You’re On Your Own

There are no end of commentaries on the recent murders in Arizona, resulting in the usual debates.  Pundits argue over whether there should be stricter gun laws, whether talk radio, the movies, or “extremism” contributed to the tragedy, and, most obtusely, what the government should do to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. What is lost is the fact that this tragedy provides yet more proof of something that has been demonstrated to Americans repeatedly over the past decade. The government cannot protect you from the harsh realities of life.

Most people are good people, most of the time. Under normal circumstances, most people would rather cooperate with their fellow human beings in order to achieve their goals rather than steal from them or kill them.  However, some people, at least some of the time, do not “live and let live.” During every moment that we are alive, someone somewhere is committing a crime. Someone is experiencing hardship, whether due to their own bad judgment, laziness, or just plain bad luck. Worst of all, someone is planning to commit an act of violence.  These truths are confirmed by all of human history.

What is unique about the time that we live in now is the extent to which people believe that the government can shield them from these challenges. Never has a society had such high expectations of their government to ensure their security – both personal and economic security. The early 21st century is truly a high-water mark in terms of belief in government to eliminate all risk from the game of life. Over and over, we are offered proof of how foolish this misplaced faith is.

On 9/11/2001, a group of insane fanatics defeated what was at the time the most sophisticated security apparatus in human history and perpetrated heinous crimes against thousands of innocent civilians. The government failed to prevent this crime. The one set of murderers that was not successful was thwarted by private citizens acting on their own. They did not save their own lives, but saved the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands, of others. Our response to this outcome was to give the government more power and private citizens less liberty and privacy.

A few years later, another unbalanced individual tried to blow up a plane with explosives concealed in his shoes. He, too, had defeated the by that time even more powerful government security apparatus and was thwarted by private citizens. Our reaction to that incident was identical.

Last year, the pattern repeated with the so-called “underwear bomber.” The government failed and private citizens thwarted the killer. Again, more power was given to the government and more liberty stolen from the people. We are now allowing ourselves to be photographed naked and physically violated by the government in the hopes that the next time the results will be different.

In 2002, a deranged man walked into the Appalachian School of Law and began shooting students and faculty. There were no police on hand when the shooting started. This is not meant as a criticism of the police. It is unreasonable to expect that there will be an officer present whenever a random act of violence occurs.  In any case, when the shooting started, two private citizens ran to their cars and retrieved their firearms. They confronted the shooter, forced him to drop his weapon, and tackled him to the ground. He was eventually arrested and prosecuted.

However, the fact that private citizens bearing firearms had prevented further bloodshed was omitted in the media coverage of the incident. Following the familiar pattern, the government was given more power and private citizens lost more of their liberty. Stricter gun controls were enacted in Virginia. A few years later, with campuses forced by law to be “gun free zones,” the victims at Virginia Tech were powerless to resist.

Luckily, this latest incident in Arizona did not take place on a college campus, an army base, or any other “gun free zone.” The brave man who tackled the shooter in Arizona said that he was not afraid to do so “because I was armed.” More importantly, this was another example of private citizens defending themselves and their neighbors. The police arrived after the shooter was subdued and fulfilled their proper function in a free society – to arrest the person who had committed the crime.

The repeated failure of government to protect us from the uncertainties of life is not limited to violent crimes. Over and over again, we have looked to government to provide us with economic security and have been similarly disappointed. We sanctioned its war on poverty and got more poverty. We allowed its central bank to loot our wealth in the hopes that it would prevent recessions and inflation and we got more severe recessions and more rampant inflation. We let the government bail out corporations to save jobs and restore economic growth and we got higher unemployment and less new businesses.

As with personal security, our reaction is to reward these failures with more power for the government. More wealth redistribution. More power to the central bank (but I repeat myself). More bailouts. Consistent with the pattern, the only economic security we get comes from private individuals cooperating voluntarily with each other to create new products, new industries, and new opportunities for those seeking work.

In a free society, the government should never be charged with preventing anything. The very definition of the word “prevent,” when used in relation to government, is a repudiation of liberty. Since government is nothing more than the societal use of force, it cannot prevent anything without initiating force against the innocent. The whole idea that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” assumes that the government is not allowed to act until after a crime is committed. Force must be initiated by one party or the other. Until a criminal commits his crime, he is innocent. To apply force against him at that point is a crime itself. Moreover, since we do not know who will commit the next crime, the government can only attempt to prevent it by initiating force against everyone. This is the trap we fall into by relying on government to prevent hardship in our lives.

If liberty and the state can coexist, the state’s role must be a retrospective one. It must only be allowed to act when one human being has committed aggression against another. This applies to crime, economics, safety, and foreign policy. At one time, the United States did not go to war unless the president could convince Congress that direct aggression had already been committed against the United States. If you doubt that, read the requests for a declaration of war made by Madison, Polk, McKinley, Wilson, and Roosevelt.  Read the subsequent resolutions by Congress to declare war. In each case, those documents demonstrate the principle that military action by the government is not justified until aggression has been committed by the other nation.

This might prompt some to respond that in order to be free, we must relegate ourselves to being victims, or “sitting ducks,” able to act only after it is too late. This is a false assumption, rooted in a failure to recognize one undeniable fact of our existence. As far as the preservation and security of our lives is concerned, we are all on our own. No government, no matter how powerful, can assume the responsibility we each have to defend our lives and determine our own destinies. We can allow the government to rob us of our liberty, our property, and our privacy. We can create the kind of police state previously relegated to dystopian fantasies like 1984 or V for Vendetta. Even then, the government will fail – and then ask for more power as a reward for its failure. Must it come to that before we acknowledge the obvious?

Check out Tom Mullen’s book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


© Thomas Mullen 2011

22 thoughts on “You’re On Your Own

  1. Anonymous

    >Beautifully written. Thank you. I am sadden by the state of our lives, our country, and our world. May we find the strength we need to heal.

  2. Libertyfan

    >This is an excellent piece. The more the government tries to "help" us and "protect" us, the worse things get.

  3. Parth V.

    >Well thought out article, but I would like to similarly provide a counterpoint.

    Say nobody had guns- like England. Surely the random gun deaths would be down, sure desperate criminals may still get guns, but society can prevent that by turning in such illegal gun owners. The argument you present is the government cannot be omnipresent and hence an armed citizenry is better than an unarmed one. My point is an aware citizenry need not have guns as last line of defense, but a phone to alert the police of possible illegal gunowners and sellers is adequate. Where are the random shootings in Western Europe or Australia? In fact most Aussies and Europeans marvel at the ridiculousness of even current gun laws, consider it barbarous.

  4. Tom Mullen

    >@Parth – Violent crime has skyrocketed in Great Britain since they banned guns. Compare that to Switzerland, where gun ownership by private citizens is far more prevalent than the US. Gun violence is so low in Switzerland that the Swiss don't even bother to track it.

    As for Europeans and Aussies marveling at how barbarous our gun laws are, I would bet that the politicians marvel, but the people would tell you a much different story.

    YOur scenario re: calling the police regarding "possible illegal gun owners" is completely unrealistic.

    Lastly, the right to bear arms is a RIGHT. It is the most fundamental right – the right to defend your own life. If you do not have the right to defend your own life, you have no rights whatsoever. It is not something for a politician to decide – not something for a majority vote to decide. That is why a constitutional amendment was put in place to protect it (although we've pretty much negated that already).

  5. Slvrizgold

    >Good article. As our society has become more feminized, we have seen our culture devolve from self-reliance and personal responsibility into helpless infants who must suckle from the breasts of a paternalistic govt. These do-gooders who seek to safeguard and sanitize every aspect of our lives have turned us into a nation of gullible wimps, crybabies, and self-absorbed cowards.

    There is a DAMN GOOD reason the Founders included the 2nd Amendment, and its more than just personal self defense. It is so citizens can collectively protect themselves from a treasonous tyrannical State! Which is where we are headed as our govt is essentially run by the corporations and for the corporations. Endless debt, inflation, and taxation are the main goal of the international banksters who seek to place the yoke on all of society so they can achieve absolute power over us economically and politically.

    I was disturbed to see that the author buys into the absurdities of the govt "conspiracy theory" regarding 911 and the bogus "War of (t)Error.". Any learned and diligent person who has studied extensively on the subject cannot have reached such a naive, dubious, childish conclusion.

  6. Rudy

    >Did anyone check out the killer's prescription drug habits? Most murderers are on 'anti-psychotic' and 'anti depressant' prescription drugs…

  7. Anonymous

    >Thank you for this excellent blog. Everything you wrote in this piece mirrors my own thoughts. I train others in the self Defense art of American Kenpo for precisely the same reasons you have listed within this blog. I could not agree with you more.

    My stuff is located at and on Facebook at KenpoCoach Splain.

    Thanks again for the excellent work.

  8. Anonymous

    >If you (rightfully) do not expect the government to protect you from killing wackos, why do you (foolishly) trust the government story about 9/11?

  9. Anonymous

    >Thank you Mr. Mullen for an article worthy of Thomas Paine.

    Individual accountability has been on the wane since the '60s as responsibility has been shifted from individuals/culprits onto society's shoulders. Correspondingly we have turned toward the government for our safety and have forgotten that before police departments were established, that neighbors protected or assisted in protecting one another. Concurrent to the shift in responsibility is the rise of civil liability and criminal punishment for individuals who protect themselves and their chattel from theft or damage – even when society fails to do so. Unless the pendulum is swung back to placing responsibility/accountability for criminal acts back on to the perpetrator and there is a simultaneous granting of immunity from prosecution or civil liability for citizens who act in self-defense, we will continue with our downward spiral.

    In establishing more restrictive and intrusive laws, lawmakers neglect to remember that only the lawful comply and that criminals tend to ignore them. Was it Cato who observed that the corruption of a state may be measured by the number of laws it has on its books?

    What is needed is not new laws but enforcement of existing laws. Perhaps what is needed even more is the rescinding of laws that promote lawlessness and make victims out of lawful members of society.

  10. Anonymous

    >Tom is right to mention Switzerland as somewhere where everyone has a weapon but they don't use it to fix their problems.

    Everyone in Switzerland is required to take training on the proper use, handling, storage, and maintenance of a rifle and pistol. As is the case for Austria and a number of other European states.

    I credit people in the US who have taken the time to learn the proper use of a gun with being in a position (as Tom's example) to take the appropriate action to prevent further bloodshed.

    No one can protect us from crazies, but people can be prepared for a surprize.

    P.S. In Canada there are more guns per-person than in the US, yet somehow the use of them is lower. Perhaps that will change.

  11. Anonymous

    >Wonderfully put by Tom, we can't rely on government, we can rely on each other! Thus we have to stop giving our power away to government like fearful children, and instead give to each other.

    As for 911, maybe Tom wants his book to become a best seller and thus avoids getting into detail about 911.

    As for guns, good to know it works in Switzerland.

    Most violence is perpetrated from higher up by governments, think again when you want to give more power to governments. Do you want more of your tax dollars to go to war and destruction and to arms that will be used to control you as well?

    Crime is created by poverty and by poor upbringing, the government is steering the people to poverty and is doing a very poor job on education.
    Poverty of the majority of people and poor education can easily be changed and thus crime can readily be reduced a lot.

    Ask yourself these questions: Who funded the weapons for the Tucson shooter? What was the effect on government officials (fear?) and on the people? Was this outcome desired by somebody?

    There is an alternative to ruling by fear, that is the people drop their fears and work together for the good of everybody in this world, not just for a select group or a select few countries.

  12. Ulysses

    >We seem to forget that the government IS ourselves. When an enemy attacks the country it is not within the power of an individual to defend the nation all by himself but the collective effort of its citizens is needed which, in a nutshell, IS the government. When you are attacked by a criminal, you call the police which IS the government. When you are wronged by another person you turn to the justice system which IS the government. Even when 9/11 happened, it was the government and not an individual which had the power to go after the miscreants.

    As for the Tucson shooting, it is the endless vitriol and incendiary talk spewed by some right-wing politicians and talk-show hosts, not to mention outright resorting to hooliganism like attacks on candidates' offices, that finally sent a nut over the top and now they are all pleading innocence.

  13. david

    >Ulysses–No, no, a thousand times no! You've bought into the lie that the govt wants to perpetuate–that the Government of the United States IS the United States. This is the cover under which they operate, which allows them to increase their power and control inexorably. The end is the totalitarian state. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.

  14. WWII Vet

    >You say that the USA government does not go to war unless direct aggression had been committed against the United States. That's mistaken; I have studied the Lusitania sinking which was the trigger to get the USA government into WWI. Also, regarding WWII, there were plans by the USA government to push Japan's government into war. That's also documented.
    So don't underestimate the powers that be to provide needed war triggers. I have done enough easily followed research on WWI and WWII to be sure of the facts. Admittedly, I know little about 9/11, but based upon history, have unsettled suspicions.

  15. Anonymous

    >WW II vet, thanks for your service to our country. As a general contractor, I can tell you with 100% certainty, the twin towers as well as building 7 were brought down via controlled demolition. Draw your own conclusions.

  16. Kyle

    >A very well written article. Thank you.

    I have never, and will never, understand the idea that it is morally superior to be a victim of a crime, and morally wrong to defend oneself from crime. It is simply preposterous.

    @Ulysses re:"When you are attacked by a criminal, you call the police which IS the government."

    If you are ever in the unfortunate position of being robbed/attacked I want you to call 911 so the police can come tell you it will all be okay. That they will 'do their best' to catch whoever hurt you.

    In the meantime, if I am robbed/attacked I will call the police to come scrape the low-life off the ground and take him to the morgue.

  17. liberranter

    >In the meantime, if I am robbed/attacked I will call the police to come scrape the low-life off the ground and take him to the morgue.

    Kyle, I wouldn't even recommend doing that, or involving the police in any way, shape, or form with resolution of any crime against person or property. Not only would it be a fruitless waste of your time, you would be putting yourself in potential danger. Today's "law enforcement" agents are nothing but 1) revenue collectors for their politician bosses (if you've ever called 911 to report a crime in progress and requested police assistance and none showed up, it's because they're all out hiding along local highways looking for traffic violators), and 2) thugs who arrest anyone on any pretext in order to satisfy the "tough on crime" facade of their politician bosses, as well as to exercise their own sadist bloodlust. Calling the cops after the fact to show them the corpse of the skell who tried to attack or rob you would probably result in your arrest for murder (or, worst case scenario, even your own murder at their hands, especially if you were still holding the weapon that you used to take down the attacker), facts at hand be damned.

    I second the comments challenging Tom's recitation of the "official" 911 story. Tom, you really should know better, but I think we can forgive you the occasional lapse, as you were focused on making a much more important point. Otherwise, let me also echo the majority's kudos to you on a beautiful work!

  18. hjc4604

    >Call the police?! The Supreme Court ruled years ago that the police had NO DUTY TO PROTECT INDIVIDUAL CITIZENS. This was when the DC police were sued by 3 women who were raped despite calling the police several times. 2 of them on the 3rd floor called PD while the 1st was being raped. They called PD who sent one cop who knocked and left when he got no answer. (Couldn't bother checking the back door they broke in!) They called 911 and were assured PD would be right there. Emboldened, they made noise to scare them off. Guess what happened.


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