I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a couple of things that John F. Kennedy said. The first is:
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
I’m reminded of this whenever people (increasingly) talk about the possibility of, and even the ‘need for’, some kind of civil war in the United States, as a remedy for our unfortunate habit of using politics and law, not to codify areas of widespread agreement, but to force submission in areas where there is substantial disagreement.
But mostly I think about how if we change a single word,
Those who make peaceful resolution impossible will make violent resolution inevitable.
we get a one-sentence explanation of the War on Drugs.
That is, every time I hear about drug dealers shooting each other, I’m reminded of how we never hear about car dealers, or insurance brokers, or realtors, or gun dealers, or clothing retailers, and so on, engaging in violent disputes over things like sales territories. And that’s because for all these businesses, we’ve made peaceful resolution of disputes — via the court system — possible.
For other types of businesses — which provide goods and services that (as centuries of experience have shown) substantial numbers of people are simply not willing to live without — we’ve made peaceful resolution of disputes impossible. And so, Kennedy reminds us, we have made violent resolution of those disputes inevitable.
We all pay the price for that every day. But we don’t have to. It’s within our power to put an end to it. All we have to do is back away from the dangerously misguided idea that ignorance is a proper basis for enacting laws that embody prior restraint, i.e., that we can ban whatever we don’t want to understand.
The second is:
There is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.
He was speaking about secrecy (‘The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society’), which relates to a lot of the problems that we’ve created for ourselves by allowing things like non-public school board sessions, secret negotiations with public unions, secret police disciplinary lists, and so on.
But lately I’ve been thinking about it in relation to Red Flag laws, and other so-called ‘common sense’ gun control laws. Because this is exactly what these laws seek to do — to prioritize the survival of government, and individuals, over the survival of the things that make survival worthwhile — our traditions of freedom and self-reliance.
As General John Stark noted:
Death is not the worst of evils.
And thinking about that always leads me to think about something Thomas Jefferson said: malo periculosam, liberatem quam quietam servitutem, or
I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.
I’ve come to believe that this is really the thing that divides us as a nation — that there are people who prefer freedom to safety, and others who prefer safety to freedom. And so I think our own peaceful resolution of this difference requires us to find some way for these two groups to coexist in a way that doesn’t require either group to view government as a club for beating the other group into accepting its preference.
I have some ideas about how that might work, which I’ll be writing about in the near future.