On Voluntaryists IV

One notable difference between voluntaryists and coercivists are the former’s insistence on tackling issues from their root, largely dug deep in a coercive foundation. Coercivists prefer to hack away at the branches with nary a concern for those whose lives and liberties they may be violating. Drug addiction is a problem of traumatic childhoods and broken social bonds. You can either examine and deal with the root, or throw guns and prisons at the branches in a futile attempt at solving the problem. Likewise for “illegal” immigration, human trafficking, terrorists, business cycles, and every other socio-economic problem that stems from utilizing coercion. Voluntaryists know better, if only the world would listen. And that’s today’s two cents.

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Liberty isn’t Utopia

Statists. You can’t even get them to ask (or acknowledge) the right questions.

Whether the topic is “borders”, drugs, guns, rights, or socialism, they address all kinds of peripheral questions which seem to legitimize more statism when answered, but they avoid the real questions which would completely invalidate statism.

Is it intentional or are they really that ignorant? I honestly don’t know, and suspect it is some of both.

For example, I recently heard one arguing against ending prohibition because when the “laws” against Cannabis are loosened and the cartels’ profits go down, the cartels turn to smuggling opioids. What? How does that justify propping up the failure which is prohibition? All you’ve managed to point out is that if you relax prohibition in a piecemeal way, the cartels will focus on those areas where the profit motive is still high due to continued prohibition.

When you sink that deep into statism, you can’t seem to see beyond statism.

So, look at my crude graph . Sorry, it’s not to scale or painted (a lame Back to the Future joke).

See how I readily admit there are still problems with a condition of zero statism (total liberty)?

So?

Utopia isn’t an option.

But statists don’t like that admission and it’s a deal-breaker for them. Liberty would have to be Utopia with no problems at all for them to accept it in place of their favored statist Dystopia– no matter the specific issue.

Obviously, death– with no more problems for the dead– will result from increased statism long before total statism (whatever that may be) is achieved, but the exact place where that happens will vary from individual to individual and is hard to pin down. Use your imagination to adjust the exact scale of the graph.

We live somewhere along the line between zero statism (liberty) and total statism. The exact spot is debatable, but it’s irrelevant for my point. Wherever we are, there are problems– more problems than there would be under liberty. But statists don’t like liberty so that option is unthinkable and invisible to them. They advocate more statism to solve the problems which exist; most of which are worsened due to statism. They will claim that with added statism, the total problems will decrease. That’s not reality. More statism equals more problems.

But, because there are problems, and they can see ways to justify more statism because of those problems, they are blind to solutions which don’t mean more statism. They won’t even ask questions which might risk opening their eyes to the reality.

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School Security Is Now a $3 Billion Dollar Annual Industry

US taxpayers spend nearly $700 billion each year on K-12 public schooling, and that eye-popping sum shows no sign of slowing. In fact, as more non-academic programs are adopted in schools across the country, the price tag for mass schooling continues to swell even as achievement lags.

The Cost of School Security

One ballooning school expenditure is the vast amount of money allocated to school safety. US schools now spend an estimated $2.7 billion on security features, from automatically locking doors to video surveillance and facial recognition software. That amount doesn’t include the additional billions of dollars spent on armed guards at schools. Federal spending on school security is also rising, with the US Department of Homeland Security recently awarding a $2.3 million grant to train high school students how to act like first responders in the event of a mass casualty, like a school shooting.

These enhanced security and training mechanisms may seem justified, particularly in the wake of deadly mass school shootings like the massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. But school shootings are exceedingly rare. As Harvard University instructor David Ropeik writes in The Washington Post:

“The chance of a child being shot and killed in a public school is extraordinarily low. Not zero — no risk is. But it’s far lower than many people assume, especially in the glare of heart-wrenching news coverage after an event like Parkland. And it’s far lower than almost any other mortality risk a kid faces, including traveling to and from school, catching a potentially deadly disease while in school or suffering a life-threatening injury playing interscholastic sports.”

Still, it’s natural for us to want to protect children from harm—and to get angry when our preferred method of protection doesn’t gain traction. Advocating for increased gun control measures, reporter Nestor Ramos writes in the Boston Globe: “In a nation unwilling to take even modest steps to prevent the next Columbine or Parkland massacre, schools have begun training students to patch up their classmates’ gunshot wounds.”

Gun control is only one possible policy prescription—and even respected researchers doubt that it would do much good in halting gun deaths. There are other “modest steps” we could take, aside from increased regulations and restrictions, that may more effectively reduce gun-related mortality in children—and they cost much less than current school security measures.

A Simple Solution

In states with generous school choice options, like charter schools and vouchers, the teen suicide rate was lower than in states without these options.

A simple but powerful step in saving young lives is to expand school choice options for families. If children feel trapped in an assigned district school and are subjected to daily bullying or humiliation with no escape, it can lead to severe depression and suicidal tendencies. Let’s remember that mass shootings and suicide are intertwined. Compelling research by Corey DeAngelis and Angela Dills shows a striking correlation between more school choice and better mental health. They found that in states with generous school choice options, like charter schools and vouchers, the teen suicide rate was lower than in states without these options.

When parents have greater access to education choices beyond their assigned public school, their children are happier. This is good news for those children—and for the rest of us who don’t need to worry that their depression may turn deadly.

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Wilson, the Stingy

“Wilson” was the stingiest person I ever knew… with his ammunition.

In his mostly unfurnished house, he had built a “wall of ammunition”. He had stacked the little boxes of 7.62×39 and the bigger boxes of .40 S&W so as to build a “wall” against the back wall of his living room. It didn’t actually cover the whole wall, but it was about 3 or 4 feet high and about 6 feet long. It continually grew. I don’t know why he didn’t find a better way to store it.

But when we would go out shooting, he would only shoot one firearm that day. He would either shoot his carry pistol or he would bring along his SKS to shoot. He would never shoot both on the same outing. And he would only bring 3 to 5 cartridges to shoot. That was it.

The first time we went out to shoot his SKS I offered to buy a box of ammo from him for us to shoot. (He always bought every round the local shops would get as soon as they came in.) But, no, he wouldn’t do that. He was convinced he might need it later.

When I ran into him years later and miles away he told me he had gotten married, but it went bad and his angry wife reported him to the cops for abuse. They came to his house, cuffed him on the floor at gunpoint, and stole his guns and all his ammo. He said he never got it back. I have no clue if he really abused her or not. It’s possible– he could be a bit excitable. Doesn’t sound like she was without issues, though.

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Trump v. Bump: A Potentially Deadly Holiday Decision

On December 18, just in time for Christmas, the US Department of Justice announced a new 157-page rule banning “bump stocks.” The regulatory move comes 14 months after Stephen Paddock’s murder of 58 concert attendees in Las Vegas, Nevada made the devices notorious.

The new rule is a dumb and dangerous piece of political grandstanding, and there’s no doubt who’s behind it. “We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership” said acting US Attorney General Matt Whitaker, “by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semi-automatics into machine guns, are illegal …”

A couple of nitpicks:

First, both Whitaker’s claim and the definition in the rule itself (“a semiautomatic firearm to which a bump-stock-type device is attached is able to produce automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger”) are as inaccurate on the factual end as “bump firing” is where hitting targets is concerned. Bump firing requires one pull of a semi-automatic’s trigger per shot, merely allowing a shooter to pull the trigger faster, with a severe penalty to accuracy (if Paddock was a skilled marksman, his use of bump stocks probably saved lives).

Secondly, the rule is completely useless vis a vis its supposed goal. Bump firing is a technique that can be implemented using devices as simple as rubber bands, belt loops on pants, or even just one’s body. Commercial bump stocks are novelty items, not necessary tools for using the technique. The rule is the equivalent of banning pet rocks to reduce the incidence of rock-throwing.

That said, this rule has the potential to cost far more lives than Stephen Paddock took in Vegas.

The rule requires those possessing the banned devices to destroy them or turn them in to law enforcement within 90 days of its publication in the Federal Register (by right around Easter).

According to Matt Vasilogambros of the Pew Trust,  the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives  believes there are more than 500,000 commercial bump stocks in the hands of American gun owners.

When New Jersey’s politicians passed a similar law, the number of bump stocks turned in was … wait for it … zero. If the incidence of bump stock ownership in New Jersey tracks national population averages, that’s zero out of more than 13,000.

If ATF wants those bump stocks, it’s going to have to start knocking on doors and forcibly taking them from hundreds of thousands of gun owners who have declined to voluntarily surrender them.

What could possibly go wrong?

The best possible outcome of this stunt is that it will simply be ignored both by its supposed enforcers and its prospective victims.

Otherwise, Trump’s Christmas present to the anti-gun lobby may well turn into an Easter basket for America’s trauma units and funeral homes.

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Severe Moral Imbalance

The USA — no doubt along with many other countries — is suffering from severe moral imbalances.

Americans think it is horrible for someone to use a racially or sexually insensitive word, but they enthusiastically support politicians who take their money and use it to fund genocide.

They think a man who guns down a dozen people in a school or a club is the most diabolical person imaginable, yet they would not even consider abolishing a federal agency that has caused, at minimum, hundreds of thousands of premature deaths (the FDA).

Many of them regard a woman’s breastfeeding her child in public as obscene, yet virtually naked female entertainers and models are pretty much de rigueur.

And the list of such unbalanced moral judgments might be greatly extended. There seems to be no ability whatsoever to differentiate between what is small and what is large, between what is trivial and what is serious in regard to bad behavior.

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