Gun Control? Crime, Death And The Media

Glock 17As usual, whenever there’s a “newsworthy” crime that involves guns in any way, you can be certain of one thing … there will be calls for more gun control. People die every day from unnatural causes and most of those deaths are tragedies, in one way or the other. More and more though, the actual numbers have been quietly dropping without fanfare. Even in the face of massive increase in gun ownership (much of it due paradoxically to the threats of those pushing gun control to make them illegal), court cases upholding the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, and most states making it easier to legally carry concealed, the US homicide rate is now as low as it was in the 1960s and still dropping.

What has changed is the extremely broad availability of news media. We didn’t used to have 24 hour news channels that had to have something to report and crime is always good for increasing viewership. Same for the internet. Posts about a crime that would have been on page 3 of your physical newspaper (if anywhere at all) now go viral where everyone sees it because, once again, crime reporting sells. Violent crime appears to be up when it’s not, not by a long shot (no pun intended).

Highway AccidentPeople, for better or worse, are voyeurs. If there’s a wreck on the freeway, the traffic on the other side slows way down too, just to take a look. The tabloid covers are (almost) always filled with bad things that have happened; deaths, crimes and scandals. The same mechanism holds true on internet media. The one biggest thing we could do to cut down on these sorts of crime? Just call them crimes. Stop sensationalizing them. Don’t give the perpetrators the expectation that the end of their lonely miserable lives (at least by their thinking) will be in a flash of “glory”. They’re crooks and criminals, no more and no less. Treat them that way.

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What’s The Solution?

The real problem is that there are NO *solutions* possible to most human problems. There are only tradeoffs. Even so, people emotionally demand the impossible and that’s where the ideologues step in with their invalid premises and promises.

The only thing that is unlimited is human desires. All resources are finite and their most efficient economic allocation is learned through the mechanism of prices. Some win, some lose but most people, on average, improve their lot. No politician or appointee or committee or any other human created group can possibly have sufficient information to more efficiently allocate those resources.

That is assuming that people actually have the freedom to make their own decisions as to what they really want and at what price they’re willing to pay for it, no matter whether or not that’s what some elite thinks they do or should want.

The self-proclaimed elites on all sides insist that they are the ones who should decide what people can or can’t have or do because they are so much wiser or more moral or more caring or whatever label they chose to use. They may mean to rule well, but they do mean to rule. What they do with the economy is just one of their tools.

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Mental Health – Legitimate Cause Or Just An Excuse…

Portrait of a patient, Surrey County AsylumOnce again, with the latest mass murder, we get the standard mental heath arguments. Either “He should have been locked up in a mental ward.” or “It wasn’t his fault. He was mentally ill.” or both.

The reason we have so few in the mental health hospitals now were the demands to stop any sort of involuntary commitment unless it could be proven that a person was an immediate danger to himself or those around him and as soon as he might even possibly be judged to be recovered from that acute state he would be released.

It was an over reaction to a system that was abused, where too many people were just warehoused or conveniently put put of sight. It was part of the whole civil rights movement of the 60’s to empty the hospitals. The standards, such as they are, that are now in place are likely too loose, but many mentally ill people can and do present a perfectly normal outward appearance. Violent fantasies are not illegal, and for some people are probably a useful outlet.

Where do we draw the line? Who decides? On what basis? Do we commit people that shouldn’t be or free people who should be committed? No one can know enough to always be right, no matter how many controls you try and put in place. There are no solutions to the mental health issue or many other similar questions. There are only trade-offs.

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Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That E-Cigarette

I admit it. I smoked for over 30 years. I enjoyed it. I knew it wasn’t good for me, but I did it anyway. I had no idea how bad they smelled, having been around it my whole life. I finally quit. How? I don’t really know why that time worked and the others didn’t.

But even after quitting, I found myself irritated by the anti-smoking crowd. I had no problem with a business that doesn’t allow smoking in it. I had no problem with people who didn’t want smoke in their homes. What I do have a problem with is people who take that choice away from me and others via the law. I also have a problem with “sin” taxes.

Before I quit there were places I didn’t eat because I couldn’t have a cigarette after dinner. After I quit, there were places that I didn’t eat because they did allow smoking. It never crossed my mind to be upset with either. The businesses made their choices and I made mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Now my irritation has grown to anger. Why? Because I chose to try e-cigarettes. I put on a lot of weight when I quit and now I’m taking it off. They have no smell. They’re not loaded with the carcinogens that were in regular cigarettes (and a lot of those were actually caused by government mandate, but that’s a whole different story). But they look like cigarettes and people are upset about it and are calling (and in many places already succeeding) to lump them with regular cigarettes in all the places that those are now banned.

It’s exactly the same mentality as the anti-gunners. I’m sure that at some time in the past someone might have been murdered with a bayonet on a gun instead of being shot, but having a bayonet lug for mounting for one is hardly a real world risk factor. Why then does having one turn a gun into a so called “assault weapon”? Because it looks scary to some people and, as we should all know by now, feeling bad matters as much, if not more, than any facts. Fantasy is more important than reality. Ban first, question later.

What’s next? The color chartreuse? It sure looks bad to me.

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In A State Of Nature

John Locke was one of the most influential political philosophers that the Founders drew from. In particular, his Second Treatise On Government. His starting place was from what he called being in a “State of Nature.” Here’s my short form take on it.

In a state of nature, i.e. no government, an individual human being by himself has the absolute freedom to do whatever he wants and has no choice but to accept the consequences, for better or worse, of doing so. But people are pretty weak, compared to other animals. Our only real survival tool is using what’s between our ears.

The primary goal of any individual is to survive, having the absolute natural right to life. Survival depends on taking the actions needed to do so, the absolute natural right to liberty. It also depends on keeping the results of your efforts; food, shelter, tools, clothing, territory and so on. So people have an absolute natural right to defend, with deadly force if needed, themselves and their property (which is what the term of art “pursuit of happiness” means in expanded form to include intangibles).

Now, what happens when other people come into the picture? Working and interacting with other people greatly increases your odds of survival. People can spend some of their time doing what they’re best at or prefer to do and trade that with others who do what you don’t. We can choose, if we see it’s in our best interests to do so, to combine our efforts to accomplish what no one person could do by themselves. But none of this changes the basic absolute individual natural rights.

We have some weaknesses too. We don’t know everything and often make mistakes. If they aren’t fatal, we need to learn from them and go on. All too often, we act on emotion rather than reason. Again, if those actions aren’t fatal we need to learn from them and go on.

But when other people are around, we need to find a way to keep the consequences of acting on those weaknesses from outweighing the benefits of interacting with each other.

If someone takes what you’ve spent time and effort on making or trading for, you’re angry, very angry. If you think you know who did it your normal reaction is to try and get it back and punish the person who did it so badly that they’re never going to do it again.

But what if you’re wrong and it was someone else? What if the punishment you would dole out based on your emotional reaction is way too harsh for the actual damage done? Now we have the need for an external organization that equally protects the rights of all parties to the best of its ability. It puts reason and deliberation and judgement back into the picture.

At least in theory, the people who are judging don’t have an emotional bias. They have the time to actually look at the evidence and decide if the person accused really is the person who did it. They can weigh the harm done against the range of possible penalties and decides what seems sufficient. They can require restitution (which is something we do too little of) to the person harmed.

There is one caveat in all of this which is that the organization has to have the authority to use force, deadly force if needed, to enact its decision. It is exactly the same force that an individual has an absolute natural right to use when in a state of nature to defend himself and his property that is delegated to the government and is the derived source of all proper government powers.

Some forms of government do do a much better job of protecting the absolute natural rights of individuals than others. If the current form isn’t getting the job done, in the judgement of the people who are subject to it, they can withdraw their authorization and set up a new organization (government) that they believe will work better at maximising the benefits of living with others while minimizing the costs in terms of what seems most important to them.

Take all this and then put it into the context of the Declaration of Independence and see if it sounds familiar.

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