says More, “where would you hide, all the laws being flat?”

More goes on to say, “I’d give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.” By this he means that in pursuing what is perhaps thought of as a common good, you are oftentimes making a rod for your own back.

 

U.S. Foreign Aid in Post-Revolution Egypt: Is it Working?

CAIRO, Egypt — On January 18, 2011, an Egyptian man set himself ablaze in front of the Egyptian parliament, reminiscent of Tunisian grocer Mohmmed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation a month prior was considered the “spark” of the Tunisian Revolution.

The suicide of this “Egyptian Bouazizi” and the violent protests that followed were the consequence of a long list of grievances, including high levels of unemployment, inflation, and government corruption.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11 of that year.

Eventually, after frequent episodes of violence between protesters and the oppressive interim government, Egyptians held two constitutional referendums (2011 and 2014), a parliamentary election, and a presidential election during which incumbent president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed office.

Today, just over seven years after the Mubarak government came to an end, many of the Egyptian people’s revolutionary grievances have seen slight improvement. However, many more of Egypt’s socioeconomic ailments remain uncured, worsening in some cases.

From December 2009 to April 2010, the Department of Economics at the American University in Cairo administered a survey of Egyptian households to determine what Egyptians view as the causes and indicators of poverty. The survey found that the top three indicators were scarce durables, inadequate housing, and deficient healthcare.

A composite indicator of poverty (CIP) was constructed in that same study, revealing that while some of the Mubarak government’s policies had slightly reduced poverty, “the deprivation of consumer durables, housing, healthcare and food increased popular discontent.”

At the time of the revolution, roughly 43 percent of the population was living on $2 PPP per day.

From 2008 to 2010, Egypt’s GDP growth slid from 7.2 percent to 5.4 percent. As of 2016 it has fallen even lower, sinking to less than 4.3 percent. During that same period, inflation peaked in August 2008 at 23.7 percent, maintaining double-digit levels ever since.

The unemployment rate in Egypt is also looking grim, increasing from 9 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2011, showing little sign of improvement even after Sisi was elected.

The United States has long had a friendly economic relationship with Egypt, providing it with over $60 billion in foreign aid since 1978 (the second largest recipient next to Israel). Many billions have gone into food and aid, but billions more were allocated towards strengthening Egypt’s military.

It is with the best intentions that the U.S. endows Egypt with such large sums of money, recently providing debt relief and loan guarantees to small-and-medium-sized businesses to alleviate the economic burdens of democratic transition.

However, while there is no consensus on the general effects of foreign aid, a 2013 Egypt-specific study conducted by the Department of Economics and Foreign Trade at Helwan University concluded that the Egyptian government’s allocation of American aid towards financing imports rather than Egypt’s productive activities has had a negative impact on growth in both the long-run and short-run.

The most effectual solution to Egypt’s poverty and unemployment problems, among other things, must ultimately come from decisions on the inside.

As the earlier mentioned American University report suggests, a social safety net ought to be established immediately for the lowest-income groups in the country. The government of Egypt must also properly allocate its foreign aid dollars towards stimulating the private sector, which has created approximately 70 percent of jobs in the country, and the Egyptian Pound must be stabilized to attract more foreign direct investment, which has climbed steadily since 2011.

It is the responsibility of the United States, if it insists on continuing foreign aid to Egypt, to urge the Sisi government in the direction of these reforms so not a dollar goes to waste. The Egyptian market is a budding, developing economy in which the main buyers of local stocks are foreign investors. It would be a missed opportunity for growth and human development if the Egyptian private sector were not nurtured in this way.

For more information on inflation, unemployment, GDP growth, and foreign direct investment in Egypt, follow the respective hyperlinks.

For a timeline of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the subsequent political struggle, click here.