The PJ Tatler

'Reason Not the Need:' 'Fair Share,' the Second Amendment, Dependency, and King Lear

In April 2010, during the midterm Congressional campaigns, Barack Obama famously remarked, “I think that, at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

This comment underlies his campaign against “millionaires and billionaires” to “make the rich pay their fair share.”  What the extent of this “fair share” is — and what the limits are that he contemplates on “enough” money — have never been defined. Nor will any definition ever be forthcoming, for what underlies this mindset is the notion that the government has the right to determine what, and how much, people “need,” and a profligate government will always “need” more from those who have.

The current debate over Second Amendment rights is couched by the Amendment’s defenders, rightly, in the language of defending the parameters of a fundamental right.  But what these defenders do not recognize — or, if they do recognize, have not often stated outright — is that the assault on the Second Amendment is couched in precisely the same terms of “need” that Obama has applied to income.  “No-one needs ten bullets to kill a deer,” Governor Andrew Cuomo shrieked as he hastily rammed through his ill-considered gun law.  Various anti-gun commentators have asked why anyone needs a scary-looking “assault weapon” or high-capacity magazine.

The right to own something, merely because one wants to own it, is being reduced and re-defined by the gun-control advocates as something which must be justified on the basis of “need”; the entire purpose of the gun-control agitation is to further reduce the concept of personal sovereignty, defining down the right to own a weapon, just as the right to make (and keep) as much money as possible has already been effectively defined down as something to be measured and determined and ruled on by the government and not by the individual.

In King Lear, Lear relinquishes his crown and his sovereignty to the daughters who falsely profess their devotion to him and falsely swear to care for his well-being.  He soon finds that he who was used to command is utterly dependent and at the mercy of those who falsely promised to ensure his welfare. When he tries to get his man Kent released from the stocks in which one of his daughters has confined him, he is unable to do so:

Hear me, my lord;
What need you five and twenty, ten, or five,
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?

What need one?

King Lear:
O, reason not the need: our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s:

—Shakespeare, King Lear, Act II, Scene IV

Like Regan and Goneril, the Democrats and the Left have professed their undying devotion to the welfare and well-being of Americans, so that Americans, like Lear, will relinquish their sovereignty on the promise that their needs will be looked after.  Many Americans have already fallen for this needs-based blandishment where income is concerned, on the theory that the money will come to them, and from somebody else.  They are now being asked to circumscribe a fundamental right on the basis that they should “reason the need” — but if they do so, they will find, like Lear found to his cost, that the circumscription will progressively diminish until it is revealed as loss, and that with this loss any pretense of their needs being attended to will also vanish.