Montréal,  25 sept. – 8 oct. 1999
Numéro 46
  (page 9) 
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by Scott Carpenter(*)
            What is freedom and what is it worth to you? This is not a question that Canadians have had to answer frequently during our history. We have, relatively speaking, enjoyed a life free from political and military force. Of course there have been exceptions to this rule, the Riel rebellion comes quickly to mind. So it is odd that at this stage in my young life I find myself pondering this very question... what is freedom and what is it worth to me?  
          Thomas Sowell described the concept of freedom best when he said: « Freedom (...) refer[s] to a social relationship among people – namely, the absence of force as a prospective instrument of decision making. Freedom is reduced whenever a decision is made under threat of force, whether or not force actually materializes or is evident in retrospect. » 
          Yet when one closely analyses many of the pieces of legislation and law that we as Canadians accept as convention – especially those pertaining to the ownership of firearms – we find that they do not stand up to this very simple test. Indeed, one does not improve the safety of a nation's people by threatening to throw them into jail for things that are not a crime (like making a clerical error on a registration form). You're probably wondering at this point how I can say that non-compliance with a written law does not constitute a crime? Well, it's actually very simple. What is a crime at all?  
Ownership is not a crime 
          A crime is an act carried out by an individual during which the rights of another individual (or multiple individuals) are either directly threatened or violated. For example: murder is a crime because it violates your right to life. So if we know what a crime is then what is not a crime? Simple ownership for one. Owning a firearm does not constitute a crime no matter which way you spin it. It is the way in which you own that item that constitutes a crime. Pointing it at someone and asking for their wallet is definitely a crime. Doing the same thing with a knife is also a crime. Owning either is not. The deciding factor here is action. 
          Canadians (and maybe people in general) have a tendency to seek the easy way out of complex problems. We create legislation that throws bandaids over gaping wounds and little by little we barter away our liberty and our freedom for some false sense of security and the fuzzy feeling that « at least we're doing something about the problem ». But the question that we should be asking is « At what price? » At what price do we appease special interests and their twisted need to interfere in the day to day living of the law abiding citizen? Milton Friedman said « A society that puts equality (...) ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. » I believe this is also true in regards to safety. Any society that gives up an ounce of freedom for any false sense of security will end up with neither.  
« Human beings should have the right to live
as they see fit so long as they do not violate
the rights of others and if they do then
they better be prepared to suffer the consequences. »
          C-68 (now part of the criminal code of Canada) and its proponents promised that this new legislation would make Canada safer. I dispute this. Logically speaking it will not happen. But let's suspend disbelief for just a moment and give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we? Let's say that Canada could be a safer place by virtue of this new law... the question that still needs to be asked and answered is: « At what price? » How much of your freedom are you willing to relinquinsh for the feeling that Canada might be safer? I hope it's a lot because that's what you've given. The police can enter your home without a search warrant... dangerous precedents have been set regarding the confiscation of legally owned private property... and how about giving up your right to silence in the face of a search by police? More importantly though is the power granted to the justice minister who is now capable of amending the criminal code with a simple Order in Council. Is that too much of a price to pay for a little bit of perceived safety? Surely it isn't? We sanctioned it didn't we? 
Who do you work for? 
          What we as Canadians have not figured out (or refuse to acknowledge) is that we do have rights that are supposed to protect us from this sort of tyranny and they go beyond what is written in our precious charter. It's called Common Law. Besides, the charter does not directly recognize our right to private property and this, for all intents and purposes, makes it a useless document. One cannot say that one has the right to his or her own life when the products of your own labour (your private property) are subject to the whims of any politician who happens to be in office at a given moment. Truthfully, someone who does not have any rights to private property is a slave and nothing more.  
          Think about it. Who do you work for (literally)? Some government official or for yourself? If the answer is you then your property should not be subject to confiscation if it is not being used to violate another human being's rights. Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying « Private property has a right to be defended. Our civilization is built up by private property and can only be defended by private property. » This principle was at one time the foundation of our society. Private property is essential to the growth of any nation and to deny its rightful and absolute existence is to deny man that his time, his labour and his life are his own. 
          Political humorist P. J. O'Rourke wrote: « There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences. » This seems a bit extreme but I believe what he was trying to say in his somewhat less than eloquent fashion was that human beings should have the right to live as they see fit, so long as they do not violate the rights of others and if they do then they better be prepared to suffer the consequences. This implies what Ayn Rand calls a « negative contract » and it is the only contractual obligation that naturally exists between any given set of individuals. What this means is that a man is free to live as he sees fit so long as that lifestyle and his actions do not violate the rights of other men. Aside from this we do not have the right to interfere in the lives and affairs of others... PERIOD! 
          This does not constitute a lawless society... quite the contrary... it is the respect and recognition of an individual's rights that constitute the foundation of any moral law. It is this law (the common law – derived from the notion of individual rights) that governs society and at the same time allows government to sort out legal disputes between us. Government and special interest groups overstep these boundaries whenever they legislate beyond these principles. Moreover, when they institute mass confiscations of legally held property without justification they are kin to the same thieves who break into my home to steal my VCR. The only difference is that government does so with the backing of the state's guns and the sanction of its own legislation. 
          So the question remains: « What is freedom and what is it worth to me? » For me freedom implies two things: 1) being left alone to do as I please and 2) being responsible and accountable for my own actions be they good or bad. As for what it is worth to me... EVERYTHING. I do not wish to live in a society where I am ruled by an elected dictatorship and I do not wish to live as a slave to any government official and his agenda. To the boys in Ottawa and those who pull their strings I have but one message: the gig is up. If I can figure it out so can anyone else... the only thing the public requires is a desire to see the truth. I suggest you stop passing oppressive laws like C-68 or you'll be sure to wake them earlier than you'd hoped. 
          From one previous sleeping citizen to the rest I leave you with this final thought from Dante Alighieri: 
          « Mankind is at its best when it is most free. This will be clear if we grasp the principle of liberty. We must recall that the basic principle of liberty is freedom of choice, which saying many have on their lips but few in their minds. »
          Freedom and Liberty For All. 
(*) Scott Carpenter is a young entrepreneur living in Victoria, B.C.  >>
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