Sunday, December 23, 2012

Systems Theory and the Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Unlike the laws of most all nations, the US has had the benefit of a ground-up principle based Constitution with the Bill of Rights falling squarely within the principled framework. With that in mind, lets take a systemic (rather than episodic) view of the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment was adopted not only as a guarantee of distributed rights to arm against a tyrannical central government; it was also a restatement of the citizen's duties to defend the nation. Recall that a standing army was an anomaly for the frontier republic and the civil defense was based on local militias.

So of the two imperatives for systemic success of this right, the proof of the first is that the central government does not harbor even the faint thought that it should ever be possible to intimidate or coerce to achieve aims that cannot be achieved by a free vote. The proof of the second is that we retain a culture where there are sufficient numbers of eligible citizens mindful of their obligation to defend the country that we do not need to offer much above a competitive wage to attract them into service.

Now imagine a state without the Second Amendment. Applicants to the military would be given powers that set them apart from the populace. The citizen would have no obligation to be ready to take up arms in an emergency without the express direction and provisioning of a central government. Rather than participatory citizens bearing responsibility as well as the privileges of the state, the citizens would take on the mindset of wards of a culturally foreign power.

Note that this is exactly how the economic dependent class of the country feels in regards to their economic obligations to the state. But, we dare not extend this economic dependency to the entire citizenry for the obvious reason that there would be no one left to earn the money to hand to the dependents. A similar logic for shared defense applies.

So without the Second Amendment, we might rely on universal service to culturally connect army to citizen least the army become a Praetorian Guard of the government. The instability of that situation is obvious. This relation between army and citizen exists in countries that have nothing like the Second Amendment and universal service. Take for example the UK from the perspective of a Catholic of Northern Ireland. Likewise, one might consider China and Tiananmen Square.

The conclusion of a few that weapons should not be like that of our military is misguided. The arms of the citizenry need not be as capable as those issued to the military but they ought to be so similar that they form a cultural connection between citizen and state. (Originally, they were the arms with which wars were fought! There is a reason that cannons are historically featured in the town squares. The cannons were not moved, its just that they are welded in place now.) Empirically, it is rather obvious that our army recruits tend to come disproportionately from organizations like the Boy Scouts and among the small towns and the south where the right to bear arms is seen from the civic perspective.

Today, we have an all-volunteer army, but is it so unimaginable that tomorrow the recruits might be selected based on political loyalties or other such factors? The politicization of the military has often been apparent of late at the higher ranks as well as through policy. This is a very disturbing trend.

Yet today, the Second Amendment is working for us in ways that are deeper than what is seen on the surface. Our nation exists as a shared idea. The Second Amendment is a fundamental thread that tethers us together.