Are voting ages still democratic?

Rather par for the course, our current gun debate, initiated after the school shooting in Parkland, has been dominated by children — only this time, literally.

I’m using “children” only in the sense that they are not legally adults, hovering just under the age of eighteen. They are not children in a sense of being necessarily mentally underdeveloped, or necessarily inexperienced, or even very young. They are, from a semantics standpoint, still teenagers, but they are not necessarily short-sighted or reckless or uneducated.

Our category “children” is somewhat fuzzy. And so are our judgments about their political participation. For instance, we consider ourselves, roughly, a democracy, but we do not let children vote. Is restricting children from voting still democratic?

With this new group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students organizing for political change (rapidly accelerated to the upper echelons of media coverage and interviews), there has been widespread discussion about letting children vote. A lot of this is so much motivated reasoning: extending suffrage to the younger demographic would counter the current proliferation of older folks, who often vote on the opposite side of the aisle for different values. Young people tend to be more progressive; change the demographics, change the regime. Yet the conversation clearly need not be partisan, since there exist Republican- and Democrat-minded children, and suffrage doesn’t discriminate. (Moreover, conservative religious groups that favor large families, like Mormons, could simply start pumping out more kids to compete.)

A plethora of arguments exist that do propose pushing the voting age lower — 13, and quite a bit for 16 (ex. Jason Brennan) — and avoid partisanship. My gripe about these arguments is that, in acknowledging the logic or utility of a lowered voting age, they fail to validate a voting age at all. Which is not to say that there should not be a voting age in place (I am unconvinced in either direction); it’s just to say that we might want to start thinking of ourselves as rather undemocratic so long as we have one.

An interesting thing to observe when looking at suffrage for children is that Americans do not consider a voting age incompatible with democracy. If Americans do not think of America as a democracy, it is because our office of the President is not directly elected by majority vote (or they think of it as an oligarchy or something); it is not undemocratic just because children cannot vote. The fact that we deny under-eighteen year olds the vote does not even cross their minds when criticizing what many see as an unequal political playing field. For instance, in eminent political scientist Robert Dahl’s work How Democratic is the American Constitution? the loci of criticism are primarily on the electoral college and bicameral legislature. In popular parlance these are considered undemocratic, conflicting with the equal representation of voters.

Dahl notes that systems with unequal representation contrast to the principle of “one person, one vote.” Those with suffrage have one or more votes (as in nineteenth-century Prussia where voters were classified by their property taxes) while those without have less than one. Beginning his attack on the Senate, he states “As the American democratic credo continued episodically to exert its effects on political life, the most blatant forms of unequal representation were in due time rejected. Yet, one monumental though largely unnoticed form of unequal representation continues today and may well continue indefinitely. This results from the famous Connecticut Compromise that guarantees two senators from each state” (p. 48).

I quote Dahl because his book is zealously committed to majoritarian rule, rejecting Toqueville’s qualms about the tyranny of the majority. Indeed, Dahl says he believes “that the legitimacy of the Constitution ought to derive solely from its utility as an instrument of democratic government” (39). And yet, in the middle of criticizing undemocratic American federal law, the voting age and status of children are not once brought up. These factors appear to be invisible. In our ordinary life, when the voting age is brought up, it is nearly always in juxtaposition to other laws, e.g., “We let eighteen year olds vote and smoke, but they have to be 21 to buy a beer,” or, on the topic of gun control, “If you can serve in the military at 18, and you can vote at 18, then what is the problem, exactly, with buying a gun?”

What is the explanation for this? We include the march for democracy as one progressive aspect of modernity. We see ourselves as more democratic than our origin story, having extended suffrage to non-whites, women and people without property. We see America under the Constitution as a more developed rule-of-the-people than Athens under Cleisthenes. So, we admit to degrees of political democracy — have we really reached the end of the road? Isn’t it more accurate that we are but one law away from its full realization? And of course, even if we are more of a representative republic, this is still under the banner of democracy — we still think of ourselves as abiding by “one person, one vote” (Dahl, 179-183).

In response, it is said that children are not properly citizens. This allows us to consider ourselves democratic, even while restricting direct political power from a huge subset of the population while inflicting our laws on them.

This line of thought doesn’t cut it. The arguments for children as non- or only partial-citizens are riddled with imprecisely-targeted elitism. “Children can be brainwashed. Children do not understand their own best interests. Children are uninterested in politics. Children are not informed enough. Children are not rational. Children are not smart enough to make decisions that affect the entire planet.”

Although these all might apply, on the average, to some age group — one which is much younger than seventeen, I would think — they also apply to all sorts of individuals distributed throughout every age. A man gets into a car wreck and severely damages his frontal lobe. In most states there is no law prohibiting him from dropping a name in the ballot, even though his judgment is dramatically impaired, perhaps analogous to an infant. A nomad, who eschews modern industrial living for the happy life of travel and pleasure, is allowed to vote in his country of citizenship — even though his knowledge of political life may be no greater than someone from the 16th century. Similarly, adults can be brainwashed, adults can be stupid, adults can be totally clueless about which means will lead to the satisfaction of their preferred ends.

I venture that all Americans do not want uninformed, short-sighted, dumb, or brainwashable people voting, but they will not admit to it on their own. Children are a proxy group to try to limit the amount of these people that are allowed in on our political process. And is banning people based on any of these criteria compatible with democracy and equality?

Preventing “stupid” people from voting is subjective and elitist; preventing “brainwashable” people from voting is arbitrary; preventing “short-sighted” people from voting is subjective and elitist, and the same for “uninformed” people. We come to the category of persons with severe mental handicaps, be their brain underdeveloped from the normal process of youth, or injury, or various congenital neurodiversities. Regrettably, at first glance it seems reasonable to prevent people with severe mental defects from voting. Because, it is thought, they really can’t know their interests, and if they are to have a voting right, it should be placed in a benefactor who is familiar with their genuine interests. But now, this still feels like elitism, and it doesn’t even touch on the problem of how to gauge this mental defect — it seems all too easy for tests to impose a sort of subjective bias.

Indeed, there is evidence that this is what happens. Laws which assign voting rights to guardians are too crude to discriminate between mental disabilities which prevent voting and other miscellaneous mental problems, and make it overly burdensome to exercise voting rights even if one is competent. It is hard to see how disenfranchising populations can be done on objective grounds. If we extended suffrage from its initial minority group to all other human beings above the age of eighteen, the fact that we prolong extending it to children is only a function of elitism, and consequently it is undemocratic.

To clarify, I don’t think it is “ageist” to oppose extending the vote to children, in the way that it is sexist to restrict the vote for women. Just because the categories are blurry doesn’t mean there aren’t substantial differences, on average, between children and adults. But our reasoning is crude. We are not anti-children’s suffrage because of the category “children,” but because of the collective disjunction of characteristics we associate underneath this umbrella. It seems like Americans would just as easily disenfranchise even larger portions of the population, were we able to pass it off as democratic in the way that it has been normalized for children.

Further, it is not impossible to extend absolute suffrage. Children so young that they literally cannot vote — infants — could have their new voting rights bestowed upon their caretakers, since insofar as infants have interests, they almost certainly align with their daily providers. This results in parents having an additional vote per child which transfers to their children whenever they request them in court. (Again, I’m not endorsing this policy, just pointing out that it is possible.) The undemocratic and elitist nature of a voting age cannot be dismissed on the grounds that universal suffrage is “impossible.”

It is still perfectly fine to say “Well, I don’t want the boobgeoisie voting about what I can do anyway, so a fortiori I oppose children’s suffrage,” because this argument asserts some autocracy anyway (so long as we assume voting as an institutional background). The point is that the reason Americans oppose enfranchising children is because of elitism, and that the disenfranchising of children is undemocratic.

In How Democratic is the American Constitution? the closest Robert Dahl gets to discussing children is adding the Twenty-Six Amendment to the march for democratic progress, stating that lowering the voting age to eighteen made our electorate more inclusive (p. 28). I fail to see why lowering it even further would not also qualify as making us more inclusive.

In conclusion, our system is not democratic at all,
Because a person’s a person no matter how small.

 

How not to argue against gun control

In the aftermath of a mass shooting the familiar arguments are revived once again. The past two years have been enough for a rough tattoo to imprint itself on my eardrums.

I don’t know what my exact position would be, if I had to draw a line in the current system. It is of course nonsense to say “pro-2nd Amendment,” since my interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is no more valid than whatever the basic line of the Supreme Court is at any given moment, and I have to assume some sort of Constitutional hermeneutics which I won’t be able to justify independently.

I know that I argue, most often, on the “pro-gun rights” side. There is, however, an argument I constantly see over on this side which is so obnoxiously foolish I feel the need to criticize it.

I’ve heard it a hundred times in different language. Here’s one version I just saw posted on Facebook in the middle of a really tedious argument:

[“There’s a huge correlation between all these shootings and the fact that people can easily buy guns at wallmart [sic]. Why are so many Americans denying that fact?”]

“There is a correlation between people being able to purchase guns and shootings? That’s enlightening. There is also a correlation between people purchasing cars and car accidents, purchasing fast food and obesity, etc. Go live in your padded room and leave management of society to the adults. There are plenty of examples of mass shootings, knife attacks, poison gas attacks, bombings, running people down with trucks, etc. If you think it’s the tool or method that’s the problem, you have guaranteed that you won’t really address the problem.”

This is an asinine response. It is the argument that “Well, if we ban guns, the killer will just use something else instead. Look at all these examples of spree killings with a blade, or just look at Nice two years ago.”

It says, explicitly, that the type of weapons we allow for civilian ownership do not matter, because massacres will either always happen anyway, or the killer will simply move on to the next legal weapon (which is basically the same thing).

Any time someone seriously makes this argument, we can simply respond, “Okay, so should we let civilians have nuclear warheads?”

Doesn’t it follow from their logic? Or maybe nukes are too non-analogous in terms of possible levels of devastation (like, you know, guns to knives); then we just ask, “Okay, so should we let civilians have RPGs? Or what about military drones? After all, it’s not the tool that matters, it’s the person.”

Of course, Recreational Civilian Nukes have become a sort of ironic platform of libertarianism online, but most of the people making this gun rights argument aren’t people who completely want to abolish the government and privatize the military — even if their logic implies that the scale of massacres won’t be significantly impacted by legalizing all sorts of elite weaponry for the public at large.

School shootings are horrible and frustrating. We should look at solutions first — find out what possible preventative measures are efficacious, if they are any — and only after that determine if they fit with our moral and political compasses. The above argument is clearly something that comes from a commitment to gun rights first and logic second.

And there is another ubiquitous gun rights argument that prides dogma before facts. Often times, pro-gun rights people will bring up how miniscule the percentage of deaths by firearm actually is in the States and across the globe. And when we look into the data on this, we see that the number one cause of death by firearm is suicide — I think 65% of the gun fatalities in the United States. From which, the pro-gun rights person announces, “See, these deaths couldn’t be prevented anyway.”

How absurd, both on the statistics and on simple reflection! The research on suicide indicates that the availability of highly lethal means does impact the decision to commit.

If you were going through suicidal ideation, do you think it might make a difference if your only available means were sharp objects (extremely painful), versus sharp objects and also a firearm? Or imagine if your only available means were pills (low probability of success), versus pills and also a firearm. Less lethal/more painful tools will have a higher ideational threshold for commitment — how much a person really wants to commit suicide — and plausibly lower the chance of someone committing.

There are Harvard studies on the correlation between highly lethal means and suicide rates which I can find if people are interested. But for the moment, I just wish the pro-gun rights crowd was a little more open to thinking about the facts and less about upholding their chosen position through sophistry.

Deontology and consequentialism, again

Christopher Freiman, associate professor in philosophy at William and Mary and writer at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, identifies as both a libertarian and utilitarian. Since my first real introduction to libertarianism was Harvard theorist Robert Nozick, I originally envisioned the philosophy as a rights-based, and thereby in some sense deontological, political theory, with like-minded economists and political scientists arguing for its merits in terms of material conditions (its consequences). In university philosophy courses, “libertarianism” means self-ownership and property rights, often through Nozick’s analytic approach. Consequentialism looked more like a top-down approach on how to live, one that doesn’t necessarily suggest any political theory, or does so only ambiguously.

In living by a deontological ethics, considerations about the consequences of an action will almost inevitably come into play, especially when pressed with more extraordinary cases. (Brandon has pointed out their ostensible — I think it only that — compatibility.) The right of an individual to not be violently attacked, for example, seems trumped in the face of the alternative immediate destruction of every other human being. I don’t think this is a great method for deducing practical principles, however. Although considering extreme cases might be entertaining and enlightening as to the durability of a thesis, their pragmatic import is typically negligible.

However, in considering their philosophical compatibility, libertarianism and utilitarianism feel at odds, and not over extreme counterexamples. Let’s look at a few low-hanging fruits. Suppose the National Security Agency had advanced knowledge that someone was planning to attack a nightclub in Orlando a few weeks prior to June 12, 2016. Private security would have increased, several clubs would have shut down. Were the threat classified as serious enough, state government might debate the Constitutionality of entering peoples’ homes and forcefully taking firearms; they might do this and succeed. Any further firearm sales would also be prohibited. This is an awful lot of state power and intrusion. However, fifty lives are plausibly saved, including Omar Mateen, and the lives of their family and friends are not devastated. Using a hedonistic calculus, these efforts look justified. Now, ignoring the NSA’s incompetency, suppose that our security agencies predicted the hijackings several months before September 11, about sixteen years ago to this day. In a utilitarian model, would the choice to prevent any civilian boarding for so many days, in order to prevent tragedy, be the correct one? In essence, is the partial nuisance to a substantial number of people overridden by the imperative to save 2,996 lives? Certainly — through utilitarianism — yes: the government ought to intervene and shut down air travel. In fact, the state determined it had a compelling interest immediately after the attacks and did this very thing, balancing national security over civil liberties.

Utilitarianism and liberal positions also challenge each other aggressively on issues like gun rights. In theory, were it possible to completely remove firearms from the states, there would be a gain in utility for the lives saved that would otherwise be lost to gun violence accidental or otherwise. Many people suffering nuisance (e.g. loss of pleasure from visiting the shooting range and insecurity about home invasion) is less consequential than the saving of lives.

And what of abortion? I align with reproductive rights, like plenty but not nearly all libertarians. Is choice, here, compatible with utilitarianism? All the additional children, bringing their own default happiness (cf. David Benatar for a counterargument), might be a utility bomb large enough to warrant invasive pro-life measures under utilitarianism, regardless of first, second or third trimester.

There are surely historical arguments that protest awarding the consequentialist victory so easily to the side of authoritarianism. For example, a nation equipped with the administrative power to invade private citizens’ homes and families, or cancel intranational travel or immigration, is probably not the nation which, in the long run, leads to the most utility or happiness. Nationhood aside, if all firearms were removed from society, this too might not be that which leads to the greatest net utility: maybe home invasion becomes epidemic; maybe rural areas that capitalize on hunting fall into unforeseen economic concerns; maybe the sheer quantity of the nuisance outweighs the beneficial effect of confiscation. The consequences of most of these issues are empirical and fall to historical argument. However, at least to me, utilitarianism seems incompatible with a variety of rights-based libertarian commitments, and thus deontological considerations become essential.

Here is another challenge to utilitarianism in general, and particularly Bentham’s project of a utilitarian legal system: discovering utils, or quantifying how much utility is connected to any action, is difficult. (And, since it has been, in all instantations, attached to government policy — not cooperation among peoples — it suffers from planning concerns on an even more detrimental scale.) The calculation is even more challenging when considering “short” versus “long term” effects. In the cases of Patriot Act-style defense, gun control (were it possible), and abortion, large-scale government intervention is, prima facie, justified by utilitarianism; yet over time, it may become evident that these choices result in overall poorer consequences. How much time do we wait to decide if it was the utilitarian decision? — And in the episodes of history, did any of those scenarios play out long enough to give a definitive “long term” case study? Swapping classical for “rule ulitarianism” doesn’t remove this epistemic barrier. There isn’t a non-arbitrary rule that determines how many moments into the future one must wait before judging the utility-consequence of any action, for those actions where we cannot pinpoint the closed-system end of the casual chain. Another related concern is that utilitarian judgments take on society as a whole, with little room for specific circumstances and idiosyncracies. This is why it strikes me as viciously top-down.

Thus the two philosophies, one etho-political and one entirely ethical, appear to conflict on several important considerations. (Most of the principles of the Libertarian Party, to name one platform, are not utilitarian.) Lengthy historical arguments become necessary to challenge the compelling nature of particular hypotheticals. J. S. Mill, whose utilitarian work inspired much of the classical liberal tradition, was, at the end of the day, a consequentialist; however, his harm principle from On Liberty is definitively rights-based, and this principle is at the core of his libertarian import, along with his anti-paternalism as espoused by people like Freiman. Freiman acknowledges some of the criticisms of utilitarianism, being (I think) a Millian and a libertarian, including one of its most prominent objections from those concerned with individual liberty: the separateness of persons, as offered from critics like Rawls. His response to this problem is essentially the one that falls to historical argument: “While it is possible for utilitarianism to recommend organ harvesting, hospitals that expropriate organs would not contribute to a happy and peaceful society in the real world.” This empirical conjecture leaves the realm of philosophy for us.

The inconsistencies promulgated by Mill — from his political philosophy, namely in On Liberty (1859), and his ethical philosophy, namely in Utilitarianism (1863) — may be why both consequentialist and deontologist libertarians can find support in his writings. Combinations like these are no doubt why Brandon finds the two compatible.

I don’t find them compatible, though utilitarianism as it was understood before Rawls may be the worse of the two (although rhetorically more effective). The modern father of deontology, Immanuel Kant, rejected the consequentialist ethos in his call to “treat people as ends, not means.” Utilitarianism, as broadly understood, has every reason to produce an omnipotent authority figure that will approve any gamut of regulatory and coercive policies if it seems to benefit the greatest interest of the majority. The “seems to” part is the only part that matters, since plans have to be acted on the basis of best knowledge; and I would maintain that estimating utils is never certain, being an empirical question made especially blurry by historical confusion. Brandon gave the example of the Great Leap Forward as an instance where we see utmost disregard for human sanctity in the sake of majoritarian or nationalist or “best interest” considerations.

Yet Kant can be interpretated as no less controlling. Deontology, from deos “duty,” is the study of what is morally permissible or obligatory, and to this natural rights is just one possible derivative. He is taken to be a natural rights theorist, and there is a separateness of persons explicit in his ethics absent from Bentham and Mills’ greatest happiness principle. But although Kant’s metaphysics of morals has persons, and not majorities, his Protestant upbringing shines through in his conservative views on sexuality and otherwise non-political behavior.

In a comment on Freiman’s post, Matt Zwolinksi objects to his assertion that utilitarianism is opposed to the interference of government in private, consenting interactions between adults (for some of the reasons mentioned above, and I agree). Zwolinski says, on the other hand, that Kant was strongly anti-paternalist. I doubt this. Immanuel Kant wrote criticisms of casual sex — each party is self-interested, and not concerned about the innate dignity of the other — and, like other Enlightenment philosophers, advanced that true freedom is something other than acting how one wishes within the bounds of others’ rights (true freedom is, in fact, acting according to how Kant wants you to act). It’s not exactly clear if his traditionalist positions on personal morality follow from his categorical imperative, but his duty ethics in isolation prohibits many activities we would take to be personal freedoms regardless. Kant might have opposed forms of government paternalism, but his entire ethical philosophy is paternalistic by itself.

For example, what would a Kantian say about a proposal to legalize prostitution? When someone pays another for sexual favors, the former is definitely not considering the latter’s innate dignity. The person who sells their body is treated as means to an end and not an end in themselves. Presumably, since Kant thought the state has a role in regulating other behavior, he would be against this policy change. This is confusing, though, because in most trades people use each other as means and not ends. The sexual transaction is analogous enough to any sort of trade between persons, in which we consider each other in terms of our own immediate benefit and not inherent humanity. When I purchase a Gatorade from a gas station, I am using the cashier as the means to acquire a beverage. Kantian deontologists could, the same as the utilitarians, call to organize all the minutiae of personal life to coordinate with the ideals of one man from Königsberg.

Meanwhile, what does the classical utilitarian say about legalizing prostitution? We only have to weigh the utility gained and lost. First of all, it helps the customers, who no longer have to enter the seedy black market to buy a one-night stand. Next, it helps the workers, who in a regulated marketplace are treated better and are less likely to receive abuse from off-the-radar pimps. There would likely be a dip in human trafficking, which would raise the utility of would-be kidnapees. In addition, it creates new jobs for the poor. If you are in poverty, it automatically benefits you if a new way to create income is opened up and legally protected. Further, with legalization there would be less stigmatization, and so all involved parties benefit from the mitigated social ostracization too. The disutility is minor, and comes from the pimps (who lose much of their workforce), abusive tricks who get away with physical violence as long as prostitution is underground, and the slight increase in moral disgust from involved sexual prudes around the globe. So, it seems safe to award the legalization case to Bentham and Mill, and indeed decriminalizing prostitution is the right thing to do. (Although we see another fault. Since all humans are equal, their utility too is considered equally: the utility of “bad men” is worth as must as the utility of “good men,” there being no meta-util standard of good.)

In this situation, utilitarianism helps the libertarian cause of individual freedom and self-determination; in others, duty based ethics are a closer bet. Natural rights perspectives, from Cicero and Aquinas to Nozick and Rothbard, on average satisfy more of the conditions which we find essential to libertarian concerns, especially when the emphasis is on the individual. That said, Kant is a deontologist and not necessarily a freedom-lover. Neither utilitarianism nor Kantian deontology point obviously to libertarianism. The moral psychology research of Jonathan Haidt gives us reason to surmise that it’s mostly “left-libertarians” that think in terms of consequences, and “right-libertarians” that stick to natural rights or deontologic premises. I think, regardless of which theory is more correct, they both capture our ethical intuitions in different ways at different times — and this without even considering other popular theories, like Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Rawlsian justice as fairness, loyalty ethics or Gilligan’s ethics of care.*

I like a lot of Christopher Freiman’s writing on Rawls and basic income. However, I find utilitarianism has to submit to empirical inquiry a little too often to answer fundamental questions, and in its ambiguity often points to policy that disrespects the atomic individual in favor of a bloated government. I don’t think utilitarianism or deontology à la Kant are the bedrock of libertarian principles, but ultimately natural rights is the most non-incorrect position and groups together most cohesively the wide range of positions within libertarianism.

* Gilligan’s ethics of care is terrible.

Liberals and Conservatives should stop talking about guns

I’ve come across some great journalism on guns and gun control recently. Here’s the key points:

  • Most gun deaths are suicides. Many of these suicides would have happened were a gun not available, but many of them wouldn’t have.
  • Most gun homicides mostly affect young black men.
  • More guns does not equal less crime.
  • Gun accidents affect very few people.
  • Cost-benefit analysis would likely suggest improving safety other places would save more lives, given limited budgets. (e.g. changing attitudes on vaccinations)

A basic theme seems to be that government can do little on the margin to reduce gun deaths. Crime rates are uncorrelated with number of guns, or regulations in place. Upright citizens do not turn into Rambo when they see dastardly criminals mug little old ladies. Guns are actually sort of boring in practice.

It’s possible that the government could affect gun deaths with a comprehensive gun control policy backed by public opinion (the Australian option). But it would likely cost so much that you’d lose the budget and/or political capital to enact other reforms that would be less controversial and save more lives.

MrPB-prince-Cordova-one-of-amendments.png
We don’t torture people in America, Todd. That’s called one of the amendments.

What about the second amendment? The real argument for the second amendment is that having armed Americans around is pretty practical in general, but also important to prevent tyranny. In practice, guns aren’t half as practical, in terms of personal or national defense as back then. The capability of America’s military is so extraordinary that American’s don’t stand a chance of fighting a corrupt American government.

Let’s acknowledge that the Bill of Rights, though surely important, is ultimately a piece of paper that is neither sacrosanct nor a practical guarantee of anything in particular. The founders were brilliant, but fallible. The constitution is frequently ignored by governments, and citizens often do little to discipline such governments. Second amendment advocacy is mostly a symbolic gesture that probably comes at the expense of using political capital to protect the fourth amendment (the one that should protect you when the government decides to take your guns, cold dead fingers or no).

Conclusion

There are weak arguments to made in favor of gun control and weak arguments to be made in favor of protecting the second amendment. But mostly this whole debate seems like a distraction from more important issues. Symbolically valuable? Sure, but at what cost? The cost is the political will to make a bigger difference somewhere else. There are more valuable freedoms to protect, better interventions to pursue, and more lives to be saved.

Rick solves the gun crisis

My best (uninformed) reading of the data is that gun ownership is slightly positively correlated with successful suicide attempts but little else, and that sounds about right to me. I’ve met (other) gun owners, and for the most part they aren’t likely to turn into Rambo in an emergency situation just because they’ve got a sweet gun.

But the 30 seconds of Facebook commentary on this last event before I had to close the tab led me to a revelation. I’ve said before that there’s no such thing as no gun control. Throw that together with the notion that government is a monopoly on coercion, and you’ve got my recent insight: a liberalized gun policy is equivalent to deputizing just about everyone.

Frankly, if I threw a Nerf ball into a crowd, I wouldn’t be likely to hit someone who should own a gun, but I also wouldn’t hit someone who should vote. (That hypothetical person’s vote would probably do more harm than their gun.) And that responsibility problem is similar in both cases. Everyone should have a right to vote and own a gun, but both rights should come with a heavy responsibility.

I can imagine a universe where the bouncers are armed and deputized as a routine matter. And I think that in such a world it would be relatively easy to have a liberalized 2nd amendment combined with a cultural understanding that a gun is a powerful tool to be wielded carefully rather than an entitlement.

The Right would do well to focus on their strong point here: responsibility is key. And the Left as well: barbaric intolerance is bad. Both sides confuse amoral tools with moral judgments.

The News: Fair and Unbiased

Reminder: Favorite Democratic presidential candidate Clinton (H.) must be considered innocent until she is found guilty by a court of law. Be patient!

The Obama Air Force bombed a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Afghanistan, killing about twenty people including doctors and underage patients. White House spokesperson: “We are still the best!” (Learning how to write headlines liberal style.)

I looked at a picture of the Oregon mass killer. He looked African-American to me. I am not an expert on race but I am pretty sure he would not have been seated at a Sears lunch counter in Mississippi in 1956. I wonder if he too was a white supremacist.

The police found thirteen of his firearms, all perfectly gun controlled (legal, in other words).

It seems to me that the statistics that matters the most with respect to homicides is type of homicide for 100,000 people. For the period 2000-2014 the US stands high in the ranking of deaths per hundred thousand within the context of a mass killings. It ranks number four, behind Norway, Finland, and….Switzerland. N. S.! (From the Wall Street Journal of 10.3 4 2015 reporting on an academic study.) I think a fourteen year period is significant. It does not look like cherry picking to me but I am open minded.

This all makes me muse about how raw figures are presented to the public. We all know the US homicide rate is high. (I don’t have the numbers at hand but there is no disagreement about the general statement.) I wonder what the US ranking would be if we deducted from the US homicide total count all homicides committed by African-Americans in areas administered by Democrats for a long time, say, more than ten years. I am thinking Chicago and Baltimore, for example. Just imagining.

Heads up Pennsylvanians you just became less free!

Cops can now search your car without a warrant in Pa.

So much for due process?  Or unreasonable search and siezure…
That’s right, not only do police have the legal authority (thanks positivists!) to search a vehicle with absolutely no cause whatsoever but you can be arrested and charged for the simple act of having “secret compartments” in your vehicle.  I will leave it up to you to decide if this power will be abused or not.

Around the Web

  1. Letter to the Editor: Gun Control
  2. There is an initiative to split California into six separate states (I’ve written about this before, too, but be sure to scroll through the ‘comments’)
  3. Guest notewriter Hank Moore has his new blogging project up and running
  4. Japanese Americans, Internment, Democracy, and the US Government
  5. Does opposing intervention equal ignoring the plight of protesters in foreign states?
  6. Moral Panics, Sex Panics, and Production of A Lebanese Nation
  7. Monster Surf Exposes Rare Petroglyphs in Hawaii

A taste of local flavor: Remington Outdoor Company to announce major expansion to Huntsville

Remington Outdoor Company to announce major expansion to Huntsville

“The site will rank with ROC’s largest facilities. Ilion, N.Y., is home to the largest facility at more than 1 million square feet, followed by other sites such as its ammunition plant in Lonoke, Ark., and its factory in Mayfield, Ky.

Sources say manufacturing operations in Ilion will not be affected by the expansion and there are no plans to move manufacturing from that site, where Remington has been building firearms for nearly 200 years.”

I have to wonder how much Governor Cuomo’s anti-gun policies contributed to this decision.  We will see if Remington holds true to their word but this author is predicting the Ilion factory to be gone in the next five years.

I would also like to suggest that any New Yorkers check out this page for information on anti-gun restriction protests happening this spring.  While they are not a libertarian organization there is some semblance of solidarity.

Thousands of Connecticut Gun Owners ‘Flout’ New Registration Law

THOUSANDS OF CONNECTICUT GUN OWNERS ‘FLOUT’ NEW REGISTRATION LAW

The most prescient point from State Senator Tony Guglielmo is “I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register.” He then added, “If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.”

It seems that in many cases the average person is more libertarian than they realize.  Or to use the phrase provided by pseudo-libertarian author Robert Heinlein:

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

What I’ve Been Thinking All Along

And never had the patience to say until now.

These are my thoughts and observations on the Zimmerman case. I did follow the news and commentary when the shooting happened, and in the following weeks. But trials bore me to tears, so I didn’t really pay much attention (I wasn’t the only one) to it. In fact, other than the verdict, this is what I knew about the trial and its periphery, commentary throughout:

– Zimmerman was charged with manslaughter as well as second degree murder. I don’t know if these were leveled against him at the same time or if they dropped one to pursue the other. I could probably easily find out but I’m feeling lazy.

– The prosecution had a really lousy case against Zimmerman. Much of what they did helped the defense. The prosecution’s witness’s own statements indicated that Zimmerman had a right to be where he was (for the record, I’ll take an impetuous neighborhood watch volunteer over the well-trained police, any day of the week, and twice on Sunday), and that he was the one being attacked. Any provocation, short of a threat or assault, may have been stupid, but it was hardly criminal. So you have the testimony of witnesses who didn’t even see all that went down. From the start it was pretty obvious that the prosecution didn’t have much more than this. Maybe Zimmerman did throw the first punch. Who knows? But it has to be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. It seemed pretty obvious from the facts the public was made privy to well before the trial that the prosecution would never be able to do this.

– Certain groups wanted a guilty verdict, no matter what. Some of them for their own sincere reasons, but many simply because they have an agenda. Few if any of them, from what I could tell going all the way back to when the shooting happened, even had the capacity to empathize with George Zimmerman. This is fine, but when it becomes a racially motivated witch hunt with a presumption of guilt, and then the media gets a hold of it, and the outcome of the trial begins to take on consequences that could have repercussions throughout the nation, we have a major problem on our hands.

The fact is, it is really no one’s business besides the accused, the victim’s family, the lawyers, the witnesses, and the local courts and police. Not even really the community’s beyond the general task of stamping out crime. Some would argue that this trial has major consequences, and so we must pay attention to it. They are right, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Making a big deal is what makes it a big deal. The only reason it has any consequences for anyone other than those involved or anywhere besides where it actually occurred is because we have been paying far more attention to it than it ever merited. And the reason for this is a collectivist mentality, where all formerly and currently oppressed folk must band together to defend their own even though they might just be in the wrong.

How could a case like this possibly have an impact on trials or laws or liberties or race-relations or childrearing or property rights in other states without the media and special interest groups hyping it beyond its actual scale and scope?

I certainly don’t want to sweep injustice (if there even was any besides the presumption of guilt placed upon George Zimmerman) under the rug, but it is illogical to think that widening the circles of those who think they have a say in this matter will lead to a preferential outcome. For all the clamor and hyperbole this case was still decided in the courts by an impartial jury of Zimmerman’s peers (well, sort of). The way certain people on the television, on the radio, on the web, in print comported themselves could have had little other effect than to pressure the jurors to follow the guidance, not of their own conscience, but of a bloodthirsty lynch mob. Even if they happened to hand down the correct verdict under these circumstances, and Zimmerman got what he “deserved” (whether exoneration or incarceration), they could in no way claim that they served the cause of justice. Neither the mob nor the jurors.

America is a nation full of self-serving big-mouthed know-it-alls, not that this is news or we need a reminder. Unsurprisingly then, the cause of justice was the last thing on these peoples’ minds. I place most of the blame on Trayvon’s (most vocal) sympathizers as it looks like Zimmerman’s were mostly reacting to the trend of busy-bodies, community organizers, and race-baiters who ran with this non-story to further an agenda: gun control, person control, race control, but not self-control.

But guess what? The real haters lost. So it was all one big distraction. A waste of everyone’s time. It was fascinating and all, but can we talk about something important (in its own right) now?

L’Amérique et les armes: mise à jour.

Le taux de crimes à main armée (presque toutes avec armes a feu) a chute environ de moitié depuis 1990.

Pendant la même période, tous les chiffres liées à la possession d’armes privées ont augmenté.

D’accord, ça ne prouve rien. Il n’y a pas nécessairement cause à effet.

Quand même, si je gagnais ma vie le revolver àla main, j’y regarderais à deux fois avant de m’en prendre à un porteur de revolver de calibre plus ou moins égal.

Quand même, si je pensais évoluer dans un milieu où de nombreux citoyens sont armés àtitre privé, je songerais sérieusement à me reconvertir dans la fraude bancaire.

Senate Democrats want Crazies with Guns out in the Street

You may have heard or read somewhere that there is a Senate amendment to ObamaCare that prohibits the government from registering guns and ammunition.

Well, the amendment (3276, Sec. 2716) is real, but what it says, as any fact-checking site worth its salt will tell you, is slightly different. It just says that certain other provisions in ObamaCare shall not be construed as the authority to do this. It is not an actual ban on doing it.

Ironically, all the liberals whining about guns and mental health and how Republicans hate sick people and want the insane to run through the streets heavily armed is turned upon its head. Continue reading

Taking Guns by Executive Order

I wrote recently about one of the American attitudes and set of beliefs about private ownership of firearms. (“Guns” ; “America and Firearms…“).

I need an addendum in view of current developments.

First, I want to confess that I wouldn’t be all that opposed to banning high-capacity magazine guns and rifles that can be turned into the currently illegal assault weapons, if I thought that would be the end of it. Nevertheless, I would never agree to such ban in the current cultural context. That’s because I think American gun-banning organizations are mostly in bad faith.

Let me put it in more clear words: I suspect they lie all the time. They are not merely after my so-called “assault weapon” (already illegal). If I let them have anything, I think, they will be after my duck shotgun next. Then, they will want the handgun that never leaves my house. Then, they will demand that I turn over the b.b. gun (very small-bore compressed-air rifle) that I use to sting marauding raccoons in the ass. (I do this because they insist in defecating en masse under my grape arbor, near where I sit outdoors in the summer. If they learned to shit on the neighbor’s lawn for example, I would let them be.)

To summarize: Gun control advocating organizations are liberals-led organizations. Not all liberals are liars but liberals leaders almost all are liars. That’s in addition to having no respect for the US Constitution. Continue reading

From the Comments: Militias and the Second Amendment

Longtime reader (and blogger) Hank Moore has been on a roll lately. In response to a condescending (and fact-free) comment made by a Leftist concerning gun rights, Hank responds with this:

That is very interesting that you would bring up the militia. Were you sincere and knowledgeable on this matter you might know that THIS, the militia, more properly to keep the militia from becoming a rabble and to circumvent the need for a standing army, was the main point of the Second Amendment. Not gun ownership.

The right to own whatever you could legally acquire without causing harm to someone by way of that acquisition was (and is) already an inalienable right, protected not only by the Constitution’s very structure (negative law) but by the Ninth and in a sense Fourth and Tenth Amendments as well.

The Second Amendment threw in that much-hyped line about the right to bear arms precisely so people like you wouldn’t interpret “well-regulated militia” as anything other than what it was (FYI, it had absolutely nothing to do with “conquering the frontier”). That is, a group of local men banding together when the need arose to protect what’s theirs (including their guns). But that is exactly what you have done. Misinterpreted it. But not because the language of that particular Amendment is so unclear (although I do wonder if their is a language barrier between collectivists and people who like to mind their own business, and no I don’t refer here to that obnoxious limey Piers Morgan’s pretentious accent), but because as a whole, the document the Constitution has fallen into disuse. In the era of positive law and positive rights, why even have one?

The answer is so that you (the politician or the lobby or the activist) can appeal to people who know deep down that arbitrary power is morally reprehensible, and thus bitterly cling to some semblance of a social contract; but who still have stupid ignorant ideas (by this I mean gun-control) that they want to shove down everyone else’s throat. Oh, and our founders wouldn’t know what you meant by military style weapons. Do you mean the military-style weapons that they used to defeat the British and would have been mercilessly slaughtered without? Or do you mean today’s military-style weapons that only certain classes of benign uniformed government-employees are permitted to own under your reading of the Second Amendment?

Anybody out there care to answer Hank’s questions? Well done! Here is Hank’s blog one more time. Do check it out.