It's the Bill of Rights, Stupid

Especially the Second Amendment

by L. Neil Smith

         Texas congressman Dick Armey is talking up some pretty good ideas -- for a Republican.
         According to a recent announcement, he wants to cut federal income taxes to a flat rate of 17 percent -- which is too much, but what do you expect? He would allow generous exemptions: $10,000 for individuals, $14,000 for single parents, $20,000 for couples, and so on, meaning that most people would wind up paying that 17 percent on merely a fraction of their income. The best news is that he would replace the hated Form 1040 with a postcard, and eliminate tax-withholding altogether, something that would be extremely good for this country.
         But what is he going to do about Kay Bailey Hutchison?
         Hutchison, you may recall, is the lady that conservatives were aflutter over, who humiliated the Democrats by taking Lloyd Bentsen's Senate seat away from them when he descended to the Clinton cabinet, and who survived what amounted to an assassination attempt -- assault-lawyers at thirty paces -- on the part of Governor Ann "Ma" Richards, more or less by staring the old crone squarely in the eye and saying, "Let she who is without graft cast the first aspersion."
         Great stuff.
         But when push came to shove, what kind of conservative, what kind of Republican, what kind of Senator did Kay turn out to be? No better than Ma Richards, really, who earned the contempt of everyone with an educated concern for the Bill of Rights by vetoing a liberalized concealed-carry statute passed overwhelmingly by her legislature. Bailey's first significant act as a United States Senator was to join one-too-many of her fellow Republicans in voting the Brady Bill -- primarily intended to reduce handgun purchases by women -- into law. Ironically, the old pre-Waco Bentsen would probably have voted against it.
         And that, of course, set the stage for Republicans to join the Clinton Gang in its blatantly illegal attempt -- the Feinstein Amendment -- to outlaw that very class of weapons most clearly meant to be protected by the Second Amendment.
         Now what, I hear you asking, does Hutchison's dimwitted betrayal of the Constitution have to do with Armey's good-hearted, high-minded effort to help Americans keep more of their income? Simply this: conservatives frequently -- and erroneously -- assume that a free economy is the same thing as a free country. Let no one doubt my fervent desire for an economy less constrained than any Republican can imagine, but what good is money if you don't have any rights?
         Let me put it another way: the Bill of Rights is basically the only thing that keeps America from becoming the world's largest banana republic -- and there are plenty of banana republics that don't have any income tax at all.
         Or let me put it still another way, seeing as how Armey's proposal isn't good-hearted or high-minded at all, but just a stab -- and a commendable one -- at taking advantage of Bill and Hillary's loopy policies of governmental greed and implacable hatred for individual achievement: most observers on both sides of the ideological fence were quick to cite George Bush's broken promise about taxes as a factor in his 1992 defeat; few of them noticed -- or wanted to discuss publicly -- the fact that he lost by a margin remarkably similar to the number of gun-owning single-issue voters he had offended on several occasions.
         All along, it was the Bill of Rights, stupid -- especially the Second Amendment.
         Ancient Rome had some odd institutions, among them the phenomenon of wealthy slaves. I don't want to be part of that particular classical revival, do you? Tell you what, Dick, make me an offer I really can't refuse. Before you volunteer again to let me keep more of what was mine to begin with anyway, why not try enforcing the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights? Each and every article. Lock up -- that's right, arrest, indict, try, and imprison -- those among your colleagues, Republican or Democrat, who attempt to vote my liberties away.
         I might take you seriously if you do that.
         You may not remember, but it's what you promised to do when you took office.
         Until then, I will continue to vote Libertarian -- and work as hard as I can at persuading others to do the same -- even if in practical terms it means seeing one slimy, repulsive, liberal Democrat after another elected to office. To put that another way, it may be necessary to destroy the GOP in order to save it.
         And it's preferable to supporting a party that consistently demonstrates treacherous disregard for certain basic civilities -- as embodied in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution -- to which we all supposedly agreed, so long ago.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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