Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gun Control In a Free Society: A Thought Experiment

I don't really like guns. I think I don't really like guns because I grew up on a farm and owned a .22 rifle and a BB gun and my experiences with them weren't entirely positive. I almost shot my foot a couple times with the rifle as a teen, I shot critters for fun and felt horrible afterwards, and my friends and I used to shoot each other with BB guns until one of them almost got hit in the eye. I've seen guns take lives like they were nothing and I've seen myself and friends almost seriously hurt by guns. Guns scare me because I've experienced how dangerous they can be.

Every time there is a tragic shooting somewhere we have the same debate occurring between people with a left wing brain like me and people with a right wing brain. In a future article I'm going to write about what this means. Essentially a left wing brain was exposed to a primarily matriarchal family environment and the right wing brain was exposed to a primarily patriarchal family environment. Understanding this about oneself is important, preferences and politics were not developed through rational thought but rather our exposure to family. Predictably the debates that occur are between people who do not understand this about themselves  are emotionally charged and irrational.

On the left we have gun control advocates who are scared of guns and want to exert matriarchal power over the family (the state) and want guns removed, and on the right we have those who want to exert patriarchal control over the family which means they want to be able to use guns to protect against tyranny. The debate that ensues is essentially a debate over who should be running the family, mom or dad. The people advocating gun control are rarely the people that are the tyrants and the people advocating gun freedom are rarely the criminals. As nutty as Ted Nugent is, I'm just not all that worried about him owning guns.

My article on Oil Sands Anarchy seemed to resonate with readers so I thought it would be worthwhile to explore the topic of gun control from the standpoint of the non-aggression principle (NAP) which would dictate that no person has the right to initiate force against another person. This would mean that using force to disarm a peaceful human or prohibit them from owning a weapon would being would be prohibited. Force can only be used protectively from a moral standpoint, and since purchasing and possessing a weapon is not initiating force against anyone there is no justification to use force against gun owners.

My House - My Rules

Libertarians often jump on the anti-gun control bandwagon pointing out that government has no right to control guns and they are right, but often they miss a key point...I have the right to control guns. I have the right to control guns in my own house and my own business. So what kinds of rules would I have about weapons in my house? Well there are certain principles that I would follow:
  1. It is preferable to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who would use them against peaceful people. So the insane, the sociopaths, or those trying to impose their opinion with force would all be prohibited from carrying guns in my house.
  2. The greater the potential damage of a weapon the more precautions would be necessary. Knives would be at one end of the spectrum requiring less precautions and Nuclear weapons would be at the other end requiring an incredible amount of precaution.
  3. I feel safer when trusted and trained friends around me are packing heat. Strangers, or people who aren't "bondable" would have to earn my trust before I'd allow them to pack heat in my house.
I think that most people with left and right brains would generally agree with these principles and have similar rules in their own houses. Once everyone gets past projecting their fears perhaps a rational conversation can happen. If you agree that my principles are rational, then as a left brainer you have to admit that force can't be used to disarm a peaceful person or prevent them from owning a weapon and as a right brainer you have to admit that a truly free society would likely have far more regulation on weapons than we currently have making it much more difficult for criminals to get weapons and much easier for law abiders to get them. Incidentally these same rules apply for just about anything that can kill including automobiles.

The Arms Race

Listening to some gun enthusiasts talk about gun ownership I'd swear that their solution is to essentially start an arms race. The terrorists, government and criminals all have assault weapons and so we need to match the force that could be used against us. Maybe they are right, I mean 3-D Printers are available for under $1000 and the price is dropping and the technology is improving. Individuals are already able to print/manufacture guns in their homes. It seems likely that the ability to cheaply manufacture increasingly lethal weapons is inevitable. Stefan Molyneux, an anarchist philosopher, once posited that the safest possible world from aggression would be one where everybody could kill everybody else with the power of their thought and as soon as you killed someone everybody else would know it...this would be the ultimate super weapon and everybody would have it. I'm not sure I agree with the arms race view of protecting our freedoms.

One thing for sure is that eliminating guns from society from the top down with force is not going to work. It seems to me that just like prohibition of drugs and alcohol, the prohibition of weapons is a recipe for disaster. Imagine if a prohibition on all gun manufacturing and gun sales was imposed right now by the state, what would the result be? I would predict an increasing disparity in power between peaceful people and criminals. Criminals would manufacture and sell guns like crazy to cash in on the high prices and society would pay a heavy price in terms of the rate of violent crimes.

Prohibition doesn't work for a number of reasons; 1) It puts criminal gangs in charge of the market, 2) the only mechanism to resolve disputes is violence, 3) products quality is dangerous, 4) taboo things are more attractive than they otherwise would rationally be, 5) it punishes non-violent and responsible users, 6) It reinforces unhealthy patterns of behaviour.

So what then is the answer for a someone like me who is interested in less drug abuse and less gun violence? It seems to me to be a matter of reverse engineering; 1) Put peaceful people in charge of the market, 2) provide a peaceful process for dispute resolution, 3) regulate quality control, 4) remove the mystique and taboo around a subject by providing accurate information, 5) encourage and reward non-violent and responsible behaviour under professional guidance, and 6) offer help to those stuck in unhealthy patterns of behaviour.
  

Market Law

Normally the state takes on the role of dispute resolution, third party arbitration, law enforcement, and geographical defense and like any corporation that uses guns to enforce its monopoly, it gets inefficient, corrupt and expensive. As David Friedman points out, "Producing laws is not an easier problem than producing cars or food. So if the government's incompetent to produce cars or food, why do you expect it to do a good job producing the legal system within which you are then going to produce the cars and the food?"1

Third party arbitration services, free market insurance and dispute resolution organizations (DRO's) are all idea's or predictions that freed market scholars have about how people engaged in voluntary relationships following the NAP might solve particular predictable problems inherent in economic transactions and human relationships. For the next little bit I'm going to put on my entrepreneurial thinking cap and imagine I run a DRO and think about how I might attract customers and serve their need for decreased gun violence.


The Wrong Hands
 
The first thing I would do is recognise that it would be terrible business to underwrite gun ownership for people who are at high risk for violent behaviour. These would be people with a history of violence, the insane, sociopaths, and those who are intent on imposing their opinion with force. Underwriting these people would result in a huge liability to my company and my personal assets, if someone I underwrite goes on a rampage I will have huge settlement costs on my hands and I'll essentially be out of business and in the poor house.

Suppose someone in a high risk category decides they are going to own a gun, how will they go about getting one and what is to be done about this? Gun manufacturers, like everyone, would need DRO subscription/representation to do business with customers not having this would be like driving without insurance. It would be bad business to sell guns to unstable individuals because no DRO would want to insure you, and if you aren't subscribed to a DRO no reputable customer would want to risk doing business with you. Not having DRO representation would be a really good way of predicting who shady people are and these people would have a really hard time engaging in any economic transactions including; driving on roads, renting or owning property, or even buying groceries.

Lets suppose an unstable person wants to own a gun. They have two choices really, they can breach their contract with a DRO and be subject to the terms and conditions in their contract if they want to get back in good social standing, or they could terminate their contract and go off the grid in which case an immediate red flag would be raised that criminal activity is likely being premeditated. Let us imagine that a high risk client gets ahold of a gun. Possession of a firearm for this person would be a breach of contract meaning that they be unable to do business anywhere and in order to get back some sort of social credit rating they would have to repair their credit through voluntary incarceration into a treatment program and/or submission to closer scrutiny by their DRO. It is likely that there would be DRO's that specialise in high risk clients who would pay a premium for their service and would likely have to submit to close scrutiny until they were found trustworthy.

It is also important to note that the more dangerous the weapon the much more precautious I'm going to be about underwriting ownership of it. So for example assault rifles, tanks, and nuclear weapons are all extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Someone who seeks to own a nuclear weapon essentially puts themselves in a voluntary prison of intense scrutiny by multiple parties. In an anarchic society the level of practical freedom one gets from weapon ownership essentially diminishes as the weapons one owns becomes more deadly.

The Right Hands

Protection against aggression would be a market demand. People would be worried about rogue gunmen, statists bent on imposing the greater good, terrorists, and aggressive nation states. Geographic defence and security is a lengthy article in and of itself so I won't get into it in detail. Entrepreneurs and organisations that serve this market demand would need to hold themselves up to heavy scrutiny. I imagine most customers would be anxious about a group of highly trained people with weapons forming a gang/government and so if I were trying to attract customers I'd have to find convincing ways of alleviating this concern in a climate where competitors are looking to make themselves more attractive than my services. I might do something like submit myself to regular third party random audits or offer large sums of money held in escrow payable to a customer that finds me in breech of contract in order to guarantee the contract. It is important to note that prolonged deadly wars, giant armies and massive stockpiles of weapons are only possible because of central banking and fiat currency which would essentially be abolished in a free society. It would be very difficult for a defense agency to stockpile weapons beyond what customers expect because it would require increasing subscription costs to the customer.

As an entrepreneur wanting to attract customers to my defence and security agency I would have to have highly trained and competent officers that understood the sensitive nature of their job and the incredible accountability they had with customers for the job they are contracted to do. As owner of this company I would be held personally liable if my officers beat up a Rodney King for example. Officers would be experts at de-escalating situations and preventing crimes as opposed to today where the system grows officers that escalate force and act as historians after crimes have been committed. These are the type of people we want to pack heat, people that understand how to resolve disputes peacefully and are very sensitive to serving the customers needs. Candidates with low academic achievement and an inferiority complex need not apply to my security agency.

So to sum up gun control in an free society; everybody has a right to own weapons and everybody has a right to withdraw from economic transactions with people who own weapons. Since all property is privately owned there is no problem of the commons except in unowned wilderness and if you are mentally unstable and want to own a weapon you'll likely find yourself alone in that wilderness being watched by intelligence agencies until you're ready to submit to the rules of my house.

There is no End Point

One thing is guaranteed and that is change never ceases. There is no end point called "free society" because even as we increasingly respect self-ownership and property rights we discover new ways to flourish and gain more liberty to do things we never imagined possible. Suppose we manage to gain a peaceful society with a citizenry that is armed to the teeth, what next? I would imagine that most people would realise that owning the means to easily kill other people is not as liberating as it once felt. Freedom in this anarchic world might mean beating swords into plow-shares and freeing oneself from the scrutiny and responsibility of gun ownership. Even now the idea that owning assault rifles protects you from our real assailants, the government tax farmers, is kind of silly. Central banking has given the state overwhelming power and owning guns didn't exactly help protect those at Ruby Ridge and Waco all that much, so the idea of an arms race against our biggest oppressors doesn't seem like a very practical solution to creating peace.

Darwin said that the organism fittest to the environment survives and flourishes. Most people misinterpret this as "the physically strongest survives". This is not what he was saying at all. The ability to physically dominate other humans may have led to flourishing in a brutal world like Sparta, the ability to dominate minds with propaganda may lead to flourishing in today's society (think religious and government leaders), and in a peaceful world of widespread NAP enlightenment the ability to meet the needs of others would be the fittest trait. People who try to dominate will not flourish or survive very well in an enlightened free society.

One trait that I think may be recognised as a disability in the world of the future is an enlarged right amygdala. An amygdala becomes enlarged when children are exposed to what George Lakoff might call "The Strict Father" model of parenting. An enlarged right amygdala is highly correlated to right-wing politics, and these are the people that love guns.2 Now I'm admittedly veering off into highly speculative territory here, but, I would guess that this enlarged right amygdala that conservatives have which makes them far more sensitive to fear (think xenophobia, terrorist threats etc) also leads to their love of guns to protect themselves against perceived threats. It is conceivable that as "Strict Father" parenting diminishes, the desire to own weapons will as well.

Portugal legalised ALL drugs a decade ago and is now reaping the rewards of treating the root cause of drug abuse, crime is down and addiction rates are falling. It could be that in the future, the desire to own weapons to quell irrational fears will be viewed on the same spectrum as the desire to abuse drugs and help will be available to people who want to kick the habit and lower their insurance premiums. Amygdala's could be treated with therapy to make them smaller or less sensitive to fear so that people with this disability could flourish.

I should note in all fairness here that I'm not suggesting there are no problems with the left-wing brain, its admittedly harder for me to see the problems because I have this type of brain. This brain is characterised by an enlarged anterior cingulate which makes me more tolerant of uncertainty, but also far less organised. This organisational disability may be something that could be overcome with treatment as well.
The Roots of Violence

The shooting that occurred in Connecticut at Sandy Hook School have a root cause, that root cause was not the gun because guns can't point themselves, the root cause isn't a crazed gunman because crazed gunmen aren't born they are created, the root cause isn't even the obvious suffering inflicted on this gunman as a child by his caregivers, nor is the root cause an incompetent mother or mental health professionals because these people weren't created in a vacuum either. There is a pattern at play here and it must be recognised to be broken. Nobody along the line was looking in the mirror asking how they might be contributing to the problem. Adam Lanza saw the world as the problem, the psychiatrists saw a disease process as the problem, Adam's mom saw a defective child as the problem, liberals see guns as the problem, conservatives see liberals as the problem etc.

Nobody ever seems to look at themselves and asks the right questions because we are trained to be dependant. The solution exists outside ourselves in mom and pop, in the state. It is classic co-dependency at work and it is tragic, looking inward is not on the program. Imagine if Adam had the insight to look at how his thought patterns were contributing to his own mental suffering. Imagine if the psychiatrist made a concerted effort to see life through Adams eyes instead of pathologizing his suffering, imagine if Adams mother saw Adam's behaviour and obvious suffering as a by-product of her parenting, imagine if liberals understood that asking for force to be used against peaceful people who want to own guns only makes them cling harder to those weapons, and imagine if conservatives understood that law and order aren't accomplished by pointing guns at people.

Lack of self-knowledge dooms us to be automatons playing out our childhood programming. It prevents us from noticing that as we argue about whether guns should be banned we fail to do the one thing that would cause real and measurable change for the better in this world...looking in a mirror.


References

1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4CcannofnY
Private Law

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