Personal Liberty


Aichmophobia: a morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

So, Stephen Tall walks into a shop and . . .

So I’m buying a new set of cutlery, when the sales assistant tells me there’s a problem: he can’t serve me. Erm, why not, I ask: I’ve brought money with me and everything.

Turns out he’s 17, and so cannot sell a knife to me. Even knives whose power of serration will scarcely trouble poached salmon. He calls over a colleague, who keys in her number to his till, and he then sells me my new set of cutlery.

Thank goodness for the protections afford by that law. Imagine the chaos that might rein if 17 year-olds were freely able to sell cutlery?

He’s old enough to join the army and die for his country, mind.

We’ve talked before about the British aversion to cutlery.  Tell me again how gun control isn’t a slippery slope.

(HT: Adam Smith Institute Blog)

Police Defuse Samurai Attack — The Telegraph, 7 March 2008.

With a Bonzai scream heard for miles, 10,000 Samurai warriors descended on Hyde Park Wednesday morning.  The Samurai, dressed in traditional armor and wielding swords, swarmed over the park attacking everything in sight.  Ninety-eight people were killed, as were 8 dogs, 32 park benches, and countless pigeons that had left-off shitting on Nelson’s head long enough to go have a look at the commotion.  An additional 76 people were injured, 11 of whom remain in intensive care.

One of the witness was quoted as saying, “They were kung-fu fighting.  Those cats were fast as lightning.  I mean, it was a little bit frightening.”

Seven of the victims were American citizens and President Bush responded to the tragic news with his usual aplomb, saying, “Not this again; I thought daddy took care of those crazy Japanese imperialist terrorists years ago.”  The Prime Minister lent his support, “What Bush said, but with a more open and accepting attitude consistent with modern multicultural Britain and the Samurai’s place in our diverse society.”

The slaughter would have been much worse, but police began confiscating swords and arresting the Samurai in accordance with the recently enacted ban on Samurai swords.  One constable quipped, “Thank goodness for the new Samurai sword law, otherwise how would we have stopped the little bleeders from killing everyone in Kensington?”

Apparently, it isn’t enough to have a law against killing people with a sword, you also need to ban the swords themselves.

The sale, import and hire of samurai swords could be banned by the end of the year, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said today.

The proposal, outlined in a consultation paper issued by the Home Office, will help to take dangerous weapons out of circulation and protect the public.

. . .

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “Public safety is our greatest priority. Samurai sword crime is low in volume but high in profile and I recognise it can have a devastating impact.

“Banning the sale, import and hire will take more dangerous weapons out of circulation, making our streets safer.”

. . .

“It is already illegal to have a samurai sword in a public place but I want to restrict the number of dangerous weapons in circulation to enhance community safety.”

Devastating impact, indeed.  Just so everyone understands, because we know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, in Britain, you can get four years in prison for carrying a Samurai sword.  But, actually killing someone only gets you two years.

(HT: Samizdata).

I have argued on many occasions that gun violence is a result of culture and not of gun ownership or liberal gun laws.  This article in the Times shows that the British are learning exactly that.

Victorian gun crime—The Times, 03 March 2007 (emphasis added).

Illegally held guns are flooding Britain’s inner cities and a spate of fatal shootings in London has highlighted gun culture’s allure to disaffected youth. This comes despite the best efforts of the law and its enforcers to restrict the supply of guns. Yet, any man, woman or street urchin could own a gun in Victorian Britain — at least until 1870 when a licence fee was charged if they wanted to carry the weapon outside their home. And, surprisingly, there was very little gun crime.

The right to own firearms was enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights (the Americans had to get their ideas from somewhere) and as late as 1900 the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was happy to declare how much he would “laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England”.

There were a quarter of a million registered firearms in private hands before the First World War and the true figure was almost certainly far higher. In those years the average number of crimes involving firearms in London was 45. In 2006 it was 3,350.

True, in 1903 a Pistols Act restricted small handgun ownership to those who were not “drunken or insane”. This did not prove overrestrictive. When in 1909 unarmed police gave chase to a couple of gun-toting Latvian anarchist desperados in Tottenham, there was no shortage of passers-by who lent their pistols to the coppers.

. . .

[Later restrictive] legislation had less to do with armed robbery and more to do with the Lloyd George Government’s fear that a combination of disaffected soldiers returning from the Western Front, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the surge in trade union membership might be harbingers of trouble. It was thus better if firearms were monopolised by the State and the more responsible classes.

. . .

In recent years, life in Britain’s cities has got far more dangerous. Since there are not more guns around, perhaps the real problem is cultural?

Ross Firestone, a commenter on the online version, notes:

Of course, the real problem is cultural.

In the rural American state of New Hampshire there are esssentially no gun laws. When I lived there as a boy I had the usual youthful arsenal: a handgun, a rimfire rifle, a shotgun and I was saving money to buy a center-fire rifle. Gun ownership is part of the culture of the state who’s motto is, “Live free or die!”. Yet the crime rate was very low then and still is.

I now live in urban Chicago. Handgun ownership is forbidden and long gun ownership is restricted so there are far fewer legally owned guns. The crime rate is 50 times that of New Hampshire.

This mirrors my own experience growing up in rural Utah and now living in the Nation’s Capital.  There wasn’t a problem with students bringing guns to school in my hometown.  Everyone just kept them in a gun rack in the back window of his pick-up.

(Via An Englishman’s Castle).

Leonard Leo, Federalist Society EVP, is emailing daily reports from the World Health Organization’s Executive Board Session in Geneva.  Today’s session focused on the “prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases: implementation of the global strategy.”  I think the eradication of smallpox is one of the greatest triumphs in human history, so I was ready to cut the WHO some slack.

When I read “noncommunicable diseases,” I thought cancer, sickle-cell anemia, down syndrome, etc.  In fact, these diseases are called non-contagious diseases.  By noncommunicable diseases, the WHO means issues such as “unhealthy diet,” “physical inactivity,” and “tobacco and alcohol use.”  When did bad habits earn the imposing title of “noncommunicable diseases”?  The word disease connotes something that is beyond personal control.  Diseases afflict people; people don’t choose diseases.  I must admit, though, that the idea is seductive.  I’m not overweight because I sit at a desk all day and eat too much.  No, I suffer from a disease.

“For its part, the US Delegation acknowledged that the problem with non-communicable diseases is ‘extensive,’ but also noted that they are ‘among the most preventable diseases.'”  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, at least in the developed world, noncommunicable diseases are entirely preventable.

What is the proposed solution?  Why, regulation of course.

Several NGOs–Consumers International, in particular–called for “national measures to regulate marketing,” “transparency in food labeling,” and an “international code for marketing to children” that would “restrict marketing of unhealthy food to children.”

The Federal Trade Commission tried this once already, and it didn’t work out too well for them.

The children’s advertising proceeding was toxic to the Commission as an institution. Congress allowed the agency’s funding to lapse, and the agency was literally shut down for a brief time. The FTC’s other important law enforcement functions were left in tatters. Newspapers ran stories showing FTC attorneys packing their active investigational files in boxes for storage, and entire industries sought restriction of, or even outright exemptions from, the agency’s authority. Congress passed a law prohibiting the FTC from adopting any rule in the children’s advertising rulemaking proceeding, or in any substantially similar proceeding, based on an unfairness theory. It was more than a decade after the FTC terminated the rulemaking before Congress was willing to reauthorize the agency. (Beales, 12 Geo. Mason L.R. 879-80).

This is just another in a line of “diseases” that aren’t really our fault.  In another example, Russell Roberts of George Mason University writes and talks about intermittent explosive disorder.  But, by far the worst case seems to be Restless Heart Syndrome.

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