I got the following email recently (formatting left intact):

Subject:  Gun Vote – USA Today

This takes literally 2  clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue  question with USA Today. It will only take a few  seconds of your time. Then pass the link on to all  the pro gun folks you know. Hopefully these  results will be published later this month. This  upcoming year will become critical for gun owners  with the Supreme Court accepting the District of  Columbiacase against the right for individuals to  bear arms.

First – vote on this  one.

Second – launch it to other folks and  have THEM vote – then we will see if the results  get published.

Vote in the USA Today poll -  click on the link below.

The  Question is:
Does the Second Amendment give  individuals the right to bear arms?

Vote  here: Yes!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!

http://www.usatoday.com/news/quickquestion/2007/november/popup5895.htm

The correct answer to the question “Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?” is no. The Second Amendment doesn’t grant anyone the right to bear arms because our rights do not come from the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or even government. The Declaration of Independence states that the source of our rights is God, and the Bill of Rights only lists some them. It does not grant rights to the people any more than government may grants us our rights. Government’s responsibility is to secure these rights for the people, not restrict them. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote before about our God-given rights:

If there is no God, then who or what grants us our rights? They can’t be “God-given” if there is no God to give them, right? Then this implies that the rights must flow from the government. And what the government gives one day, it can easily remove the next. You can see how this has happened in the People’s Republic of China, and I do not wish to see it happen here in the United States. So I’ll be keeping both my God and my God-given rights, thank you very much.

In any case, the quiz is from November of 2007, and the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller in June of 2008 that the Second Amendment applies to individuals. I don’t put any faith in non-scientific polling like at USA Today. Heck, I don’t put much faith in scientific polling because of how easy it is to manipulate people into giving the desired answers.

Sure, we may talk about how our rights come from the Constitution, just like we talk about the United States being a democracy. But in both cases, it’s best to really know the facts behind the statements.

It’s the day that everyone loves to hate, April 15th. If you haven’t already filled out your 1040 tax form, there are only a few hours left to do so, or at least fill out an extension.

I have my 1040 form in an envelope right next to me ready to be mailed out today. Since we knew that we’d have to write a check this year, we didn’t see any reason to give the government our money any sooner than it is required. Since we had sold some stock last year, we knew we’d need to pay taxes, so we took 20% of our stock sale and placed it in a savings account. It has been earning us interest since, so why would we send a check to the Department of the Treasury any sooner than is necessary? On the other hand, when we expect a refund, I like to get that submitted as soon as possible. After all, I earned it by working hard, so I’d like it back as soon as possible.

Berkeley Breathed summed up my feelings about income tax in a “Bloom County” comic from 20 years ago. Click the image to see it full size.

Click for full size

I wonder if the IRS will notice that my envelope is addressed to the “Infernal Revenue Service”?

UPDATE (5/11/2010 4:45:03 PM): This has become my most popular page since I posted it just over a year ago. Breathed does a great job of summing up the tax experience for people.

Feel free to check out my many other posts! The latest are on the sidebar, but you can always check out the full archive. And a hearty welcome to the visitors from the IRS.

Thanks to government meddling in the free market and individual greed, we are living in serious economic times. During any economic downturn, the government has four basic options:

Reduce government spending – When a family has less money to spend, it just makes sense to cut back on the extra expenses. Yes, it might mean sacrificing your favorite morning pick-me-up, but do you realize that skipping your daily Starbucks drink could save you over $1,000 in a year? Do you have any other daily or monthly expenses that you could reduce? Not that the government lives in the real world. Can you remember the last time our government voluntarily cut back on its own expenses? Neither can I.

Raise taxes – Any time the government sees a need for more money, a cry will echo down the halls and rooms of D.C. to raise taxes, often targeting those evil, nasty rich. While campaigning, President Obama said that he’d only tax people making $250,000 a year, but that promise was quickly broken when he raised taxes on cigarettes. Most of the people who smoke make nothing close to $250,000 a year. Setting aside Obama’s broken promise, raising taxes acts as a damper on whatever is being taxed, so raising taxes on income will have the effect of damping people’s efforts to raise income. You can think of raising taxes as similar to placing a few stones into a hiker’s backpack. It’s unlikely that the extra pound or two will cause the hiker to give up altogether, but the added weight will make him work harder than he would have done. And that extra effort means less energy for other activities on the hike. That’s similar to raising taxes in real life. When people are already burdened with bad economic times, it’s a dumb idea to add to their burden with tax increases.

Borrow more money – The government can always raise more money by borrowing, but to do so, it would have to find someone willing to finance the debt by buying our bonds. In his excellent post, Peter Murphy explains that China, Japan, and Russia are not in the position to buy up our bonds. And as the economic problems echo around the world, the pool of people able and willing to finance our debt will shrink even more. But borrowing even more money while already deep in debt is foolish at best. If you are already maxed out on ten credit cards, will you be any better off financially if you max out another five? (And is it really all that wise to attempt to raise money from people who consider us their enemies?)

Print money – The government could just print more money. If the money were backed by something concrete like gold or silver, then producing more gold or silver would make it possible to print more bullion-backed bucks. But our money is fiat currency, meaning it isn’t backed by anything tangible, just the full faith of the U.S. government. But what tangible items does the government actually produce? I see government producing laws, regulations, press conferences, and scandals, but I don’t see anything of value actually produced by the government. It is the people of these United States that do all the real producing. So any additional money printed by the government is backed by the future productivity of the people, not the government. When borrowing money and raised taxes won’t bring in the needed funds, the only option left to the government is to print more money. So get ready for the coming looming threat of inflation.

100 Quintillion Pengo Bill

Americans haven’t had to deal with high inflation since the early 1980s, so the coming inflation may be a nasty surprise to those who haven’t been through it before. But it could be worse–we could experience hyperinflation, when the government shifts money printing into overdrive. The bill in the image above is a 100 quintillion Pengo bill, printed by the Hungarian National Bank in 1946 during its worst period of hyperinflation. Since there are no zeroes on the bill, allow me to make it clear just how much that bill is worth:

100,000,000,000,000,000,000 Pengos

That’s 20 friggin’ zeroes! It’s no wonder they used text instead of numbers on the bill, or the peasant girl would have fled in shame. Unless our government reins in its rampant spending, we will see inflation hit the U.S. hard.

Hopefully, we won’t experience hyperinflation like that experienced in the Weimar Republic of Germany, when it was cheaper to burn stacks of money than it was to buy firewood. Don’t forget that the German hyperinflation damaged the Weimar Republic’s reputation and left it impoverished and dispirited, allowing a certain poisonous charismatic leader to be elected. And don’t forget the effort it took to remove him from power.

Burning money

To refresh your memory, here’s the relevant part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…” The Founding Fathers didn’t want the government preventing people from speaking out on any subject. And I have noticed that it is easy to support speech we agree with, but the real test comes when it is speech we don’t agree with.

Several months back in Missouri, a billboard was erected depicting now-President Obama in a turban and equating him with more abortions, same-sex marriages, taxes, and gun regulations. The Washburn Review editorial board wrote the following about the billboard:

There are several issues wrapped up together about this sign. It is offensive and uncalled for. It makes whomever wrote it look bigoted and unintelligent. Unintelligent because if Obama is elected, there won’t necessarily be MORE abortions or MORE same sex marriages. There might be the same number. The sign is misleading and offensive, to say the least. We cannot say that the sign is completely wrong because there might be more taxes or more gun regulations. There are good ways to make arguments and poor ways to make arguments. This sign is an asinine way to make an argument.

Nevertheless, should people be without the right to say such things? If we take away that right…what is next? The United States ruled that parody is a form of democratic dialogue. Is this parody or just racist name-calling?

It is an overly offensive piece of political “speech” that may be little more than ignorant people making ignorant claims.

These people should have the right to say/depict stupid things, because the rights of free speech are imperative to a democracy. [emphasis mine - CM]

Since we don’t, strictly speaking, live in a democracy, I’ll reword the last sentence correctly — the rights of free speech are imperative in our representative republic. People are, and should remain, free to speak and write whatever stupid or enlightened things they choose. If we like what people say, we can thank them with money and attention. Likewise, we can use our own freedom of speech to counter the ignorant and insulting speech of others. The proper reaction to speech we don’t like should be the free exercise of our own speech, and not gratification of the desire to shut others up. If we say that their speech shouldn’t be allowed because we don’t like it, or it hurts our sensitive feelings, then what stops them from stopping our speech because they don’t like it either? Either we all have free speech, or we don’t.

So what is the proper response to a sign you don’t like hanging up in some business? If it offends you, then don’t patronize that business. If you wish, you could explain to the proprietor why you find the sign offensive–and, if he doesn’t seem to care, why you won’t be spending your money there. Because of the freedom of speech, the business owner has the right to post any sign he chooses, just as you have the right to explain to the owner your displeasure with the sign, and the right to take your business elsewhere. But not everyone seems to understand the proper response to business signs:

The sign that reads “Unattended Children Will Be Sold As Slaves” has hung on the wall of the business for decades until Wednesday. The owner of Soap Opera Coin and Laundry said it was there when he bought the place and he just never took it down.

He called it a light-hearted nudge at parents who don’t watch their kids.

“It’s a joke. You have a child that’s messing around and ‘Oh, I’ll sell them as slave.’ I guess I can see how someone might get upset,” said David Marti, the laundromat owner.

Marti removed the sign after a customer complained about it to a Jacksonville television station.

The sign was removed, not because the customer complained to the owner, but because the customer complained to a local TV station. This is the classic liberal self-centered position of “I’m offended, so you need to change.” Sure, the hyper-offended are free to speak to the press, but they are doing so for two reasons: 1) because they’re too passive-aggressive to express their displeasure directly to those who offended them and 2) because they can’t accept the free speech of others. And that is why I say that the test of free speech comes when the speech in question is something we don’t agree with.

And speaking of things we don’t agree with, here is a final example of the repression of free speech in the news:

Two days after a man was sentenced to probation and community service for putting up a sign as a “joke” in a public works garage that said “whites only” on a drinking fountain, city police were called to a home in the 600 block of 25th Street on Sunday to investigate another racially charged sign.

This one was clearly no joke.

No charges were filed Sunday, but police told the woman she must take down the handwritten sign on a fence on her property saying, “I rent three bedrooms [at her address to] white people Niagara Falls.”

The 53-year-old woman told police she put up the sign after someone tried to break into her house and added, “I can do what I want. I live in America,” according to a police report.

Police said they received complaints and she must take the sign down. An officer at the scene said the woman agreed to take down the sign under protest. The officer said the woman already had seven more signs she was planning to hang up.

What is the proper response to her exercise of free speech on her own property? The offended could talk to her about their issues with her sign. They could explain that such an openly racist sign was rude and offensive to the entire neighborhood. They could refuse to rent from her. Or they could exercise their own free speech to complain and discuss her sign. But instead of countering her free speech with their own, they responded by denying her freedom of speech at the hands of the authorities.

Remember, it’s easy to support the freedom of speech of those with whom we agree. The real test comes when we disagree completely with the speech of others. The Washburn Review editorial board understood this, but the people of Jacksonville, Florida and Niagara Falls, New York failed to stand up for the right of free speech because an individual’s particular exercise of it offended them. During the eight years of President Bush’s terms in office, liberals proudly proclaimed that dissent was patriotic. Based on the way liberals react when they are offended, I don’t think they will view conservative dissent of President Obama’s policies in the same way.

Is your offense greater than another person’s freedom? I don’t think so, but too many people do.