By Patrick Brogan
“In one hand I’ve a Bible
In the other I’ve got a gun
Well, don’ you know me, I’m the man who won.”
Outlaw Man by David Blue.
The Wild West
I always thought this image summed up America fairly well. Most countries draw their traditions from mythology. Great heroes carrying out seemingly impossible feats. For the USA, this is the Wild West. Vast open plains. No restrictions. The only limitation was your own imagination and thus, the American Dream was born. For anybody looking to make something of their lives this must have seemed like paradise, apart from the Native Americans, obviously. For many, these iconic images represented something most of us spend our whole lives searching for; freedom.
Every human culture that has existed has some sort code. Something that stops it going off the rails and ultimately destroying self. Usually, this is a religion or form of worship. The West was no different. Religious men of all beliefs travelled from all over the world to tend to this new flock. As history so often tells us, religion does not always stop immoral behaviour. To balance this out, the frontiers had the gun.
Lawlessness or Freedom?
Was it just a free for all where the strongest came to dominate or was it the land of the free and home of the brave? Well, it depends on who you ask, but like all these well-worn stories, the truth is a lot more complicated. Some would look at the murder rates as a good way of deciding this. In 1979, Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill wrote An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West. They stated “the purpose of this paper is to take us from the theoretical world of anarchy to a case study of its application.” Here, they look at a society with very little, if any, government influence. Their findings make for interesting reading. “The West during this time often is perceived as a place of great chaos, with little respect for property or life. Our research indicates that this was not the case; property rights were protected and civil order prevailed. In summary, this paper argues that a characterization of the American West as chaotic would appear to be incorrect.” Given its lawless reputation, the murder rate is surprisingly low. “Recently, however, more careful examinations of the conditions that existed cause one to doubt the accuracy of this perception. In his book, Frontier Violence: Another Look, W. Eugene Hollon stated that the believed “that the Western frontier was a far more civilized, more peaceful, and safer place than American society is today.”‘Z The legend of the “wild, wild West” lives on despite Robert Dykstra’s finding that in five of the major cattle towns (Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and Caldwell) for the years from 1870to 1885, only 45 homicides were reported-an average of 1.5 per cattle-trading season.’) In Abilene, supposedly one of the wildest of the cow towns, “nobody was killed in 1869 or 1870. In fact, nobody was killed until the advent of officers of the law, employed to prevent killings.”” It must be noted that at this time it would have been easier to hid crimes, but even taking that into consideration, there is more than enough evidence here to say that guns don’t necessarily mean murder and may even reduce it. As it says, the murder rate didn’t increase until officers of the law were deployed.
The Mafia is a name given erroneously to a group of criminal organisations, rather than one singular organisation as it is sometimes depicted as. The Ndrangheta of Calabria, the Camorra of Campania, and the most influential and notorious, the Cosa Nostra of Sicily are the largest of these groups. The Cosa Nostra, or La Cosa Nostra as the FBI prefers to call them, had its origins in Sicily in the 19th Century. The architecture of Sicilian society meant many of its citizens were either distrustful or outright paranoid of authority figures. This only increased under the unification of Italy and the newly established Republic’s heavy-handed approach to justice on the island. If the Cowboys were anarchic in the sense they operated without government, the organised gangs of Sicily were anarchic because they were extremely anti-government.
The Allied forces used the help of local gang bosses to liberate the island during World War II. This opened the door for them to enter America. The Black Hand and Skull and Bones organisations had already been established in the States from the late 19th/early 20 the Centuries and were the forerunner of major Mafia crime involvement. They took the same distrustful view of the authorities in America as they had done in the old country. Or as Tony Soprano put it so succinctly; “They needed us(Italian immigrants) to build their cities and subways and to make them richer. The Carnegies and the Rockefellers. They needed worker bees and there we were. Some of us didn’t want to swarm around the hive and loose who we were. And some of us wanted a piece of the action.” Taking this piece of the action meant carrying out extreme acts of violence with growing regularity.
Guns don’t kill people rappers do. Or so Goldie Lookin’ Chain would have us believe. There is an element of truth in this, though. Rap music has consistently portrayed an alpha male, winner takes all scenario. This is the only way to get ahead. This message has always been directed at the most vulnerable and impressionable in society, the young and underprivileged masses living ghettos. There is no doubt America has a huge problem with shooting sprees and mass murders. The real issue is the culture rather any proposed gun regulations. As we seen with the Wild West, there were very few murders until organised society took hold. The Hutterites of the Northern United States and Canada show that it is a societal issue. These people live within the USA yet “no murder has ever occurred among the Hutterites.” So it is the society of America, rather than gun laws, that will change the gun culture.
If you would like a link to American Experiment in Anachar-Capitalism here you go: https://mises.org/library/american-experiment-anarcho-capitalism-not-so-wild-wild-west
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