Know Where to Draw the Line

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When I was
a young child, my father gave me a bit of advice that I remember
very well. We were driving down the road, and I saw an animal that
had been struck by a car and was dead. I asked my father how anybody
could do that to an animal. His response was that he would never
swerve to avoid an animal. When you're driving, it's dangerous to
swerve to avoid something. A person was worth enough for my father
to swerve and risk himself, and an animal was not. But the truly
important thing, my father told me, was to decide before the decision
had to be made. When you're driving down the road at 45 M.P.H. you
don't want a dog to run in front of your vehicle and try to make
the decision then. No, it's much better if you make the decision
a year earlier. It's much safer. More importantly, when you take
some time to decide ahead of time, it is much more likely that you
will make a good decision. You have time to weigh the pros and cons
of the decision and avoid a gut decision that might end up being
very, very, wrong.

I've taken
this advice to heart. I hit an animal once because I braked, but
didn't swerve. Luckily, I had slowed down enough that it was not
seriously hurt. The deer just jumped up and ran away. There was
no damage to the car, and no apparent damage to the animal. However,
it was a winter day, and the roads were icy. If I had swerved, I
could have been seriously injured. There were other cars in the
road I could have hit, and there was a steep hill to one side. I
am much better off for having thought about the situation beforehand.
There are other areas where I've made the decision, but haven't
had to act upon it. If a thief ever pulls a weapon on me and demands
my wallet/watch/keys, I'll give them to the thief. I value my life,
and even the thief's life, much more than I value those material
possessions. The chance of one of us getting hurt or killed just
isn't worth it to me. However, if a man threatened to hurt or rape
my wife or child, then I would risk myself. I would fight to defend
them, because they are worth the risk. Another decision I've made
is that if a draft was called, and if the government drafted me,
I wouldn't serve. I'm not a consciousness objector: I don't believe
that all wars are inherently wrong (though I believe many are wrong,
including most if not all of the ones that have occurred during
my lifetime). I would refuse because I refuse to be a slave, fighting
and possibly dying for another person against my will. A few years
ago I began to think about what I would do if child protective services
ever showed up at my house, saying that I was not a good father
and that they were taking my children. My initial reaction was something
like "I'd kill them." That's a bad decision. If I fought
CPS, they'd call the police, who would either shoot me or arrest
me. They'd throw me in the ground or in jail, and I'd lose my kids
either way. At least if I act prudently, I have a chance at getting
my kids back. It might be very difficult, but I believe it to be
the best decision.

There is
another thing I've decided. I've drawn a line for when I stop trying
to work within the system to promote my libertarian ideals. Most
of us would agree that the Germans should have fought their government
in the 1930's, and the Russians should have begun to fight their
government in the 20's. Most Germans and Russians didn't. Some people
think that it's because they were cowards, or too stupid to see
what was going on, or lazy, or evil. I don't think that was the
case. They just hadn't realized how far things had gone because
there was no objective method for them to measure the change. A
line drawn in you mind can be invaluable to detect such changes.

For in America,
many people have not noticed the changes. The first federal law
concerning gun control was not passed till 1934. It was objective
and clear. It covered a very specific set of guns where there were
objective measurements. Even then, many objected to it when they
learned of it. Now there are so many Federal gun laws that almost
nobody can tell if a gun is legal or not, and more regulations are
passed all the time, and very few people complain about these infringements.
When the federal government banned alcohol, it took a constitutional
amendment. When they banned narcotics, it did not; Congress just
decided that they had that power after all. More and more substances
have been banned over the years, and not just drugs. Freon, pharmaceuticals
that the FDA has decided are "unsafe," and some pesticides
are among those substances banned by the federal government. Last
year the feds even passed a bill that will phase out older TV's
for HDTV. All broadcast networks will be required to broadcast only
in HD. This is particularly surprising, since no laws requiring
radios was ever needed, nor was a law required to cause people to
buy FM radios, nor did a law have to be passed to cause people to
buy televisions. Yet more and more, such laws are being passed,
so many that we can't even keep track of them. And that's why a
line is so important. It will help to assure you don't cross a line
that you don't want to.

I won't tell
you where I've drawn the line in my life. That's not any of your
business. Decide what matters for your family and your life. Decide
what matters so much, when the government crosses that line you
will shout "Enough!" instead of meekly surrendering something
too important to give up. Draw the line for yourself, because you
don't want to get to that line and cross it without realizing what
you've done.

13, 2007

Dominic Sercely [send him mail]
is a first year student at the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor,
Michigan. His proudest achievement to date is that he attained the
rank of Eagle Scout in the BSA.

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