Alcohol, Drugs, Guns, Violence and… the Real Issue?

Alcoholism is blamed for violence.

Ban alcohol. They tried that.

Drugs are blamed for violence.

Ban drugs. They tried that.

Guns are blamed for violence.

Ban guns. They’re trying that.

As for that last point, yes, I am a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment in its originalist intent: that weapons are one of the best defense against tyranny. Over 100 million people were murdered by their own governments in the 20th century. How many of those governments might have been far more hesitant to take such action had their populations been armed?

But no, this is not a post to go over why an armed population is so important. This is also not a post to discuss the well-argued case that banning guns is an ineffective way to reduce violence. Cars and knives have been perfectly effective weapons in Europe.

This post calls attention to what is often forgotten, ignored or otherwise not generally considered. And like all those calls for action I started with, I, too, have a call for action. A much different one. One that gets to the heart of the issue.

Journalist Johann Hari spent years studying the global war on drugs in countries all over the world. In an interview he did with Tom Woods, he noted a significant conclusion of his research. It was one of those conclusions that is both so obvious and so apparent that you wonder why it strikes you with such profundity.

The real issue with violence or malicious behavior of the sort that causes events like the tragic Las Vegas shooting is not alcohol, drugs or guns.

Studies have revealed that about 10% of alcohol users use to abuse and the violence that tends to come with that. (According to a study done by Professor David Nutt and published in British The Lancet, alcohol was rated as the most harmful drug.) Interestingly, the statistic for drug abuse is about the same: 10%. So what makes about 90% of users to use these drugs in a way that we don’t typically consider “abuse” and the other 10% to do so?

Now, before I go on, I am also not using this post to push my opinion on drug laws. These are but a few of many destructive things in this world, and what we choose to try and legislate against or not is not my purpose here.

So what is the most common factor causing about 10% of users to use into abuse and violence?

As study after study has shown (and logic should lead us to even without statistical analysis), the answer is: a lack of meaningful relationships. Isolation. A lack of love and care by and for those around them. Or trauma without loving support to help them through.

The issue isn’t the thing that is abused. The issue is broken relationships.*

Logic follows that line of reasoning to anything else with which people can cause harm, such as guns or other weapons.

So this is a call to action. Want to really concentrate your efforts in a meaningful way? Love, care for and cherish those who are vulnerable. Those who are isolated. Those who are hurting and broken. Those without friends. Those who face prejudice. Be a friend to those nobody else will. A mentor to those who are shunned. Those who have no meaningful relationships in their lives.

Don’t tell me you really care while you spend your time calling your representative, lobbying them to sign anti-gun regulation, or to pour more money into drug-bust squads, until you start addressing the real issue that causes the violence. No larger police force, more prison cells, more stringent gun regulations or prohibition campaigns will solve the issue. As a friend recently posted, “People, not programs, change people.”

To the Church and fellow Christians: there is no excuse for acting in any fashion other than Christ did to the individual who fits the descriptions above. Be the Samaritan who was willing to credit all expenses of the dying man on the side of the road to his own account. Only Christ can change people’s hearts, but His love through you can often change their minds and through that access their hearts.

Remember when I said this wouldn’t be a soap-box blog? Well, I did say “usually.”

Recognize the real issue. Legislation and police action may be able to change the source and tool of abuse and violence, but it cannot bring meaningful change to the real issue. That is up to individuals — you and I — loving and caring for and treating with dignity … other individuals.

*And because there is always that person who makes entirely illogical conclusions and delights in flimsy assumptions, no, I don’t think this absolves anyone of the responsibility of their actions. Each individual is entirely responsible for their actions and should be held accountable as necessary. But as “love covers a multitude of sins,” so love can act against the inclinations of abuse and violence far better than any law prohibiting it.

Also, I’m not delusional with expectations that if we just “love” enough, all our problems will go away. Attacks that claim I am that naive will likely come. I’m just saying that we understand the real problem, then we can better concentrate on what really matters. 

For those who raise the argument that much violence is committed by those who more committed to ideology than suffering isolation (for example, those inclined to violence in the KKK, Neo-Nazi groups, Antifa, Neo-Communists, the radical ideologies of Islam, et cetera), I will cede that it is probably true for some. Still, even for many driven by ideology, many often arrive at those conclusions because of the comradery and sense of “belonging” they find–even if superficially–within those groups that they felt lacking prior. This is often true for gang members, as well.

I’ve discussed individual responsibility here

I’ve discussed the fallacy and foolishness of collectivist thinking here.

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A Logical System of Justice?

My 10th grade class, which studies the historical narrative from circa 1600 to 1865 with a focus on Western Civilization (Europe and the Americas), has been spending some time studying the history of Anglo-British law as it developed through the Middle Ages and up through the Glorious Revolution, forming much of what was called English Common Law. I’ve already discussed some of this history briefly in an earlier post.

And in the course of our learning, I teach them that the U.S. judicial system of not based on a system of reparation. (And to note, it was not entirely so in Great Britain, either, as time went on. British royalty increasingly was quite prone to assume that they were the source of law, and the highest levels of the English judicial system were originally appointed by the king and carried his mandate. And when many of the colonists rebelled in 1765-1783, many were doing so on the basis that the English authorities were abandoning their traditional principles. And if you subscribe to my email, my upcoming email begins with an example of a jury trial condemning an English Catholic to death for refusing to admit that the king was the head of the church.)

Understandably, they are surprised. Nobody has presented law in this way before, and it seems so straight-forward to them.

I’ve been teaching them about the difference between negativism and positivism. Negativism (from which are derived negative rights, as I discuss in this post) is the idea that law comes before and outside of government. The opposite is positivism, which says law comes from government … if it is legislated to be wrong (or right), then it is wrong (or right). Negativism says it is wrong to steal, regardless of what the government says. Positivism says it is wrong to steal because the government says it is wrong.

The implication? In the development of English law through the Middle Ages onward, most law, accordingly, was developed through litigation (the legal process) instead of legislation (the law-making process) as negativism was the presumption. If someone was robbed, they could be provided compensation even without a law saying that stealing was wrong. And the guilty party was forced to pay reparations.

And this is where my students can see something obvious. If negativism is the presumption, then the person wronged has to be compensated. If I steal my neighbor’s truck, then I owe him…a truck. That’s called reparation. If I sell that truck and then don’t have money for a new one, then I make reparation by working until my wages have fully compensated my neighbor.

Seems like a logical approach to justice, right? Even the judicial system of the Mosaic Law given to the Hebrews as they left Egypt was built almost entirely on reparations. The person harmed was to be repaid by the guilty party.

That’s not what we have in the United States.

In the United States legal code, the government is essentially always the party that is wronged. It is the government that receives “reparation”.

If I am guilty of extortion, the U.S. system of justice requires that I pay the government a fine and spend time in prison, based on its own assessment of the crime, rather than the extent of the harm. And that money doesn’t go to my neighbor. It goes to the government. The law doesn’t require reparation to the party harmed (who will usually only get compensated if they had the right insurance), as assumed by negativism. Rather, it  treats the government like the harmed party, based on an assumption of positivism.

And yes, there are exceptions. People can file suit for reparation of damages. Unfortunately, this is inaccessible for most people given how high legal and lawyer fees are. But why are fees so high? Because the convoluted system of laws that requires an army of lawyers and their aids to navigate through.

The U.S. legal system as it is today is based on positivism. The laws are not based on negativism, based on natural rights outside of government. If the government wants to take one person’s property and give it to another because thinks the second person would make “better” use of it, then they can. The Supreme Court said so in Kelo v. City of New London (2005).

The main question I want to be drawn from this is: where do laws come from? Do you believe in negativism, which assumes a standard of right and wrong outside of government? Or do you believe in positivism, which says the government is the standard of right and wrong? And what are the implications for the system of justice?

Something to think about.