It could be argued that the greatest problem facing the world is the population bomb. Global population has doubled several times in the 20th Century. While not strictly speaking an exponential curve (since the time of doubling kept getting shorter, and then about 1970 started getting longer again), the Earth cannot sustain very many more doublings. Even one more doubling would probably force the world into destroying the remaining tropical forests and turning them into rice paddys. We still have no policy against clear cuts of old growth forests in the US. Can we feed 10 billion people? Probably, but that is not the point. Every doubling makes the whole ecology more unstable. As the world comes to rely upon US grain, what if we institute Growers Associations, and US farmers opt out of the global grain market? Or what if the world decides not to allow any more destruction of wild habitat? We should take both actions. But the result might be the onset of a time of famines in the Third World.
So I make two radical proposals. First, put the US military to guarding our southern borders. Shoot to kill. Show no mercy. Only then can we be said to have gotten serious about stopping illegal immigration.
Secondly, institute birth licenses. In order to have a child and keep it, one would need a birth license, from the local magistrate (assuming Aristarchy). Roughly speaking, we would give out on average the same number of birth licenses as there are death certificates. See the logic of that? Who would get a birth license? Not children! Those who are 15 or 16 or even 17 and not part of a stable partnership with the father do not qualify. Neither do those who carry the genes for fatal illness, like Huntington's Chorea. Yes, I know, Woody Guthrie had it, and still wrote some of our greatest folk songs. But I suspect the spirit of Woody Guthrie would have found another vehicle, if this one were aborted. Nor should we allow seriously disabled newborns to live. Metaphysically speaking, we have not prevented the birth of that spirit. Only guaranteed that it will have a suitable vehicle.
There is one other major reason to ban guns. It is the only way to prevent more tragedies like that in Jonesboro, Arkansas, or Paducah, Kentucky, or Dunblane, Scotland, all of which involved children shooting children with semi-automatic weapons of enormous power. The act in Dunblane led to the banning of firearms in Great Britain. That is the correct response, the only response. Why do kids kill kids? Because they can. They have access to high powered rifles and ammunition. All children are mean little savages between ages 5 and 14. They bully one another, fight, hit, throw rocks. And if guns are available, they will shoot one another.
People search in vain for some event or factor in the background of these child murderers. They seek in vain, for it is what is NOT present that matters. It is the absence of physical punishment, the only thing savages understand. When I was 5 and a first grader, I and two other kids were caught throwing rocks at some girls. The rocks were not very big and the girls were far away, so fortunately, no one was hurt. Nonetheless, it was an action of senseless violence, just like the shootings in Jonesboro, Paducah, or Dunblane, except that the weapons were different. For our punishment we each received three hard whacks on the buttocks with a thick wooden paddle. We received no permanent injury, but we did not feel like sitting down for awhile. This was the only paddling I ever received. I never again threw rocks at anyone. It had been firmly implanted in my mind that this was an act of senseless violence, worthy of the ultimate punishment. Because the two boys in Jonesboro were not paddled for throwing rocks at girls at 5, they were able to shoot at girls at ages 11 and 13.
Despite this, all legislation in this country to ban guns, or even to ban some guns, such as assault rifles, has been undermined by the National Rifle Association (NRA). We must meet the objections of the NRA, often expressed as bumper stickers, because they express legitimate concerns.
One common bumper sticker is "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." That would be true in the 2nd Republic. Only in the Draconian beginning of the 3rd Republic will it be possible to make the sweeping changes I propose, such as the Great Sweep-Up of guns. Draco is a name from Greek history. The Greeks invented democracy, but then as now, they sometimes found themselves in a deadlock, and a state of crisis. When that happened, they elected a temporary "dictator" because some decision is better than deadlock in a time of crisis. One of these elected dictators was named Draco, and his reforms were so drastic, his name is the root of a word that is still with us: "draconian."
In order to quickly reduce the level of violence to the level of other First Class societies, draconian measures will be required, not all of them directly involving guns. Bad neighborhoods will be cordoned off, every house and apartment emptied (perhaps at 3 AM), and the inhabitants deported. Bad neighborhoods breed bad people, and simply standing back and waiting for the bad people to commit horrible crimes will not do. It is the entire community that must be rooted out, confiscating all their property, including their guns, of course. Such neighborhoods will be the first to have walls and checkpoints, and when those are in place, high-rise projects will be pulled down, and the whole neighborhood turned over to Habitat for Humanity, to create an integrated middle class neighborhood.
Even before the bad neighborhoods are deported, the gangs will be rounded up. Deport the Mafia families, and their associates, whether they are known to have committed any crimes or not. All races will be represented in the deportees. When it comes to the Bloods and the Crips, I would be willing to try an experiment. Execute the sociopaths, and then try to turn the remaining members of these gangs into forces for good in their neighborhood. Organize city-wide 'hood Olympics, which may involve rough sports, but not murder.
So, you see, you members of the NRA, the criminals will not have guns. They will lose theirs first. However, as long as they can steal more guns from honest citizens, we have not solved the problem. Therefore, we must have the Great Sweep and take everyone's guns.
Another NRA bumper sticker is: "Guns don't kill people, criminals do." Very true. I am under no illusions that getting rid of the guns will by itself reduce crime to acceptable levels. But when combined with legalization of drugs, prostitution and gambling, plus protection orders that really work because of the walls and checkpoints...it is one step. Of course, every kitchen is filled with lethal weapons, capable of being used for murder or suicide. So what is so special about guns?
The problem with certain weapons, such as nuclear weapons or poison gas or modern firearms is that they are inherently evil and unfair weapons. They kill indiscriminately and in large numbers. Victims have no protection, no chance to defend themselves. It is impossible to dodge in the tiny instant before a trigger is squeezed and the round is fired off. And with modern firearms, it possible to kill at a great range and remain invisible. Distance is no protection. And finally, it is too easy to conceal firearms. Fortunately, they can be detected by metal detectors at checkpoints, but at the expense of building bicycles and HPVs out of fibers and resins, and electric cars out of aluminum.
By contrast, a modern compound bow is a fairer weapon. It is impossible to kill dozens in seconds. It is difficult to conceal the weapon, or conceal the fact that one is about to shoot it. It is possible to dodge the flight of the arrow if the shooter is sufficiently far away. Skill and good reflexes make a difference. But any fool can snuff out a life with modern firearms.
The NRA operate under the delusion that the 2nd Amendment gives private citizens the right to carry firearms. Read the whole thing! The 2nd Amendment is about the right of citizens to join local militias, what we today call the National Guard. And the arms referred to in the 2nd Amendment are military arms, designed to provide a last level of defense against a military dictatorship or foreign invasion. With local armories of military weapons, local members of the National Guard would become guerrilla fighters in such situations. But notice, members are not allowed to take their tanks and machine guns home. It all stays in the local armory.
But let us assume for a moment that people do have a right to defend their home and property and a right to go hunting or target shooting. Modern firearms are overkill. They are far too dangerous for such innocent purposes. We must go all the way back to the "brown bess" flintlock musket that the British army used in the Napoleonic wars to find an acceptable firearm, for those who must have the bang and flash, and the smell of gunpowder smoke. The British also had companies of riflemen, but mainly relied on the musket, because a British soldier could load and fire three balls a minute. Great accuracy was not required because of the massed volleys.
The "brown bess" would be a legal weapon in the 3rd Republic. It is a fair weapon, because of its inaccuracy at distances greater than about 100 feet. Also it is impossible to remain hidden, like a sharpshooter, because of the great cloud of smoke produced by black powder (the only legal explosive in the 3rd Republic). If a musketman fires at someone closer and misses, the opponent can dash over and cut his throat before he can reload. Furthermore, there is a split second hesitation before the flash in the pan and the firing of the weapon, giving someone time to duck. Unlike a handgun, it is hard to conceal, and hard to use for suicide. But anything that will take smokeless powder without exploding, anything which may be concealed (a pistol of any kind), anything with rifling, anything with a more modern firing action is illegal. For instance, the weapons of the Civil War would not be allowable, first because they are rifles and accurate at great ranges, and secondly because they have a caplock action rather than flintlock, so there is no hesitation between pulling the trigger and discharge of the rifle. No time to duck.
Other legal weapons would be the modern compound bow (can't be concealed), but not the crossbow. For the protection of women, permit switchblades with "ginzu" blades, i.e. ceramic and plastic knives which would pass through checkpoints. A woman could take such a weapon out of concealment and kill a rapist, but only after he was on top of her. So it is a purely defensive weapon. Such a switchblade is no good for a knife fight, because it has no fingerguard, and because the blade is brittle and easily broken. We might also allow throwing knives of the same ceramic material. In this case, when the arm is cocked to throw the knife, the victim has time to duck. Furthermore, accuracy and power are limited to perhaps 10 feet. A compound bow would be adequate home defense, while the two "ginzu" knife types are suitable for personal defense.
A combination of public works and public health measures have eliminated most diseases which have an animal intermediary, such as fleas and rats for the Black Death, or mosquitoes for yellow fever, dengue and malaria. In the case of venereal diseases we have always notified all previous sexual partners about a carrier, who no doubt tell all their friends, so the carriers of VD have been known and therefore shunned. But for some reason AIDS has always been different, at least until superior treatments of the disease came along. AIDS activists were always in the streets, angrily blaming their plight on anyone but themselves, successfully defeating public health measures that could have halted the AIDS epidemic in its tracks long ago. All that is required is compulsory testing and quarantine, as with TB and leprosy (before a cure was found). No doubt we will someday have either a cure for AIDS or a vaccine for it, but in the meantime, why have we had no effective public health response? Because the AIDS activists wouldn't have it, and labelled any such measure an invasion of their rights.
Their rights? Since when have people infected with a deadly disease had a right to knowingly infect other people? There is no such right. In any case, rights are neither laws of nature nor commandments of divinity. They are created by communities, for their own protection. And we still need protection against AIDS, even if the people infected with HIV live much longer than they used to. The tests should be free, and compulsory for everyone sexually active (even married people and priests) at least once a year. The quarantine could be virtual, instead of literal. Put the names and pictures of people infected with HIV in a public database, so one could just look up someone before a first date. Also, brand HIV or HPMV, or Herpes on their buttocks, for those who haven't time to check the database. HPMV stands for a group of viral STDs which are also incurable, and produce anything from genital warts to cervical cancer. Herpes is likewise an incurable viral STD, which produces sores and scabs around the mouth or genitalia. The AIDS epidemic is not over, and it is spreading increasingly out to suburban and rural high-schools where the only mode of transmission is heterosexual sex.
One reason for being concerned about bodies and the way they are disposed is that Utopians always take the long view. And if we keep burying people in perpetual plots, a time will come when cemeteries take over all the space within and around cities and there will be no place for the living. This problem has alread been faced by many old and large cities, such as Paris. In the 18th Century, cemeteries were occupying too much valuable land, so a program was put into place to remove the bones from cemeteries and store them in underground crypts, which still exist under Paris. At that time, there were 6 million dead Parisians, and 2 million live ones. I don't know what the current policy is in Paris. There is at least one small cemetery in Paris, the one where Jim Morrison, the Rock star from the Doors, is buried. But this is a small cemetery that one must hunt up. There are not large areas covered by cemeteries within Paris.
Utopians like to solve multiple problems with one stroke. I propose that death should be declared one hour after brain death, but before such things as respirators or heart-lung bypass or dialysis machines are turned off. The relatives are invited in to say good-bye, and then they are shooed off. Within a short time, possibly six weeks or less, the ashes of the body in a fancy urn are given to the next of kin. They may then decide to hold a memorial service. The next of kin will not have to pay anything for cremation, caskets, burial plots or the funeral, all of which can easily top $10,000. Instead, they could have the memorial service catered, and have a minister, priest, spiritual leader or family member conduct the service, with the favorite music of the departed being sung or performed or even played on a Hi-Fi. After 6 weeks or so, the first shock of grief will be over, and it will be possible to celebrate the life, in joy, rather than commemorate the death. Next-of-kin will never be told exactly what may have done to the body, except that it was done with respect. No records will be kept of the exact use made of the body.
What will the state do with the body? Organ transplants for one thing. This should completely solve the organ donor shortage problem. Personally, I am not so sure that organ transplants are a great idea. The drugs given to suppress rejection leave the body wide open to death by infection, parasites or cancer, which usually happens within 5 or 6 years. Perhaps we should regard all such transplants as a temporary expedient, while a permanent replacement is grown from the patient's own cells. This is not far off. It is already being done with skin, ears and noses. So, long before time is up, so to speak, the temporary transplant will be replaced with one grown from that patient's own cells. Then the rejection suppressant drugs can be discontinued.
Another use for bodies is in the training of new doctors or medical technicians. What better way to practice sutures, putting in IVs, removing the appendix or the gall bladder or to practice any difficult new surgical procedure than to practice on a cadaver? The result will be new doctors who have already practiced every procedure they will ever do. Probably many times.
But in truth, the main virtue of the government taking ownership of all dead bodies is to prevent the world from being overrun by cemeteries. And it follows from this thought that we must do as the Parisians did, and dig up the bones in existing metropolitan cemeteries, cart off the stone monuments, and return this land to productive use, no doubt initially as a park, with grass, trees and flower beds. The bones could be kept in underground crypts, as the Parisians did, or cremated and returned to the next of kin, if that is known. Country cemeteries can be left alone, at least for a few millenia.
Copyright © Thales 1999