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Yardstick of Need

THE YARDSTICK OF NEED

by Michael Mitchell

We’ve all heard it before. “It’s okay to ban those guns. I mean, nobody really needs a gun like that.” Sadly, this type of sentiment is often heard among gun owners. The hunters think it’s okay to ban “Saturday night specials,” because they don’t need a small, cheap handgun. The concealed carry permit holders think it’s okay to ban “sniper rifles”, because they don’t hunt. And so forth. It’s a “divide and conquer” strategy that the crime facilitation (i.e. “gun control”) movement has used with great success.

There are two fundamental reasons why need is a very poor yardstick to use when it comes to government regulations. First, it’s none of the government’s - or anyone else’s - business to determine what another human being needs. Second, the sentiment that the government can ban technology based on an appraisal of the people’s need to own it, sets a precedent which is devastating to liberty, if allowed to its logical conclusion.

To the first point, why are government bureaucrats and politicians somehow qualified to determine what people “need”? They’ve declared that nobody needs small, cheap handguns (the racist slur “Saturday night special” is often applied; however, that term is being replaced with “pocket rocket” - a term with even more interesting origins). Who needs them? Inner-city working poor, who don’t have the financial resources to afford self-defense tools any more expensive.

Nobody needs a high capacity semiautomatic (the “assault weapon”), eh? Tell that to the store and home owners in downtown Los Angeles, who survived attacks by rioters only because they were armed with high-capacity weapons capable of “rapid fire”. Nobody needs a “sniper rifle” (this one is almost farcical)? Ask the millions of deer hunters throughout the nation - the people who keep you from being killed by crashing your car into a deer by culling the population.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let’s agree that even these demonstrable uses of various firearms do not constitute a real need. There’s another, more sinister, element involved here as well. If you accept that it’s okay for the government to ban technology based on their appraisal of your need to own it, watch out. You’ll lose your TV, your computer, your hobby equipment (whatever your hobby may be), your air conditioner, your Calvin Kleins, your video games, your running water, your toilets, and your disposable diapers. Say bye-bye to paved roads, sodas, restaurants, telephones, newspapers, books, VCRs, and electricity. Radios, tape players, CDs, and the Internet are things of the past; forget airplanes, or, for that matter, automobiles. Humans survived just fine for centuries without them. Nikes, sporting events, movies, Wal-Mart, and manufacturing plants evaporate. More fundamentally, who needs money? After all, the barter system worked well throughout most of history.

Face it: The vast majority of the trappings of our modern life are not needs. They are conveniences - technologies which make our lives and tasks easier, more comfortable, more efficient. When you get right down to it, the actual needs of the human species are really pretty simple. We need food (which our ancient ancestors obtained through hunting and gathering), shelter (easily provided by crude structures or caves; $200,000 houses aren’t required), and some measure of protection from the elements (such as warm clothing in the wintertime). Anything else is a convenience - something that allows us to live and work better, or more efficiently, or more comfortably.

Are you still sure that need is an appropriate yardstick to use when evaluating the government’s permission to regulate technologies?


Copyright 2000 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice and website attribution. Mike writes for http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com; you can contact him at mmitch6121@aol.com and read his other writings here.

 

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 QUOTES TO REMEMBER
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. Tacitus (A.D. 55?-130?)

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