Of fools then and now

New MH2The following article was published 15 years ago and should still offer a jolly good laugh. It helps to remind us what fools we had and still have as leaders. Bob Carr might lead the pack with his spin on dealing with crime in 1998.

Carr managed to fool most of NSW voters with his effective spin, all the while looting the utilities and thus running them into the ground, locking up most of the state, and generally bankrupting “The Premier State” as vehicle license plate so boasts.

November 1998.

As I listened to Premier Carr announcing the ban of certain weapons he could have been addressing the peacekeeping council of the United Nations.

With lordly pride befitting Napoleon fresh from his victory at the Battle of Marengo, Boob Carr added to the list of banned weapons in NSW, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, landmines, and studded gloves.

BoobcarrHowever, another weapon to be banned, a dreaded weapon known only by Darth Vader, is the “ballistic knife.” Thank God Captain Boob has unilaterally banned ballistic knives. Boob’s counterpart, Captain Kirk on board the Starship Free Enterprise, within minutes issued an intergalactic edict also banning ballistic knives. The ban extended to the distant galaxy of Gorgon 2, a star thought to be Bob Brown’s training camp for many of earth’s most prominent politicians, business leaders, and Green activists.

Boob’s “ballistic knife” has now been added to the State’s list of banned weapons. The Firearms Dealers Association has issued a “please explain” to the NSW Government after Premier Bob Carr last week announced the 1998 Weapons Prohibition Bill.

But none were more puzzled than Sydney’s weapon dealers when they received the revised list of banned weapons. Not one dealer has a “ballistic knife” nor had any members of the Firearms Dealers Association ever heard of them.

A spokesman from the Police Ministry wasn’t sure what “ballistic knives” were but thought they must exist because they were used in a television drama. The spokesman then went on to describe the knife as having a shooting blade propelled by rubber bands or a powerful spring. This is true!

The good citizens of NSW may now rest comfortable as the State’s not so good citizens have, in large numbers, rallied to captain Boob’s call to surrender their rocket launchers and land mines. The line-up outside Boob’s office was 3Kms long.

I have no quarrel with the prohibition of grenade launchers and land mines, but only if owners fail to provide good reason for possessing them. I suspect there are many like me who use rocket launchers to deliver distinctive messages to noisy neighbours. The push of a button, a smoky trail in the air, a mighty bang, and a neighbourhood dispute is settled in a flash. Less work for the police.

Another problem overlooked by Boob is for pet owners who use more land mines than did the Viet Cong. Those with dogs that continually dig holes in the garden or lawn, land mines buried just below the soil of a freshly dug hole have become the only cure—an effective remedy recommended by nine-out-of-ten vets.

When Bob returns to earth he should be told that idiotic leaps to ban already prohibited weapons and fictitious “ballistic knives” will not win him one vote from any earthling.

Carr and his coterie of bureaucratic incompetents should address some of the more serious problems within our society. They could begin by banning kryptonite, which has become a bigger seller than handguns on the black market. Kryptonite is more famously known to neutralise the strength of superman, but criminals discovered it also does the same to Brink’s security guards.

Also on Bob’s banned list should be Spiderman nets. Death and injury to innocent citizens when trapped in nets and robbed by the wicked are not acceptable in a modern society. Hey Bob?

As Carr moves to make our society safer, he should now show great leadership and be the first to hand in his isotope ray-gun and his single-seat time-warp machine.

Ahh! It’s mighty good to know our future rests in capable hands.

Beam me up Boob.

Boob is now Australia’s Foreign Minister and nothing has changed.

It brings truth to the adage, “If young fools survive, they become old fools.”

The intellectual cost of prohibition

Michael G considers the real cost of prohibition.

Most debates on the subjects of prohibition and censorship are usually a combination of sad and amusing. Much of it is too emotional, hotheaded and relies on fear as a motivator. There are usually but two sides: one advocating the restraint of what it sees as repulsive moral filth and another which brazenly advocates not merely the allowance of said filth but its outright celebration.

This is obvious in most ‘social’ debates presented to people, whether they relate to drugs, alcohol, violence, sex or anything else. Every social debate is treated as a one-off individual issue rather than that great overarching one: whether restrictions on certain things or behaviours actually achieve the intended results and benefit people as individuals and society as a whole.

Just because something is prohibited doesn’t mean people will stop doing or using it. Its accessibility may be diminished but all too often its allure is heightened. The intellectual—and not the monetary or ‘social’—cost to prohibition is the most ignored. When something is banned or restricted there are many more costs to individuals and society than simply police enforcement and any associated government spending.

There is an impact upon the mentality and thought patterns of human beings. It is through wisdom and experience that we learn what works and what doesn’t. Civilisation isn’t built and retained on the forced transfer of knowledge but its continued willing acceptance by each generation. The key point I want to make is that when people don’t learn for themselves why good things are good and bad things are bad, they are desensitised to the long-term consequences of them. Children forced to sit in Church pews by their parents don’t know or understand why they’re there, and quickly leave when given the chance. Adults who go through hell on earth and then stumble into a sermon see the difference between two lives and are the strongest adherents.

It is through the possibility of failure that we succeed. Prevention from failing removes the stark contrast between the two choices and the degree of success achieved becomes weaker and more like failure every year. A Chinese importer once discovered that when importing goldfish into Australia, half of the fish would die before arrival as they didn’t need to escape predators. Such indolence resulted in weak fish that inevitably died in high numbers. The importer then added a predator to the water. Living with risk and the possibility of failure—death at the hands of the predator—the goldfish kept moving and exercising. Many more survived.

When the government bans and prohibits things it usurps the protection that would otherwise be provided by people’s own learnt wisdom and experience. Their character as people is degraded. Rather than being in a situation where they have to consider the risk of something and then make a judgment upon it, they are prevented from doing so. Every banning or prohibition of a good or service retards people’s intelligence by stopping them from thinking about it, trying it, and then making their own decision free from arbitrary government bias.

Indeed more often than not the things that harm people and society as a whole are subtly subsidised and encouraged by the government. When people go in to the city to drink to excess on a Friday or Saturday night (“binge drinking” as reported in the media), they may get there and home on subsidised public transport, may spend money on drink given to them by the government as assistance or welfare payments, and enjoy the security provided by government police. The end result is that the risk of their activity in dollar and personal terms is lessened by the government’s action: they don’t have to pay more for transport to get to their destination, are outright given money for drinking, and the price of drinks are lower because the owners of pubs and clubs don’t have to pay for the security required in case of violence.

Rather than taking an inconsistent path of, on one hand, subtly encouraging bad things, but on the other, railing against and banning them, isn’t the best option to let people make up their own minds, their own decisions? Failing to give people the freedom to make their own choices and take their own risks does not merely imply a mistrust of people, but contributes to the destruction of their rationality and intelligence. The extreme mental damage caused in the long-term by bans and prohibitions far outweighs any short-term harm caused by overindulgence in petty evils.

Michael G is completing studies in finance and history at Flinders University and works at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.