Vermont's Titanic Gamble

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It is in the very nature of government to gamble with citizens’ money, I suppose. But our legislature has been gambling with much more than money – it is gambling our children’s future health and well-being. Over-reaching and mismanagement have hemmed our State into a tight budgetary corner, resulting in ever more visible displays of hypocrisy.

Peddling lottery tickets under the pretense of educating children is one example of which I have complained. But let us consider some others.

Fireworks were largely banned in Vermont (perhaps 100 years ago) because of the extreme risk to young children, chiefly of losing a finger or an eye. Our Legislature has tried to relax those laws – to increase sales tax revenues being “lost” to New Hampshire. Doubtless there will be more injuries in our future to pay for those tax revenues.

Our state wasted tens of millions of dollars on a failed healthcare computer system. Good intentions do not excuse bad decisions, especially when risking others’ money. A multitude of other projects which squandered public funds abound, always with big promises and plans; always with taxpayers footing the tab upon failure.

The EB-5 fiasco in the Northeast Kingdom has left a gaping economic hole which mirrors the gaping physical excavation in Newport. Both foreign and local investors were harmed by an apparent lack of state oversight, and local communities are left to face an uncertain future. More gambling.

The Vermont Legislature can gamble with increased motor vehicle fees, inspection fees, carbon taxes, and other levies because it does not have to pay back the money or sell a farm when the gamble turns snake-eyes. A dangerous gambler indeed.

But now the Legislature is gambling with our liberty. In its emotional haste to institute useless gun laws, the Constitution was cast into the compost pile. Vermont’s Attorney General has announced that the magazine ban is unenforceable: like many laws coming out of our Legislature, the realities of enforcement were not considered. A majority of the people enacting our laws do not comprehend the Vermont or U.S. Constitutions, or even how to draft a workable statute. (Maybe they should confer with the Attorney General’s office before they pass their next embarrassment).

But these anti-gun forces wish to eviscerate the Second Amendment entirely. Viewing the right to bear arms as an anachronism, this self-righteous crowd scoffs at the idea that we Vermonters might ever need high capacity magazines for any legitimate purpose. No, we don’t need them for hunting (they are illegal for hunting), but we do not have a constitutional right to hunt. The purpose of the Second Amendment, apparently forgotten by our Legislature, was and remains self defense, but also the defense of our nation (and state) against enemies foreign and domestic.

Countrymen, it would be lovely if we never needed a gun again, but history teaches that only armed vigilance can maintain government integrity. Corruption abounds in governments the world over, and our own federal government has amassed a stunning and pervasive variety of surveillance and militarized agencies arrayed against U.S. citizens. The executive branch has steadily grown more powerful, and we are on the brink of what may be a constitutional crisis in this administration.

The thought of fighting the federal government is intimidating indeed (much like fighting the colonial British): still, a fight is better than servitude. But if our economy collapsed, or an EMP was discharged, or the grid was hacked, or North Korea or Russia bombed California, or China invaded, or Trump (or another) declared martial law, or a bird flu struck, or our society imploded under festering social discord, then the federal government would be largely irrelevant. It would be like old times and we would have to self govern and impose order and protection, as citizens. That’s, like, what the whole Second Amendment was about, and remains about: whether to rely entirely on the government, versus plan for the possible necessity of self reliance if the government goes ‘poof.’

In the delusion that none of these things is at all possible, our legislators chain us to their optimistic future like unwilling passengers on the Titanic. No, they say, nothing can sink her, not even the looming iceberg of $25 trillion in federal debt. Not even a nuclear warhead or asteroid – the federal government will always be there to save us. (Yet during Hurricane Katrina, and more recently in the California wildfires, government failed utterly – and those were nothing compared to other potential disasters).

Not all of us share our Legislators’ optimism, or trust in our federal government to always guide us from rocky shores. (Some of us fear that we are being crashed upon the cliffs even now). Some of us want to store high capacity magazines the way we would store lifeboats on the Titanic – praying we never need them, but understanding their importance if we do. Our Legislature (which repeatedly displays its fallibility) has made the misguided determination on our behalf that our nation, society, and economy can never sink. I’ll bet they are wrong – as did those who drafted and enacted the Second Amendment, and sought thereby to guarantee we would always maintain readiness. It is unfair to those of us who embrace that vital duty, that we must be compelled to board this Titanic by those who take freedom for granted, and who treat our Constitutional heritage with disdain. The gamble is much too great.

Originally published with The Newport Daily Express, 5/25/2018