Montréal, 14 avril 2001  /  No 81
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Scott Carpenter is a young entrepreneur living in Victoria, B.C. and the founder and editor of Liberty Free Press.
by Scott Carpenter
          Extremism is the exercise of absolute principle outside of context. 
          As a libertarian I have to admit that I am guilty of being too extreme on some issues. Sometimes, I forget that it's more important to just live and enjoy life than it is to ride into battle with my pen swinging and my keyboard blazing. Indeed, in the process of ranting I sometimes forget to apply context to my arguments. 
          The gun issue is a good example.
Of guns... 
          I am a believer in the right to bear arms. I believe that all free and responsible human beings have the absolute and undeniable right to own arms for the purpose of defending themselves from thugs (both private and public). 
          I also believe that in a society such as ours – where thugs are allowed to run free in the streets –, obtaining and practicing that unrestricted right is pretty much impossible. 
          A society that lacks a serious justice system requires a « licensing system » because there are far too many « undesirable » types in our midst to allow the citizenry to freely and fully exercise the right to arms (or so goes the line of reasoning – which isn't without some degree of merit). 
          In a society that actually releases rapists, murderers and habitual thieves back into the public body, all citizens live in constant fear of one another. Paranoia and even plain old self preservation demand that we « license ourselves » to keep those who would likely do harm from easily obtaining arms. 
          Of course there are many fallacies in this line of reasoning. Thugs always get what they want regardless of the law and murder/general mayhem does not require that one have a firearm to begin with. 
          The point here is that in order to obtain or exercise those rights that are natural to free human beings we must first create a society in which they may be exercised. Indeed, politicians have stripped us of our rights by degrading the quality of those institutions which are necessary to the maintenance of a free nation. 
          The first step towards restoring our right to arms is to reform our joke of a justice system. Until we accomplish that goal we will not have the access to arms we are entitled to. The population will not tolerate the notion of a rapist out on parole having access to whatever hardware pleases him. And frankly, I'm not so sure they should. 
...and environment 
          The environment is another issue that libertarians and objectivists seem to stumble over on a regular basis. Most libertarian writing in regards to this subject reads like it was written by a CEO from WRECK THE EARTH Ltd. 
          The environment versus capitalism isn't the nice neat little package that either side usually presents. The issue of land use is not so cut and dry and I fear that if either side had their way, man would soon be a footnote in history. 
     « The environment versus capitalism isn't the nice neat little package that either side usually presents. The issue of land use is not so cut and dry and I fear that if either side had their way, man would soon be a footnote in history. » 
          Nicholas Provenzo, the chairman of the Centre for the Moral Defense of Capitalism, recently published a paper/email entitled Protest Earth Day. In it he calls on his readers to join a countermarch in Washington to show environmentalists that there is some principled resistance to their madness. This year his issue is with environmentalist demands to stop oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Provenzo writes: 
          This year, the environmentalists are going all out to prevent the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil production. Beneath a one and one-half million acre tract on the North Slope of Alaska is estimated to be between six and sixteen billion barrels of recoverable oil. If the Congress supports President Bush in opening the North Slope to development, this oil reserve could produce up to one and one-half million barrels of oil per day for at least twenty-five years – nearly twenty-five percent of current daily US oil production. The importance of this resource to our future cannot be overstated. 
          Yet despite the obvious value in developing the North Slope oil reserves, environmentalists argue that oil production should be forbidden in the name of protecting « wilderness » and « wasteful » Americans should go without. According to environmental lobby groups like the « Defenders of Wildlife, » if oil exploration goes forward the harm to wildlife would be huge and irreparable.
          There is an imbalance in viewpoint here and both are a detriment to man's well-being. One is the environmentalist assertion that man should not interact with nor utilize nature and that preservation of something which is inherently non static is possible. The second is Provenzo's stance (one that is common with libertarians and those close to us in philosophy) that nature or « wilderness » has no value beyond that which is commercial. As someone who enjoys sitting on lonely mountain tops I can't help but disagree. 
          Moreover, there are also the contradictions that are apparent once one starts to apply context. Public lands (wilderness) are not empty or devoid of people going about their business. Guide outfitters who live their whole lives in these remote areas are dependent on the various animal species that dwell there to make a living. They are capitalists on a much smaller scale but their need for a healthy renewable resource to survive is as real as the urbanites need for fuel to do the same. An oil exploration project that jeopardizes their ability to make a living is a problem.  
A question of balance 
          Of course this is only one example of many. Ultimately, the issue is one of balance. On public land, the debate over who may use what and how is much grayer than when private property is involved. Resource use and extraction must be done in a manner that does not intrude on the financial and physical well-being of those who live in these « wilderness » areas. More importantly, we shouldn't forget that although the environmentalist movement has for the most part gone off its rocker it still has a few valid points. Human beings need clean air and water to live as much (if not at a more basic level) as we need oil and gas to fuel our vehicles. 
          As a small time capitalist/hunter/fisherman living on one of the last frontiers on the planet, I can not overstate the importance of adding context to environmental issues. Oil and gas revenues are great, they have been and continue to be a boon for many of our small northern communities. But that doesn't mean we just drop a well in the middle of the breeding ground of a renewable resource that someone else relies on for income. 
          In the end maybe both sides need to learn the meaning of the words « reality » and « respect ». They've certainly become important terms for me. 
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