Lex and I had an exchange of emails about Bush. Lex argued that Bush is doing a great job all around. I agreed he is doing well on the war, but argued that he has been irresponsible on the economy and that I am concerned he might sign a reauthorization of the gun- and high-capacity-magazine ban in Clinton’s 1994 crime bill (which sunsets in 2004). Lex has blogged his response to me, and what follows is an edited version of my rejoinder to his response.
As to the gun thing, if it gets to his desk I’m sure he’ll sign it. Any attempt to stop it will be in Congress. Some libertarian/gun people will be mad if it happens, but the Donks will be worse so most of them will snarl and vote for him. Maybe the gun folks will commit the ultimate political suicide and organize a “2nd Amendment Party” or something. What they really need to do is learn to explain to normal people who think guns are yucky and wrong why guns are actually a good thing. Someone needs to produce and promote a 50 syllable sound bite to explain to Jane Minivan why, say, ordinary people should be able to buy large magazines for their handguns. But since gun people also insist they have rights and don’t have to explain themselves to anybody, they are going to keep being a political faction that loses most of the time it is confronted directly. Oh well.
There is no significant chance of pro-gun-rights people doing as you speculate. They are going to vote Republican, because they were scared shitless by the 2000 election, just like everyone else was.
If we are lucky, no bill to reinstate the 1994 law will reach Bush’s desk. However, there is a chance that Bush/Rove will miscalculate as they did with steel tariffs. There’s also a risk that Bush will do something foolish, like casually promise to sign a renewal, in the same manner as he casually remarked that Saddam Hussein deserves a fair trial.
One of the reasons that I fear Bush will end up signing a reauthorization of the law is that the best data predict it. I am referring to the prices of high-capacity magazines (i.e., those produced before the 1994 ban, which are still legal to own) on the open market. One would predict that these prices would decline if the ban were really going to be repealed, because then it would be in the interest of owners of large quantities of the old magazines to sell them ASAP, before new supply lowered prices. Yet as far as I can tell, hi-cap magazine prices are not going down. (e.g., new 10-round Glock magazines sell for about $17-20 each, but pre-ban hi-cap Glock magazines sell for $50-100 each [e.g., 1, 2], and I don’t think prices have changed much since Bush was elected.)
You have the rest of the gun issue backwards. Gun control is now politically dangerous. There have been numerous pro-gun-rights political victories since 1994. (And there continue to be: several states recently passed, or may be about to pass, liberalized CCW laws. These states include Missouri, Ohio (!) and NM.) The political momentum is against further gun control. It’s not the pro-rights people who have to do the explaining, it’s the leftist control-freaks. Their impossible task is to justify additional restrictions on gun ownership when none of the measures they got enacted in the past did any good.
You can’t easily explain the pro-rights case in 50 syllables. It’s subtle and complex, the press usually won’t report pro-gun-rights stories, and the issue is easily demagogued by Democrats who lie about the risks of gun ownership and ignore the benefits. What changed people’s minds on the issue was 1) research by Lott and others, demonstrating that widespread gun ownership is, at worst, not socially harmful, and at best reduces violent crime significantly, 2) the fact that restrictions on carrying weapons have been eased in many states, without the increases in violent crime that opponents forecast, 3) the fact that violent crime has been trending downward for years (possibly, to some degree, in response to liberalized CCW laws, though this relationship is controversial), and 4) September 11.
I think it’s wrong to restrict what kind of ammo magazines people can buy, if only because the pro-gun-control people have such a profound record of bad faith that it’s reasonable to assume that any restriction, no matter how minor, will become the first step in a slippery-slope progression. But it doesn’t matter any more, because September 11 changed the whole equation. Now the anti-gunners have to explain why we should worry about American sportsmen and hobbyists when we face a significant external threat. They can’t explain it. They can’t explain why law-abiding American citizens who want to buy weapons should be forced to jump through hoops at a time when our armed forces are in combat overseas and there is concern about domestic terrorism. The whole anti-gun program of magazine capacity restrictions and bans on this or that type of weapon comes across now as bike-path stuff. The politically mushy suburban woman now is more concerned about the protection of her children from nuclear armed terrorists.
Lex continued, about the economy:
I’m not at all worried about the budget or the dollar or the trade deficit or any of that stuff. Iron rule of politics in this country: The party that wants to balance the budget always loses. The GOP was the “fiscal responsibility party” from Hoover through Ford, a pair of losers bookending a trail of tears. Reagan came in, smile and a shoe-shine, fuck the budget, buy lots of guns, cut taxes too, woo hoo. It all worked out. Bush is doing the same thing, except he doesn’t have to take on inflation at the same time. I’m all for it. Open the spigots. Light a cigar.
This has nothing to do with budget or trade deficits. The issue is total government spending as a percentage of GDP. This percentage has been increasing under Bush. (I initially asserted to Lex that the percentage is at its highest level ever. Note that while this chart suggests that I was mistaken, at least as recently as the end of FY 2002, more-recent data make clear that FY 2003 Federal spending per household was at its highest level since World War II, and inflation-adjusted combined federal, state and local spending per capita is at its highest level since 1960.) Reagan, unlike W, was willing to veto spending bills. Bush is signing bill after bill, including train wrecks like the Medicare drug benefit. It worked out OK under Reagan because the Fed killed inflation and because Reagan was able to cut tax rates enough to stimulate an investment and productivity boom that generated enough new tax revenues to pay for the additional military spending. Bush is spending so much that it will be difficult to pull off again what Reagan did.
Also, you are mistaken about inflation, and it’s a big deal. The Fed, concerned about deflation, pumped a lot of money into circulation in the past couple of years. Lately the rate of growth of monetary aggregates has slowed considerably, and may even be negative, but damage has been done. (There is typically a lag of a year or so between changes in money supply and changes in the price level.) The dollar price of gold, one of the cleanest indicators of inflation, is now around $410/oz, higher than it’s been in many years. The Fed is attempting to finesse monetary growth to boost the economy, but things may get out of control. The Fed probably won’t raise short rates (i.e., won’t support the dollar) before the election, and commodity prices have been creeping up together with gold. This situation threatens the economic recovery in a fundamental way.
Inflation also devalues the dollar. And Bush’s tacit weak-dollar policy, a plain attempt to buy votes from exporters, makes the situation worse. Devaluation harms importers and consumers and is negative overall. It makes dollar-denominated investments (stocks, real estate, businesses) riskier and hence worth less, thus further threatening the economic recovery.
Plus, Larry Kudlow and Niall Ferguson, coming at it from different angles, both think the current budget and debt situation is tolerable and that growth prospects are good. For one thing, debt service is cheap at these interest rates. Let the election cycle turn, as it inevitably will, in ’08 or ’12 or whenever, and the Donks can come in as the Mean Dads to shut down the party. They can clean the mess up. Then they can lose because it hurt so much to do it. And we will party on.
Maybe, maybe not. Kudlow is being optimistic and hoping for the best. Maybe it will all work out. (Other commentators are worried (see here and here.) A lot of this situation is the Fed’s fault, but Bush’s spending and weak-dollar policy have made it worse. I think he has been terrifically irresponsible to have let it get to this point. It is all to buy votes in a context where he might have had the same political effect, without the downside, by merely taking the trouble to argue for tax cuts and spending reductions. By signing appropriations bills by the bushel, trashing the dollar and engaging in protectionism, he risks repeating the stagflation that resulted from the guns-and-butter policies of the late-1960s and early 1970s.
Government spending is the central issue. Not even Republicans can keep increasing spending without serious negative consequences. Reagan understood this. I don’t know if Bush does or cares, and that’s a major weakness on his part. I mean, what kind of country do we want? The level of government spending determines the answer. The main difference between the U.S. and, say, Sweden is not the ostensible ideologies of the political parties, it’s the percentages of GDP that are spent by the respective governments.
When it comes to government spending, you can’t have guns and butter without increasing the share of national income that is spent by the State. The higher that share, the less the country will fit the traditional conception of the United States as a free and open society. I don’t think the tradeoff is worth it, even if it helps Bush to get reelected.
(And note that I don’t ultimately blame Bush for this state of affairs. He is merely responding rationally to incentives. I wish he were more principled and articulate about these issues, as I think Reagan was. However, Bush is the best we have at the moment. The people I really blame for this situation are the voters. They should know better than to exchange their precious votes for promises of government benefits when such benefits must in the final analysis come out of their own pockets.)
17 thoughts on “Reply to ‘Guns AND Butter. . .’”
Remove your hat ’cause I’m gonna pick some nits.
So far as hi-cap Glock mags are concerned, Glock is a very popular gun thanks to a variety of reasons. But it didn’t become really, really desirable until after the ban on high capacity mags was in place. This means that the only supply for hi-cap mags are from police officers who sell theirs. Other hi-cap mags spiked in price immediately after the ban was put in place and very soon dropped to more reasonable levels. Check out Cheaper Than Dirt for a large selection and check the prices.
Does this invalidate your arguement that hi-cap mags would be flooding the market if gun owners thought the ban wasn’t going to be renewed? No, but I don’t think the arguement is valid in the first place. Speaking as a gun owner myself, I’m extremely cynical (read: bitter) about Washington’s track record RE guns. I’d hold on to my hi-cap mags until they pried them from my cold, dead magazine pouch.
I think you said you cain’t describe pro-gun rights argument in less than 50 words. My family has some old almost-revolutionary-era gun, but really about all I know is which end the bullet is most likely to come out. So, help me out. Here are some arguments for owning guns that make sense to me:
1. Shooting at things can be fun.
2. There’s some sort of guarantee in the Constitution.
3. Some of the founders, anyway, figured throwing off our own tyrannical national governments was going to be a regular affair; they hoped an armed citizenry could knock off the rogues each time.
4. Defend yourself from people like murderers, rogue police, or that neighbor who’s starting to bug you.
5. Kills food animals dead, and the odd rabid skunk too.
Here’s your chance to conduct non-lethal persuasion. Am I missing significant points? I don’t quite get the passion on this one issue. I consider the government 85% independent of the citizens already. And I see NO chance that the nation’s 500 million firearms, or whatever, are about to do anything useful in that regard. Are firearms just for protecting firearms? What’s the point?
I’m going to start off on just the gun issue. I agree that Lott’s research is excellent, however, I have seen several discussion panels with Lott and anti-gun activists where the anti crowd just dismisses his work with the “you can make statistics reach the conclusion you want them to” argument. While his research comes to undeniable conclusions, I have yet to see a single member of the anti side concede a single point. So I deny that Lott’s work has changed any significant number of minds on the issue. I say it is impossible to present the pro-gun case in a concise sound bite, because the multiple logical arguments for the right to bear arms already exist, but are summarily dismissed with emotional entreaties. As far as individual equipment, I admit that I really know nothing about guns, but I do not understand the need for high capacity magazines, or high-powered and/or automatic weapons, especially if you are talking about basic self-defense. I think it highly unlikely that the person trying to defend home or family finds themselves in an O.K. Corral shootout where a hi-cap magazine saves their life. If the argument in favor of these weapons just falls back on “It’s in the Constitution”, or “because this is America and it’s always been this way”, then I disagree with that. Having said that, I am always ready to listen to a valid argument made for them.
Excellent post, Jonathan. You express my concerns much better than I could have done. I will link to it.
James: I hope that I’m wrong.
bittern: One of the reasons why it has been difficult to make a soundbite argument in favor of gun rights is that the strong arguments tend to be distilled into simple points, like the ones you listed, which are politically not very useful. Many people will assign no weight to such abstractions if they think the cost of gun ownership is dead children etc.
(This is why it was relatively easy to ban most guns in the UK, where the inept pro-gun side framed its case largely in terms of sporting use of firearms rather than self-protection. If you frame the argument that way — or, as is sometimes done in the U.S., in terms of hunting — you will lose politically every time against people who say that gun ownership endangers children.)
The main serious arguments against restricting gun ownership are:
1) It doesn’t reduce violent crime or accidents.
2) The police cannot and should not be everywhere. Individuals have a right and responsibility to defend themselves and need weapons to do so.
3) Individuals should be armed as a check on government.
4) Gun prohibition does not effectively disarm people who misuse guns, but has a high cost in freedom and usually increases violent crime. Gun licensing, registration, and most other regulatory measures short of prohibition, are useless for their stated purposes but tend in practice to be precursers to prohibition.
All of these arguments are powerful, but they cannot be justified via soundbite. They require extensive historical and philosophical support. The political difference between now and before Sept. 11 is that now, unfortunately, the historical perspective in which self-defense makes sense philosophically and practically is much more obvious to many Americans.
If you want to read more about all aspects of the right to arms, the NRA’s website has a lot of background info (go to nra.org and click on “politics & legislation”). Or go to gunowners.org, which is the website of another pro-gun-rights organization.
The single best explication of the right to arms that I have found is the essay, “A Nation of Cowards” by Jeffrey Snyder, which is permalinked on our blog under “Essays”.
Andy: I agree that Lott probably didn’t change many minds among hard-core anti-gun people, but I think he has been influential among people, particularly academics and public officials, who were undecided. Anti-gun activists used to argue that allowing law-abiding citizens to own weapons inreased violent crime, suicide and accidents. Lott made clear that, at worst, widespread domestic gun-ownership does not exacerbate these problems. My sense is that a lot of Americans are uninterested in gun ownership personally but are willing to tolerate it if it is not harmful, or indeed is socially beneficial.
As far as individual ownership of hi-cap magazines and “high-powered and/or automatic weapons” goes, these weapons are ideal for self-defense against individuals and groups. That’s why the police use them. So the question is, if it’s OK for the police to have them, why isn’t it OK for the rest of us? The police don’t have any special rights; their police powers are delegated to them by the citizenry. Our system does not recognize govt functionaries as having rights that other citizens don’t have. To treat such functionaries as members of a privileged class is to bring into question the legitimacy of the govt. So if the police are allowed to have such weapons the rest of us should be allowed to have them, too.
Jonathan, thanks for the thoughtful response. “Nation of Cowards” is probably the best I’ve read on the subject, so thanks.
“1) It doesn’t reduce violent crime or accidents.” Lots of selective statistics on both sides here. But even Michael Moore doesn’t think gun ownership is the core reason for the high rates of violence in the U.S.
“2) The police cannot and should not be everywhere. Individuals have a right and responsibility to defend themselves and need weapons to do so.” Presumably most effective when there’s no surprise element.
“3) Individuals should be armed as a check on government.” The most highly armed country I’ve been to is Yemen, many parts of which have successfully remained independent of the Brits, Saudis, and all national Yemeni governments. So, there’s an example of success. On the other hand, Iraq was highly armed but unfree.
In the U.S., I can’t imagine an effective armed revolt against the government. Shay’s rebellion got put down. I mean, assassinations have had their effects, but what’s your model for preservation of other freedoms by an armed citizenry? (Hint: U.S. civil war is bad example)(and guns preserving right to guns is circular) What’s the best model for a disarmed country losing its freedom? Poland? I’m with you if you want the governors to take the National Guard back to the states, but otherwise, the entire proposition seems a bit weak.
“4) Gun [restriction] does not effectively disarm people who misuse guns, but has a high cost in freedom and usually increases violent crime.” Only criminals will have guns . . . I assume the “but” clause is re-iterating points 1,2,&3.
I assume the 2nd amendment relates only to your point 3. But you need to show why this is still relevant. The nice arguments about self-respect and sanctity of life expressed in Nation of Cowards went out the window in the First World War, I’m afraid. Meaningless mechanical slaughter was hard on the old virtues. And what kind of a dignity is it when nuclear bombs are ready to rocket off in all directions. Anyway, if my neighbors are to brush back overweening government, they need a tank or at least some rocket-powered grenades or some such. But when you talk bearing arms, you shy away from big stuff. Politically, I can understand that.
Point 2 is interesting, still. But it’s not clear to me whether this is mostly an attitude benefit or a quantifiable improvement in being free of crime. If the latter, I think you need to confront the stats on the number of family members killed versus unknown intruders. I have no stats source for you; just recollections.
I’m not convinced that your citizen soldier argument is going to find a cozier reception than the sporting argument. Oh, I should have included various cultural passages of boyhood and rural bonding connected with hunting, in my own list, above. Not that that’s going to win votes either.
Myself, I guess I consider the Constitution a fragile, jerry-rigged document assembled under questionable legitimacy. Paradoxically, I find that all the more reason to avoid tampering with it excessively. So sign me up for rescinding the 2nd amendment. (But you must admit the 2nd is a weird piece of syntax).
You raise a lot of points. Let me try to address them in order:
-“But even Michael Moore doesn’t think gun ownership is the core reason for the high rates of violence in the U.S.” Yes, but to be more precise: There is no correlation between rates of gun ownership and rates of violent crime. There is correlation between demographics and violent-crime rates, but if you bring up such points you are suggesting that “social problems” might not be amenable to simple solutions, and such suggestions are unpalatable in our politics. BTW, if you look at U.S. violent-crime rates by region it is quickly apparent that many parts of this country are quite safe by world standards.
-Empirically, individuals are effective at using guns for self-protection, surprise element or no.
-WRT protection against overreaching govt, note that despots and would-be despots typically are concerned enough about this possibility that they generally attempt to disarm their citizens. Individuals armed with only small arms, particularly if they are well organized, can raise the costs of dictatorship significantly. I think the real question here is why to not allow law-abiding citizens to own automatic weapons and artillery, so that they could be even more effective against a rogue government.
-The 2nd Amendment reflects the belief of the founders in the value of an armed citizenry. It’s instructive in that regard, though I believe it should also be respected as law. However, it is not necessary to the case for the right to arms. The Constitution at one time permitted slavery; it is not the end-all and be-all of rights. The right to arms exists independently of the Constitution, as our other rights do.
-Stats about crime: look at Kleck and Lott. The evidence I have seen is that gun ownership by law-abiding people prevents more crimes, by a large margin, than it causes. Also, the odds that a responsible, law-abiding person will accidentally shoot a family member are much smaller than are the odds of using a weapon to prevent assault or murder.
-As I suggested above, I don’t see why individuals should not be permitted to own artillery pieces etc. They were (and perhaps still are) in Switzerland, without problems that I am aware of. People who are generally responsible and law-abiding are not going to cause problems with any kind of weapon, and the kinds of people who are dangerous with weapons are not likely to obey laws. (Maybe I would support prohibiting individuals from owning nuclear weapons, because the cost to third parties of a mistake could be too high. But in the real world the kind of person who wants a nuclear weapon is not likely to obey laws, so I think this issue is a red herring.)
Jonathan, thanks again. I agree that despots are inclined to go get the guns out of the hands of the populace. But, you having paid more attention to this than I, I wonder if you could name times in history where a populace disarmed and then subsequently was subjugated — where the armaments were basically domestic, not militias.
I really don’t think you’re going to get popular backing for preparing for a popular insurrection, so much as I’m intrigued by the idea of everyone keeping a piece of artillery in the lawn shed, it’s not very realistic. And anyway, the folks I consider tyrants are probably the ones you are satisfied with as better than some alternative, and vice versa. So I’m not entirely sold that anti-government guns is the argument that’ll win the day for you.
I assume you’ve discussed the origination of rights if you’ve been blogging long. God-given / origin-of-the-universe inherent rights? Or legal / statutory? Or just what’s been fought for and won? I’m not sure which one’s yours, but Jeff Snyder’s formulation is not self-evident. Do I have a right to carry an umbrella? Drive a car?
One spot I think you’re borderline disingenuous in your response. You compare # accidentally shot family members against frequency of using a gun to prevent assault or murder. Are there data available to state the following?:
# accidently shot family per thwarted assault/murder (“a/m”)
# other persons accidently shot per thwarted a/m
# times family members threatened per thwarted a/m
# family members non-accidently shot per thwarted a/m
# jealousy shootings per thwarted a/m
# suicides per thwarted a/m
I become a pest when I see a circumscribed statement. Cheers!
Oh, and regarding dumping on the Brits. A majority of the Brits may yet find the arched eyebrow and a swift tut-tut adequate for self-protection in most circumstances.
-The history of despotism is full of anecdotes about new regimes confiscating weapons. Off the top of my head: China under the communists, Nazi Germany, Cuba under Castro, Lithuania after the 1990 Soviet invasion, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. There are many more that you can learn about if you do some looking.
-Data about the costs and benefits of weapons possession, in terms of # of accidents per thwarted assault, is abundant. Search on “Kleck,” as I already suggested. Lott deals with these tradeoffs too.
There was a study done many years ago (by, IIRC, Kellerman) that purported to find something like 43 accidental killings and suicides for every justified self-defense killing. The study was methodologically shoddy but is still cited by opponents of armed self-defense. This study has been widely debunked and I suggest you search for discussions about it as a starting point for your investigation. I’m not trying to brush you off, but I don’t have the information handy and you can find it easily if you look.
US and UK have very different prevalence of domestic firearms, and have comparable success in avoiding despotism at home. Jonathan, you seem fixated on the idea that despots try to get rid of citizens’ guns. I’m agreed that they do that, but I’m asking for examples where guns or lack of them have allowed the despot to come to power. Actually, it seems like the trend has been to get rid of despots by large UNarmed force.
I googled a bit and came to the conclusion that it’s hard to quantify the contribution of guns to successful crime prevention. So the denominators I was hoping for are soft. It looks as if two reasonable people could examine all the study results for a year and come to different conclusions. When you add tainted work on both sides to the impossibility of randomized experiments, it’s hard to know much.
One interesting set of “facts” is that female gun owners were twice as likely as the rest of the population to be killed by a gun, but male gun owners were 16 percent less likely to be shot themselves and 34 percent less likely to be murdered by any means than the overall population. All kinds of confounding variables. Other “facts” I came across are that drowning and fires each seem to kill about four times as many people as firearms.
“. . . I’m asking for examples where guns or lack of them have allowed the despot to come to power.”
-The revolt of the American colonists against England is a good example of an armed citizenry’s successful resistance to despotism.
-Switzerland has an old tradition of popular armament. Coincidentally (or not) it hasn’t recently been invaded.
Can you name any unfree countries that allow ordinary citizens to own guns?
The statistics which you cite are correlations and do not necessarily imply causation. For example, women who are more likely than average to be victims of violence may also be more likely than average to own guns, so the risk of violence may lead to gun ownership rather than the other way around.
In addition to Kleck and Lott, I suggest you also look at articles by Dave Kopel, who is a prolific debunker of gun-control myths.
“As far as individual equipment, I admit that I really know nothing about guns, but I do not understand the need for high capacity magazines, or high-powered and/or automatic weapons, especially if you are talking about basic self-defense.”
Most people who are against the idea of firearm ownership ask why anyone would want to own a handgun in the first place. The odds of being the victim of a violent crime are incredibly low, the odds of being in a position where you have to defend yourself with a firearm are even lower. So what’s the big deal?
As a firearms instructor and the survivor of a gunfight, I can say without any chance of debate that you don’t give a hoot about what the odds are when things go south. You need to get out of the situation right now and no foolin’. If you don’t have the means to defend yourself then you’re nothing but a quivering puddle of meat waiting for the bullet.
So there’s a definate and benign need for a self-defense weapon, it’s just likely that you’ll never need it. But if you do then you do, period.
The odds of being attacked by multiple perps is even more remote. But if you are then you’ll need more ammo than normal. Like Jonathan says, that’s why the cops carry hi-cap mags. Not because they will probably need them but because they might need them.
So why is it any differnt for the rest of us?
Andy B. writes: “…, I admit that I really know nothing about guns, but I do not understand the need for high capacity magazines …”
The term “high-capacity magazines”, at least with respect to handguns, is misleading. I have a pistol that is designed to use 15-round magazines. A 15-round magazine is the normal capacity magazine for this gun. The 10-round magazine that, under current law, is typically sold with it is shorter than the normal magazines, with a plastic extension at its base so that it will actually work in the gun. It would be more accurate to speak of “normal- or full-capacity magazines” and “stunted-capacity magazines”.
When I hear people say that they don’t understand the need for full-capacity magazines or “assault rifles” (another misnomer if we are speaking of the semi-automatic M16 and Kalishnikov clones available to the general public), it sounds to me as if they are working from a presumption against the right to own firearms, such that I should have to show a need for my handgun to operate as it was designed (and I concede, Andy, that you may well have simply been stating a fact about your understanding rather than expressing a particular stance on gun control).
Taking Aim at Gun Control is a policy study from the Heartland Institute that examines critically some of the studies that have been used to argue for gun control. Gary Kleck summarizes his book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (Aldine de Gruyter, 1991), which apparently won the Michael J. Hindelang Award (the American Society of Criminology’s annual award for the most outstanding contribution to research in criminology) in 1993.
The “43 to 1” study was cooked up by Mike Bellesiles’s buddy Arthur Kellerman, a doctor who prefers leftist social activism to treating patients. Here’s a short clear article on the subject by Dave Kopel:
The 43: 1 Fallacy
I thank the commenters who went to the trouble of providing additional support for my arguments.
I see this all the time – the gun debate is reduced to a classic utilitarian point-counting exercise.
The major argument in favour of guns is simply one of intrinsic rights. Carrying a gun in of itself doesn’t hurt anyone, so it can’t be wrong per se. Morally, you can’t legitimately punish someone who doesn’t do anything wrong. Ergo it’s morally unacceptable to ban guns.
2nd point “I’m asking for examples where guns or lack of them have allowed the despot to come to power.”
They haven’t. However, very few people act widely as despots before coming to power, as this tends to get them killed by those in power. The danger is that, once power is achieved surreptitiously, despotism will then result. And, in that event, if the population is unarmed, then they are screwed. The Young Turks massacred 1.5 million Armenians, Hitler knocked off 5 million Jews and 1 million others, Stalin wiped out 1/4 of the Ukranians (7 million), Mao’s teenagers killed more, 1/4 million Bosnians died in a UN arms-emargo zone, 800 thousand Rwandan Tutsi were killed with machetes and clubs. In *every* case of genocide, the victims are either forcibly disarmed, or denied arms by an embargo (good old UN humanitarianism). Widespread armament amongst the victim populations would have lowered or even eliminated those deaths. In the Warsaw ghetto uprising in WWII, a few hundred armed Jews held out against 2000 Nazi stormtroopers and put up enough resistance that the Germans eventually just set fire to the place. Multiply that several thousand fold and you have a bulwark against mass murder. And given the apathy of the international community (the UN and US sat by during Rwanda and Bosnia), it is the only one we have.
As for no despotism in the UK, presumably you are unaware of the Irish potato famine or the entire history of the British Empire? I somehow doubt that Indian or Irish nationalists were allowed weapons.
With very rare exceptions (e.g. Hoover, Nixon), the economy has almost nothing to do with the President. Bush’s tax cuts are headline grabbers with no real significance. His steel tariffs are bad headline grabbers with little significance. The economic recovery has nothing to do with Bush, just as the economic prosperity of the 90s had nothing to do with Clinton.
Look – Greenspan’s rate cuts did nothing in 2001 and 2002. If the head of the Fed is powerless to control the markets, how on earth can the President do anything to control the entire economy?
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