We are not sheep

I had a breakthrough moment last night. It was on the IRC channel for one of my projects. The developers, and the IRC’s regulars, are a small and tight-knit group. By a coincidence completely unrelated to the nature of the project, we’re all firearms fanciers who take a firm line on Second Amendment rights. Occasionally the IRC chat will turn from project-related technical matters to topics like the relative merits of various pistol calibers.

Occasionally people will show up on the channel looking for project-related help. Some of them become semi-regulars on the channel because they’re often working technical problems for which the project is part of the solution. One of these guys hopped on the channel last night while we happened to be in the middle of a firearms digression, listened for a bit, and then started to spout.

“Why do you guys think you need firearms?” “Criminals will just take them from you and use them against you.” “They’re useless for anything but killing.” “You can’t seriously think they’re a deterrent against overreaching governments, the cops will just come for you you first.” And on and on and on, the same factually and historically ignorant babble civilian firearms owners are wearily used to hearing – as if civilian firearms had not been culturally and politically decisive in hundreds of struggles for freedom, from the American Revolution clear down to short-stopping Communist counter-coups in Russia and the Baltic States as recently as the 1990s.

I listened to the others on the channel offer polite, reasoned, factually correct counterarguments to this guy, and get nowhere. And suddenly…suddenly, I understood why. It was because the beliefs the ignoramus was spouting were only surface structure; refuting them one-by-one could do no good without directly confronting the substructure, the emotional underpinnings that made ignoramus unable to consider or evaluate counter-evidence.

The need, here, was to undermine that substructure. And I saw the way to do it. This is what I said:

“You speak, but I hear only the bleating of a sheep. Your fear gives power to your enemies.”

Ignoramus typed another sentence of historical ignorance. My reply was “Baa! Baa! Baaaaa!”

And another. My reply was more sheep noises, more deliberate mockery. And you know what? A few rounds of this actually worked. Ignoramus protested that he wasn’t a sheep. At which point I asked him “Then why are you disarmed?”

*CRACK*

The conversation afterwards was completely different, and ended up with ignoramus speculating about meeting with one of our regulars in his area to do things with firearms.

I learned a valuable lesson last night. I’m not normally a fan of mockery and attacks on a man’s character over reasoned argument. But when the real issue is in fact the man’s character – specifically, when the issue is where he fits in terms of Dave Grossman’s seminal essay on sheep, wolves and sheepdogs – then that’s the level on which the argument has to be conducted.

I think, now, that gun owners need to be replying more often to hoplophobes simply by echoing their “Baaa! Baaa! Baaaa!” back at them. Because only that reaches the actual fundamentals of the thinly-rationalized anti-firearms prejudice we so often encounter.

And besides being more effective, it’s in a sense a more honest kind of argument, too. Because for many of us the fundamental emotional issue is the same, seen from the other side. Yes, rational consideration of costs and benefits on both individual and social levels amply justifies firearms rights, but for many firearms owners that is surface structure. The substructure is more like this:

We are not sheep. We will not behave as sheep. We are armed because we refuse to be sheep.

Very few of us are ever likely to be at a place and time when civilian firearms change the course of history. Ordinary crime prevention is a far more likely outcome, but still…for most people, most of the time, the most important thing about bearing arms (or its inverse, being willfully self-disarmed) is not what it enables you to do to the other guy, but what it signifies and reinforces about yourself.

Will you be a sheep, a peasant, a subject, an endless means for anyone willing to use more force than you? Or not?

You never know – someday, history might turn on your answer…

349 thoughts on “We are not sheep

  1. The importance of this insight is hard to overstate, and generalizable. Almost always, ostensibly utilitarian policy arguments are actually just ad-hoc presentations of rationalizations completely unconnected to the much lower-level decision-making process.

  2. Hi esr,

    very interesting post on a very interesting subject in very interesting times. First a little about my background : linuxian for ten years, french, engineer.

    My own argument against weapons is this one : if everybody has a wooden weapon, everybody’s bruised ; if everybody has assault weapons, everybody’s killed. So i’m to forbid weapons not to civilians, but to police, and to forbid to the army to intervene on the national soil (police against nationals, army against others).
    What are your thoughts on this one ?

    David

  3. The thing I remember most about first carrying a gun, was the way it made me think. Sure, my permit says “Self-Defense”, but the real reason is mental health.

  4. I think “completely unconnected” is going too far. We have brains capable of doing conscious utilitarian calculations for a reason; if they could never override the emotional substructure of prejudice their adaptive utility would be nil, a failed experiment probably long since discarded.

    My point was more that sometimes you have to subvert the emotional blockers before people will actually think.

  5. >everybody has assault weapons, everybody’s killed

    Hoplophobic stupidity, exhibit A. Just because you have a fist doesn’t mean you punch everybody in sight, does it?

  6. In most arguments I’ve gotten into the “substructure” isn’t an emotional take on the issue at hand but a desire to prove they’re a good member of their political “tribe.” So they’re going to stick with the approved stand and toss talking points at me to protect their identity and social connections. Actual content is irrelevant.

  7. Oh, I don’t think I really disagree with you there…

    I just meant that while people will (somewhat) reliably use those big human cerebrums for problem-solving, a lot more often than we’d like to think decision-making is handled by much older hardware, and then tarted up with a layer of logical rationalization. (There are, IIRC, MRI brain studies that show people answering questions and then thinking up justification for their answers *in that order*…)

    Not that I’ve ever had such dramatic success actually *applying* this principle…

  8. > So they’re going to stick with the approved stand and toss talking points at me to
    > protect their identity and social connections. Actual content is irrelevant.

    Karl, I think you have hit it right on the head here. The problem with presenting rational arguments to change someone’s viewpoint is that it assumes that their viewpoint was formed by a rational process. Rarely is this true. Most people have not arrived at most of their beliefs by rational argument, and so rational argument is not likely to dismantle any particular belief.

    Please note that this is not meant to be critical. Economics has a concept of rational ignorance, which is to say that the cost of knowing is greater than the benefit of knowing. In many areas of life this is very much the case. For example, politics in general it is usually true. What is the cost in forming good, clear well thought out opinions of various political candidates or issues? Often it would require a considerable amount of time. What are the benefits? Very small in reality because the marginal benefit of one vote is indiscernibly small. So being rationally ignorant of politics is often a good choice.

    We short circuit this by a mechanism of using a proxy for knowledge. Generally speaking that means “political party” in this context. You know your views tend toward the right, the left, the wacko enviro, the libertarian, and this short circuits the need to find too much detail. This is most evident when voting for “park district board member”, or “Water Board President.”

    Why do most people who think we should get all our energy from Wind Farms also oppose people carrying guns, or support unrestricted abortion rights? There is not obvious connection between these three points of view, but it is often rationally appropriate to not form a separate opinion on these, and rather derive your opinion from the tribe. This behavior is both beneficial from the point of view of resource allocation (you don’t have to spend your time as a policy wonk), and from the point of view of the benefits of tribal membership (you can yuck it up at cocktail parties with your buddies.) I propose they are built into the very design of human beings. (I picked liberal causes here, but the same is true in most other tribal views.)

    Trying to pick off gun rights from someone in that tribe is not just changing a particular rational viewpoint, it is unpicking the very structure of their whole belief system, it is, in a sense, undermining the very health and viability of their minds.

    Some people choose to be a member of a different tribe — the rationalists — where the tribe is about making rational debate, a kind of meta belief system, where the particulars matter less than the willingness to discuss the particulars. It is the rationality itself which is the tribal membership. I count myself in that group, and it is small. But I don’t say that as an elitist, membership in that group is just as tribal as any other.

  9. >>everybody has assault weapons, everybody’s killed
    >Hoplophobic stupidity, exhibit A. Just because you have a fist doesn’t mean you punch everybody in sight, does it?

    I think while writing.

    You’re right. But remember I live in France. Kings fired on people. Army fired on people. People made revolutions, several times. Sarkozy just made a law with a presumption of culpability (Hadopi, 3 strikes and you’re disconnected). I honestly fear troubles, even if it won’t be a revolution.
    Ok, let’s state my argument the most seriously possible : if there is a revolution, a generalized civil war, then it is better to have the smallest amount of firepower available to everybody.

    Second argument : in some parts of the world, or of the city, I am a target. Too rich, not the right kind of people, name it ; the issue there is hate and envy. If there is not much firepower available, i’m likely to be able to defend myself ; if there is lots of firepower available, i’m robbed or somebody is killed. Ok, i’m able to debunk this one myself : canadians have lots of firepower and have not lots of murders. It’s a question of civility, of sociability, so finally of culture. Mmmmhh… This can be applied to my first argument : in some cultures, in order to attain a correct agreement, it is better to have a lot of firepower in the hands of the people, and in others, no.

    Mmmh, re-reading what you wrote, I’m ok with what you say. Thanks for the lesson.

  10. > >everybody has assault weapons, everybody’s killed
    > Hoplophobic stupidity, exhibit A. Just because you have a fist doesn’t mean you punch everybody in sight, does it?

    You didn’t get it. What David meant was:

    1) all we have is our fists -> IF there’s a fight, all you’ll end up with is people with bruised noses.
    2) let’s give people sticks -> IF etc, people will end up badly wounded.
    3) firearms FTW!!11111 -> IF etc, people will end up dead.
    4) nukes -> everybody dead.

  11. > if there is a revolution, a generalized civil war, then it is better to have
    > the smallest amount of firepower available to everybody.

    Nah, it is better for the good guys to have all the guns. If you can’t do that, you want them as evenly distributed as possible.

  12. Isn’t this akin to what Ayn Rand calls Sense of Life and a bunch of German dudes call Weltanschaaung? It goes beyond the facts and logic, it’s more how you perceive the world in general.

  13. Also, it would be neat to have a list of a incidents where civilian firearms have made a significant difference. Have been looking for something like that for a while. Battle of Athens, 1946, comes to mind.

  14. Ps. Have you read Neill Strauss’ new book Emergency: this book will save your life? It’s a nice tale of how a sheep became a sheepdog. It’s a bit silly sometimes but I still find it fascinating to see mainstream journalist espousing survivalism, tax evasion and gun rights.

  15. Very few of us are ever likely to be at a place and time when civilian firearms change the course of history. Ordinary crime prevention is a far more likely outcome, but still…for most people, most of the time, the most important thing about bearing arms (or its inverse, being willfully self-disarmed) is not what it ernables you to do to the other guy, but what it signifies and reinforces about yourself.

    An excellent quote, and one that points to a more profound question: is any life worth living? Is material possessions and comfort enough? It seems like the anti-gun people don’t seem to grasp this line of thinking at all, there seems to be no higher values in their minds. When I heard this in Batman Begins:

    Ra’s Al Ghul: Gotham must be destroyed!
    Wayne: But all the people?
    Ra’s Al Ghul: That’s no life! To live like that without dignity!

    I instinctively thought of Sweden, my country, where we live like pampered sheep but with no real meaning to life.

    Btw, have you read Evola or similar Traditionalist authors?

  16. esr, firearms have their place of course, but I wouldn’t need one in the town where I live. Perhaps this guy lived in a place where being armed is simply not necessary, and thus could not understand your point.

  17. >You didn’t get it.

    *You* don’t get it. Weapons aren’t agents; they don’t fire themselves. We’ve had nukes in the hands of mutually hostile powerrs for 50 years now and we are not, in fact, all dead.

  18. >Perhaps this guy lived in a place where being armed is simply not necessary,

    There are no such places. There are only places that make it relatively easy to fool yourself about the matter.

  19. >Btw, have you read Evola or similar Traditionalist authors?

    I looked him up. What a revolting specimen!

    I don’t advocate the bearing of arms out of a fascist worship of combative heroism. And no, I don’t think my quote necessarily raises the question of whether any life is worth living, or whether material possessions are enough. And if Ra’s Al Ghul weren’t a cartoon character he’d be a repellent psychotic!

    My aims are aligned with what Evola would have sneeringly dismissed as “liberalism” – not the soft-socialist thinking that word now labels in the U.S., but the European classical-liberal tradition Evola excoriated. A free society requires people who refuse to be sheep, otherwise it quickly ceases to be free.

  20. Dave Grossman’s seminal essay on sheep, wolves and sheepdogs

    Or, as Parker and Stone referred to them, pussies, assholes and dicks, respectively.

    Random reader: Isn’t this akin to what Ayn Rand calls Sense of Life and a bunch of German dudes call Weltanschaaung? It goes beyond the facts and logic, it’s more how you perceive the world in general.

    Evangelicals call it a “worldview”.

  21. I don’t have a firearm. However, I have a large compound bow in my room with arrows stacked against it. It doesn’t have the stopping power of a high caliber pistol round and you can’t carry it around the street conveniently. However, it’s got a good fear factor (imagine breaking into a house and a large arrow buries itself in the wall next to your head) and your kid can’t shoot himself with it (he/she probably can’t even pull the string back unless he’s at least 15 or 16).

    JessicaBoxer is absolutely right. It’s a tribal mentality. People define themselves by their tribe. ESR appeal directly to this guy’s manliness. In other words, he invited him to join the tribe hunters and protectors and implied that if you are not a member of this tribe, you are sheep, the ultimate insult. An invitation into this tribe, made by people you respect, is almost irresistible to many guys.

    My question is this: Is the manliness instinct mostly cultural (and can therefore be rooted out) or does it have such a strong physiological basis that it never goes completely away. In other words, if I go to an art institute in Norway and grab some kid with wearing women’s jeans and a wavy emo hearcut, is there a feirce protector and provider buried in there somewhere, or is it completely gone.

  22. >People define themselves by their tribe. ESR appeal directly to this guy’s manliness. In other words, he invited him to join the tribe hunters and protectors and implied that if you are not a member of this tribe, you are sheep, the ultimate insult.

    This is overinterpreting. I’m not a sheepdog because I crave membership in the sheepdog tribe, I’m a sheepdog because it’s what I’m designed and instinctively wired for. If there were no other sheepdogs left on earth, I would still be a “hunter and protector”, not to meet the expectations of others but because that’s what I am. I know from conversations with other sheepdogs that many of them feel similarly.

    You are quite right that I was attempting to appeal to his sense of manliness. Just don’t confuse that with tribalism.

    >Is the manliness instinct mostly cultural

    No. See, for example, some of the studies on reversion to traditional sex roles in kibbutznik children raised in a culture designed to stamp them out.

  23. @ChrisGreen: I see my manliness instinct as a feature, not a bug.

  24. I quite enjoyed reading this story. I have found the a barbaric approach to relationships quite effective, also the easiest way to become friends or reason with someone is too push back hard at the beginning (it helps a lot if you can manage some kindness and a smirk). This also has the added benefit of said other person becoming more comfortable (that is if you managed the kindness and that smile that gives away you are teasing).

    I have often wondered if I was losing some of my social skills when I developed this trait, but the results are quite amazing I develop friendly relationships with many more people far faster now than I used to before.

    To me it also brings to question whether bullying and teasing are important social skills? not just childish or rude.

  25. esr, firearms have their place of course, but I wouldn’t need one in the town where I live. Perhaps this guy lived in a place where being armed is simply not necessary, and thus could not understand your point.

    You live in a town where you don’t need one?? You’re absolutely certain that your house will never get broken into? Or you or a loved one would never be violently assaulted at any point in your lives?

    If you answered yes to any of those, either you’re communicating from an alternate reality (in which case….COOL!!!), or you’re displaying an absolutely astonishing level of naivety.

  26. Baaaaa says: 1) all we have is our fists -> IF there’s a fight, all you’ll end up with is people with bruised noses.

    No, you’ll end up with plenty of dead women, children, elderly, and others of smaller stature and strength. I’m 5’6″ and I sit at a desk all day. If a 6’6″ guy who can bench 300lbs decides to beat me to death with his bare hands, he’s going to kill me. More people are killed in the US every year with fists and feet than are killed with all types of firearms. My only way to stop him from doing that is with my .45.

  27. > I’m a sheepdog because it’s what I’m designed and instinctively wired for.

    What is the basis of this belief? Why is it nature rather than nurture (or, a combination of the two?)

    Another poster also tentatively described this as “manliness”. But is this exclusively the realm of the male, or does it correspond with the well known viciousness of the mother defending her cubs?

  28. >What is the basis of this belief?

    That it doesn’t matter to me whether anyone “approves” of my sheepdogness or not. Culture can go fuck itself, on this issue. Nor does it matter to me whether anyone else thinks there’s a “tribe” of sheepdogs or whether they think I’m part of it. Tribalism can go fuck itself too. I found my nature when I stopped listening to what people around me expected of me.

    >But is this exclusively the realm of the male, or does it correspond with the well known viciousness of the mother defending her cubs?

    As in all such things, men and women have overlapping bell curves of this trait with different medians. Also, it’s evoked by different situations; men are the outer guard, women the last-ditch protectors when the men are down. (This makes bioenergetic sense; in the ancestral environment, female reproductive capacity was too scarce to be casually risked.)

  29. “You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.”

  30. Pardon my ignorance/stupidity but I really fail to see :
    1) how carrying firearms relates to manliness? (provided manliness actually means something but that’s off-topic I presume)
    2) how carrying firearms relates to not being a sheep
    (and conversely how not carrying firearms relates to not being a sheep) ? I guess this could lead to a semantic argument on the definition of a sheep but again that might be a little off-topic…
    3) how anyone can claim being rational while pretending firearms are helpful and even necessary.

    I’m not quite interested in flame wars so I’ll clarify the third point : the Bad Guy ™ will ALWAYS end up with a weapon more deadlier than yours, there’s NOTHING you can do about that. Firearm controls indeed won’t help in this matter directly but I’d be inclined to think that it’s slightly better to be robbed and alive than robbed and dead because you had a firearm and fancied a For Alamo remake. So in a sense.

    Another thing I find quite funny in that position is that AFAIK economic liberalism (or whatever you name it) and openness does not fit well with the proud firearm bearer mentality exposed here. Or am I missing something?

  31. I guess what I was trying to say is that virtually every man used to be a hunter, provider and protector. Maybe a few specailized roles excempted a man from that in primative tribes, but it seems to be that most guys, at least 6000 years ago, were wired to be sheepdogs or wolves. What else could you be. I suppose 6000 years of agriculture could have changed it, but that seems like a very short time from an evolutionary point of view to weed out a key characteristic.

    I don’t agree that many men don’t have the capacity to be sheep dogs while a few men do. I think it’s more accurate to say to that a majority of men could be sheepdogs, but only a few men NEED to be sheepdogs.

  32. > That it doesn’t matter to me whether anyone “approves” of my sheepdogness or not.

    That just indicates the present condition of your mind and belief system. It doesn’t indicate how it got that way. You say you were wired that way: do you mean your genome caused that particular wiring of your neurons, or your experiences caused that particular wiring of your neurons? I thought you were claiming the former, but rereading your comments I may have misinterpreted you.

  33. Furthermore, a society which rejects the notion that sheepdogs should exist (at least in this world as it is now), or looks down on such people as vicious and primitive is in deep trouble. Such a society postulates that underneath it all, everybody is really a sheep and therefore, wolves and dogs are obsolete.

  34. >well known viciousness of the mother defending her cubs?

    Yes, females get pretty sheepdoggity when their young are physically threatened. What I’ve found is that the female’s violant protective instinct is very strong within a very small circle (kind of like a black hole). The welfare of her family and children is more then forefront in her mind, it is the only thing on her mind when they are threatened.

    The male’s protective instinct tends to be more diffuse. If the number of people who joined the army (or fire department) in the US was dependent on the decisions of their mother, there would be no soldiers and too few firemen and police officers. We would probably all be speaking German by now too. I remember when I was thinking of joining the National Guard, my Mom desparately wanted me not too, while my Dad actaully kind of liked the idea. I think he wished he had joined the Guard when he was younger and the thought of me out their helping and protecting people in his place appealed to him. My mother’s only concern was my physical safety and the ability to have a stable family life. If other people wanted to join the Army, that was all fine and good, as long as I wasn’t one of them.

    Chris

  35. >Another thing I find quite funny in that position is that AFAIK economic liberalism (or whatever you name it) and openness does not fit well with the proud firearm bearer mentality exposed here. Or am I missing something?

    Yes, you are. Your questions – and your assumptions – are ignorant, prejudiced, and wrong in ways that are probably beyond the capacity of anyone here to effectively address. It will be entertaining to see if anyone tries.

  36. I don’t own a gun, I can feel some of what you say, I’ve seen the confidence and assertiveness of a couple of gun owners but – I think gun owners are kidding themselves by owning a gun. Get falsely accused or bullied by a cop, are you going to shoot him? Get raided for failing to pay taxes or by mistake? Just two guys with assault weapons, body armor and training will run through you like you were water. So what’s a gun for? Random muggings? Meh, more trouble than it’s worth; I’d fear the accidents that are supposed to be higher from having a gun in the house. And, you’re running around with a hammer in your head looking for a nail (ie oppty to use the gun. Like buying lottery tickets; nevermind the money lost, it’s dumb for the loss of mental energy). The govt. has a monopoly on violence, I claim you gun owners are just kidding yourselves. Now, maybe that’s psychologically useful but, to me, it’d just be a mocking reminder of my true powerlessness against the one thing that matters in a ‘live free or die’ kind of way, the state.

  37. I read the article you linked to, it was very informative. What I want to know is, do you need a firearm or some other weapon to be a sheepdog? I live in a place where there are no firearms available to the public, even the police don’t use firearms. The military uses unloaded guns when they run checkpoints and other things. While I wouldn’t say living in a place without many firearms is better or worse than living in a place with firearms, I would like to know your thoughts on being a sheepdog in a society without guns.

    If you’re wondering what kind of society doesn’t use guns (often) as the basis of coercion, think about the clusters of islands east of australia, and north of new zealand… “The way the world should be”(Pope John Paul) A long time ago, maybe, but not anymore…

  38. ChrisGreen>I think it’s more accurate to say to that a majority of men could be sheepdogs, but only a few men NEED to be sheepdogs.

    Agreed.

    JessicaBoxer> You say you were wired that way: do you mean your genome caused that particular wiring of your neurons, or your experiences caused that particular wiring of your neurons?

    The ambiguity was intended. I suspect there is a significant amount of genetic predisposition involved, but I don’t know.

  39. >What I want to know is, do you need a firearm or some other weapon to be a sheepdog?

    Of course not. Being a sheepdog is a matter of instinct, attitude, and ethics. Firearms are one available tool for expressing that nature, but any lethal weapon can have the same clarifying and focusing effect – including your own hands and feet.

    >I would like to know your thoughts on being a sheepdog in a society without guns

    You train to fight hand-to-hand. You learn to use whatever weapons are available, or improvise weapons.

    The key thing – the central thing – is not to have a helpless mind.

  40. >Now, maybe that’s psychologically useful but, to me, it’d just be a mocking reminder of my true powerlessness against the one thing that matters in a ‘live free or die’ kind of way, the state.

    One firearm makes little difference. A million of them in the hands of men and women who love freedom make a lot.

    Don’t think just of the effect of your individual choice to carry a weapon and resist tyranny, if required, with violence. Think instead what happens if a million people like you decide they will not be sheep.

  41. “sheepdog”
    niven rather interestingly in his ringworld series labelled this “Protector”. and what’s interesting is how often his physical caricature so closely matches physical aspects of that subset of people who naturally think first about the group and only secondarily about themselves.

  42. esr says, “Ordinary crime prevention is a far more likely outcome

    So the more people who carry weaponry, the more crime is reduced?

  43. just reading through now that Sheep Wolves Sheepdog article and i hit something freakily similar to something that happened to me last weekend:
    As they approached the officer, he lowered his novel and made eye contact with them. “You got a problem, man?” one of the IQ-challenged punks asked. “You think you’re tough, or somethin’?” the other asked, obviously offended that this one was not shirking away from them.

    “As a matter of fact, I am tough,” the officer said, calmly and with a steady gaze.

    The two looked at him for a long moment, and then without saying a word, turned and moved back down the aisle to continue their taunting of the other passengers, the sheep.

    hmm.

    amusingly, i am not quite but almost a deadringer for niven’s description of “Protectors”. right down to the lips and hands.

  44. >So the more people who carry weaponry, the more crime is reduced?

    In civil societies, yes, that’s correct. Longitudinal studies in the U.S. have confirmed this. The suppressive effect is particularly notable against rape, hot burglary, and violent assault.

    It is probably the case that there is a certain minimum level of accumulated cultural capital below which civilian arms increase violence rather than decreasing it, but that level has been long since exceeded everywhere outside the worst hellholes in Africa and the Near East.

  45. I think any person capable, and making full use, of independent thought will automatically realize that the right to keep and bear arms is an absolutely critical component of a free society. Those who disagree are usually sheep, bleating out what they think people in a “politically correct” society should agree to. The Founding Fathers were very clear on this: the right to keep and bear arms was an essential component to ensure that We, the People would be able to maintain the freedom they fought so hard to obtain, even if that meant fighting against the government they worked so hard to create.

    The only remaining question in my mind is: how will we know when we are there?

  46. Yes, I’m a sheep.

    We sheep get to freeload on those of you who are willing to bear the cost and responsibility of bearing arms (which I’m not).

    Thanks!

  47. >So what’s a gun for? Random muggings? Meh, more trouble than it’s worth;

    Your speculation does not correspond with the actual data measured on these matters. Guns are used in self defense many times each year in the USA. By self-defense I mean to say your aforementioned random muggings, along with rapes, hot burglaries and similar. Somewhere between 80,000 and 2,000,000 times a year depending on who you believe. You take lots of actions to reduce risks that occur far less frequently than this.

    But this isn’t about that. It isn’t really about guns, it is about standing in front, or standing behind. It is about owning your choices, not allowing others to choose for you.

    In this regards I’d highly recommend ESR’s essay, “Ethics from the point of a gun”. I read it a long time ago, and it affected my thinking a lot.

  48. > women tend to worry more about themselves and theirs, than about the group

    I think the exact opposite is true.

  49. I find it absolutely hilarious that @esr implies (if not outright states) that anybody for gun control is necessarily “biased, prejudiced, and wrong…” Yes, that’s the case. And it’s also the case that anybody *against* gun control is biased, prejudiced, and wrong in many ways. And so, by merely pointing out that people have biases you’ve accomplished a little less than nothing. It’s meaningless to simply point out that somebody’s position is in some way biased or prejudiced. Yes, thanks, Einstein. Any other brainbusters? Next, want to posit that any position gun control advocates take ultimately can’t be proven objectively?

    What’s more meaningful and might give your position a little more clout than an absurd reliving of highschool gym class by calling somebody names (*) is to say in what ways it’s biased, prejudiced, and wrong. A rare visitor to your blog, I can point out several cognitive biases you very obviously exhibit in ample quantities:
    – confirmation bias (this is really the big one). this blog post of yours is a great example of confirmation bias. see choice-supportive bias as well.
    – choice-supportive bias. such as your claims to having predicted many things successfully, when in fact they were only marginally correct at best.
    – omission bias. such as the success of gun control in many societies.
    – focusing effect. such as citing the (now-only-marginally-relevant-) american revolution as support for bearing arms.
    – zero-risk bias. such as the very low risk of the necessity of armed rebellion against invading forces vs. not having some douchebag with an arsenal of automatic weapons shoot up a fucking school.
    – expectation bias. such as posting and commenting only on the things you deem yourself right about (see choice-supportive bias: you’re not even always right about them).

    Please, stop it with the pathetic, pedantic armchair psychology of “sheep” and “sheepdog” nonsense. The world can be divided into two camps an infinite number of ways. Hence, it can’t be divided into two camps. Your distinction is ultimately meaningless, as is your (empty) confidence that gun control advocates are biased, prejudiced, and whatever other adjective you can conjure up. You’re compensating.

    Have a nice day.

    (*) – but this time with the roles reversed, from the comfy confines of your smelly office chair with your compensating newly-shined firearm rubbing in your pants, feeling self-satisfied but in actuality pathetic and as much or more biased, prejudiced, and wrong. What’s so outrageously grand is that you actually do realize you merely converted somebody through peer pressure and appealing to manliness: this person was clearly impressionable and clearly swayed easily. You bent a weak ego that was already in a lower social order by coming to ask for help on an unrelated issue. Congratulations! Your gym teacher would be proud!

  50. More stuff to make gym teacher proud. Well, at least you’re not a closet homosexual. That rules out one reason to compensate. Now it’s probably most likely just compensation from a life of being a nerd who nobody took seriously now with a big wide internet of other dorks who aren’t as smart as you to take you seriously.

    Oh, and a big pat on the back. Shucks, good job Eric! You’re a big boy now! A sheepdog, no less!

  51. with your compensating newly-shined firearm rubbing in your pants

    The metaphor there is obvious. What I’d like to know is why people who are for gun control sometimes equate guns with male genitalia? I’ve never seen or heard a gun owner use that particular metaphor.

  52. Fullmetalcoder wrote: “the Bad Guy â„¢ will ALWAYS end up with a weapon more deadlier than yours, there’s NOTHING you can do about that. Firearm controls indeed won’t help in this matter directly but I’d be inclined to think that it’s slightly better to be robbed and alive than robbed and dead because you had a firearm and fancied a For Alamo remake”

    I don’t think you’ve thought this through. Suppose you have a concealed weapon and a well-armed Bad Guy shows up. You don’t *have* to use the concealed weapon. You could choose not to use it, in which case you’re obviously no worse off than if you didn’t have it. But if you *do* choose to use it, you don’t have to use it in a fair fight. So you have the element of surprise on your side – you get to choose when and how to attack and should do so to maximize your ability to succeed. You can attack when Bad Guy is distracted, looking the other way or otherwise off guard. The idea that his weapon is going to be “deadlier than mine” is kind of goofy but regardless: how could it matter how “deadly” his weapon is if I get to shoot him first?

    Assuming you have good judgment, you’re better off having the gun than not. the FBI’s collected statistics confirm that self-defense with a firearm is safer for the victim than any other form of self defense or than passive compliance – it’s the least-bad option from a set of unappealing alternatives.

  53. >The metaphor there is obvious. What I’d like to know is why people who are for gun control sometimes equate guns with male genitalia?

    What I find weirder is that, having made that equation, they are up front about wanting to rip the metaphorical genitals off of gun owners, but clearly think that desire makes them better people. Rather than, you know, petty castrating bitches.

  54. I’m going to ignore the rest of Andrew’s passive-aggressive blather (ironic to be accused of armchair psychologizing as though it were a sin by someone so clearly fixated on it himself) and note that the spread-pussy snapshot he linked to was a supporting exhibit for Why Does Porn Got To Hurt So Bad, an essay some of my newer regulars might not know of but find interesting.

  55. >We sheep get to freeload on those of you who are willing to bear the cost and responsibility of bearing arms … Thanks!

    You know, after dealing with so many ungrateful and willfully clueless sheep, hearing from one who’s up front about it and grateful is very refreshing.

    I shall buy you a drink of the beverage of your choice if we ever meet FTF.

  56. A weapon’s deadliness is a function of the hand and brain using it.

    I don’t think Eric would want to go up against me if we both had swords and nothing else. He knows that I’m faster, more precise and able to draw on a deeper bag of tricks.

    I wouldn’t want to fight Eric bare handed. I know how much stronger he is than I am, and my bare-hand technique is rusty and verges on non-existant.

    Both of us know how to handle a firearm. I don’t know for certain if Eric has been in a scrum, or lived in a bad neighborhood. I have.

    Neither of us sees ourselves as a ‘bad-ass’. Both of us know people who can whup the tar out of us in our chosen forms of exercise/combat training. We know this because we seek them out to learn from them. It’s not a good session if we don’t come away with bruises and a “OK, how do I get past *that*” thought process.

    I know exactly HOW LITTLE training most criminals have in using a firearm. They don’t take the breath to aim, they don’t know how to read body posture, they don’t know how to use cover and concealment. Around one shot in 30 fired in street crime actually hits its intended targets. Cops are better – they hit with about one shot in 12.

    Someone who trains on the US Marshals ‘live protect’ drill expects to hit with better than one shot in three.

    A criminal with a gun is betting that the implied threat of the weapon means they never have to use it. Someone who trains regularly with a gun is betting that if it ever has to be used, that their training means they win…and on the Sun Tzu level, that victory comes from the initial state condition, they’re right.

    And it’s on the level of Sun Tzu that the importance of personal responsbility and firearms ownership is important on a societal basis.

  57. >A weapon’s deadliness is a function of the hand and brain using it.

    Hear him. He speaks wisdom.

    >I don’t think Eric would want to go up against me if we both had swords and nothing else. He knows that I’m faster, more precise and able to draw on a deeper bag of tricks.
    >
    >I wouldn’t want to fight Eric bare handed. I know how much stronger he is than I am, and my bare-hand technique is rusty and verges on non-existant.

    Hear him. He speaks good sense on both points.

    >I don’t know for certain if Eric has been in a scrum, or lived in a bad neighborhood. I have.

    Yes to both. I will note that my experience of urban violence is both limited and far in the past; since I got my full adult muscles and martial-arts training, street punks exhibit a very rational reluctance to mess with me.

    >Neither of us sees ourselves as a ‘bad-ass’.

    This is true and the most important point in Ken’s comment.

    There are people who assume that anyone with Ken’s or my level of interest in violence training must be a strutting, testosterone-addled buffoon whose entire self-image is founded on being able to administer regular ass-kickings. I actually rather pity such people; it seems to me that they’re projecting their own ego-weakness on us. They don’t get the sheepdog thing, at all, but really that’s their loss rather than ours; the opinions of individual sheep on this subject don’t signify much more to Ken or myself than a deaf person’s opinions about music.

    >Both of us know people who can whup the tar out of us in our chosen forms of exercise/combat training. We know this because we seek them out to learn from them.

    Hell, yeah!

  58. David,

    “My own argument against weapons is this one : if everybody has a wooden weapon, everybody’s bruised ; if everybody has assault weapons, everybody’s killed. So i’m to forbid”

    Of course the big problem with this kind of reasoning is the jump from “to forbid” to “and everybody will happily obey it”. Include the factor who is more likely to obey this law and who isn’t and you get a different picture.

    I’d love to live in a world where no firearms are manufactured and criminals rob banks with nunchuks and rapiers and the police chasing them with katanas and battleaxes, it would be totally awesome, but just won’t happen.

  59. BTW if we are talking about utilitarian calculations, it’s not always straightforward. With lots of sheepdogs around it might be safe to choose the freerider option i.e. to be a sheep. With some good escape route planned in advance in case the wolves break through the sheepdogs. With lots of wolves and no sheepdogs, the first sheep to turn into a sheepdog will be the first sheep dead. I suppose from a single-factor (safety) utilitarian point of view it only really worths it when the number of sheepdogs is exactly one less than what’s needed to stop the wolves from breaking through. Of course, there are other factors, like pride etc.

  60. Nuthin like a good gun control wangle on the internet. I have a hypothesis that every usenet forum has a gun control thread. Go ahead and look, I dare you.

    (alt.yoga? check. alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die? check.)

    I think this forum should pat itself on the back; ~60 posts, and no one has been called a Nazi.

    The only interesting thing I have to add here is that when one has arrived at a position via non-rational means it is very easy to assume that others have as well. I see both sides falling into this trap.

  61. JessicaBoxer,

    “Why do most people who think we should get all our energy from Wind Farms also oppose people carrying guns, or support unrestricted abortion rights? There is not obvious connection between these three points of view”

    Actually there are often consistent narratives. The one heard is that every custom or instituion they oppose is the result of dominant, “macho” personalities who love to compete, to rule, to exploit and to suppress. It’s surprisingly consistent.

    The problem I think with it is not inconsistency but over-simplification: human nature just isn’t so simple and one cannot reduce everything what’s wrong with the world to just one personality archetype.

  62. Beside the hoplophobe, there’s an element or culture that is more deeply based in personality – the desire to impose one’s will or lifestyle choices on others. e.g., :
    I don’t smoke, I don’t want to smoke and I don’t want anyone else to smoke.
    I don’t own an SUV, I don’t want to own an SUV and I don’t want anyone else to own an SUV.
    I don’t own a gun, I don’t want to own a gun and I don’t want anyone else to own a gun.

    Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the news media depicted Republican Conservatives, particularly Christian evangelicals, as trying to impose their lifestyle choices on others, most commonly, homosexuals. Now, I sense a tendency from the opposite side to actually legislate lifestyle choices, from light bulbs to where to set the thermostat.

    I think these tendencies are personality traits, and not driven by ideology. Personally, I don’t care what anyone else does with their time, money or possessions if it has no practical impact on me. While these tendencies may be prevalent in evangelical Christians it seems they’re more apparent in Liberals. The desire for everyone to act and live in the interest of the common good.

    At least then, we wouldn’t be sheep. We could fancy ourselves Vulcans. But more likely, bees.

  63. > Your questions – and your assumptions – are ignorant, prejudiced
    I won’t deny this though I firmly disagree about the “amplitude” of said ignorance and prejudices. I fully agree with Andrew about biases so I won’t digress on this.

    > and wrong
    Convincing really. Was I wrong to suppose we could have a rational discussion? It’s interesting to note that you only addressed the latest line which was quite meaningless compared to the others but oh well, maybe this is just a matter of frame of reference.

    Anyway, let’s forget about guns for a moment and focus on “sheeps” (my point really wasn’t about gun control but about the event you described and the reasoning, or lack thereof, associating guns and sheeps).
    As far as I understood, in your opinion anyone who doesn’t have a weapon is a sheep and anyone who has one is not a sheep. Quite frankly the equivalence you appear to assume is extremely dubious to say the least. Besides it appears that everyone here supporting this opinion thinks of firearms as a protection which means they fear something which in turns mean they can be considered as sheep : after 9/11 the Bush administration played with the fears of american citizens, did its best to reinforce these fears and without this atmosphere of terror it would have been much harder to pass laws limiting freedom and invade Iraq.
    Another sheepish behavior exhibited by many firearm-bearer in the US is the way they follow the guidance of the NRA but I suppose this more of a tribal behavior after all.

    >We sheep get to freeload on those of you who are willing to bear the cost and responsibility of bearing arms
    The world would surely be a great place if everyone bearing firearms fully understood the responsibility. It’s likely that most people here do but I am not that sure they are representative of the population of firearms bearer and that’s one of the big issue I have with the (has(gun) !sheep) theorem.

  64. >As far as I understood, in your opinion anyone who doesn’t have a weapon is a sheep and anyone who has one is not a sheep.

    Then you need to work on your reading comprehension, because you don’t get it at all.

  65. @esr — passive aggressive? What was passive about openly confronting you and using your own gym-class-style mockery in doing so? Telling, though, that as usual you gloss over the actual guts of the argument in your dismissal. It’s very convenient. Continue on with your circle jerk, answering only the softball responses.

  66. > Then you need to work on your reading comprehension, because you don’t get it at all.
    If you can’t bother actually discussing the relevant points would you at least be so kind to enlighten me as I am a poor soul who was not granted english as native laguage?

  67. Maybe when Eric’s done flexing his e-muscles/embarassing the open source movement he will get around to coding something that rises above the level of undergraduate computer programming. Most amusing is this bizarre quote:

    Will you be a sheep, a peasant, a subject, an endless means for anyone willing to use more force than you?

    Look, if you feel there is need to carry a firearm in your neighbourhood, then by all means do so. However, your insistence that it gives you various kinds of superiority over certain other groups of people really makes you look silly. Even in states that aren’t awash with guns, the vast majority of men are men when they’re needed to be, in whatever way happens to be needed. Meanwhile, Eric lives out his superiority fantasy, polishing his weapons, defending no-one and standing up for nothing but his own ego.

  68. >If you can’t bother actually discussing the relevant points would you at least be so kind to enlighten me as I am a poor soul who was not granted english as native laguage?

    Consider the following quotes from earlier in the thread:

    JessicaBoxer>But this isn’t about that. It isn’t really about guns, it is about standing in front, or standing behind. It is about owning your choices, not allowing others to choose for you.

    Me>Being a sheepdog is a matter of instinct, attitude, and ethics. Firearms are one available tool for expressing that nature, but any lethal weapon can have the same clarifying and focusing effect – including your own hands and feet.

    Me>You train to fight hand-to-hand. You learn to use whatever weapons are available, or improvise weapons. The key thing – the central thing – is not to have a helpless mind.

    None of these seem particularly difficult to comprehend.

  69. > I don’t smoke, I don’t want to smoke and I don’t want anyone else to smoke.
    I don’t smoke, I don’t want to smoke and I don’t care if anyone else smokes but I really appreciate if they don’t impose that stink to me.

    > I don’t own an SUV, I don’t want to own an SUV and I don’t want anyone else to own an SUV.
    I don’t own a SUV, I don’t want to own an SUV and I don’t care if anyone else owns an SUV (as long as he/she doesn’t bother me boasting about his/her great SUV…) but I consider that a waste of resources (chemistry could produce things vastly more interesting/useful than exhaust fumes with all that oil…)

    > I don’t own a gun, I don’t want to own a gun and I don’t want anyone else to own a gun.
    I don’t own a gun, I don’t want to own a gun and I don’t care if anyone else owns a gun as long as he/she doesn’t assault other people with it, doesn’t bother me with his skills at using said gun, doesn’t make stupid tribal claims such as “real men have guns” or “people who don’t like guns are sheeps”.

    Diverging opinions are no trouble as long as people don’t try to impose their views on others AND accept that other opinion are equally valid (“valid” is probably not the right term as we can hardly rely on logic in this field so “viable” might be a better choice). Troubles erupt when people deny the viability of other views and refuse any form of discussion which could be benefitial to all sides.

  70. >“people who don’t like guns are sheeps”

    I have no difficulty imagining a sheepdog who doesn’t like guns. Maybe he’s good with a crossbow; the weapon is the instrument, the mind is the important thing. Check your premises.

  71. >Continue on with your circle jerk, answering only the softball responses.

    I will continue not feeding you, troll.

  72. esr & fullmetalcoder – likewise, I don’t have a problem with someone who is happy being a sheep. I choose not to be, but I don’t claim to be “superior” (which I don’t think esr necessarily did either, even though his tone may suggest otherwise.) The problem I have with a lot of sheep is that they want everyone else to be sheep with them. If you promise not to impose your will on me, you’ll never see or hear my gun, but you’ll still be protected by it.

  73. >(which I don’t think esr necessarily [claimed to be superior] either, even though his tone may suggest otherwise.)

    Aha! Someone who can read declarative sentences in English and understand them!

    Puts you ahead of lots of people on this thread.

  74. Look, if you feel there is need to carry a firearm in your neighbourhood, then by all means do so.

    I’m about to go out and spend a day working at the airport in a small town in rural southern Minnesota. I’ll have my pistol on me. The likelihood that I will need to use that pistol is vanishingly small, and it’s going to be a pain to deal with. Even so, it’s not staying at home; it’s going with me. Why? Two reasons:
    1) The likelihood that I’ll need it, while small, is not zero. You never need a gun until you need one badly.
    2) Because I’m accustomed to carrying it all the time, it’s much more likely that I’ll have it on me at times when the likelihood that I’ll need it is much greater than vanishingly small…say, when I’m visiting my roommate’s sister in one of the worst neighborhoods in north Minneapolis.

    Rural Minnesota is not “awash with guns”. Even so, they’re not viewed with the absolute horror that the liberals in the Twin Cities do. People out here understand they need to stand up for themselves and take responsibility for their own protection, instead of simply hoping the cops will do it for them. That does make us superior in one respect to those who do not take that responsibility. Don’t like it? Tough.

  75. > I have no difficulty imagining a sheepdog who doesn’t like guns. Maybe he’s good with a crossbow; the weapon is the instrument, trhe mind is the important thing. Check your premises.
    I have no difficulty either with imagining such a thing. I’d even argue that crossbow are much better in many aspects (including but not limited to stealth). I concur that it is all a matter of mind. However I still have an issue with your premises : lethal weaponry is required to be a sheepdog. I guess we do not have the same understanding of what a sheepdog is.
    Consider this : a nice-looking banker (could be anything else) tries to rob you (or a relative, this is not relevant), maybe even almost legally (beware the tiny writing at the bottom of the document…), what do you do? Do you shoot him, cut his throat or beat him to death?
    There are various kind of wolves and various kind of sheepdogs and new sorts of both are bound to appear every time society mutates significantly. The “basic” sort, which dates back to the apparition of social interactions between the first members of the venerable Homo family (and maybe even before that) are still there but they are no longer the only one and I’d even be willing to bet that they now are a minority in most “developped countries”.

  76. There is no such thing as a lethal weapon. There are only lethal people. The biggest, baddest pistol in the hands of someone unwilling to use it is not lethal. Bare hands belonging to someone willing and able to use them are.

  77. >There are various kind of wolves and various kind of sheepdogs and new sorts of both are bound to appear every time society mutates significantly.

    Propose as many different kinds of wolves and sheepdogs as you like, with whatever sort of abstracted relationship to physical violence you like. Doing so won’t change anything, because if you evaluate far enough down the stack physical force will be involved – and it will be about who has weapons and the will and skill to use them.

    The day you think sheepdogs prepared to do physical violence in your defense are not necessary is the day the wolves have persuaded you to bare your neck to their teeth. Which is not necessarily my problem, actually, unless you talk a lot of my neighbors into the same suicidal idiocy.

  78. > If you promise not to impose your will on me,
    I don’t think I ever imposed my will on anyone. The most I might have done is enforce some rules on children that where under my responsability so you wouldn’t have to worry about that, were I a sheep.

    > you’ll never see or hear my gun,
    That’s highly probable regardless what I might try to impose my views since light and sound don’t propagate well enough accross the Atlantic ocean for this to happen.

    > but you’ll still be protected by it.
    I really doubt I’ll ever need that protection and doubt that you’d be able to offer it if I were to need it but that’s kind of you anyway.

  79. > I guess we do not have the same understanding of what a sheepdog is.

    Apparently so.

    > Do you shoot him, cut his throat or beat him to death?

    None of the above. If what he’s doing is “almost legal”, then I might “almost not” report him to the proper authorities. Only time any of the above would come into the equation involves the use or threat of physical harm.

    > I’d even be willing to bet that they now are a minority in most “developped countries”.

    Probably, but perhaps not to the extent yo may be led to believe. The other real possibility is that in most “developed countries” they need not make their presence known.

  80. It’s an empirical question whether someplace is safe enough that you don’t need a gun. When Dave says he wouldn’t need one in the town where he lives, I do doubt the most ridiculously strong reading of that: that it wouldn’t be a reasonable tradeoff for him to carry one anywhere in his town even if he were constrained, e.g. by his job, to be in the worst areas several hours a day. But a more reasonable reading isn’t obviously nonsense. Crime tends to be very unevenly distributed, and even some of the uninformed rules of thumb that Joe Schmoe uses to guess about safety are quite effective, and it’s not safe to assume a commenter on a site like this isn’t more perceptive and much better informed than Joe Schmoe.

    And I don’t think ESR’s response (“You’re absolutely certain that your house will never get broken into?” etc.) was reasonable. Consider that lots of serious military organizations make similar calculations, and have lots of people who are devoted to killing people in other ways (with signals or shrapnel or whatever) who don’t train much in small arms and don’t carry a sidearm. The organizations aren’t hoplophobic, and they’re not absolutely certain that Spetsnaz or whatever aren’t a threat, it’s just that there are lots of threats.

    Of course, a lot of those militaries also pragmatically keep enough small arms that if things get confused enough, they can pass out rifles and whatnot to everyone including radar operators. And I’m enough of a cynic about 100-year storms of political stability, even local political stability, that I do something similar, and think it’s wise for most people to have a firearm at home. But I think there is some room for reasonable disagreement about that, enough that I don’t assume all people disagreeing are naive. (Only most of them.:-)

    There are also a lot of people who sincerely and somewhat consistently don’t prepare for contingencies across the board. They not only don’t have a firearm, they don’t have a fire extinguisher, which seems more like a 10-year storm consideration. That is a somewhat alien way of thinking to me: how can anyone look at the big ol’ fire extinguisher in my kitchen and not feel envy?:-) But some people think the fire extinguisher means *I’m* the alien (ridiculous!), and apparently they think this quite sincerely, not as a rationalization tactic for leftism and/or sheepliness. As best I can tell, it’s often from a habit of mind that prefers to address a small enough number of challenges that 10-year storms don’t make the grade. And while libertarians tend to love Lazarus Long’s rant against specialization, it is well to remember that even fanatically specialized folk (think Paul Erdos) for whom a 3-week rainshower falls outside the cutoff can be rather handy sometimes.

  81. > if you evaluate far enough down the stack physical force will be involved
    True enough, if you evaluate far enough down the stack we’re just a mess of quarks glued together by a physical force into neutrons and protons themselves glued together, with electrons, into atoms, again by a physical force, themeselves glued together into molecules and I could go up the stack for quite a while. At some point I reach interaction between human beings and physical force (though a slightly different one and much less fascinating) is sill present but only one among many possible ways of interaction. Besides being involved it is seldom the determining factor. Do you often need to use physical force to make money? Do you often need to use physical force to spend that money? Are you forced to fight to move around in your town/country? Will physical force be of any use to someone being fired? Will physical force help settling an argument with your neighbour? I am quite sure some people on Earth could answer yes to one or more of these questions but I don’t believe anyone here can (provided the answer is honest of course).

  82. >Do you often need to use physical force to make money? Do you often need to use physical force to spend that money? Are you forced to fight to move around in your town/country? Will physical force be of any use to someone being fired? Will physical force help settling an argument with your neighbour?

    Of course not. The point you seem determined to keep missing is that the social bubble within which you are insulated from violence in your daily life is maintained by sheepdogs. Without them, it would pop in a second. The fact that you experience force as abstract and socially mediated is the sheepdogs’ doing; it’s not a law of nature.

    So, when you say that there is no need for anyone to be a sheepdog, you are attacking the very foundations of the peace you enjoy.

  83. > I live in a place where there are no firearms available to the public

    I wonder where this place is. (FWIW, firearms are too-often available to folks in jail.)

    I ask because I’ve been approached by folks offering to sell me guns on the sly in both Japan and the UK. Maybe they were undercover police running a sting, but ….

    The fact that guns are illegal some place has nothing to do with whether they are available. (The same, BTW, is true of drugs.)

  84. > the Bad Guy ™ will ALWAYS end up with a weapon more deadlier than yours, there’s NOTHING you can do about that

    So what? If your weapon is deadly enough, he loses.

  85. > The fact that you experience force as abstract and socially mediated is the sheepdogs’ doing; it’s not a law of nature.
    It’s a law of nature, it’s called equilibrium… Neither wolves nor sheeps want to break it for obvious reasons (if the wolves
    eat all sheeps before they reproduce they will starve, if the wolves all die the sheep population will grow too fast and they
    will starve). Sheepdogs are only there to smoothen things and those who believe they are indispensable heroes are just
    living in a dream.
    Now I’m perfectly aware that sheepdogs are useful. A nice metaphor for the way I see it is that of algorithmic complexity
    (or asymptotic behavior for those more versed in math than cs) the sheepdog are the “hidden constant” in the big-O.

    Note that this is orthogonal to my belief in “sheepdog variety” that you dismissed without any valid argument.

  86. As someone who made a functional semi-automatic while sitting on the couch watching TV, I’m somewhat amused by the assumptions made by many of the gun controllers.

    Guns are low-tech. (I failed high school metal shop and haven’t gotten significantly better since.)

  87. I read this blog a lot, but I’ve never commented. I’m doing so now because I have been watching with alarm the erosion of those key rights that keep us a free society, and to my thinking the right to bear arms and to free speech is critically representative of that freedom. I am so alarmed at present to see the willingness of so many citizens to support/allow those rights to be legislated (or socially/PC bullied) away. And on paper-thin reasoning at that.

    Anyway, this comment is directed at those who argue for gun control and make the transparent case that it works “for those us across the Atlantic” (paraphrase of many comments scattered across the whole blog). Within the context of this blog trail, you seem to be basically making the case that there is little need for sheepdogs in your society(ies). I am thinking specifically of this one by fullmetalcoder:

    > but you’ll still be protected by it.
    I really doubt I’ll ever need that protection and doubt that you’d be able to offer it if I were to need it but that’s kind of you anyway.

    My friend, you must do a historical analysis of facts and trends and not just debate this on a personal/individual level. Perhaps I stick my neck out here, but it seems to me that at one point in time, the U.S.A was more sheepdog than not. I mean in recent history (not just the frontier days). Holistically speaking “those of you across the Atlantic” have needed that protection, and you will need that protection again. And that extends to the rest of the world.
    For a long time, many countries have grown a predominant culture of sheep and a sheep mentality has become enabled and comfortable. And when the wolves among them take advantage of that mentality, they must suffer hard and long until other/more/more capable sheepdogs can be imported. Reference the causalities and paths taken for WWI (all of Europe), WWII (again all of Europe), The Gulf War of the 90’s (Kuwait and the other terrified Arab nations) and countless small engagements worldwide.

    Finally, what happens if the sheepdogs get rabies? Who will protect me from those who are supposed to protect me? The military and police are controlled by various forms of government. What happens if that government becomes tyrannical? All tyrannies first disarm the populace, and then restrict their speech…

  88. Jay Maynard said “There is no such thing as a lethal weapon. There are only lethal people.”

    I think I see what you’re trying to get at, and I basically agree with that, but I disagree strongly with the actual claim you have stated, and I’ve seen that claim enough that I’m really tired of it.

    It’s been somewhat untrue in naval combat for centuries, and very much untrue in naval combat since the development of radar. It was never true in air combat. Serious land combat is muddier, and we haven’t absolutely settled the question, and maybe it will never really be settled before we move on to antimatter lances and weaponized grey goo, but it looks to me as though current tech makes it very much untrue for high intensity (but nonnuclear/nonbio) land war when projecting force more than 100 km from prepared strongholds or other supply bases. Admittedly it becomes least untrue in the limit of low-intensity land combat, which is most nearly what the argument started by ESR’s post is about. But even then, a repeating rifle is such a lethal weapon that it’s a game-changer compared to anything known to lethal people anywhere in 1200 AD, and radios and night vision gear are ridiculously effective force multipliers.

    Lethal people are still extremely important in all these cases: tell me that 100 lethal people well-armed with lethal weapons may well beat 1000 less-lethal people with the same weapons, and I will nod. But if you take 1100 equally lethal people, and you pit 100 of them armed with modern naval hardware against 1000 of them with 1909-era naval hardware, the increased lethality of the modern lethal weapons is probably going to be important in determining the outcome. And the 1909 hardware is pretty damned lethal too; you could repeat the experiment with 1909 hardware vs. 1809 hardware, and with 1809 vs. 1409, and with 1409 vs. 209BC, and with 209BC vs. 6000BC.

  89. The difference is exposure.

    In communities with a gun culture, firearms safety is taught early. I learned the basics at the age of 9. Do I think a hunting rifle would hold off the US Army? Nope. Not in the least. We get to see what the US Army is capable of in Afghanistan.

    Do I think a hunting rifle could hold off a local problem? Quite possibly.

    Where does the US Army get most of its recruits? In places where gun cultures exist.

    What y’all (note the technical term there) are missing is that in places where there’s a gun culture, the ‘basics’ includes not just how to load, aim and fire, but how to operate the thing safely, never ever letting the barrel accidentially point at someone else, assume that it’s loaded until conclusively proven otherwise, and otherwise treating it like any other potentially hazardous tool.

    This means that you understand JUST how dangerous it is, because the people around you are your neighbors, and are people you know. One of the most deeply ingrained parts of that culture is “Don’t show it unless you mean to make someone dead.”

    As to this:

    I consider that a waste of resources (chemistry could produce things vastly more interesting/useful than exhaust fumes with all that oil…)

    You are aware that gasoline and kerosene are distillates from oil and have no useful chemical conversions other than combustion, right?

    Oh, and as someone who’s fired a rifle and fired a crossbow…a rifle wins every time, on range, general lethality, accuracy and, believe it or not, stealth.

    Crossbows don’t make as much noise when fired – it’s still a pretty distinctive noise once you’ve heard it.

    Crossbows are awkward to carry and re-load. I’m far likelier to get into position with a gun than a crossbow to take my initial shot. I’m pretty likely to reveal my position after firing with either one, and the gun will have the next shot available sooner.

    The places without a gun culture are the ones that get idiotic gun behavior as the dominant meme set.

    Most people can’t hit a target with a pistol past 65 feet/20 meters. The pistol is dangerous because there are cases where it’s something your assailant is not expecting. Most people who have carry permits know that they can expect to be out 10 to 20 grand for using it outside of a pistol range. They consider the near certainty of losing a significant chunk of income to be an unreasonable trade-off for having the weapon. They carry it anyway.

    There are several parts of our culture that want everyone to believe that anyone not in a uniform who carries a gun is the bad guy. Anyone who uses a gun responsibly pays a hefty fine, and their story gets buried on the back of the pig belly futures page. Anyone who uses a gun irresponsibly becomes Yet Another Reason Why The NRA Wants To Kill You.

    Street crime is, first and foremost, a business transaction. Criminals go where there’s money to be made by doing this, and where they can get the money with minimal risk to themselves. When interviewed in prison, street criminals go out of their way to say they avoid neighborhoods where there’s gun ownership.

    And in places where a gun culture exists, street crime drops into the statistical noise.

  90. > You are aware that gasoline and kerosene are distillates from oil and have no useful chemical conversions other than combustion, right?
    You are aware than chemists are smart enough to convert any carbone chains (only C and H) into something useful right? All it takes is to
    replace an hydrogen atom by an halogen (Cl or Br mostly) and then you can have fun if many way. Other tricks to put carbone chains to use
    include creation of benzene (Berthelot reaction, maybe not the most energy-efficient one but it works) or more basic insaturated compounds
    that in turns exhibit significant reactivity. And such insaturated compounds are present in oil (benzene even used to be a common additive
    to gasoline until it has been found to be cancerogene).
    Besides these compounds could also be used (I’m only making assumptions here as I don’t know if its as ever been tried from oil distillates
    though it should theoretically be doable) to create carbon nanostructures (nanotubes, fullerenes, …).

  91. > My friend, you must do a historical analysis of facts and trends and not just debate this on a personal/individual level. Perhaps I stick my neck out here, but it
    > seems to me that at one point in time, the U.S.A was more sheepdog than not. I mean in recent history (not just the frontier days). Holistically speaking
    > “those of you across the Atlantic” have needed that protection, and you will need that protection again. And that extends to the rest of the world.
    > For a long time, many countries have grown a predominant culture of sheep and a sheep mentality has become enabled and comfortable. And when the
    >wolves among them take advantage of that mentality, they must suffer hard and long until other/more/more capable sheepdogs can be imported. Reference
    >the causalities and paths taken for WWI (all of Europe), WWII (again all of Europe), The Gulf War of the 90’s (Kuwait and the other terrified Arab nations) and
    >countless small engagements worldwide.
    Speaking about history the USA where the first to need assistance from “across the Atlantic” (France to be specific) (I was merely pointing out distance though of course culture has a role) to deal with english domination. Now the help of the USA in the two world wars has certainly been valuable but it was more a participation than a “protection” (and a late one for WWI).

    Also the way the USA messed with the politics of countries all around the world is not such a good thing. It has actually backfired : many islamist terrosist groups have been funded by the USA, with citizen’s money, to fight communism -> they used that money to plan 9/11 among other things. Many democratic governments hostile to the US were overthrown (notably in Iran and Latin America) to install dictatorship (again funded by citizen’s money and very respectful of American values) and this also backfired because once the dictators left the country were even more hostile to the US and often with governments way worse than they used to have in the first place.

  92. >It’s a law of nature, it’s called equilibrium… Neither wolves nor sheeps want to break it for obvious reasons (if the wolves eat all sheeps before they reproduce they will starve, if the wolves all die the sheep population will grow too fast and they will starve). Sheepdogs are only there to smoothen things and those who believe they are indispensable heroes are just living in a dream.

    What a bizarre misreading of biology. I mean, you’ve packed at least three major errors into that one paragraph.

    Neither the wolf nor sheep populations “want” anything. There’s no Mr. Wolf Population and Mr. Sheep Population calmly playing a minimax game, just a bunch of individual wolves hunting sheep and sheep running away. Neither wolves nor human criminals restrain themselves because of some imaginary notion of equilibrium; yes, over-predation has its consequences, but I’m going to assume you wouldn’t regard it as a good outcome if human crime fell because all the victims had been killed off.

    The only alternative to that outcome is sheepdogs keeping the wolves off.

    >Note that this is orthogonal to my belief in “sheepdog variety” that you dismissed without any valid argument.

    No, I pointed out that all the other kinds of “refined” sheepdogs can only function within a social bubble created by the violent sheepdogs. Thus, the other kinds are essentially irrelevant to this discussion.

  93. Ken Burnside writes “Think on what you’ve read.” How about being a bit more precise about how I’ve demonstrated cluelessness, you sly charmer? Which one of my claims are you disagreeing with?

    That 100 lethal people in more-lethal aircraft can’t defeat 1000 equally-lethal people in inferior aircraft? I’ve never read Shaw, but I’ve read a bit of Boyd. Why do you think Boyd cared so much about nuances in aircraft design if air combat effectiveness doesn’t depend sensitively on technical quality? Is it nonsense to use “lethal” and “combat-effective” somewhat interchangeably in informal discussions of weapons systems like the F-16?

    I claim that the difference in combat effectiveness between an F-16 and roughly-contemporary alternatives like F-15 is worth worrying about, but still small compared to the difference in effectiveness between either of them and a P-51. Do you dispute that 100 lethal people in F-15s are likely to be more effective in air superiority combat than 1000 equally lethal people in P-51s? Or do you want to claim that it’s unreasonable to describe that as “the F-15 is [for reasonably appropriate missions] a more lethal weapon than the P-51?”

    (If perchance you were sneering at me for being ignorant of the relative effectiveness of lethal people in air combat, I suggest you read my post all the way up to “I will nod,” and think about what you’ve read.)

  94. W Newman, there’s plenty of less-than-lethal people equipped with lethal weapons. NATO troops in Afghanistan are frequently constrained from fighting back against Taliban attacks by the political restraints put on them by their governments. At the personal level, someone who “freezes” in combat will lose regardless of how good his gun is. “Lethal people” are the ones who use their weapons (or hands) at maximum effectiveness. There’s lots of historical precedents for the higher-tech force losing a battle or war.

    Now, if you have two equally lethal people, a superior weapon will give one an advantage . . . but that’s irrelevant to the sheep/sheepdog/wolf conversation.

  95. I’m going to make an observation, and I really hope it doesn’t get taken the wrong way (after all, Eric said he hates suckups worst of all). After reading a lot of posts for several months, many of the commentors seem to be upset by what they see as Eric’s ‘I’m so awesome even though I don’t say it outright’ ego. I think, to a large extent, they are misinterpreting self-confidence and a ‘who cares what other people think’ attitude as ego. However, I think there is a good amount of real pride (and maybe even some ego) mixed in there too. I don’t have a problem with this at all. What I find interesting are the types of personalities that are aggrivated by this.

    What I’ve realized is that self-confident people who don’t have too much of an ego (that is not a contradiction) are least prone to getting aggrivated by what they perceive as a ‘prideful person’. However, egotistical types can’t stand other people they veiw as egotistical types (whether they really are or not). It is why egotistical alpha types in high shcool always find themselves hanging out with a bunch of more passive B-types. In other words, a person who walks around getting annoyed all the time by people with big egos, probably has one himself.

    Some of the commentors on this thread do not handle very well what they PERCIEVE as Eric’s, ‘I’m assume, gun’s are assume and I’m assume because I own a gun and do other awesome stuff’ attitude. I would encourage those commentors not to let their own state of mind get in they way of enjoying the blog. Who cares if someone has an ego. It doesn’t mean they aren’t right (or wrong).

  96. Which one of my claims are you disagreeing with?

    The one I quoted:

    It was never true in air combat.

    See the example of the USAF and USN versus the NVAF in the early period of the Vietnam war, and then in the late period after changes in pilot doctrine and training were implemented. See the resulting changes in US aircraft procurement as well, buying planes that are specifically designed to get out of the way of the pilot and let him do his job.

    I do agree that a technology-as-force-multiplier advantage is the optimum case; the US has had a tech advantage for long enough that many Americans consider it a birthright. I do not. I study a lot of asymmetric conflicts.

    You may also want to look up the Eritrean and Ethiopian conflict of the 1990s and its air combat records; this is a lovely example of “better trained pilots in inferior hardware trouncing poorly trained pilots in superior hardware”, albeit on a level where the pilot training delta is “Awful” versus “Aiiiigh! The cockpit! It’s BEEPING at me!”

    Another case to look at is the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, where Iran was using superior hardware, went on the offensive in the first two weeks, got their asses handed to them because of a handful of superior Iraqi pilots, and then fought a defensive war for the next seven years.

  97. I think that W. Newman misread the original statement (“There is no such thing as a lethal weapon. There are only lethal people.”) as meaning that weaponry is irrelevant, when the intent was that differences in weaponry are subordinate to differences in the attitudes/training of the people using them.

  98. The most bizarre thing about reading the responses against your post ESR, is that they don’t seem to understand what the results would be if they were correct.

    They might as well be arguing against CPR classes. After all, how often does one just happen to be at the right place at the right time to do any good?

  99. Ken Burnside: >> You are aware that gasoline and kerosene are distillates from oil and have no useful chemical conversions other than combustion, right?

    actually, fuel is one of the most-minor uses of oil. something like 45% of all oil is actually eaten, for example. it’s turned into fertiliser. yes: we are eating oil. something like another 30% is then turned into plastic. yes, your computer is mostly made out of oil. i’d have to go dig out the numbers again but only something like 10-20% of oil makes it into the fuel domain.

    when you get right into it, there is no such thing as “oil”, in the sense of a standardised substance. eg, GOOD prop traders arbitrage the silver-oil spread around large deliveries to particular ports, because they know that certain fields’ oil has much higher silver content than normal ;)

    but
    fullmetalcoder: >You are aware than chemists are smart enough to convert any carbone chains (only C and H) into something useful right? All it takes is to replace an hydrogen atom by an halogen

    mate, you’d already come across as la-la land by your peculiarly determined insistence on misinterpreting & redefining what eric wrote. but this is surreal.
    hint: cost (not just cash: energy).
    hint: you could just as validly say precisely what you assert here, about atmosphere.

  100. Ken, Jay Maynard said “There is no such thing as a lethal weapon. There are only lethal people.”

    I acknowledged, in my sentence ending “I will nod,” that there are lethal people “in all these cases,” i.e., including the case of air combat. We can agree that lethal people tend to be an enormous force multiplier in combat, and that there are many well-known examples in air combat. We seem to agree that “lethal people” is reasonable terminology.

    What I was disagreeing with is “There is no such thing as a lethal weapon.” Since P-51s are weapons that are enormously bigger force multipliers than Sopwith Camels and far smaller multipliers than F-15s, “lethal weapon” is reasonable terminology too.

    Similarly, there are both effective computers and effective programmers. If Adi Shamir had an Apple II and I had a huge modern data center, I expect that Shamir could still break a new cryptosystem much faster than I could. But just because I know of very large differences in software skills doesn’t mean I’d agree that there is no such thing as a effective computer.

  101. >>It was never true in air combat.
    >Go read Boyd. Go read Shaw. Think on what you’ve read.

    um. i’m afraid i’m going to have to contradict you, ken. i don’t know which boyd or shaw you’re referring to but i HAVE been a keen air-combat history fan since i was _so_ high. and i’m afraid the effectiveness of the machine (“weapon” in this context) is enormously more an influence on outcome than in most other fields of combat.

    understanding this is slightly muddied by the fact that historically where air combat has been a major feature of the war both sides have usually been roughly equal in technology and economic strength. so the differences between the machines is slight. but look a little closer, and you’ll discover that a key obsession of all participants has always been and still is the machines’ capabilities (every participant routinely describing particular mechanical advantages as crucial) and consequently also the current state-of-the-art in machines. the FW190 initiallly cut swathes through the spitfires and hurricanes of the time, and only sharp upgrades in both (and introduction of higher powered craft like the tempest, with its short-term “overdrive” capability (break a red wire to do so) guaranteeing escape) returned things to a level playing field. the SE5a saved the allies’ arses in WWI when they were getting marmalised by the new albatrosses and pfalzes. (i have an abiding love for the camel, but numerically, just as the hurricane won the battle of britain, the SE5a won the air war of WWI). the ME262 was far and away the most effective tool in WWII, to the point that the allies gave up trying to fight them and took to “camping” in cloud above its airfields to attack them after they’d shut the engines off to land (alas, poor novotny — greatest ace in history — such an unfair death). etc etc etc

    the swordfish firefly and junkers JU88 were deathtraps, regardless of pilot skill. put richtofen in a spitfire and even the lousiest air cadet in an ME262 would erase him without serious effort.

  102. OTOH, where machinery is roughly equivalent, the quality of the pilot is absolutely the key factor. that german ace (all i can think of is immelman right now, but it wasn’t him) who died eventually after singlehandedly fighting an entire british squadron and shooting down over a third of them; SO amazing, that the ground war below came to a complete halt as both sides stared upward amazed. reading the transcripts of the pilots from the falklands war, you are utterly gobsmacked at the incredible hysterical reality-issues of the argentines and the casual knocking-down of 3 or 4 planes at a time without effort by the english (described by the pilot in simple a-b-c matter-of-factness) makes perfect sense.

  103. >I think that W. Newman misread the original statement (”There is no such thing as a lethal weapon. There are only lethal people.”) as meaning that weaponry is irrelevant, when the intent was that differences in weaponry are subordinate to differences in the attitudes/training of the people using them.

    There’s a second important meaning of that statement; weapons don’t fire themselves. A rifle bullet kills only because a human being pulled the trigger.

  104. Yes, I would have basically agreed with the “weapons don’t fire themselves” line of argument. While friendly fire is a significant cause of combat casualties, outside of the frantic confusion of combat, when you’re not actually trying to kill someone (who, oops, sometimes turns out to be the wrong person, or too near the wrong person), it seems to be practical and routine to keep weapons pretty safe.

    But from the references to “lethal weapon” in arguments leading up to Jay Maynard’s remark, which he seemed to be replying to, the intended meaning seemed to be more “weapons aren’t inherently very effective at killing” than “weapons aren’t inherently very hazardous.”

    Modern photolithography gear is inherently very effective at making exceedingly fine lines. It doesn’t solve all your problems autonomously, you want good operators and designers, and good supporting people and equipment. But if you want exceedingly fine features, then good supporting equipment and good operators and designers and 30-year-old photolithography gear is not the best way to get them.

  105. >the intended meaning seemed to be more “weapons aren’t inherently very effective at killing” than “weapons aren’t inherently very hazardous.”

    The former is certainly false (and I don’t think Jay or anyone else intended it), but the latter is mostly true – there’s only a small class of exceptions near CBW.

    If there is a pistol on a table between us, it’s as safe as a cupfull of ball-bearings until and unless a human being puts a hand on it.

  106. for most people, most of the time, the most important thing about bearing arms (or its inverse, being willfully self-disarmed) is not what it enables you to do to the other guy, but what it signifies and reinforces about yourself.

    I’ll restate with more precision: carrying or not carrying arms signifies nothing about you. Insisting that there is a connection between firearms ownership and certain mentalities/traits is silly. A gun is like a computer; it is a tool, and it ought to be used according to perceived need. In civilised countries, the maintenance of order is delegated to the police force. Females are protected on the street by their partners without weapons or training; it is rare for anything more to be needed, as most violence in the community is male-on-male.

    Most boyfriends will go into an unwinnable fight so their girlfriend can get away. Frankly, here in Australia people who carry weapons for non-utilitarian reasons are looked down upon, and martial arts is a curiosity or past-time at best. Fighting stupidly with your fists (“punching on”) is the traditional culture here and yet we are far better off crime-wise than the US.

  107. >but the latter ["weapons aren’t inherently very hazardous"] is mostly true.

    I don’t agree with that at all.

    > If there is a pistol on a table between us, it’s as safe as a cupfull of ball-bearings until and unless a human being puts a hand on it.

    If there is a jar of concentrated sulfuric acid on the table between us it is safe until someone touches it. (Acid is more dangerous for sure, an earthquake or a dog running into the table could be a problem, though the consequences are probably less severe.) For sure, you gotta touch it, but there are plenty of people out there who have no concept of the right way to handle a firearm safely, and that makes them inherently dangerous. I imagine that even someone like you who is very experienced with guns treats them with the utmost respect for the danger they pose. (Don’t point it at anyone, assume it is loaded unless you are completely sure otherwise, don’t drop it, throw it and so forth. That is true even though the chances of gun going off if you dropped it are very slim with modern trigger systems.)

  108. Am I the only one to see a joke here?

    To the best of my (obviously limited) understanding, esr’s post is about how people’s opinions sometimes (always? often?) are not based on a rational approach; instead, they use their thinking skills to rationalise their emotions/attitudes. Therefore, no rational argument can change such opinions and different types of arguments are needed depending on the actual foundation on the opinion rests on. Instead of the second amendment, esr and “Ignoramus”‘s controversy could have been about abortion, the war on drugs or any such “major issue.” On the other hand, most comments only further illustrate the point: posts with a substructure seemingly unrelated logically to its structure answered by sound, logical counter-arguments to the structure or by contrary but similarly disjoint posts.

    I suspect esr has foreseen and even encouraged this. First, he selected a contentious issue he has a well-known radical stance on. Then, he included the word “sheep” in the title, thus extending is meaning from that particular “Ignoramus” to his readers. Secondly, the use of “sheepdogs”. In the article esr quotes, the sheepdogs are government defenders, warriors in the service of the community leaders. In that concept the descriptions makes sense, the more so, since sheepdogs play an active role in guiding the sheep to be fleeced or even slaughtered when no longer productive, something esr should have been aware of.

  109. I am definitely in favor of the second amendment. Owning guns is a defining American characteristic, at least to me.

    But I’m not sure I’m a sheepdog; I think I’m more of a Labrador retriever, running around teasing with my squeekie toy. :)

  110. >the sheepdogs are government defenders, warriors in the service of the community leaders

    Your implication is incorrect. I am a sheepdog, but not in the service of any government, nor do I aspire to be. As it happens, I know Dave Grossman (the author of the essay) slightly. It is a contingent fact that he is a military officer, but not one that he regards as necessary to his sheepdogness.

    More generally, you have the causation backward. Self-defense is not a magical emanation proceeding only from government; rather, government (to the limited extent it is ever legitimate) is the collective organization of the individual right of self-defense. That Dave Grossman himself agrees with this I am pretty certain.

    You are, however, broadly correct about the way many respondents are making jokes of themselves. And yes, I did expect this, though I would have been more pleased had it miraculously failed to occur.

  111. Saltation: put richtofen in a spitfire and even the lousiest air cadet in an ME262 would erase him without serious effort.
    Spitfires are credited with Me 262 kills. Chuck Yeager is famously quoted as saying “The first time I ever saw a jet, I shot it down.” (He was flying a P-51, but that’s not all that different on that scale from a Spitfire.)

    John Coutts: In civilised countries, the maintenance of order is delegated to the police force.
    The police force in the US has no duty to respond to an individual who’s being attacked by a criminal; their only duty is to arrest the criminal afterwards. Thus, depending on police for protection from crime is a fool’s cop-out. Jeffrey Snyder demolishes your contention that not taking responsibility for one’s own safety is the civilized course of action in his essay A Nation of Cowards; I commend it to your attention.

  112. Just read your “Why I Am An Anarchist”. I agree with a fair bit of your analysis, but come to diametrically opposed conclusions. Weapons of personal destruction are no more desirable than those of mass destruction – things designed to kill, ultimately will. No good.
    Think you’d be more accurate describing yourself as a libertarian, IMHO. (I guess I’m a liberal anarchist)

  113. I just love how pro-gun ownership folks believe they are in possession of all the facts and only the facts, and at the same time believe that anti-gun ownership folks only have faulty beliefs and “historical ignorance.” No matter what the argument is about (guns, hit records, 1957 Chevies, cats eye marbles, etc), no one side has all the facts and the other none. That just doesn’t happen in reality. Yet the blogger and many respondents write just exactly as if it were true.

    The following URL contains a paper with some unpleasant facts that don’t support gun ownership as a means of self-defense and anti-crime method. They have been gathered by pro-gun, expert gun handlers and physiological experts. And they plainly demonstrate that for 99.9% of the law-abiding population, having a gun for self defense is mostly a wet dream. Go ahead and retain “rights” (if they exist) to your guns, but be realistic in thinking you’ll ever defend your home with them. Unless you’ve already shot several people, and gotten used to it, you probably will fail in a big way.

    Read it here: http://www.vpc.org/studies/unincont.htm

  114. @saltation @Jay Maynard: both of you could benefit from adopting a kinda “Bayesian” worldview: the world consists of probabilities and pretty much nothing else. A better weapon/airplane improves the probabilities of winning. So does a better warrior/pilot. One of these might be more important than the other one, but it’s just a matter of degree and not one of principle or general rule. A much better pilot beats a much worse one riding a slightly better plane, so does a slightly worse pilot a better one if the first one is riding a much better plane.

  115. esr, you are free to call yourself a sheepdog. However Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s excerpts quotes a retired Vietnam colonel as defining himself as a “sheepdog”; he was a sheepdog because he wanted firstly to protect the flock and only secondly to confront the wolf. More to the point was the following quotation “We intimidate those who intimidate _others_”

    People prepared to use weapons in self-defence generally use them primarily to defend themselves; they have an interest in defending the community only to the extent they feel it as a part of themselves. I think there is a huge difference between “sheepdogs” proper (in the service of the community) and the “sheep with teeth” (ready to put a fight against aggressors). The two categories can overlap – and most “sheepdogs” should be “sheep with teeth” in the free countries -, but it is not necessarily the case. To give an extreme example, the SS were “sheepdogs”: they protected the shepherd and the community, some of them even went to certain death to fulfill their mission. On the other hand, a self-defender can be as crazy and stupid as Fuzzy Lumpkins and still play the the greater protective role of a “sheep with teeth.”

    By assuming the title of “sheepdog” you make a claim to the prestige of the “serving and protecting” officials, but you also claim responsibility for the role such officials play in the fleecing and slaughtering of the sheep. At the very least, as the case has been on this thread, sheep would challenge you to eradicate any violent crime and put their protection above your own.

  116. esr wrote: “ shall buy you a drink of the beverage of your choice if we ever meet FTF.

    Cool! Hopefully I’ll run into you sometime.

  117. John Coutts, Aussies are great. However, martial arts expertise and legal gun ownership have very little to do with relative crime rates in Australia or the US because very few people in either country legally carry a gun or study un-armed self defense. Talking about relative crime rates in the US and Australia simply doesn’t address the issue.

  118. Danny: things designed to kill, ultimately will
    Things don’t kill (assuming no malfunction). People kill. None of my guns has ever killed, and none of them ever will. I, OTOH, if I am unlucky, may find myself doing so. That’s a possibility I accepted when I decided to carry a gun.

    BTW, my “there are no deadly weapons, only deadly people” comment is in this same vein: the weapon is not the agent of death. The person using it is. That’s also why banning weapons (even if it were possible to make such a ban stick, a thoroughly silly idea) will never work: people determined to kill will find ways of doing so.

  119. >I just love how pro-gun ownership folks believe they are in possession of all the facts and only the facts, and at the same time believe that anti-gun ownership folks only have faulty beliefs and “historical ignorance.”

    You can be as sarcastic as you like; it’s still true. A major reason it’s true is that anti-firearms propagandists lie a lot – see A Brief History of Firearms Policy Fraud for detailed citations – so their rank-and-file supporters end up sincerely believing a load of nonsense.

    I’ll read the document at your URL – but since the Violence Policy Center is among the most egregious liars, I won’t believe a single thing in it without independent confirmation.

  120. >By assuming the title of “sheepdog” you make a claim to the prestige of the “serving and protecting” officials, but you also claim responsibility for the role such officials play in the fleecing and slaughtering of the sheep.

    No, i do not in fact do either of these things. Dave Grossman, Mike Williamson, Sal Sanfratello, and the other military/ex-military sheepdogs I know would laugh at you for supposing that either is a valid inference. So would my local police chief..
    .

  121. > We’ve had nukes in the hands of mutually hostile powerrs for 50 years now and we are not, in fact, all dead

    This isn’t exactly a fair comparison. Guns are rather more … surreptitious … means of killing than nukes. What separates guns from other weapons is not that they make it easy to kill. It is that they make it easy to kill (a) with less chance of retaliation on the part of the victim and (b) without getting caught, e.g. by leaving less in the way of tell-tale evidence than would, say, a fistfight.

    On the other hand, I doubt liberalizing gun control laws from where they are now would significantly increase gun ownership. Why? People tend to have strong opinions on whether or not to own a gun; thus there are relatively few people whose desire to have one is weak enough that the bureaucratic hoops that currently exist actually make a difference.

  122. ESR:

    >Perhaps this guy lived in a place where being armed is simply not necessary,

    There are no such places. There are only places that make it relatively easy to fool yourself about the matter.

    With all respect, the claim of necessity is too strong. For the vast majority of people in civilized countries, it is possible (IMO overwhelmingly probable) to live out one’s life without ever needing to have arms in hand. I’ve lived in a gritty neighborhood in Chicago for almost 20 years. There has been gunfire within 50 feet of my back door, and a fatal street shooting within a half mile.

    But though I often walk or bike home very late at night, I’ve never had a situation where I needed to be armed. It could happen; I’ve read of muggings in broad daylight on streets I use. But the odds against seem very low.

    I know that by being unarmed I’m running an unnecessary risk, but it’s a small one; one that can be lived with. Can be – but not “should be”. If I had more energy and better resources, or faced less legal obstruction, I would probably carry concealed. I’ve fired handguns, rifles, and even a submachine gun; but I got no real thrill from it. So I have no interest in shooting sports either.

    fullmetalcoder: many islamist terrosist groups have been funded by the USA, with citizen’s money, to fight communism -> they used that money to plan 9/11 among other things.

    This particular lie is a popular leftist meme. And it is a lie. The U.S., in the 1980s, funded the Afghan mujahideen resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Not “many islamist terrosist [sic] groups”, but one Moslem guerrilla force.The “Arab-Afghan” volunteers, such as bin Laden, were funded by private Middle Eastern funds. U.S. aid to the mujahideen stopped when the USSR pulled out in 1989. Ten years later, when 9/11 was planned, Al Qaeda was funded by private Middle Eastern sources, not lefover money from the Cold War.

  123. @Saltation :
    > mate, you’d already come across as la-la land by your peculiarly determined insistence
    > on misinterpreting & redefining what eric wrote. but this is surreal.
    Well I may have gone a little off-topic admittedly but my point was exactly yours : oil can be and as you pointed out, is used in many other ways than burning.

    @esr:
    >What a bizarre misreading of biology. I mean, you’ve packed at least three major errors
    > into that one paragraph.
    Hopefully it wasn’t meant to to be a “reading of biology” but a metaphor. Sheeps and wolves
    don’t want anything, granted but the people you label as sheep and wolves do. Anyway the
    will of the individuals is indeed ultimately irrelevant in a macroscopic perspective and the
    metaphor obviously oversimplified because it would take thousands of pages to reach a
    satisfying, though still approximate, description of the society in sheeps/wolves/sheepdogs
    terms (which in turns would probably show that the sheeps/wolves/sheepdogs distinction is
    inadequate but that’s another matter).

    > And it is a lie. The U.S., in the 1980s, funded the Afghan mujahideen resistance to Soviet
    > occupation of Afghanistan.
    You do know that the mujahideen resistance was anything but a coherent/unified movement right?
    And you do know that a large part of mujahideen resistance turned into talibans afterwards right?
    And of course you cannot ignore that the help of the US was not limited to weapons but included
    funds without which the mujahideen would have never been able to setup training camps and
    attract people from various Middle-East countries who besides learning djihad partice were also
    given strong Wahhabit education and that they brought both back to their countries afterwards right?
    And incidentally most of the recent islamist groups have been founded by people whose first experience
    of djihad dates back to Afghanistan. These groups may have never been funded by the USA but
    the USA can still be blamed for the birth of some and the radicalization of most.

    > With all respect, the claim of necessity is too strong.
    Seconded. However esr will probably insist that without sheepdogs this wouldn’t be true, yet in countries
    with significantly less sheepdogs of any kind (government or individuals) this still holds, “better” yet
    the very fact of bearing a weapon may force you to use it when you otherwise wouldn’t have faced
    troubles.

  124. >Seconded. However esr will probably insist that without sheepdogs this wouldn’t be true,

    Well anticipated.

    >yet in countries with significantly less sheepdogs of any kind (government or individuals) this still holds,

    What is the referent of “this”?

  125. BTW does anyone has any arguments against the idea of requiring passing a psychological examination plus a mandatory firearms safety exam for obtaining a gun licence?

  126. >BTW does anyone has any arguments against the idea of requiring passing a psychological examination plus a mandatory firearms safety exam for obtaining a gun licence?

    Yes. Requirements like that are too easily manipulated to exclude all but a tiny handful of the well-connected or politically favored.

    Process restrictions on firearms ownership are in the same category as process restrictions on owning printing presses. The freedom at risk is too important, and “reasonable” restrictions too subject to abuse, for a free society to tolerate them.

  127. > >yet in countries with significantly less sheepdogs of any kind (government or individuals) this still holds,
    > What is the referent of “this”?
    Sorry for the syntactic ambiguity, what I meant was basically :
    In countries with significantly less sheepdogs of any kind (government or individuals) it is possible “for the vast majority of people [...] to live out one’s life without ever needing to have arms in hand”.

  128. > BTW does anyone has any arguments against the idea of requiring passing a psychological examination plus a mandatory firearms safety exam for obtaining a gun licence?
    AFAIK there is (at least in some cases) questions to answer about psychological antecedents before buying a weapon but such a process really is a joke because real checks are seldom, if ever, performed.

    > Requirements like that are too easily manipulated to exclude all but a tiny handful of the well-connected or politically favored.
    That’s a bit strong. What about criminals freshly out of jail? What about age considerations : if I remember well it is possible to buy automatic weapons and
    bullets before being allowed to buy alcohol in the US?

  129. >In countries with significantly less sheepdogs of any kind (government or individuals)

    Less than where? Your claim is complete handwaving, ungrounded in any data or even in any plausible claims about the distribution of sheepdogs.

  130. >> Requirements like that are too easily manipulated to exclude all but a tiny handful of the well-connected or politically favored.
    >That’s a bit strong.

    Not if you’ve seen such systems in action it isn’t. Firearms regulation in New York City is notorious along these lines.

  131. To me, gun-control discussions like this are always a little surreal.

    As has been the case here, there’s lots of posturing, lots of arguments for and against gun ownership in general, backed up with quite a few hypothetical situations and comparisons of relative firepower and likely outcomes when deployed. But abstract arguments like this aren’t particlarly illuminating or ultimately very interesting.

    I’m sure there are some who honestly and sincerely hold all of the intellectual positions put throughout this thread (importance of an armed citizenry as a limit on government powers, owning guns=less crime etc). I’m also sure there are some who just simply *like* guns. Whatever. If it’s legal where you live, knock yourself out, I suppose (provided you’re behaving sensibly and safely).

    But I would have thought (and perhaps I reveal my naviety here) that reasonable people would agree that *some* controls on gun ownership are a necessity in a civilised society? You know, like not letting the kiddies take automatic weapons to school and so forth? Not allowing violent offenders to own handguns? If this is agreed then it seems like the debate can only be about where to draw the lines rather than whether the lines are to be drawn at all.

    Then again, I live in a country (Australia) with no constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms of any description, and where gun ownership is reasonably tightly regulated (and, in cities, uncommon). My social context for this debate is therefore markedly different the US.

  132. >You know, like not letting the kiddies take automatic weapons to school and so forth?

    This is not a matter for law, it is a matter for parental responsibility and control and individual school policies. Suppose I want to open an academy in which firearms training is part of the regular curriculum? The only matter the law should address is actual violence or threats committed, because otherwise society has no legitimate concerns involved.

    >Not allowing violent offenders to own handguns?

    Since when do violent offenders not have the same need to defend themselves that others do? Often they live in high-crime areas; on what grounds are we presume that more than 50% of the uses of a firearm they will ever make will be aggressive and illegal? Again, the law should address only actual threats and violence.

    If this position seems unreasonable to you, ask yourself this question: should a person convicted of hateful or slanderous speech be afterwards barred from owning a printing press, a typewriter, or a computer? If you value freedom of speech at all, this proposal will strike you as horrifying and obviously subject to abuse as governments gradually expand the legal definitions of disqualifying speech for the very purpose of silencing dissenters. Now consider the obvious analogy.

    The bitter experience of gun owners is that they must oppose “reasonable” controls, because in practice “reasonable” controls are always, always, always abused and expanded until they become unreasonable. Your “reasonable” position ends up giving political cover to villains.

  133. Someone else got the Yeager quote for me. Thanks.

    The Me-262 was most vulnerable on the ground – any plane is. The performance delta between the 262 and the P-51 wasn’t as high as most people think – the P-51 had a higher sustained altitude, could turn inside the 262 with ease, and later models had onboard radar. The Me-262 generally had to do ‘slash through’ attacks, rather than tight turning dogfighting, and these were tactics the Luftwaffe didn’t have a lot of doctrinal experience with.

    When technology is broadly equal, or the disparity is under a decade, it’s the skill of the operator that makes all the difference. Could a Sopwith Camel fight an F-22? Not a chance in hell. The F-22 has good odds of killing the pilot of the Camel by cooking him with the radar.

    One thing that comes up a lot when people look at the historical record is that they tend to lump American air dominance doctrine solely in the realm of technology, rather than technology and training. We have a huge technology advantage over potential air combat rivals. We have an equally large advantage in pilot training, and an even larger advantage in air operations planning. There is no nation on earth that can put planes over targets and meeting objectives with the speed the US can, and the difference between us and second best is astonishing. We can mobilize an efficient air operational campaign in 36 hours and expect everything to work with 97% or better reliability. Second best (arguably Japan, maybe Britain or Germany) couldn’t mount an operation of comparable reliability and state tracking in less than two weeks. Everyone else is using pre-scripted air defense and offense doctrines.

    It’s hard to overstate how amazing that advantage is. It gets inside the OODA loop of potential opponents before they get their planes off the ground….and goes to show that ‘lethal people’ need not be the ones in the cockpit pulling Gs.

    It is this mindset that defines ‘lethal people’. The winner isn’t always the one with the better weapon; the winner is the one with the better understanding of the situation and the ability to act freely while the other side is figuring out what’s going on. And THAT is what weapons training/gun culture teaches.

    I touched on this earlier – it’s a matter of Sun Tzu, not Dirty Harry.

  134. >It is this mindset that defines ‘lethal people’. The winner isn’t always the one with the better weapon; the winner is the one with the better understanding of the situation and the ability to act freely while the other side is figuring out what’s going on. And THAT is what weapons training/gun culture teaches

    Or, as my swordmaster puts it, “The mind is the first weapon.” The discipline that goes with carrying a gun trains that weapon. The decisions you make about how and when you will use the gun train that weapon. The gun is both tool and focus, both instrument and self-training device.

    Any lethal weapon will do, really, for the self-training aspect – it has to be lethal, because you aren’t forced to achieve clarity when the stakes are lower. Firearms are simply the most practical alternative, which matters because self-defense is a practical skill and not just a personal-growth path.

  135. Well one could say guns are just an item of personal preference (much like a ham radio) of which there are benefits and costs associated with them and the only logical conclusion is that each and every person should decide for themselves if it is really worth it to them personally. Like wise a brief look at history states that guns alone will not save anyone against a determined attack but guns will aid a POPULAR Cause. I would also argue that armed revolution is far less effective than a subversive and focused campaign. For example the information revolution has made many more significant changes in the past few decades than the combined effort of many revolutionaries in the past centuries.
    Just remember Guns are just tools, not ideologies.

  136. (from http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1029#comment-236355 ): “However, it’s got a good fear factor (imagine breaking into a house and a large arrow buries itself in the wall next to your head)”

    So now you lost the element of surprise against a -likely- armed hostile, and you have to reload the crossbow.

    As another on the thread said “don’t pull it out unless you mean to make someone dead”.

  137. You’ve reached a conclusion that has come to me recently as well. Too many of our current discussions are based on emotions rather than hard facts, firm science, good history, etc. Many simply do not want to hear the truth. There is a wonderful short story by H. Beam Piper, “Oomphel In The Sky” which addresses this issue of receiving the truth. The story is available on Gutenberg.org. The problem, then, is not so much ignorance but myths, fables, & willful ignorance. Your approach worked with this particular person. I’ll have to think about this approach.
    .
    Adriano; I’m a former LEO. Our instructor taught us to use the “Command Voice!” in difficult situations to tell people what you want them to do and, don’t openly draw or point your weapon until the last minute. The surprising thing is how well the voice works on people. The other is that a .45 auto in the small of your back does seem to lend confidence and that air of confidence goes a long way toward convincing people they wish to cooperate.

  138. > Well one could say guns are just an item of personal preference…

    > Just remember Guns are just tools, not ideologies.

    The position you’ve articulated is an ideology, as anyone who lives in the UK could tell you.

  139. > This is not a matter for law, it is a matter for parental responsibility and control and individual school policies.

    You are of course entitled to your opinion as to whether this is a “matter for law” or not … you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I disagree.
    It does, though, raise an interesting question about the intersection of the criminal and civil law. I presume you refer above to the former.

    I am not close enough to the detail in the US to know: can the 2nd Amendment operate as a shield against negligence claims (for example, arising from a failure to take reasonable care to secure firearms)?

  140. >I am not close enough to the detail in the US to know: can the 2nd Amendment operate as a shield against negligence claims (for example, arising from a failure to take reasonable care to secure firearms)?

    It does not. Such claims are treated through normal civil tort mechanisms.

    Second Amendment hardliners like myself are fine with this. The Second Amendment is intended to prevent government from infringing on a right, not to create an exemption for people who play stupid just because they happen to be doing it with a firearm.

  141. Less than where? Your claim is complete handwaving, ungrounded in any data or even in any plausible claims about the distribution of sheepdogs.

    They’re lying pretty low in Japan AFAICT.

  142. (Saltation): The two looked at him for a long moment, and then without saying a word, turned and moved back down the aisle to continue their taunting of the other passengers, the sheep.

    So he’s a “sheepdog”, but the wolves aren’t intimidated enough to actually leave the sheep alone in his presence.

    Two cheers for him, I think.

    hmm.

    Eh, yer mad thinking no English kids are carrying knives (as opposed to those Asians who “deceitfully” stabbed your mate). It’s an epidemic over there from what I’ve been reading.

    Don’t think I’ll ever be able to live in the UK again, there’s SO many people who go around getting in other people’s faces for fun. Just thinking about it is causing me to subside into eugenic fantasies.

    amusingly, i am not quite but almost a deadringer for niven’s description of “Protectors”. right down to the lips and hands.

    And the swollen knee and elbow joints?

  143. Jay Maynard: >>put richtofen in a spitfire and even the lousiest air cadet in an ME262 would erase him without serious effort.
    >Spitfires are credited with Me 262 kills. Chuck Yeager is famously quoted as saying “The first time I ever saw a jet, I shot it down.” (He was flying a P-51, but that’s not all that different on that scale from a Spitfire.)

    you’re rather spectacularly missing the point: prop-driven aircraft knocking down ME262s was freakishly rare. that’s not the same as pretending it was impossible or that it never happened. it did. but in every instance i’ve read of genuine air combat, it happened due to surprise or incredible bad luck on the part of the german. recall my pointing out that ME262s were habitually knocked down later in the war by prop-driven aircraft by “camping” tactics taking advantage of their landing requirements.

    you chose a poor example with chuck yeager, by the way: by british standards he didn’t even make ace: 2 of his 11.5 kills were rather bizarrely attributed to him as a result of clumsy german reactions resulting in collisions.

    Shenpen: >@saltation @Jay Maynard: both of you could benefit from adopting a kinda “Bayesian” worldview: the world consists of probabilities and pretty much nothing else. A better weapon/airplane improves the probabilities of winning. So does a better warrior/pilot. One of these might be more important than the other one, but it’s just a matter of degree and not one of principle or general rule. A much better pilot beats a much worse one riding a slightly better plane, so does a slightly worse pilot a better one if the first one is riding a much better plane.

    actually you’re just reiterating/explaining/underlying my point. i did not say that in air combat the Weapon was ALL. i said: “the effectiveness of the machine (”weapon” in this context) is enormously more an influence on outcome than in most other fields of combat.” a better rifle will influence the outcome of ground combat, a better plane will DRAMATICALLY influence the outcome of air combat.

    fullmetalcoder: >>@Saltation :
    > mate, you’d already come across as la-la land by your peculiarly determined insistence
    > on misinterpreting & redefining what eric wrote. but this is surreal.
    >Well I may have gone a little off-topic admittedly but my point was exactly yours : oil can be and as you pointed out, is used in many other ways than burning.

    sorry mate, reconstruction of history is not acceptable. your prior goes at eric were off in in la-la land. and your point re oil was quite different from what you now assert, and was equally off in reconstructivist la-la land.

    Ken Burnside: >The Me-262 was most vulnerable on the ground – any plane is. The performance delta between the 262 and the P-51 wasn’t as high as most people think – the P-51 had a higher sustained altitude, could turn inside the 262 with ease, and later models had onboard radar.

    you’ve mis-read what i wrote: the ME262 was typically shot down in the air (ground destructions were and are not regarded as air combat), as a result of needing to essentially shut down the engines a couple of miles out and glide in deadstick.
    and re “could turn inside the 262 with ease” — heh: the average bomber could, too.

  144. Any one ever read any of Louis L’Amour books? He was besides a very good fiction writer an amateur historian. He stated that a few percent of people without the restraints of law would show their social path tendency. And that always happen on frontiers. And he thought that those people did not even know who they were until the opportunity presented itself. The founding fathers knew of this although they would of used different terminology.That is why we have the Second Amendment right. Crime is caused by a few percent of the population. They cause a tremendous cost to society. Most men want to live peacefully.A few want power to exploit others. That is why brutal dictators arise. The only thing that caps this ugly side of human nature is the ability and will to counter force with even deadlier force.In my home I am armed and have a large loyal dog that will eat up an invader. Do you think the wolf will seek easier prey? In places where gun ownership is widespread crime is low. In areas where gun rights are restricted crime is high. In this country a very large percent of our citizens are armed and many have military training. This makes a an up and coming dictator fearful of the people. And that is exactly what our founding fathers wanted.

  145. Adrian Smith: good heavens, the troll’s back

    >So he’s a “sheepdog”, but the wolves aren’t intimidated enough to actually leave the sheep alone in his presence.</I

    agreed. this guy is not a sheepdog but a faux-sheepdog: interested only in his personal status and not ACTUALLY doing anything to protect those around him. he’s toxic, in a real-world sense.

    this is actually a key missed-point in all the above discussions. i’ll have a think about how best to put it and post it ASAP.

    >>amusingly, i am not quite but almost a deadringer for niven’s description of “Protectors”. right down to the lips and hands.
    >And the swollen knee and elbow joints?

    amusing consistency in trollness, conflating 8yo gigglingness re difference with Conclusive Proof of Foolishness.

    but yeah, less obviously (compared to lips and hands) that’s true for me too: knees and elbows are sharply more sharp than most people’s. eric may remember i asked him re his own elbows’ shape on one of his posts re hand-to-hand advantages of his; i asked for this reason. it’s a pattern i’ve noted on most (not all) people with high power-to-weight ratios (who, interestingly, are mostly geeks). i benchpress 50% more than my body weight. where most people who can bench just their own weight are a/ HUGELY proud of it, and b/ exercising mesomorphs. it’s always amusing jumping onto the bench after the huff&puffers have finished and asking them to spot me, and saying “no, that’s fine” when they amusedly ask me how much weight i want them to take off, and i do their set with their weights. and their faces afterwards are absolute pictures. mostly, they refuse to talk to me afterwards.
    i am skinny with odd lumps round the joints (the extra development of the joint-protecting muscles). niven’s description of Protectors is what i will look like in 20 years time, based on the changes i’ve seen in my body so far.

    like most authors regarded as good, niven merely extrapolated very slightly from his own experience/observations.

  146. Stephen: >He stated that a few percent of people

    this is a key point, related to and underpinning much of the above discussion (and eric’s original post). amusing instances recently in the UK are a single family getting jailed and crime rates dropping drastically in all surrounding counties, and just this week the announcement that police making a point of following, and making it obvious to them that they’re following, a relative handful of boys, cut the local crime rate in half.

    you have reminded me of the other key point i wanted to make, which also underlies and informs all the previous discussion of eric’s post. i’ll start trying to put those together concisely for posting here.

  147. aggregation post:

    there are two key fundamental human behaviours/characteristics relevant to/underlying the result eric posted about.

    1. sheepdogs vs fauxsheepdogs

    there are sheepdogs, but there are a LOT more faux-sheepdogs: people who want to be thought of as sheepdogs but who are merely aggressive (and typically

    parasitic) sheep.

    KEY POINT: a sheepdog has TWO functions: protecting the sheep (external), and controlling the sheep (internal).

    eric spoke only about the external function: protection.

    many of the described/linked-to examples i’ve seen here have been internally-focussed. eg, policemen asserting their AUTHORI-TAY, rather than having a

    “quiet word” with a roughneck to encourage him not to attack anyone else. (i’ve seen this done — it works BLOODY WELL.) to be clear: they are focussed on

    their own status vs the sheep, than on protecting the sheep. the point adrian validly made that the off-duty policeman in the train got a buzz from some

    wolves backing off from him, but then let them continue to harass everyone else on the train, is a corner-point example. this wannabe is not a sheepdog, in

    the sense that eric used the term. this wannabe likes the status of being a more-dangerous sheep, but is not genuinely interested in protecting the sheep.

    the thing with formal internally-focussed control functions, is that they attract parasites. people looking for status without responsibility.

    getting slightly away from the essence of eric’s point: it is noticeable that the vast majority of people in roles notionally intended to protect against

    external threats are actually more focussed on the internal aspects, on the status accruing from their position. most-obvious examples: the army and the

    police. politicians, too, but that aspect hasn’t been raised here yet (intriguingly).

    .
    2. 3% of soldiers cause 50% of the casualties
    OR
    MOST people are parasites, even where they are nominally (supposed to be) contributing

    the US army did extensive studies of their own effectiveness several decades ago, and discovered that 3% of their soldiers were responsible for 50% of the

    army’s results. to put that another way, it took 18 normal US soldiers to match 1 of the hard core.

    anyone paying attention in any modern Company will have noticed the same pattern. you could eliminate nearly all of most established companies’ payroll and

    achieve the same result. in many cases, you would then be enabled to create vastly MORE value, because the parasites/deadweights have ceased to quell the

    value-adding initiatives constantly bubbling out of these people. certain categories of jobs, you could eliminate the entirety of the payroll.

    now, the people doing these army studies were themselves parasites, almost by definition, and very very Social (vs Mundane). rather than look more deeply at what this might imply for humans more largely, they labelled this 3% “psychopaths” and ran off on a (failed) tangent about how to create psychopaths, how to turn normal US soldiers into psychopaths. the interesting thing here is that this was parasites creating an extrapolation of parasite concepts, Social people extrapolating in/from their own little world.

    in actual fact, most of the most-effective soldiers were and are the nicest sweetest most amiable people on earth. the VC recipients being gobsmacking cases

    in point. for non-commonwealth people: the vc is the only (valid) major valour medal on earth, the only one which can not be awarded for political reasons

    and the only one which explicitly refuses to consider rank (look into things a bit, and you start to get a violently antipathetic reaction to the DSO, the

    Legion d’honneur, and the Congressional Medal of Honour). most VCs are awarded posthumously. think about that…
    VC recipients are nearly all breathtakingly dismissive of their own efforts. “that’s what you DO” or “i was more worried about my mates”. australia’s first (i think) vc recipient was immediately removed from the public eye by the Social parasites when at his first public presentation he inveighed against war instead of praising it as he was told to, declaring it the most evil thing on earth. he was also quite shy, and was stammering when he started his speech. yet had vastly outperformed all the loud and shouty types that were regarded as “good soldiers”. it’s the “hard-arses” flouncing and posturing who perform shambolicly in combat. i believe this is the reason why aussies tend to vastly outperform brits in combat (we have 2 very separate cultures: pure parasites, and pure hardcore), and why brits tend to outperform americans in combat (most of the brits are parasitees, but there’s a substantial hardcore of group-focussed people who carry the rest: that classic quote from a brit officer pre-Dday, reassuring his men that it was ok if they died because there were lots more men to finish the job for them — stop and think about the attitude necessary to SAY such a thing, then stop and think about the fact that the (picked) men who heard it felt mostly reassured, even where they thought he was a twat for being so dismissive of their own lives.)

    london nurses were noted for noting that the guys they had previously thought to be amazing hard arses turned to jelly when the bombing really started, and

    the quiet nonentities they’d ignored up to that point suddenly turned into the real superstars. the geeks became heroes.

    parasites get everywhere. and most “protector” roles also carry the implication of control over the internal that they’re notionally protecting.

    .
    don’t muddle eric’s “protector” idea with parasites using that vector for their own status-needy ends.

  148. in other news: don’t use Notepad as a crash-protection mechanism to contain save-ably the content of long posts — it appears to insert carriage-returns via its wordwrap function that are previously invisible in-situ.

  149. >KEY POINT: a sheepdog has TWO functions: protecting the sheep (external), and controlling the sheep (internal).>
    eric spoke only about the external function: protection.

    it’s worth pointing out, because i forgot to initially, that eric’s original post had no implication of the internal (control) aspect. he spoke solely about group-protection.

    the later muddling was introduced by later posters. but interestingly, it followed the same ambiguity as in the word sheepdog.

  150. amusing consistency in trollness, conflating 8yo gigglingness re difference with Conclusive Proof of Foolishness.

    Appears I was mistaken about you and all.

  151. > Less than where? Your claim is complete handwaving, ungrounded in any data or even in any plausible claims about the distribution of sheepdogs.
    Almost all our reasonings are context-dependent (whether we want/like it or not doesn’t matter) and it should be enough to disambiguate my claim :
    * you (and most other people here with a similar position) live in the US : about as many governement sheepdogs as in other developped countries (which is quite a lot) and a whole lot of “private” sheepdogs
    * I leave in Europe and has only visited European countries thus far : many government sheepdogs but little, if any, “private” one [note : here I only consider armed sheepdogs since they seem to be the only one you are interested in]
    * a bunch of my relatives (brother, godfather, uncles, cousins, friends, …) went to various African countries (Mali, Senegal, Egypt, …), (and tourism was seldom the goal but I won’t go off-topic to explain you what they did there, suffice to say that they were not in the bubble most strangers live in when they visit these countries) : very little sheepdogs because either the government has little to no authority or it borders dictatorship and thus becomes a wolf. Likewise very little if any “private” sheepdogs because the only people who can afford weapons are wolves (milicia)

    My experience, both firsthand or secondhand, is that guns are not a necessity at all for a vast majority of people in both Europe and Africa while your fear-ridden conception would suggest otherwise given the low presence of sheepdogs.

  152. > sorry mate, reconstruction of history is not acceptable
    ???
    this->ignore(Saltation);

    > In places where gun ownership is widespread crime is low.
    I cannot confirm or infirm this fact but either way it does not constitute a proof of causality…

    > In areas where gun rights are restricted crime is high.
    This however I can infirm. I live in an area where gun rights are restricted and crime is low (I’d be willing to bet that it is no higher, and maybe even lower, than in many areas where gun ownership is widespread but I lack data to b

  153. [continued, my browser acted weirdly...]
    … I lack data to back that claim so I’ll leave it as a supposition).

  154. >brits tend to outperform americans in combat

    Saltation, even the *Brits* don’t believe this. The Economist had an excellent article on this topic a couple weeks ago, focusing on the Brits’ disappointing performance in Afghanistan and southern Iraq. Money quotes:

    “There is a general sense that the student has surpassed the teacher” – addressing specifically counterinsurgency warfare in southern Iraq.

    “American combat teams are both more daring and more effective” – context there was Afghanistan.

  155. David .. baaa, baaaa. I’ve never heard such drivel in all my life.

  156. Baaa baaaa baaa.

    Infantile. Read a book on rhetoric sometime, instead of filling the internet with your appallingly ignorant pseudo-intellectual “debate tactics.”

  157. I think you should leave some credit to Bill O’Reilly for that rhethorical technique.

  158. Read Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War” – he has a few interesting things to say.
    As long as violence has not been completely eliminated (and I do not see how mankind might do that…) somebody will, sooner or later) use violence.

  159. eric: >>brits tend to outperform americans in combat
    >Saltation, even the *Brits* don’t believe this. The Economist had an excellent article on this topic a couple weeks ago, focusing on the Brits’ disappointing performance in Afghanistan and southern Iraq. Money quotes:
    “There is a general sense that the student has surpassed the teacher” – addressing specifically counterinsurgency warfare in southern Iraq.
    “American combat teams are both more daring and more effective” – context there was Afghanistan.

    good point. the brit culture has changed dramatically over the last 30 years or so, and the current crop are not whole-culture slices but self-volunteers from a generation raised to believe that You Just Get Stuff, Because You DESERVE It.

    it doesn’t affect my points re historical combats (which were the essence of what i wrote), but i will be more circumspect in points that have more current aspects. thank for the reminders.

    likewise i wil nowl flag up that the southeast culture of oz is teetering on the brink of fully infecting the whole of oz. the oz vs brit comparison will be similarly fatuous wholly within 10 years. leaving only the kiwis as outstanding soldiers. just…. not enough of them.

  160. Drivebys, feh.

    Eric – is there any particular reason for not turning on post numbering? Makes it easier to navigate the thread, even for us trolls. I realise the date link on each post brings up a number, but I haven’t seen anyone bothering with it.

  161. fullmetalcoder: >> sorry mate, reconstruction of history is not acceptable
    >???
    >this->ignore(Saltation);

    oh the agony.

    in other news mate, read back what you wrote. justifiction is a hallmark of trolls.

  162. Saltation: the US army did extensive studies of their own effectiveness several decades ago, and discovered that 3% of their soldiers were responsible for 50% of the army’s results. to put that another way, it took 18 normal US soldiers to match 1 of the hard core.

    I remember seeing this, though it was something like one in fifty soldiers who were able to function as infantry without experiencing crippling psychological breakdown after a prolonged tour at the front. I also seem to remember that these people would, in civil society, be considered dangerous psychopaths, as they were capable of killing again and again, without remorse. I’m rather skeptical, to say the least, of any moral system that considers that to be the acme of manly achievement.

    parasites get everywhere. and most “protector” roles also carry the implication of control over the internal that they’re notionally protecting.

    A point not made nearly often enough. Presumably all of those assholes think they’re really dicks, which should give a bit of pause to anyone who proudly proclaims what a humble dick they are, and wonders why all of the pussies aren’t more grateful for his dickness.

  163. Adrian Smith: good lord, the troll is persisting.

    people who are genuine typically have memories, so pandering to people who prefer Process to Outcome by giving them an extra handle to hang their hat does not obviously add to the outcome.

    to put it another way: try paying more attention to the discussion than the page-number.

  164. >I remember seeing this, though it was something like one in fifty soldiers who were able to function as infantry without experiencing crippling psychological breakdown after a prolonged tour at the front. I also seem to remember that these people would, in civil society, be considered dangerous psychopaths

    Oversimplified. The best single book on this subject is Dave Grossman’s On Combat. “Prolonged” in this context means “more than 100 days”. Yes, only two percent can function in battlefield conditions after approximately that long, but only half of that 2% are psychopaths. An interesting pattern about the other 1% is that they tend to have strongly internalized ethics. Grossman, after studying them, came to the interesting conclusion that one of the best preventatives againdt PTSD would be to teach soldiers moral philosophy. Entertainingly enough, this seems to actually work.

    Also from Grossman: The 3% figure Saltation cites is obsolete. Better training methods and the all-volunteer force have made a huge difference in the percentage of trainees that become combat-effective; this is one reason the U.S. officer corps doesn’t want the draft back.

  165. grendelkhan: >I remember seeing this, though it was something like one in fifty soldiers who were able to function as infantry without experiencing crippling psychological breakdown after a prolonged tour at the front.

    then you’re thinking of something different. from the flavour of what you write, it sounds like a much-later survey heavily influenced by the Social preferences of outcome of the earliler pure-numeric surveys.

    bear in mind that in WWII and WWI, the numbers were rather round the other way: ie 1 in 50 could NOT cope with the aftermath. (the actual numbers suggest rather larger than 50…)

    remember, once the backlash re vietnam had broken the seal of govt-trustworthiness, the average american soldier has not since fought an unequivocally “just” war. and cognitive dissonance is a primary cause of mental issues among westerners.

    the key point, regardless, is unaffected. a tiny proportion of most groups is responsible for the majority of benefits subsequently claimed by the group as a whole (and: by individuals, by “virtue” of group membership)

  166. eric: Also from Grossman: The 3% figure Saltation cites is obsolete.

    absolutely. it was only a measure of the time. and the circumstances. nevertheless, its key observation: that a startlingly low percentage of a group’s participants productively contribute to protecting the sheep/group — EVEN WHERE THEIR ACTIVE CONTRIBUTION IS IN THE GROUP’S BEST INTERESTS– is not materially affected.

    sheepdogs remain the exception, by inclination, not the norm, even where (aggressive) sheep are explicitlyl trained in that direction.

  167. >the US army did extensive studies of their own effectiveness several decades ago,
    > and discovered that 3% of their soldiers were responsible for 50% of the army’s results.

    I know very little about combat effectiveness, however, this statistic, assuming it is close to true, confirms what I see in other areas of life. That is to say: “Sturgeon’s law is insanely optimistic about the human condition.”

  168. (esr) Better training methods and the all-volunteer force have made a huge difference in the percentage of trainees that become combat-effective;

    Are there any figures available for just how huge? There look to be some big differences in style of combat between (say) WW2/Korea and today, too – it seems to be mostly occupation and patrolling in formally-conquered-but-still-hostile areas these days, which sounds quite different from the old front-based warfare they were involved in then. Sure, taking the draftees out of the picture must help, a lot of them were certainly not putting the effort in.

  169. Personal firearms have been, for the most part, useless in pitched battles against the state since the development of automatic weapons. The last time they were really useful in that way was in the Revolutions of 1848, when most of the major cities of Europe were captured by insurrectionists.

    Where firearms are useful is in raising–enormously–the attrition costs of holding down a territory against popular opposition. Where the government presents organized force, obviously, partisan warfare will give way. But the presence of a high level of dispersed small arms ownership in society at large means that government territorial control will tend to be limited to areas where it can maintain such overwhelming force, and that the government will be under pressure to maintain such garrison forces in an increasing number of areas on an increasingly permanent basis. This means the state will be limited to maintaining direct control mainly of the important population centers and major transportation routes between them, and it will be constantly tempted to reduce the number of centers that qualify as “vital,” and to fall back and regroup to reduce the costs of occupation. The most important function of private arms is not what they’re good for where the state IS, but where it is NOT.

  170. >Personal firearms have been, for the most part, useless in pitched battles against the state since the development of automatic weapons.

    This is a literally true but dangerously misleading statement. Even with the qualifiers in your next paragraph it implies an underestimation of the utility.of firearms.

    The Battle of Athens cited by a previous commenter didn’t take place “where the state was not”, it took place where the state was locally corrupt. The confrontation of the 1992 Communist countercoup in Moscow by armed civilians was another situation in which the state was definitely present – in the form of a tank brigade – but the civilians prevailed. Simply by making it clear that they would fight, they tipped the political balance.

    You can say that no pitched battle was fought and preserve the literal truth of your claim, but that would evade an important reality – sometimes, the local power of the state can indeed be overmatched by civilian weapons to good result (as happened in Athens). More often, the deployment of civilian weapons in the hands of the people can make it clear that their users reject the legitimacy of the state, and topple it in the minds of its own soldiers before the pitched battle is actually fought.

    If civilian firearms are ever decisive in the future history of the U.S., that is likely the way it will happen. In particular, the group culture of U.S. military officers is pro-civilian-firearms, strongly constitutionalist, and aware of history. Our politicians know they’d be taking a severe risk of mutiny and defection if they ordered troops to fire on armed civilians fronting a genuinely popular uprising.

  171. >Are there any figures available for just how huge?

    If I had them ready to hand I’d have cited them. I have friends I can ask and will do so.

  172. esr: Yes, only two percent can function in battlefield conditions after approximately that long, but only half of that 2% are psychopaths. An interesting pattern about the other 1% is that they tend to have strongly internalized ethics. Grossman, after studying them, came to the interesting conclusion that one of the best preventatives againdt PTSD would be to teach soldiers moral philosophy. Entertainingly enough, this seems to actually work.

    I have trouble imagining that people who can kill an indefinite number of their fellow human beings efficiently and without remorse are paragons of moral rectitude, but then, I haven’t read Grossman’s book, so maybe he’s profoundly convincing about it. I can see that such people would have to have “strongly internalized ethics”, as you put it, but then, plenty of non-sanctioned killers have “strongly internalized ethics” as well.

  173. “An interesting pattern about the other 1% is that they tend to have strongly internalized ethics. Grossman, after studying them, came to the interesting conclusion that one of the best preventatives againdt PTSD would be to teach soldiers moral philosophy. Entertainingly enough, this seems to actually work.”

    Of course this can only work if the given war is moral enough.

    What does that mean? Morality stands on three legs: results, goals and means. Of these results are the LEAST important (sorry, utilitarians) because one cannot foresee all results from now to infinity, and also because results depend a lot on morally neutral stuff like efficiency, intelligence etc. Except when bad results come from willfull or near-willfull levels of neglect they don’t count. This leaves us goals and means. Goals, of course, must be morally acceptable. Means too – and reason is exactly that we cannot foresee the results. If we could foretell with 100% precision murdering 1 civilian can save 10 friendly soldiers it would be OK, but because we just cannot be sure about the long-term results (what if all 10 die 5 days later in another battle? then we just committed an unnecessary murder), we’d better avoid such immoral means and stick to means that are morally acceptable _in_ _themselves_.

    So, you can only justify a war with moral philosophy if it’s waged for a worthy cause and conducted with acceptable means (taking care not to hit civilians etc.).

  174. >So, you can only justify a war with moral philosophy if it’s waged for a worthy cause and conducted with acceptable means (taking care not to hit civilians etc.).

    Agreed. But this is an easy hurdle for Grossman, because the U.S. military, institutionally, does not want to fight unjust wars. Grotius, casus belli, proportionate response and all the associated doctrines are deeply internalized there, and officers are required to take courses in military ethics that examine the associated debates in some depth.

    Note: I make no representation here that the U.S. military has never fought nor will never fight an unjust war, I’m just saying that Grossman’s prescription is continuous with its doctrine and self-image.

  175. Eric: one of the best preventatives againdt PTSD would be to teach soldiers moral philosophy. Entertainingly enough, this seems to actually work.
    I assume Grossman’s work came significantly after Starship Troopers. Was Heinein just prescient, or did Grossman merely note something we should have known all along?

    Saltation: prop-driven aircraft knocking down ME262s was freakishly rare
    A one-to-five air combat kill ratio is not “freakishly rare”.

    Eric: the deployment of civilian weapons in the hands of the people can make it clear that their users reject the legitimacy of the state, and topple it in the minds of its own soldiers before the pitched battle is actually fought
    This is a question I haven’t seen anyone examine. Postulate an armed civilian uprising in the US. (This would require behavior on the part of the government egregious enough to actually cause a significant part of the population to take up arms against its government.) What portion of the US armed forces would obey orders to put down the uprising by force?

  176. A number of folks have claimed in this thread that automatic weapons are freely available (in the legal sense) in the US. That’s simply not true, and hasn’t been since 1934. Yes, I realize that many Americans make the same mistake, but ….

    In other news, Baywatch isn’t real either.

  177. > esr: The day you think sheepdogs prepared to do physical violence in your defense are not necessary is the day the wolves have persuaded you to bare your neck to their teeth. Which is not necessarily my problem, actually, unless you talk a lot of my neighbors into the same suicidal idiocy.

    The mechanism by which it becomes your problem is one of the most interesting parts of this discussion for europeans. As laws here mostly forbid carrying of firearms (and on owning it varies from rather restrictive to outright ban, mostly creeping slowly towards latter), we don’t have the “gun culture” and therefore even if carrying of firearms were allowed, it probably wouldn’t improve safety.

    Isn’t the safety-improving effect of firearms based on the fact that we’re mostly quite decent people and therefore the ratio of decent people to bad apples carrying can be expected to be high, but only if intelligent, reasonable people are willing to carry regularly in somewhat considerable numbers? Criminals, of course, have strong motivation to do so in any case but this is offset by determined enough criminals being able to get firearms regardless of law, though mostly they don’t feel the need, as victims are disarmed. Allowing carrying in this situation would probably get some of the victims and most of the criminals armed, with somewhat tragic results.

    Could it be that safety can’t be increased with firearms where there is no pre-existing culture where carrying is commonplace, therefore arranging enough guns to be carried by the right people, but it certainly can be decreased by bans where such culture exists?

    In the above, I’m omitting long-term effects, but they are academic at best, since legislation is going quite the other way and politicians don’t consider anything beyound the next election in any case.

  178. Jay Maynard: >> prop-driven aircraft knocking down ME262s was freakishly rare
    >A one-to-five air combat kill ratio is not “freakishly rare”.

    no idea what the denominator of this ratio is.
    Prop-kills-of-ME262s to ME262-kills-of-Prop?
    if so (or regardless: if you regard 262s as somehow not-uncommonly shot down), consider MORE CAREFULLY what i said re the allies giving up and instead going bushwhacker — “camping” in cloud above airfields and simply knocking down ME262s on landing after their engines were (un-restart-ably) shut down. and consider reading how pilots of both sides described the situation in air combat at the time. first-person accounts, not arms-length summaries from documents by “historians”.
    first-person accounts could be summarised as “we had our arses kicked” // “we kicked their arses”. “until we discovered they had to glide for miles to land” // “until they discovered we were sitting ducks when landing and they gave up fighting us in the air after that and just sat above our airstrips”
    whatever ratio you’re thinking of/numbers you’re looking at, i would be staggered if they differentiated between “fair fight” and “bushwhacked”. an aggregate number bundling them will only muddle the key point re air combat’s relative emphasis on weapon capability, due to a particular and odd out-of-combat vulnerability of a single machine.

  179. I don’t object to your philosophical arguments, although I think you are placing far too high of a value on some liberties at the expense of others. And I certainly agree that many people who argue against firearms rights are completely at the mercy of (read: under the dominion of) their governments.

    What bugs me is that your philosophical arguments come off like they are justifications for your aesthetic preferences – i.e. that you are a self-proclaimed ‘gun-fancier’ (as so many male geeks are) or as the kids would call you now, a ‘gun fanboy’. I wonder if you’d stick to these philosophies if you weren’t so enamoured of guns?

    I wish there were more second-amendment enthusiasts who saw guns as a distasteful necessity, rather than as an exciting and romantic pastime that they wanted to spend their weekends on. Then maybe I’d believe that their philosophical arguments were sincere, and not merely valid.

    Note that I’m not making an ad-hominem or character based argument about the importance of second-amendment rights. I actually have a real reason to be worried that the gun advocates are people that like guns.

    The main reason why I’m worried about this is underlined by your weird ‘sheep and sheepdogs’ metaphor. By casting themselves as the sheepdogs, gun enthusiasts are actually creating a situation where it is up to them to decide whether dominion is present, and whether an insurrection is warranted. In other words, the ‘sheep’ are placed under the dominion of the ‘sheepdogs’. Now, as one of the ‘sheep’ I don’t want my liberties to be in the hands of ‘sheepdogs’ who are most concerned about owning guns above all other liberties, because they love guns. But because the ‘sheepdogs’ have elected themselves into this position by buying a gun, my only two options are 1) be dominated by gun owners, or 2) buy a gun myself. But I don’t actually want to own a gun, nor do I want to live in a world where everyone is a ‘sheepdog’.

  180. >I wonder if you’d stick to these philosophies if you weren’t so enamoured of guns?

    I’ve been a libertarian since 1980, I didn’t acquire a gun until about 1995, and when I did it was partly from a sense that I was being a bit hollow by talking the gun-rights talk from libertarian theory without directly confronting those choices myself. So my libertarianism led me to firearms rights, not the other way around.

    >By casting themselves as the sheepdogs, gun enthusiasts are actually creating a situation where it is up to them to decide whether dominion is present, and whether an insurrection is warranted.

    Oh, no. Other people can make that decision as well – it’s just that being physically and psychologically disarmed, they’ll suck badly if they try to execute on it.

    >1) be dominated by gun owners,

    You’re being silly. My ownership of a weapon does nothing whatsoever to constrain your choices unless you are thinking about attacking me (which I doubt). And, supposing it did, you’d have an easy answer: arm yourself. If I wanted to dominate you, I’d tell you to stay disarmed like a nice sheep.

  181. Let me put it this way instead, since it’s clearer:

    1) You say liberty is the only good that matters. (I agree)

    2) You cast yourself as a sheepdog – the emblem of reducing the liberties of others (i.e. sheep) for their benefit.

    3) But since liberty is the only good that matters, a sheepdog doesn’t actually benefit the sheep at all. He just dominates the sheep. In fact, what he does to the sheep is really bad, if we accept 1)

    4) We are left to conclude, if we believe 1) that sheepdogs are not really sheepdogs at all, but wolves. If liberty is the only good that matters, there are no sheepdogs, only wolves and sheep. Or as we might say, tyrants and their victims.

    Having read your previous posts on these issues, I assume your response is something like ‘I’m a wolf, so what? Too bad for you’.

  182. >My ownership of a weapon does nothing whatsoever to constrain your choices

    No, that’s not true. My choices are constrained because I can’t help to choose the criteria on which you and your fellow gun fanciers would stage an uprising.

  183. > you’d have an easy answer: arm yourself.

    Yeah. To me, this represents the tragedy of the commons, rather than an optimal solution.

  184. >2) You cast yourself as a sheepdog – the emblem of reducing the liberties of others (i.e. sheep) for their benefit.

    Nonsense. I do nothing to reduce your liberty, because I do not coerce or threaten you, In fact, I am willing to stand between you and wolves who would do that.

    Your choice to regard me as a threat is your problem, a delusion in which I am not required to participate. It certainly does nothing to change my evaluation of the thics of owning firearms.

  185. > I wish there were more second-amendment enthusiasts who saw guns as a distasteful necessity, rather than as an exciting and romantic pastime that they wanted to spend their weekends on.

    And you know how I see guns how? (Feel free to explain how I can acceptably-to-you advocate gun ownership as a distasteful necessity.)

    > Then maybe I’d believe that their philosophical arguments were sincere, and not merely valid.

    Where do you get off claiming that our beliefs are insincere?

    And, since when is sincere all that interesting, especially compared to valid?

    Would you be happy if our beliefs were sincere but invalid?

  186. > >2) You cast yourself as a sheepdog – the emblem of reducing the liberties of others (i.e. sheep) for their benefit.

    Nonsense. The sheepdog doesn’t diminish the sheep. At most the sheepdog makes sheep-by-choice aware of their choice. If you don’t like being a sheep….

  187. > My choices are constrained because I can’t help to choose the criteria on which you and your fellow gun fanciers would stage an uprising.

    You can’t help “choose the criteria” on which anyone would stage an uprising. As a bystander, you can’t affect the results of their attempt either. No one cares where free-riders want to go….

    You seem very concerned about folks who basically want to be left alone while ignoring the dangers of folks who actually want to impose their will on you. Do you really think that gun control will affect the latter group?

  188. > 3) But since liberty is the only good that matters, a sheepdog doesn’t actually benefit the sheep at all. He just dominates the sheep.

    Not at all.

    > In fact, what he does to the sheep is really bad, if we accept [liberty is the only good that matters]

    Protecting the only good that matters for the sheep is bad for them?

  189. Bennett, your arguments boil down to a desire to force everyone into sheepitude. You are not comfortable with the idea that anyone can defend their liberty, either from individual thieves who enslave by taking by force or from governments that do so more directly.

    There’s a word for people like you: coward.

    The basic fallacy with your argument, as with most of the arguments in favor of sheepitude, is that you assume that it is possible to eliminate the wolves from society. That is far from demonstrated, and I believe it is flatly impossible. There will always be bad people against whom the only defense is the ability to use raw, naked force.

    You need to read, and refute, A Nation of Cowards before your arguments will carry any force, and be worth the time to read them. I am not a coward, and neither are the sheepdogs here.

  190. Andy: You can’t help “choose the criteria” on which anyone would stage an uprising. As a bystander, you can’t affect the results of their attempt either. No one cares where free-riders want to go….
    This can be considered as an extreme case of “if you don’t vote, don’t bitch” – a line often cited by sheep who never notice the inherent hypocrisy…

  191. > we don’t have the “gun culture” and therefore even if carrying of firearms were allowed, it probably wouldn’t improve safety.

    Surely you’re not suggesting that not having a gun culture means that you can’t learn how to use a gun. (If it does, where are you getting effective police/military?) Surely you’re not suggesting that having a gun culture means that everyone in said culture is “born” knowing how to use a gun? (A “gun culture” merely means that the relevant education is more likely to happen as part of every day activity.)

    > only if intelligent, reasonable people are willing to carry regularly in somewhat considerable numbers?

    Not at all. It doesn’t take many people carrying for the odds of running into one to be greater than the odds of arrest. Unless you’re going to argue that police are useless….

    > Allowing carrying in this situation would probably get some of the victims and most of the criminals armed, with somewhat tragic results.

    If “tragic” to you means some thugs got injured, we’ll have to agree to disagree. We see displacement, from personal crimes to property crimes. That’s a good thing.

    You seem to believe that someone who thinks that your life is worth less to him than the unknown contents of your pocket somehow is concerned for your life.

  192. “The bitter experience of gun owners is that they must oppose “reasonable” controls, because in practice “reasonable” controls are always, always, always abused and expanded until they become unreasonable”

    From a practical point of view I can’t argue with it, if it’s the experience, then it’s the experience. That doesn’t mean one cannot continue to think about whether there could be untried ways to achieve a “reasonable” distribution of guns. The comparison with printing presses is flawed because freedom of speech is valuable for everybody, sheeps, wolves, sheepdogs. Guns are valuable only to sheepdogs and wolves i.e. the percentage wolf-ownership of guns is much higher than the wolf-ownership of printing presses and I think this is an important consideration. So if one can find a way to reduce wolf-gunownership by 50% and it only affects sheepdogs at 20%, that would probably be a good thing.

    Excluding violent offenders is IMHO a good way because you can just see it as a sort of additional punishment and if you see it as punishment and not as a safety measure then what’s wrong with it? When kids break a window by kicking in a football usually what parents do is to take away that football for a week or a month, thus teaching a lesson about using it responsibly.

  193. I live in Sweden, and I don’t own a gun. Should I feel the need for a gun to defend myself from criminal elements or to overthrow the government, I would have little problems aquiring one. As someone earlier in the thread said, they are low tech and easy to make.

    However, the rate at which criminals carry guns here does not make a case for owning a gun of my own. Neither does the behaviour of the government. Since a gun requires an investment in the form of responsible storage and a small bit of upkeep as well as having a non-neglible accident risk it would be foolish of me to have one.

    I used to have a military service semi-automatic pistol, but it was withdrawn some 15 years ago because metal fatigue in the model had caused some accidents. I don’t see my risks of being a victim of criminal activity as increasing since I turned the gun in, and I don’t see my ability to act against the government as being diminished.

  194. > Andy Freeman: Surely you’re not suggesting that not having a gun culture means that you can’t learn how to use a gun.

    Absolutely not. Actually, today I’ll be at our local range myself.

    > Surely you’re not suggesting that having a gun culture means that everyone in said culture is “born” knowing how to use a gun?

    Not that, either. What I’m suggesting is that very few people would start carrying regularly, if it were suddenly made legal. I assume that gun culture is needed for people to see the point in it. I know I would carry, but I’m pretty certain I’m in a very small minority here.

    >> only if intelligent, reasonable people are willing to carry regularly in somewhat considerable numbers?

    >Not at all. It doesn’t take many people carrying for the odds of running into one to be greater than the odds of arrest. Unless you’re going to argue that police are useless….

    Sorry. I’m pretty sure I understood the language correctly, but I just can’t figure out the meaning of that argument. Could you elaborate?

    >If “tragic” to you means some thugs got injured, we’ll have to agree to disagree. We see displacement, from personal crimes to property crimes. That’s a good thing.

    Obviously I meant more victims getting injured worse. Thugs getting injured are, of course, non-issue and have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Displacement from personal crimes to property crimes seems obvious, now that you brought it up. And the amount of displacement can be assumed to be function of amount of people carrying (as a proxy for increased risk to the criminal)? If that were the case, there’s likely some threshold where amount of personal crime due to displacement to property crime drops victim fatality rate below that of non-armed society (where victims lose contents of their pockets and their dignity, rarely their life). That could be considered rather unconditionally good. Worth the costs somewhere below it (as dignity, after all, has value. contents of pockets are comparable to other property by absolute value). If so, would be interesting to know what the threshold values were, even approximately.

    > You seem to believe that someone who thinks that your life is worth less to him than the unknown contents of your pocket somehow is concerned for your life.

    Nope, but concerned for his possible (probable, depending on circumstances) punishment yes and therefore he’d usually rather empty my pockets with least amount of legal risk to himself. Unless there are more serious risks than legal.

  195. >Nonsense. I do nothing to reduce your liberty, because I do not coerce or threaten you, In fact, I am willing to stand between you and wolves who would do that.

    But you’re not protecting my liberty by owning a gun at all. Even if it wasn’t a contradiction to protect someone’s liberties without their consent, the range of scenarios where your gun ownership would protect my liberties is miniscule. If I don’t trust you to protect my liberties with your gun, why should I (vote to) protect your gun ownership rights-claims?

    All that you do by owning a gun is you add yourself to the number of people who can coerce me by force. This does not represent an increase in my liberties! It is true I can buy a gun, which would protect some of my liberties. But it would also help to move us to the pareto-suboptimal scenario where everyone must have a gun in order to have these basic liberties respected. Of course, you don’t see this as pareto-suboptimal because you imagine that a world where everyone owns a gun would be a utopia. Because you are fond of guns.

    This ‘sheepdogs’ thing is self-aggrandizing nonsense. You don’t care about my liberties at all – you care about your own liberties, and more specifically you care about your liberty to own a gun. Because you like guns.

    >Protecting the only good that matters for the sheep is bad for them?

    Let me put it very clearly: You cannot protect someone’s liberties without their consent. It’s a logical contradiction.

    >And, since when is sincere all that interesting, especially compared to valid?
    >Would you be happy if our beliefs were sincere but invalid?

    If there’s a valid argument for why you should be able to own guns to protect my liberties, that’s only interesting to me if that’s why you actually want to own a gun. If you want to own a gun because you think they’re cool or romantic or because they make you feel powerful, then the valid argument is totally irrelevant because you aren’t actually going to protect my liberties, ever. And no, it would be equally bad if your arguments were sincere but invalid. But it may just be that there is no valid argument in favour of the ethics of your sincere motivations. There may be no valid ethical argument which explains why your pleasure in gun ownership should ground a right to own guns.

  196. “if you don’t vote, don’t bitch” is thoroughly wrong. I remember seeing “Don’t Blame Me I Voted for Gore” bumperstickers – Anyone who votes is endorsing whatever the result of the election is. I do not vote. Even if I didn’t believe voting is inherently wrong, there is nothing available worth voting for and voting for the less bad candidate as Heilnlein suggested, well “the lesser of two evils is still evil”.

    For all of you getting hung up on irrelevant details of the wolf-sheep-sheepdog analogy, you may find the different presentation of the issue in James Schmitz’s The Demon Breed useful. He used more generic predator/anti-predator terms and placed the anti-predator’s motivation explicitly as opposing predators for whatever moral or emotional reasons the individuals held.

  197. >But you’re not protecting my liberty by owning a gun at all.

    This is objectively false. By owning a gun in your neighborhood, I decrease the likelihood that you or your loved ones will be subjected to rape, hot burglary, or violent assault. Your consent is not required for this effect to occur.

  198. So we have sheepdogs weighing in here, and sheeps as well. Why aren’t the wolves posting? Damn wolves…

  199. William: “if you don’t vote, don’t bitch” is thoroughly wrong.
    Perhaps, but it’s often cited by sheep who are under the illusion that their vote both somehow matters and somehow gives them some actual influence over the direction their lives will take.

  200. >This is objectively false. By owning a gun in your neighborhood, I decrease the likelihood that you or your loved ones will be subjected to rape, hot burglary, or violent assault

    Ugh! That is not protecting my liberties, it is protecting my body (without my consent). If you can’t understand this distinction, I don’t understand why you are drawn to libertarian positions.

  201. Let me put it this way: locking me in a room would also objectively reduce my chances of being raped, even if I didn’t consent to be locked in the room. I suppose you would call yourself a ‘sheepdog’ if you locked me in a room?

  202. >Ugh! That is not protecting my liberties, it is protecting my body (without my consent).

    The authors of the Second Amendment didn’t recognize any significant distinction between crime and tyranny. I don’t either.

    By owning a gun, I also decrease your risk of being subjected to political tyranny.

    >I suppose you would call yourself a ’sheepdog’ if you locked me in a room?

    No, because that would coerce you and infringe against your liberty. You cannot possibly be dim enough not to understand this.

  203. radu: However Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s excerpts quotes a retired Vietnam colonel as defining himself as a “sheepdog”; he was a sheepdog because he wanted firstly to protect the flock and only secondly to confront the wolf. More to the point was the following quotation “We intimidate those who intimidate _others_”

    You know, that was also the unofficial motto of Rampart CRASH, whose activities included framing people, planting evidence, and beating prisoners. (If anyone here has ever seen The Shield, that was the real-life inspiration.)

  204. Bennett: Eric is right when he says that he does not recognize a difference between crime and tyranny. The only difference I see is that one is done by an individual, and the other is done by government.

    Please, before you embarrass yourself any further, go read A Nation of Cowards. You haven’t made a single argument that Jeffrey Snyder does not refute thoroughly, completely, and devastatingly in that paper.

  205. > The authors of the Second Amendment didn’t recognize any significant distinction between crime and tyranny. I don’t either.

    That is an extremely odd rendering of their position. Because it is also a justification for authoritarianism. The authors of the second amendment thought that you shouldn’t force (your personal ideal of) liberty upon people who didn’t want it. If you can’t grasp this point, then you are forced to accept extremely coercive views like ‘by forcing women to wear a burqa, we protect her liberties’.

    >By owning a gun, I also decrease your risk of being subjected to political tyranny.

    No, you only decrease my risk of being subjected to political tyranny of one type. By owning a gun, you are subjecting me to political tyranny by adding to the number of people who can exert an irresistible force over my political future. The type of tyranny you are protecting me from is (in my view) the lesser of the two threats, since the other armed group has at least some weak claim to legitimacy and representation, while you are a self-elected vigilante. So you are not doing me any favours.

    If your answer to this is again, ‘you can get a gun’, you’re telling me that my choice is either to be tyrannized or to tyrannize others. In other words, you’re admitting that your choice is totally self-interested and not altruistic in the least. If you want an explanation why other people don’t want you to be the guy with the gun, this is it.

    >> I suppose you would call yourself a ’sheepdog’ if you locked me in a room?
    > No, because that would coerce you and infringe against your liberty.

    If you use a gun to defend my liberties (according to your understanding of which of my liberties are important), and you do this even though I ask that you do not, you are coercing me and infringing against my liberties. You cannot possibly be dim enough not to understand this, although I can see that you have strong motives to pretend that you don’t.

  206. > Please, before you embarrass yourself any further, go read A Nation of Cowards

    I have read that, Jay, but I think you’re failing to comprehend that I accept the basic libertarian argument, and I’m not arguing the factual ‘benefits’ of gun ownership laws, but I am denying the gun fanciers’ understanding of liberty. I’m not alone in this. Before you embarrass yourself further, I suggest you read Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ and Rawls ‘A theory of justice’. It may surprise you to learn that philosophers have actually considered the arguments that gun fanciers put forward in some detail, and that their understanding of liberty’s value is better-developed than Jeffrey Snyder’s.

  207. If “we intimidate those who intimidate others” was the unofficial motto of Rampart C.R.A.S.H., then this is merely indicative of a wolf in sheepdog’s clothing. It makes sheepdogs look bad, but it shouldn’t. It’s sometimes worth the sheepdog’s time to investigate and root out such wolves, but at the same time, sheep are incorrect in concluding that since they couldn’t trust one sheepdog, they can’t trust any of them. They need rather to refine how they tell a sheepdog from a fraud. Grossman’s essay indicates that he’s trustworthy; it indicates that that retired colonel is as well.

  208. Bennett,

    (1) I think you are erroneously equating “getting a gun” with “tyrannizing others”.

    (2) If you consider your living without a gun in a society with guns to be an infringement on your liberties, what would you consider your living with a gun in a society without guns?

  209. > Since when do violent offenders not have the same need to defend themselves that others do? Often they live in high-crime areas; on what grounds are we presume that more than 50% of the uses of a firearm they will ever make will be aggressive and illegal? Again, the law should address only actual threats and violence.

    If this position seems unreasonable to you, ask yourself this question: should a person convicted of hateful or slanderous speech be afterwards barred from owning a printing press, a typewriter, or a computer? If you value freedom of speech at all, this proposal will strike you as horrifying and obviously subject to abuse as governments gradually expand the legal definitions of disqualifying speech for the very purpose of silencing dissenters. Now consider the obvious analogy.

    Um, I value freedom of speech, but I don’t value people being free to commit illegal violence. So there’s a problem in your analogy. Perhaps disarmament should be part of the offender’s punishment. People who’ve committed a violent offence are simply a helluva lot more likely to do it again; thus, disarming them is worth it. My position basically flows from the “punishment as protecting society” view. Do you have another?

  210. > I think you are erroneously equating “getting a gun” with “tyrannizing others”.

    It is not as though this is a hidden assumption in what I am saying. I have explicitly argued why I think this is the case.

    > If you consider your living without a gun in a society with guns to be an infringement on your liberties, what would you consider your living with a gun in a society without guns?

    There is a logical problem with your idea that my ‘living in state X’ can be an infringement on my own liberties. That’s not how liberties work. Rather, I am saying that it infringes my liberties (or at least it unjustly creates an additional risk of my liberties being infringed) every time a gun-fancier buys additional firepower. Whether there are already guns in the society is neither here nor there.

    The second part of your question makes no sense to me. If I bought a gun in a society without guns, that would be an unjust attempt on my part to further my own self-interest at the expense of others – to win the prisoner’s dilemma, in other words. I think people in that society would have a valid objection if I wanted to further my self-interest at their expense.

  211. Sorry; I left out words by accident. Let me rephrase:

    If you consider your being coerced to own a gun in a society with guns to be an infringement on your liberties, what would you consider your being coerced NOT to own a gun in a society without guns?

    If you think people would have a valid objection to your furthering your self-interest at their expense, then what would you make of your seeking to disarm them? Some of them clearly wish to be armed; you clearly wish them not to be.

    It sounds as if you’re not necessarily against guns, but rather trying to cast both scenarios – society wholly armed, society wholly disarmed – as cases of one faction imposing upon the other.

  212. Yeah I agree, both are infringements of liberty. One has a shade of legitimacy, as I said, but both are bad.

  213. It also unjustly creates an additional risk of Bennett’s liberties being infringed whenever anyone merely considers either a violent action or any regulation which would infringe his liberties. How? Merely by considering such ideas you habituate yourself to them, which make it more likely you will act on them! Therefore, Bennett must be in favor of censorship. After all, an important step in many dictatorial ideologues rise to power is their use of propaganda.

    I knew there was something very fishy about your argument, Bennett. You do realize it applies to rhetorical sheepdogs, as well, and their ownership of such things as blogs should mightily offend you, especially when they actually use them to rhetorically defend someone’s rights against his will, as for example a person who defends a pro-life woman’s right to an abortion.

    Yours,
    Tom

  214. No, I don’t believe that thoughts can be wrong, because I don’t believe that your thoughts can in fact infringe my liberties. Talk about a straw man, Tom!

    Your example about the pro-choice blog is bogus, as well, since in that case you would only be expanding the woman’s set of liberty-rights, in contrast with the gun case where these benevolent gun-fanciers are taking away some of my liberties in order to secure others for me, without my consent.

  215. Bennett,

    Not a straw man, a valid form of your argument. You stated that ‘it unjustly creates an additional risk of my liberties being infringed’ whenever someone buys a gun. Well, it unjustly creates an additional risk of your liberties being infringed whenever someone advances an idea which could decrease your liberty on a blog.

    Of course you could be admitting that your argument is a straw man.

    No, in fact you would not be expanding her liberty rights. Her liberty rights are infringed by killing people she wants to have the liberty to meet before she meets them.

    In addition you have entirely failed to explain which rights of your gun-fanciers are infringing merely by owning and carrying guns and using them to protect their lives and property. You have only named one right – protecting you against your will. Well, that isn’t a right. You don’t have the right to stop me from protecting you against anything. If I choose to protect you against a criminal, I have that right because that protects me against criminals. If I choose to protect you by keeping a fire from spreading to your property from mine I have that right, even if it is a controlled burn and you want the fire to spread to your property. And I have the right to be a rhetorical sheepdog and defend you using my words on my blog.

    Yours,
    Tom

  216. You see, Bennett, you are claiming to be making a libertarian argument. But then you try to smuggle in the idea that someone must not act in a certain way because it exposes you to some extra risk. That’s not a libertarian argument. That’s a socialist argument. It does not advance liberty. It might advance safety. But it may be subject to Franklin’s paradox. You know:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Notice the word temporary before safety? Are you safer?

    Yours,
    Tom

  217. Tom, by your argument, if you bury a landmine in my back yard, you haven’t done anything wrong, since there’s a chance I won’t stand on it. No, clearly there is no strong moral relationship between imposing risks by thinking and imposing risks by acting. Nobody seriously thinks it is wrong to have thoughts which may make it more likely that you will commit some wrong act, but most of us think that it is wrong to perform actions which have a real, but non-100% chance of harming others. I think that gun ownership is bad because it is this second kind of action. I mean, I would have thought that was obvious but perhaps you are just attempting to get me to contradict myself.

    On your second point, you are falling down a rather ridiculous hole. Defending her right to get an abortion does not in fact kill anyone or stand in the way of her meeting anyone. By defending her right to get an abortion, you only increase the range of options available to her. Importantly, we should always consider it unjust to increase her range of options by closing off some of her existing options without her consent. This is liberty 101.

    It is worth pointing out both to you and to esr that the rights not to be raped and burgled are not liberty rights at all. *This is a fundamental error many of you seem to make*. A liberty-right is a privilege – I have a liberty to do action X so long as I have no duty to refrain from X. But the right to not be raped is an claim-right. I have a claim against being raped because other people have a duty not to rape me. If you can’t keep claim-rights separate from liberty-rights, you are going to have trouble making sense of the value of liberty across the board.

    I have clearly explained which of my liberty-rights a gun-fancier is infringing, or threatening to infringe. To clarify it even further, let me point out that your criminal example faces obvious problems – what if I don’t agree with you on who is a criminal and what is a crime? What if you start seeking to protect me against obscenities being peddled by an author whose work you have deemed to be obscene? You would be violating my privilege to read his work.

    Now, I admit it’s probably true that you and I will always agree that rape is a crime, and I will probably never want to be raped. But what if I would rather run a miniscule chance of being raped than live amongst armed vigilantes for whom gun ownership is a utopia, and who might suddenly decide that they have a legitimate right to violently depose the government? ‘Bad luck’, you say, because you fundamentally believe that your liberty-rights are more important than mine, meaning you are self-interested rather than altruistic. Once again, if you are wondering why the rest of us would prefer you not to have deadly force at your disposal, here is your answer.

    I will always prefer that the guns go to the people who actually care about the wishes and liberties of their compatriots, and who will protect our actual interests and not merely defend them from the small likelihood that their compatriots will be raped or hot-burgled to death. (And of course I admit that the current seat of military power does not satisfy this preference)

  218. Bennett,

    Your argument is now self contradictory. It is also ridiculous. I don’t think you understand liberty at all. You aren’t making a liberty argument. You are making a security argument. Not a libertarian argument, but a socialist argument. Remember what Franklin said?

    most of us think that it is wrong to perform actions which have a real, but non-100% chance of harming others

    No we don’t. We don’t think that in the slightest. We drive cars, which are very dangerous. We own (and use) dogs, horses and bulls, which are very dangerous. And we possess human minds, which are more dangerous than any of these things. But now that I know you feel that way about owning things “which have a real, but non-100% chance of harming others” I hope you don’t own a dog, a horse, any cattle or pigs, a swimming pool (including a wading pool), any alcohol, and drugs which might intoxicate or overdose someone and certainly not a car. I’d also be remove a large number of other household chemicals from your premises.

    It is worth pointing out both to you and to esr that the rights not to be raped and burgled are not liberty rights at all.

    We’ve never made that claim. YOU are the one making that claim. You are the one who is making the claim that ***the risk*** of someone owning a gun and therefore possibly hurting you – not someone actually randomly firing a shot across your property line violates your liberty rights. But we have never claimed that we have the right to either bury a landmine at random in your yard or to fire a shot randomly across your property line. We have claimed the right to have the means to defend ourselfs and others and to prudently use that means as we see fit. Furthermore we have agreed that when we fail to act prudently and someone is harmed that we should be punished for it. In addition I believe that your property rights prevent me from either burying a land mine in your back yard or randomly shooting a gun across it. They do not prevent me from taking prudent violent action to stop a felony on your property.

    On my second point, I believe my hypothetical pro-life woman IS taking a ridiculous stance that you cannot use speech to defend her right to an abortion. I believe her ridiculous stance is exactly analogous to yours.

    But what if I would rather run a miniscule chance of being raped than live amongst armed vigilantes for whom gun ownership is a utopia, and who might suddenly decide that they have a legitimate right to violently depose the government?

    Now that is a truly ridiculous strawman. No one is advocating vigilantism. Self defense is NOT vigilantism. No one is is advocating a sudden rush to violently depose the government. However, if our constitutional process does produce an actual genocidal fascist as head of state and he uses the known flaws in that constitution to seize dictatorial powers (I don’t know what those flaws are, but Kurt Godel did) and he then begins his genocide, I hope I would be among the number who would, after careful consideration, violently depose the government.

    Yours,
    Tom

  219. Wait a moment. Bennett, you’ve said several times that gun ownership infringes on your rights because people with guns have the physical ability to coerce you. (If this is a misreading of your words, please correct me.) If this is indeed the correct reading, then your argument can be legitimately generalized to mean that people with physical force that you cannot defend yourself against have the physical ability to coerce you, and hence people cultivating or acquiring that physical force (as in, for instance, practicing a martial art, or owning a gun) is wrong. I don’t see where you can say that that is a reasonable argument. Also, your distinction between liberty-rights and claim-rights is porous, at best. What is the right to free speech? I think you would say that it is a liberty-right, because you maintain that gun ownership is. However, you also have a claim against being censored, making it more like a claim-right. My opinion is that the distinction is specious.

  220. Bennett,

    most of us think that it is wrong to perform actions which have a real, but non-100% chance of harming others

    No we don’t. We don’t think that in the slightest. We drive cars, which are very dangerous. We own (and use) dogs, horses and bulls, which are very dangerous. And we possess human minds, which are more dangerous than any of these things. But now that I know you feel that way about owning things “which have a real, but non-100% chance of harming others” I hope you don’t own a dog, a horse, any cattle or pigs, a swimming pool (including a wading pool), any alcohol, and drugs which might intoxicate or overdose someone and certainly not a car. I’d also be remove a large number of other household chemicals from your premises.

    Yours,
    Tom

  221. Bennett,

    It is worth pointing out both to you and to esr that the rights not to be raped and burgled are not liberty rights at all.

    We’ve never made that claim. YOU are the one making that claim. You are the one who is making the claim that ***the risk*** of someone owning a gun and therefore possibly hurting you – not someone actually randomly firing a shot across your property line violates your liberty rights. But we have never claimed that we have the right to either bury a landmine at random in your yard or to fire a shot randomly across your property line. We have claimed the right to have the means to defend ourselfs and others and to prudently use that means as we see fit. Furthermore we have agreed that when we fail to act prudently and someone is harmed that we should be punished for it. In addition I believe that your property rights prevent me from either burying a land mine in your back yard or randomly shooting a gun across it. They do not prevent me from taking prudent violent action to stop a felony on your property.

    Yours,
    Tom

  222. Bennett,

    On my second point, I believe my hypothetical pro-life woman IS taking a ridiculous stance that you cannot use speech to defend her right to an abortion. I believe her ridiculous stance is exactly analogous to yours.

    But what if I would rather run a miniscule chance of being raped than live amongst armed vigilantes for whom gun ownership is a utopia, and who might suddenly decide that they have a legitimate right to violently depose the government?

    Now that is a truly ridiculous strawman. No one is advocating vigilantism. Self defense is NOT vigilantism. No one is is advocating a sudden rush to violently depose the government. However, if our constitutional process does produce an actual genocidal fascist as head of state and he uses the known flaws in that constitution to seize dictatorial powers (I don’t know what those flaws are, but Kurt Godel did) and he then begins his genocide, I hope I would be among the number who would, after careful consideration, violently depose the government.

    Yours,
    Tom

  223. Fair question. When one person acquires a weapon, clearly my rights aren’t compromised to any measurable extent. It’s when there’s an army of you with the same fringe goals, that problems arise. This is why I called it the ‘tragedy of the commons’.

    The distinction between liberty rights and claim rights comes from Hohfeld, and is fairly widely accepted. Some rights will have both liberty components and claim components, but libertarians ought to be worried mainly about the former. The right not to be raped has no liberty-right component.

  224. It’s when there’s an army of you with the same fringe goals, that problems arise.

    We are not claiming the right to form a private army. Nor can the goals of actual gun owners / gun rights activists (as opposed to strawman gun owners / gun rights activists) be described as ‘fringe’. 99% of us want to be able to make prudent defenses of our persons and property and have the vague idea that we might have to do something about the government if things really go down the tubes. For all the hand-wringing about private militias in this country (a tiny fraction of gun owners) you will note that none have actually tried to violently overthrow the government and AFAIK none have even tried to oppress their neighbors. (I would think it would be all over the news.) Even our fringe is actually well behaved when you look at it.

    I would like my state to do what New York State has done. They have a State Guard. I would rather have the Kansas Volunteers. I would also like the Kansas Volunteers to emphasize emergency medical training and disaster response and to actively recruit pacifists and others who do not wish to be armed. The more that armed people work with unarmed people for their voluntary common good the less the ‘sheep’ will fear the ‘sheepdogs’.

    Yours,
    Toms

  225. If there was in fact broad cooperation of the type you describe (either between gun fanciers an pacifists or between gun fanciers and a legitimate elected state), it would be much harder for me to claim that gun ownership violates the consent of non-owners of guns, and additional firepower would do nothing to further erode the liberties of pacifists.

  226. Oh, and BTW, I think that actual government controlled local militias could very rapidly co-opt most if not all of the private militias out there. I think most would be very happy to have the attention. There have always been old men who wanted to be part of the territorial guard, wear a uniform, practice a little with their weapons of choice, (in some cases) wax nostalgic and (in other cases) tell fish stories. By actually organizing these under local government control you keep a good eye on them, give the younger hotheads some responsible gray headed leadership and may even get some useful work out of them.

    A fishing pole and a boat are great cover while guarding a dam from terrorists, especially if you catch a few fish! ;)

    The key is that the State Volunteers should take almost anybody but criminals and crazies. (Eccentric != crazy). The National Guard won’t do – too hard to get into, especially if you are old – and besides they get deployed too much. There are a lot of ‘sheepdogs’ who want to stay close to home.

    Yours,
    Tom

  227. Bennett,

    I still don’t accept your formulation that excessive numbers of gun owners violate your rights merely by their numbers. For one thing, the risks you speak of are, well, truly miniscule. Do excessive numbers of car owners violate the rights of the Amish buggy drivers? Those risks aren’t miniscule. Do excessive numbers of p***ography owners violate the rights of those who value sexual purity by degrading the cultural so that grocery store magazine racks are filled with magazines boldly proclaiming sexual license? That’s already happened.

    Yours,
    Tom

  228. > > And it is a lie. The U.S., in the 1980s, funded the
    > > Afghan mujahideen resistance to Soviet occupation of
    > > Afghanistan.
    >
    > You do know that the mujahideen resistance was anything
    > but a coherent/unified movement right?

    There were several different regional and ethnic factions among the mujahideen. That does not make the mujahideen “many islamist terrosist groups” [sic] – which is what you wrote.

    > And you do know that a large part of mujahideen
    > resistance turned into talibans afterwards right?

    The Taliban was formed in 1994, five years after the U.S. stopped funding to the mujahideen. They were a faction of Pushtuns who were supported by Pakistan’s ISI.

    There is also the minor point that while the Taliban were and are fanatical Islamists, who hosted and assisted Al-Qaeda terrorists, they were not themselves terrorists.

    So your claim that the U.S. funded Islamic terrorists is even more reomoved from reality.

    > And of course you cannot ignore that the help of the US
    > was not limited to weapons but included funds without
    > which the mujahideen would have never been able to
    > setup training camps and attract people from various
    > Middle-East countries…

    Apparently you have trouble reading, or you would have noticed my point that the “Arab-Afghan” volunteers such as Osama bin Laden _had_ _their_ _own_ _funds_. The mujahideen did not need U.S. money to attract them or provide for them.

    > who besides learning djihad
    > partice were also given strong Wahhabit education and
    > that they brought both back to their countries
    > afterwards right?

    Wahhabi missionizing was and is funded by Saudi Arabia, both from state and private sources. Wahhabi missionaries have been active throughout the Moslem world and also in the West, Africa, and east Asia before the Afghan war even started, and continued independenly of it.

    The Islamic radicals who went to Afghanistan were _already_ radlcalized. You might want to look up the history of Sayyid Qutb and the Moslem Brotherhood – which dates back to the 1940s and before.

    > And incidentally most of the recent
    > islamist groups have been founded by people whose first
    > experience of djihad dates back to Afghanistan.

    Are you sure of that? Again, the Moslem Brotherhood was active in the 1940s. Also, the mujahideen were overwhelmingly Sunni Moslem, and Wahhabism is purely Sunni. Which means that Shi’a Islamists like Hezbollah. weren’t involved.

    But since you are so certain of this, you should have no trouble listing these groups and the leaders who were radicalized in Afghanistan.

    > These groups may have never been funded by the USA…

    So your initial claim was wrong.

    As was your absurd claim that American funds paid for the planmning of 9/11 – when the Arab-Afghans who later founded Al-Qaeda never got any aid from the U.S., and U.S. aid to the mujihadeen stopped a decade before.

  229. >>This is objectively false. By owning a gun in your neighborhood, I decrease the likelihood that you or your loved ones will be subjected to rape, hot burglary, or violent assault

    > Ugh! That is not protecting my liberties, it is protecting my body (without my consent). If you can’t understand this distinction, I don’t understand why you are drawn to libertarian positions.

    The most common way to take away your liberties is to threaten your body.

    A govt has to always consider whether an action will result in its overthrow. By raising the odds of a successful overthrow, gun owners protect non-gun owners from some actions by govt.

    Of course, liberties that gun owners value are going to be more protected by this mechanism than liberties that gun owners don’t value. Free-riders who don’t like where they’re going are free to get off and walk.

    > It’s when there’s an army of you with the same fringe goals, that problems arise.

    So, what liberties that Bennett values does he think that gun owners don’t value? What are thes same fringe goals?

    Which reminds me, guns aren’t the only “tools of persuasion”. Does Bennett’s concerns apply to other such tools, or are guns special? If so, why? (Not all of these tools involve physical action.)

    >Let me put it this way: locking me in a room would also objectively reduce my chances of being raped, even if I didn’t consent to be locked in the room. I suppose you would call yourself a ’sheepdog’ if you locked me in a room?

    Cute but irrelevant because gun owners aren’t putting Bennett in a room or restricting his exercise of his liberties.

  230. Bennett’s argument is basically that gun owners should be constrained because they value a different set of liberties or at least have different priorities. We’ve seen no evidence of this difference, but let’s assume that it exists.

    I note that many groups value a different set of liberties or have different priorities.

    Does Bennett believe that all such groups should be constrained? If so, and he’s correct about gun owners, non-gun-owners are also such a group.

    Or, are gun owners special? If so, why? Is it their as-yet-unspecified beliefs? Is it that guns protect them specifically more than others? (Which is curious – the gun control as crime control folks assert that gun ownership endangers gun owners.) I note that other things offer protection – are they bad too or are guns special?

  231. My main worry is that gun fanciers are more worried about their liberty to own and use a gun than about any other liberty. If they didn’t spend *so* much time practicing with their guns, it would be a lot easier to believe that they were mainly worried about freedom from oppression. I can believe that some gun fanciers are more concerned about saving themselves from ‘hot-burglary’ than about playing with guns, but as I’ve pointed out that’s not a liberty-right, it’s a claim-right. So in essence, while I don’t think gun ownership is fundamentally at odds with the important liberties, I think actual gun fanciers place a very low value on actually important liberties, and especially on my liberties.

    Should all groups with these priorities be constrained? No. Guns do protect gun owners (I guess), but they do it by allowing a threat of force (or the use of deadly force) against others. So yes, gun-owners go in a special group along with owners of other things that offer protection by the same means. I’m not asserting any objections to your factual claims about crime or who gets endangered by a gun. Let’s imagine that there are panic-room fanciers who share with gun-fanciers a preoccupation with hot-burglary and rape. Can it ever constrain my liberties if they buy panic rooms? No, it cannot.

  232. Gun owners spend time practicing with their guns not only because it’s fun, but also because that’s part of being a responsible gun owner. As with any other manual skill, shooting must be practiced to maintain proficiency. You want gun owners to be proficient, because that’s what guarantees they’ll hit what they’re aiming at when trouble happens and not some innocent bystander.

    I guess you don’t agree that protecting oneself from enslavement by someone who wants to force you to work for his benefit by taking your property by force is protecting one’s liberty. Your distinction between “claim rights” and “liberty rights” doesn’t seem to hold much water if it fails to recognize that protecting oneself from slavery is protecting one’s liberty.

    In any event, your argument boils down to a lot of intellectual hoop-jumping to defend the concept that guns are icky. I have an absolute, non-negotiable right to defend myself from those who would take my freedoms, be they criminals or out-of-control governments. That right exists regardless of your protestations otherwise. Your gun-free utopia is flatly impossible. Given that basic fact, I will exercise my right to keep and bear arms, and I don’t give a fuzzy rat’s ass whether you approve or not.

  233. And, Bennett, as for placing a ow value on your liberties: Why should I place any higher value on your liberties than you do yourself? You’re plainly uninterested in defending them with anything but wishful thinking. If you don’t think you should defend yourself from slavery, then I’m not going to go out of my way to do so.

    That does not mean I’m not still defending your liberties, because 1) by working to reduce crime, I’m reducing your likelihood as well as mine of being a victim, an 2) by maintaining the ability to fight against a tyrannical government, I help to restrain that government from taking away your liberties as well as my own.

  234. My main worry is that gun fanciers are more worried about their liberty to own and use a gun than about any other liberty.

    Stop worrying. You haven’t actually polled gun fanciers, have you? I’m more worried about:

    1. My liberty to homeschool my kids.
    2. My liberty not to live under oppressively hugh national debt. OK, well, that may not be a liberty, but I’m really worried about a set of economic policies which seems to have been created by one of the more clueless Roman Emperors. By which I mean to say our economy is being run in a historically bad way.
    3. My liberty to not be a member of a union.
    4. My liberty to freely buy the health insurance I want.
    5. My liberty to say and write what I believe.

    Yours,
    Tom

  235. >I think actual gun fanciers place a very low value on actually important liberties, and especially on my liberties.

    OK, that’s enough. Bennett, I’ve been listening to you for days now. Several of us have been very patiently explaining that we do in fact care about more general liberties and about your liberties. You don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to believe it. And you want to rationalize that refusal with convoluted, evasive, pseudo-philosophical drivel in which we have no interest whatsoever. Instead, you’d rather ignore our account of our motivations and project and some weird, insulting fetishism and desire to dominate all over us,

    At this point, I say: Bennett, go fuck yourself. Sideways, with a chainsaw. You have forfeited my respect, and I have stopped caring what you think of my motives.

  236. “My main worry is that gun fanciers are more worried about their liberty to own and use a gun than about any other liberty.” –Bennett

    There is a grain of truth to that; it follows from the adage that “the Second Amendment puts the teeth in all the others”. Without the ability to use force, the only thing standing between the people and intolerable state-sponsored oppression is the cultural pressure ingrained in the individuals running the state to conscientiously serve their constituents. (I would go so far as to claim that the presence of an armed populace reminds the state that much of the stuff they do Really Matters, without that populace even being close to threatening insurrection; that is, gun rights, along with speech rights, form a strong force which “remineralizes” the state’s will to serve the people. Removing that hastens the rate of decay, even if it does not result in anything so readily indicative as a prompt totalitarian takeover.)

    Meanwhile, this desire to protect gun liberties is nowhere near as sinister as you make it out to be. First off, it’s not even precisely gun liberties; it’s the liberty to the means of lethal force. Guns just happen to be the instrument du jour. Secondly, it’s not their liberties; it’s everyone’s.

    This is extremely important. I’ve spoken to a lot of gun rights advocates, some where I grew up (Texas), more than that over the Internet at large. Not even a single advocate of those rights expressed a open desire to restrict them from any American. Member of the American Communist Party? Yep. Immigrant? You bet. Dianne Feinstein? Someone give her a safety course so she stops embarrassing herself, but yeah. The only group I’ve heard sympathy for controlling is convicted violent felons (particularly those who used firearms to commit violent crimes), but someone else had to bring it up first. Meanwhile, advocates write a helluva lot more about where to get a course, what kind of guns to buy, good places to practice, etc.

    Gun rights advocates prefer everyone would join their club. They like that.

  237. (Sorry if I diluted your ire, ESR; I didn’t see your post until I made mine.)

    Bennett, I’m obviously more patient with you than ESR and Jay Maynard, but they’re right; this is getting pretty silly. I’m not yet believing that you’re genuinely worried about your liberties at the hands of gun rights advocates, but I do believe you’re engaging with a nerdlike obsession to prove that the movement is somehow mathematically impure, and that somewhere here you had a rock-solid point. Step back, take another look.

  238. Others addressed your arguments, Bennett and you have failed to defend them. They are truly lame. But if your theory is that an insult means you lose the argument, then you lost long ago, since your argument is one long insult where you ascribe the basest, most ridiculous motives to gun ‘fanciers’.

    Yours,
    Tom

  239. Bennett has exhausted my patience and is now under filtering. Any comments he posts which I deem insulting to gun owners will be deleted.

    Bennett may continue his argument on this forum if and only if he (a) first apologizes to the gun owners for his contention that they are fetishists unconcerned with liberties other than the liberty to own and carry weapons, and (b) addresses the ethics of weapons ownership in a way that does not embody this presumption.

    I defend Bennett’s right to free speech in public places, but this blog is my property and I will not have the discussion rat-holed by an obsessive with nothing substantive to contribute to it. If Bennett or anyone else thinks this harsh, reflect that it would be simpler for me to ban him entirely. As it is, he gets a chance to climb out of the hole he dug for himself. If he is capable.

  240. No, it’s not harsh, it’s your blog. Do what you like. Delete this if you want – I would never claim that this was an infringement of my free speech rights.

    In case you don’t delete it though, I do want to repost something that was deleted, in response to Jay Maynard, since it seemed to make a bit of headway:

    >Why should I place any higher value on your liberties than you do yourself? You’re plainly uninterested in defending them with anything but wishful thinking.

    I think this is a fair question. The answer is that I think there is nothing contradictory about claiming I have a right to forfeit some other right without the interference of others. In other words, I think it should be my right to forfeit my safety without others forcing me to be safe. I acknowledge this is not a belief everyone shares, and perhaps a lot of the foregoing disagreement stems from it.

    I also want it to be clear that I’m not advocating for a gunless society or a society where only the government has guns. Like I said at the beginning, I agree with those arguments.

    I suppose the actual motivations of gun owners aren’t actually all that important to my argument, in much the same way as the actual motivations of the government aren’t important to yours. If you say you are mainly motivated by a range of important liberty-rights and claim-rights, and not just the liberty to own guns, then I’ll believe that and apologize. It doesn’t do a whole lot to defuse my sense of unease, though.

  241. >The answer is that I think there is nothing contradictory about claiming I have a right to forfeit some other right without the interference of others.

    Liberty-right or claim-right? If you claim the right to (for instance) choose to be raped, robbed, murdered without interference from nearby gun carriers, I think that’s plainly stupid. If you claim the right to forfeit your personal right to free speech, right to bear arms, et cetera, then all you need do is not exercise it. You can give up your own rights if you choose; however, what gun owners do is protect everyone’s rights, even if indirectly by maintaining an armed populace. Saying that this effect violates your right to forfeit your rights is equivalent to saying that the fire department violates your right to lose your house to a fire. By advocating against it because of its effect on your right to forfeit your rights, you are implicitly claiming that the entire populace must give up their rights because you are determined to give up yours.

  242. > If you claim the right to (for instance) choose to be raped, robbed, murdered without interference from nearby gun carriers, I think that’s plainly stupid.

    I agree, but I think I have a liberty-right to do stupid things which don’t infringe the rights of others, including to avail myself to rapists without interference.

    Here is another example, which will have somewhat less of a veneer of ridiculousness, but which follows the same exact form. I have the liberty right to smoke cigarettes, even though this will gradually erode my own liberty-right to refrain from smoking them (let’s assume that this is how addiction works). I hold that you would be wrong to save me (without my consent) from this self-imposed erosion of my liberty-right to refrain from smoking cigarettes, even though I’ve done something objectively stupid.

    On your fire point, I think if my house was in a sparsely populated area on a salt lake, I ought to have a liberty right to lose my house to a fire without the fire-department intervening (provided this is what I actually want). If I help pay for a fire department, I have a claim-right that they stop my house from burning down if that’s what I actually want. I never have a liberty-right to burn down my house if it will endanger other people or their property.

    I hope this elucidates my understanding of liberties a little more. I know it’s a little broader than the everyman’s understanding of liberties, but I wouldn’t have thought a bunch of libertarians would mind that.

  243. I never have a liberty-right to burn down my house if it will endanger other people or their property.

    In terms of crime, then, you have don’t the right to be robbed and murdered without interference from gun carriers, since their failure to interfere endangers other people. Stopping your robbery and murder deters not just the criminals who would rob and murder you, but all criminals. That failure to deter endangers everyone – including the criminals.

    I’m sure you can come up with a hypothetical where that lack of deterence does not matter. Now it is true that privately owned guns prevent between 200,000 and 2,000,000 crimes every year, so the likelihood to a gun preventing a crime and therefore detering future crimes is not small. If your hypothetical is common then you may have a point. But, if it is rare, please don’t advance it unless it has a widespread impact. Trying to handle all the strange edge cases in the real world is somewhat of a fool’s errand, especially since, if something like your hypothetical actually happens, the differences between the real event and the hypothetical are likely render the hypothetical solution untenable. If it has a widespread impact, OTOH, we should consider it, in the same way we worry about asteroids and dinosaurs.

    Yours,
    Tom

  244. No, I don’t want to get into the empirical debate, since I’m not convinced by the evidence from either side after hearing volumes of it. There’s not nearly enough violent crime in Australia to back up the pro-gun evidence, and there’s not nearly enough firearm accidents in America to back up the anti-gun evidence. So I’ll just accept your empirical claims for the sake of argument.

    > In terms of crime, then, you have don’t the right to be robbed and murdered without interference from gun carriers, since their failure to interfere endangers other people.

    This is an interesting point. I guess I would say that if gun-owners take up a policy of non-interference, this doesn’t really endanger anyone (even accepting your empirical claims) – rather it fails to protect them from existing dangers. By contrast, if I want my house to burn down in a crowded neighbourhood, this introduces a new risk to everyone else. We have a duty to not introduce new risks to others, but we don’t have a duty to eliminate existing risks from others.

    This again is a fairly pure libertarian claim. Non-libertarians strongly believe that we can have duties to save others from existing dangers (like a duty to send food to the starving members of other countries, for example).

  245. I guess I would say that if gun-owners take up a policy of non-interference, this doesn’t really endanger anyone (even accepting your empirical claims) – rather it fails to protect them from existing dangers.

    But by detering your robbery and murder – especially if my act of deterence results in the apprehension and detention of the perpetrators – I reduce the danger to myself along with everyone else. It’s exactly like helping put out your house fire in my crowded neighborhood. So again, I have the right to act against those who would rob and murder you, because it also prevents them from robbing and murdering me. So, again, just as you don’t have the right to endanger my house by refusing to put your house fire out, you don’t have the right to endanger my person by preventing me from acting against those criminals. I may completely forgive a man who has beaten and robbed me and desire his release, but everyone else would have a strong claim that he should remain jailed.

    This again is a fairly pure libertarian claim. I’m not a pure libertarian.

    Yours,
    Tom

  246. >I’m not a pure libertarian.

    Yeah, I think that’s causing some of our disagreements here.

    > But by detering your robbery and murder – especially if my act of deterence results in the apprehension and detention of the perpetrators – I reduce the danger to myself along with everyone else.

    Right, and I guess it’s unfair to say that you’re not worried at all about my liberties, but what we’re seeing here is that your own liberty of self-defence is in conflict with your respecting my liberties. Which should win out? Well, maybe this will come down to the empirical issue of whose liberties face the more serious threat, after all. I want you to accept that your safety doesn’t outweigh my liberty, but I don’t think I can prove to you that this is the correct valuation.

  247. Well, I would also have to say I’m not convinced that there is a natural right for you to let someone attack you.

    We have had a recent policy of deinstitutionalization for mentally ill people in this country, based on their legal rights. Well, I can understand the fear that people will be judged insane as a means to oppress them. But in actual practice, many people are mentally ill. Many of those people end up in jail as criminals rather than being treated for their illness. Many are dangerous to themselves and others. Our solicitude for their rights has not resulted in happy results for them, their families and society at large, as opposed to a system which effectively requires that they remain on their medication, for example. I do not know a libertarian approach to this problem; I think because libertarianism is designed for rational people.

    Letting people rob and murder you would not normally be considered rational. Put it on a bell curve and I bet it’s way out on the tail. As such we may reasonably protect children, mentally ill people and people who are willing to be robbed and murdered even against their will, particularly since the robbers and murderers are threats to us all.

    Yours,
    Tom

  248. >I ought to have a liberty right to lose my house to a fire without the fire-department intervening (provided this is what I actually want).

    However, earlier on you have said that you are opposed to gun ownership because a large armed populace constitutes a threat to your right to forfeit your rights. (Again, is this the correct reading?) That position, going back to the fire analogy, is like lobbying to abolish the fire department because you think they might put out a fire at your house without your consent.

  249. > Letting people rob and murder you would not normally be considered rational.

    Yeah but I don’t think that’s a good way of constructing what we can and can’t do, especially since a lot of people think that you’re way out on the tail if you want to own a gun (or take drugs, or homeschool your kids, or not get immunized for polio, or any other thing that many of the people here want to do). I don’t have to be a masochist to want to let people murder me without interference. This is probably what Jesus would have preferred (I’m not religious, but even atheists don’t usually take Jesus to be an irrational character). Preferring death to self-defence is a defensible moral position, even if it’s on the tail-end of the bell curve.

    I do not know a good solution to the mental illness problem either, given that the diagnostic criteria are so vague and open to abuse, but as you say mental illness really does exist, and mentally ill people may not be competent to waive their rights. The current medical standards for assessing one’s competence to refuse the assistance of others are very weird, in my view.

    > That position, going back to the fire analogy, is like lobbying to abolish the fire department because you think they might put out a fire at your house without your consent.

    If my house is on a deserted salt lake, and I want to defend my liberty right to burn down my house, it will worry me if unregulated civilian fire departments start to spring up. I’m also worried about the existing fire department, if they won’t respect my refusal to accept their ‘assistance’ when my house catches fire, but each additional illegitimate fire department makes me even more worried. This is pushing the metaphor into a fairly absurd corner, I think, but I still think it’s a reasonable position.

    (Here I’m adopting the technical usage of ‘illegitimate’ rather than making an insult. Government agencies have a claim to legitimacy as a body that represents the will of the collective, and this claim can be valid or invalid. By contrast, vigilantes can never claim to have legitimacy).

  250. Here’s an example of why the mental illness thing is a problem. Suppose I decide, in a considered and rational manner, that my life is not worth living anymore and I want to jump off a bridge (a bridge over a deserted riverbed, let’s say, so that nobody else is endangered). According to the psychiatric manuals, this in itself is enough to show I am depressed, and void my competence to make decisions regarding my own wellbeing, and along come the police and the fire department to force me off the bridge and sedate me. This is how it works in real life! For someone who places a high value on personal liberties, this is an atrocious way for things to be arranged.

  251. This is all very much a discussion of absurd edge cases, I think, still, I will persist a little.

    Preferring death to self-defence is a defensible moral position, even if it’s on the tail-end of the bell curve.

    But no one is requiring you to defend yourself. What we are requiring is that you stop using this as an excuse to claim that too many people with the means of self defense are a threat to your liberty. They aren’t. Even if they succeed in defending you (action taken to stop a crime in progress is not vigilantism) they have not effected your liberty in the above case at all. You were at liberty not to defend yourself and you did not defend yourself. Your defensible moral position remains intact. Your only possible compliant is that your rescuer did not agree with you. I’m afraid that for you to coerce your recuser would violate your rationale for not defending yourself. At least in this case your liberties are under absolutely no danger at all.

    Yours,
    Tom

  252. >If my house is on a deserted salt lake, and I want to defend my liberty right to burn down my house, it will worry me if unregulated civilian fire departments start to spring up. I’m also worried about the existing fire department, if they won’t respect my refusal to accept their ‘assistance’ when my house catches fire, but each additional illegitimate fire department makes me even more worried. This is pushing the metaphor into a fairly absurd corner, I think, but I still think it’s a reasonable position.

    The problem is, the volunteer fire departments in this analogy provide better safety than the legitimate one for their members, are enjoyable to be a part of (for many people at least), and do good for society as well. Your opposition of the volunteer departments is a reaction to one edge case (people who want their houses to burn down) that is extremely rare. Trying to eliminate them because of that edge case is a huge infringement on the rights of the members of the volunteer departments, which is a much bigger group than ‘people who want their houses to burn down’.

  253. OK, I didn’t bother to read the article. Thought I’d read it before, but if I did I can’t have looked at it very closely. I’ve found a few points I’m kind of dubious about, perhaps someone can point out where I’ve wilfully strayed into wrongthinking, maybe Andy can address an explanation to the gallery, knock yourself out, I don’t care any more, might even join you. Him, I mean.

    I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep.

    We’ll be speculating about the sincerity of this line a bit later.

    To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.

    WTF? This is the sort of thing you get when you let a metaphor do your thinking for you. Someday civilisation will grow into something wonderful? It’d be *nice* if it did, I give you that. Something like a robin… Perhaps he means the Singularity?

    Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

    Now, I wasn’t actually in America, so perhaps I missed all the stories about random acts of fellatio performed upon surprised but grateful policemen and soldiers. But from what I remember reading on the internerds, the word ‘hero’ was mostly being used about firefighters and the people on flight 93 who seized the moment and spontaneously transformed from sheep into sheepdogs. I got the impression that the military and law enforcement were thought to have been asleep at the switch.

    They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids・schools.

    You’ll notice firefighters somehow seem to have become invisible there. Course, he’s using fire as a metaphor for evil, doesn’t want to get distracted, I can see that. But when you’re carefully skirting around mentioning the people who were considered at the time to be the real heroes of 9/11 things like this can look a little disingenuous. Where do firefighters fit? Can hardly call them sheep…but they’re nonviolent…oh dear…metaphor’s f*cked. I’m a little conflicted about the sheepdog status of those in the military, because I’m not convinced of the wolf status of those they keep being sent to attack, or whether they’re just setting up situations which encourage wholesale sheep-to-wolf transformations, but that’s a conversation for another time.

    Anyway, back to the sheep.

    If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay.

    I thought the whole point of sheep was that they *didn’t* understand, but whatever. Seems to be heralding the appearance of a new category of self-aware sheep, which will result in an increase in the number of blowjobs offered to deserving sheepdogs. Gotta be worthwhile.

    There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

    Remember, there’s nothing negative about calling them sheep.

    Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be.

    But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.

    So…there’s nothing morally superior about walking the hero’s path. Hmm.

    Speaking as someone who’s been labelled a sheep, let me say … when you’ve actually *turned up to defend* some sheep, then the deference will be forthcoming. Until then, you’re a wannabe. Now understand, I mean nothing negative by calling you a wannabe. It’s like a sort of apprenticeship, and as we know, apprentices do not ordinarily swank around the place expecting to receive the respect accorded to a master. I’m sure those sheepdogs who’ve actually proved themselves under fire will encourage you and say supportive nurturing things. I would expect nothing less of them. But as far as I’m concerned, until you’ve got your ass out there and risked something, you’re just a sheepdog in waiting.

    Bow wow.

  254. OK, no, he’s not in fact using fire as a metaphor for evil there. Not particularly central to the argument.

  255. >But as far as I’m concerned, until you’ve got your ass out there and risked something, you’re just a sheepdog in waiting.

    A sheepdog in waiting is still a sheepdog.

    Grossman’s essay is not completely internally consistent on the boundaries: at one point, he says “The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.”, but towards the end he says if one is not carrying a weapon one is ipso facto a sheep. I also think Grossman is being more diplomatic than honest when he disclaims any notion that sheepdog are superior to sheep.

    (Actually, since I know Dave slightly, I think he is fooling himself as much as anyone else on this issue. I think Dave wants to believe that sheep are not inferior; I think he believes that normatively a good sheepdog should not consider sheep inferior – but I have a strong suspicion that this is not what his gut tells him when he deals with actual sheep.)

    Personally, I did indeed wish I’d been on one of the 9/11 planes with a concealed weapon. And, to be quite frank, I do think there’s something wrong – or at least inferior – about any able-bodied man who didn’t have that reaction. But 9/11 was a special case that way because it was such an extreme and surprising offense against civilization; I don’t think any less of men who don’t want to be police or soldiers or firefighters in the ordinary course of things, as long as they’re ready to ride to the sound of the guns when disaster or surprise overwhelms those normal coping mechanisms.

    I have not yet been called on to risk my life in defense of the life and liberty of others. But I am ready. I have trained for it, prepared my mind for it, acquired coping skills for clutch situations. Learned how to fight as well as when not to fight. There is no guarantee that I will actually perform well in a clutch, but I can at least say this: sheepdogs who have seen the shit come down don’t treat me like they think I’m silly or a poseur.

    In ordinary life, I express my sheepdogness by teaching other people how to be sheepdogs; I’m especially focused on teaching women how to shoot, because on average a woman will be hopelessly outclassed in serious hand-to-hand combat against a man. I’ve also been an instructor in various martial arts, a role I’m actually pretty good at. The point here is not any specific technique, it’s that martial arts teaches warrior mind.

  256. > we’re seeing here is that your own liberty of self-defence is in conflict with your respecting my liberties.

    No, we’re not. We’ve yet to see any way in which gun owners don’t respect Bennett’s liberties.

    His entire argument is that gun owners might be too busy defending gun rights to spend “enough” time on rights that he values.

    However, he’s yet to show that gun owners don’t value those rights as well. Moreover, it’s likely they actually are more effective in defending those rights than he is. Why? Because, as he concedes, rights that gun owners value are more protected than rights that non-gun owners value.

    Note that Bennett has mentioned one “right” that gun owners threaten, namely Bennett’s right to be victimized. Gun owners threaten that “right” two ways – through general deterrence and through potential specific intervention. Interestingly enough, so do police.

    It’s unclear why he thinks that protecting that right justify jailing potential gun owners, but let’s see if we can help him.

    We can reduce the effect of general deterrence effect by advertising that Bennett is unarmed and would like to be attacked. Does he do such advertisement? If not, why not? (I’ll buy the sign.)

    Of course, Bennett doesn’t actually value that “right”. It’s just the best that he’s got when pressed on the “what rights?” question.

    In short, it’s actually all about the guns and/or gun owners, not Bennett’s rights. He hates them more than he values his rights.

  257. In short, it’s actually all about the guns and/or gun owners, not Bennett’s rights. He hates them more than he values his rights.

    I don’t think we can read Bennett’s mind like that, especially since I think I can do a better job reading it. ;) I think he thought he had a cool argument, forgetting that normal people, when confronted by weird edge cases (and he called our ideas fringe, ha!) either think that the argument is stupid, or their eyes glaze over, and in either case they ignore it.

    I say this as someone who often puts forward cool ideas which are ignored, so I have experience.

    Yours,
    Tom

  258. > His entire argument is that gun owners might be too busy defending gun rights to spend “enough” time on rights that he values.

    No, my entire argument is that you can’t protect someone’s liberties against their will. I agreed to accept gun owners at their word on what kinds of rights and liberties are important to them.

    >We can reduce the effect of general deterrence effect by advertising that Bennett is unarmed and would like to be attacked.

    I never said I would like to be attacked. (I can see you’re just trying to be threatening though, so maybe I shouldn’t take it so literally) I said I’m uneasy living in a world which is full of people who may jump to my ‘aid’, even if I don’t want them to. There is a pretty major difference there.

    > normal people, when confronted by weird edge cases (and he called our ideas fringe, ha!) either think that the argument is stupid, or their eyes glaze over, and in either case they ignore it.

    I acknowledge that the case where someone prefers to be raped than to be protected by another civilian is an edge case, and I agree that arguments that depend only on edge cases tend to be dismissed by the mainstream. But I showed several everyday cases which operate on the same principles. For example, I think it’s reasonable to insist that people don’t interfere when a mentally-healthy person tries to kill themselves, or take recreational drugs. These aren’t fringe cases – they’re relevant to everybody and your intuitions should tell you that my position is at least not crazy in those everyday cases (even if you don’t agree with it).

    Consider two stances:
    A) not wanting to be rescued from a burglary (or political oppression) buy some civilians with guns
    B) not wanting to be rescued from the evils of drug use by some policemen with guns

    What is the relevant difference between A) and B)? It’s just that you think it might be valid to want to take drugs, but you think it is never valid to want to be burgled without interference. You think that this preference is invalid, so it’s acceptable to force a person not to indulge it.

    So the entirety of my argument, then, is that if you really believe in liberty you ought to believe in the liberty to choose your own preferences, no matter how stupid those preferences may seem to others. Belief in liberty entails that there are no invalid preferences.

    It’s not a ‘cool argument’, it’s simply pointing out that respect for liberties involves respect for the preferences of others, no matter how wacky they are. This means you can’t protect somebody’s liberties against his consent.

    It’s on that basic principle (which is essentially Mill’s ‘Harm principle’) that I think the ‘sheepdog’ metaphor breaks down, since very many ‘sheep’ in actual fact don’t want the protection of the ‘sheepdogs’. I understand why this may seem offensive when you devote a lot of time preparing to defend your fellow man, but it’s the actual political reality.

    I admit my view faces some tough challenges, particularly if it turns out that exercising a preference for disarmament puts other people at risk. But this would not completely dissolve my argument, it would just create a paradox that needed to be solved, one way or the other.

    Maybe it’s worth reminding everyone that my argument holds no objections to you buying and owning a gun for your own self-defense. This would not make you a sheepdog though, it would make you a… (here the metaphor breaks down) wolf-proof sheep? My main objection to Eric’s original post is that I don’t think that you can be a sheepdog while giving adequate respect to the liberties of the sheep, unless the sheep elect you through some legitimate democratic means. But I agree with Eric to the extent that a competent ‘sheep’ should be able to answer the question ‘why are you disarmed’.

  259. Adrian, you’re being completely silly. A sheepdog is someone who is prepared to defend sheep. Not someone who dreams of defending sheep. Not someone who in some abstract sense is in favor of sheep defense. Not someone who thinks that sheep will become sheepdogs if that’s what’s necessary (they might, but they’re more likely to do as they’ve trained, and if they haven’t trained, they’re as likely to do something ineffectual as effectual).

    A sheepdog is someone who has prepared themselves for the event. Not necessarily experienced it yet.

  260. Bennett, there are only sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. A sheepdog which doesn’t give respect to the liberties of the sheep is called a “wolf”.

    Fuck democracy. Voters are idiots.

  261. >A sheepdog which doesn’t give respect to the liberties of the sheep is called a “wolf”

    Well yeah, that was my point.

  262. i will point a key fundamental arse-aboutness of bennett’s fundamental approach which no one has commented on yet.

    s/he fundamentally assumes that sheepdogs (as eric defined them) do not exist and that only faux-sheepdogs do. that is, people who seek power/status over sheep, to control sheep, rather than to protect sheep. have a look at that link if you don’t remember the explanation of this key distinction, between the two alternate meanings of the word sheepdog, and of the cognitive dissonance that was arising from the word in this post’s particular redefinition of it/special use of it.

    you will note every example bennett gives of “sheepdogs”, and subsequently and tangentially by proxy “gun owners”, talks only about control of sheep, not protection of sheep.

    eric spoke only about protection of sheep, and explicitly defined his specific and particular usage of the term “sheepdogs” by this nature. essentially, in the context of this post, he redefined sheepdog to mean only 1 of a sheepdog’s 2 normal functions.

    bennett has only spoken about the other function, and in the context of parasitism rather than useful group outcome (ie, abusing power for personal status/gain rather than using it to benefit the sheep). this is almost exactly the opposite of what eric was speaking about.

    it is interesting, not to say telling, that bennett seems (at least in what s/he’s posted in this thread) wholly incapable of comprehending the concept of having power without abusing it.

  263. that last, incidentally, (assumption that power over others will be used to gain status over others (and neediness for personal status that leads to a terror of lower status)) is a telltale for every faux-left person i’ve come across. as a consequence, out of personal fear and a desire to look like eric’s version of a sheepdog rather than purely self-interested, they flail to defend “innocents” (without asking them if they want to be defended…) against fictional attacks they assume mandatory.

    “everyone-wins-a-prize day, because NOONE can cope with the HORROR of not WINNING, of being lower status. whew. you, you poor innocent, are now safe from my personal greatest fear.”

  264. >it is interesting, not to say telling, that bennett seems (at least in what s/he’s posted in this thread) wholly incapable of comprehending the concept of having power without abusing it.

    Bennett isn’t actually the worst case of this ailment I’ve seen. It’s endemic among hoplophobes.

  265. Adrian, you’re being completely silly.

    Dude! I’m sorry you feel that way.

    A sheepdog is someone who is prepared to defend sheep. Not someone who dreams of defending sheep. Not someone who in some abstract sense is in favor of sheep defense. Not someone who thinks that sheep will become sheepdogs if that’s what’s necessary (they might, but they’re more likely to do as they’ve trained, and if they haven’t trained, they’re as likely to do something ineffectual as effectual).

    Just taking my queue from Grossman: “In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers–athletes, business people and parents–from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

    A sheepdog is someone who has prepared themselves for the event. Not necessarily experienced it yet.

    Fine. I’ll still be reserving my acknowledgment for the ones who have, though. Walking the hero’s path is not the same as reaching the end of it. And in fact I do respect Eric’s position, in particular wrt training others, which is unquestionably sound.

  266. > s/he fundamentally assumes that sheepdogs (as eric defined them) do not exist and that only faux-sheepdogs do.

    > it is interesting, not to say telling, that bennett seems (at least in what s/he’s posted in this thread) wholly incapable of comprehending the concept of having power without abusing it.

    I’m surprised that this kind of argument keeps coming up, because to me it sounds exactly the same as this:

    “defenders of the 2nd-amendment assume that legitimate governments do not exist, and that only corrupt governments do. They are wholly incapable of comprehending the concept of having power without abusing it”

    Like I said before, for a ‘hoplophobe’ I actually am in favour of your right to have a gun for self-defense. This makes me a pretty weird hoplophobe, but oh well. My entire objection concerns your right to defend *me* with your gun.
    I believe that there are gun owners who can resist abusing this power, and perhaps I’ll even agree that this applies to the vast majority. But I also believe that the vast majority of democratically-elected governments can be trusted with all the weapons. It’s the rare cases that are the worry, for both issues.

    And while I’m sure that there are many nice gun-owners who would respect my liberty not to be defended by them, it wouldn’t be right to call these guys ‘sheepdogs’, they’re simply wolf-proof.

  267. I don’t think that’s true, but I didn’t directly address your post either.

    >you will note every example bennett gives of “sheepdogs”, and subsequently and tangentially by proxy “gun owners”, talks only about control of sheep, not protection of sheep.

    I keep saying that protecting the sheep without their consent actually constitutes controlling the sheep, which is nothing more than a restatement of the harm principle. To me this seems like a point that should be fairly persuasive. But if you don’t agree with it, I don’t think anything else I say I can convince you.

  268. >Consider two stances:
    A) not wanting to be rescued from a burglary (or political oppression) buy some civilians with guns
    B) not wanting to be rescued from the evils of drug use by some policemen with guns

    >What is the relevant difference between A) and B)? It’s just that you think it might be valid to want to take drugs, but you think it is never valid to want to be burgled without interference. You think that this preference is invalid, so it’s acceptable to force a person not to indulge it.

    Hmmm…well…the civilian who takes out the burglar doesn’t, say, _arrest you_?

  269. > No, my entire argument is that you can’t protect someone’s liberties against their will.

    That’s one of the places to which Bennett retreats, but it’s wrong.

    For example, I can protect someone’s free speech liberty against their will.

    For example, I can protect free speech liberties by successfully resisting the imposition of restrictions. In doing so, I’m protecting, against their will, the free speech liberties of folks who advocated said restrictions.

    They may choose to never take advantage of those liberties, but they have them none the less, despite their efforts, because of mine.

  270. > I keep saying that protecting the sheep without their consent actually constitutes controlling the sheep

    And no matter how many times you say it, you’re wrong.

    Suppose that I kill a wolf that would otherwise have eaten a sheep three days later. The sheep doesn’t know about said wolf or said killing, so there’s no way in which said sheep consented.

    How have I controlled said sheep?

  271. Bennett: but you’re conflating individuals (sheepdogs) with groups (governments). When one sheepdog goes wolf, the other sheepdogs take him down. What happens when one government turns fascist? You don’t see the other governments take them down. Instead, you see them saying “Oh, but they’re a soverign nation — we can’t take them down.”

  272. Adrian, the word is “cue”, not “queue”. And my point remains: untrained sheep *can* act like sheepdogs in a pinch. Don’t count on it, though.

  273. >Suppose that I kill a wolf that would otherwise have eaten a sheep three days later. The sheep doesn’t know about said wolf or said killing, so there’s no way in which said sheep consented.

    You have controlled the sheep if he would have rather that you intervened. Now, in some cases I think it’s ethical to make a prima facie presumption of consent (for example, if I’m a police officer and I see someone being raped, my policy will be ‘save them first, ask for consent later’) but my contention is that if you actually asked most people, they wouldn’t want to be protected from burglaries by other armed civilians (this could be factually wrong, but I doubt it). If that’s right, then you can’t make this presumption of consent.

    > What happens when one government turns fascist? You don’t see the other governments take them down. Instead, you see them saying “Oh, but they’re a soverign nation — we can’t take them down.”

    This behaviour is demanded by the concept of sovereignty, which is related to the harm principle. We tend to think that democratic peoples have the right to install whichever kind of government they want. Obviously this is kind of fraught, philosophically, since there are situations where tyrannical regimes install themselves by force. But the dominant view amongst political theorists seems to be that insurrections can only come from within a country, since you can’t logically invade another sovereign country in order to defend their liberties. In fact, this orthodox position comes from the exact same kind of argument I’m making in the individual case.

  274. Oops, I meant to say “You have controlled the sheep if he would have rather that you HADN’T intervened”.

  275. Oh, and this:

    > For example, I can protect someone’s free speech liberty against their will.

    Yes you can, but it will be at the expense of their other liberties. And as I said above, it is never just to take away someone’s liberty by force as a means to protect some other liberty of theirs.

  276. Anyone here recall that scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, where they’re debating the right of some guy to be a woman?

    I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but we now have a concrete example of such vacuous logic from Bennett.

  277. >my contention is that if you actually asked most people, they wouldn’t want to be protected from burglaries by other armed civilians

    News flash: fully 50% of households in the United States own guns. In polls, over 70% of Americans agree that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. The weird little insulated bubble-universe you live in is not the one the rest of us are experiencing.

  278. Adrian, the word is “cue”, not “queue”.

    *And* I mistyped a tag. The humiliation.

    And my point remains: untrained sheep *can* act like sheepdogs in a pinch. Don’t count on it, though.

    I’m still looking for the place in my original post where I implied otherwise.

  279. > > For example, I can protect someone’s free speech liberty against their will.

    > Yes you can, but it will be at the expense of their other liberties.

    What other liberty?

    Their “liberty” to live in a world where there is no free speech liberty? They’re free to act as if they have no speech liberty whether or not they actually have one.

    Besides, their “right” to have no free speech liberty does not obligate me to have no free speech liberty. And, the way free speech actually works, constraining them constrains me.

    Bennett is now arguing that advocating for my own free speech rights constrains other people because it gives them options that they might not want. He’d be better off arguing that it constrains them because they don’t want to be exposed to my speech but he can’t do that because he wants to maintain his “I care about liberties” pose. (People who “care” but are unwilling to do anything useful and actively oppose useful activity don’t actually “care” – they just don’t want to be called on their actual position.)

    I previously stated that Bennett only objected to gun owners protecting liberty. It now appears that he objects to anyone protecting liberty and that his real problem with gun owners is that they’re more effective.

    There really are only two options – working to increase liberty and working to decrease it. Bennett has chosen the latter. (Liberty is unequally distributed, so by complaining about all efforts to increase it, he’s stating that he’s opposed in general, not just to specific levels.)

  280. >News flash: fully 50% of households in the United States own guns. In polls, over 70% of Americans agree that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.

    I agree! I think it’s ok to own a gun, and I think the 2nd amendment protects your right to bear arms, but I don’t think that this gives you a right to protect me against my will.

    I understand that you also think there is a deterrent effect, which I haven’t directly addressed. I guess I don’t object to that effect if it really exists; your right to self-defense should be on equal footing with my liberty rights, so I can’t really object if my safety is indirectly increased by your exercise of self-defense. But I also don’t think that generating a general deterrent which springs from your own self-defense makes you count as a ‘sheepdog’ rather than simply ‘wolfproof’. That whole metaphor breaks down if you are only talking about self-defense.

    >What other liberty?

    The liberty to not be protected directly by other civilians, for a start. Read back over my earlier posts, I explain quite clearly why this apparently useless liberty is actually important.

    > I previously stated that Bennett only objected to gun owners protecting liberty. It now appears that he objects to anyone protecting liberty

    No, read over my previous posts. I clearly stated that there can be more or less legitimate cases of protection. (Legitimate in the technical sense, I mean). If you are a self-elected protector of liberties who doesn’t care about whether others consent to your protection, your protection is rather a lot less legitimate than that of a police force which is elected by a representative group of voters. For all of you ‘voting is for idiots’ people, I acknowledge that some political and electoral processes are too corrupt to be considered legitimate. But that doesn’t mean that the concept of legitimacy is flawed, and it certainly doesn’t mean that self-elected protectors can legitimately exert control over other civilians.

  281. Bennett,

    I understand your argument. I believe you are making a fundamental error.

    Protection does not equal control in this case. In this case your insistence on consent is the controlling action. You are the one constraining liberty. Sheepdogs are not protecting you from yourself, or in any way constraining your actions or liberties. You are not controlled at all. Sheepdogs are constraining the actions of the person attacking you. The attacker is controlled. But his liberties are not constrained. He is not at liberty to attack you. You are trying to smuggle in your preferences as a right. You do not have the right to constrain the actions and liberties of the sheepdog via your preferences, since you are not being controlled.

    If you wish to consider the edge case where you want to be attacked, please consider it thoroughly, not half-heartedly as you have done. You must chose an attacker who is not the equivalent of a fire in a crowded neighborhood. That means you cannot choose any random person who happens to attack you. Unlike fire, attackers roam widely, so any random attacker is the equivalent of a fire in a crowded neighborhood. When choosing your attacker you must not increase the risk of others being attacked. In addition you must make sure that any sheepdogs who happen to be in your vicinity are not placed at risk by being confused about the nature of the attack. I suggest a well advertized gladitorial combat where you deliberately fail to fight back, or a howling wilderness where you have confirmed there is no one near. I am afraid that pacifistic signage, as mentioned above, is not sufficient. It will attract random thrill-seeking attackers who are a threat to others.

    I think this example makes your error clear. Self-elected protectors, when they limit their actions to those which halt a crime in progress, are not exerting control over other civilians. I suspect that’s why our laws turned out that way.

    Yours,
    Tom

  282. P.S. To me, this confirms my notion that this is a ‘cool argument’ which a common sense person would correctly reject immediately, probably by intuitively thinking “that’s stupid”, and ignoring it. Lots of cool arguments which depend on edge cases turn out that way. Particularly arguments about human behavior which violate really common human traditions. Some people think intution is merely thinking so fast you can’t remember the arguments. But maybe it’s just the rapid application of good heuristics, like this one:

    Arguments about human behavior which violate really common human traditions and depend on edge cases are almost always flawed.

    The short, traditional formulation is: Hard cases make bad law.

    Jerry Pournelle says this often. His commentary is always worth the time.

    Yours,
    Tom

  283. P.P.S. That same heuristic tends to smack around alot of libertarian and anarchist arguments on the one end of the scale, a lot of statist arguments on the other, not to mention plenty of moderate arguments in between. That’s why I’m not a pure libertarian.

  284. On further review, this should not be passed over:

    my contention is that if you actually asked most people, they wouldn’t want to be protected from burglaries by other armed civilians (this could be factually wrong, but I doubt it).

    If that is the case, our representative democracy is not working well, since it is perfectly legal to kill someone engaged in the commission of a felony. In addition, shall issue concealed carry laws are very popular here. Some legislatures have even considered requiring civilians to intervene, when prudent. I suspect people would be very happy to have an armed civilian hold a burglar at gunpoint, or scare a burglar off. What they don’t want is for the burglar to be killed. I furthermore suspect that actual burglary victims are much more likely to approve of these kinds of interventions. And women who know that burglars often escalate to rape are even more likely to approve. And given the vast numbers of people who cheer when criminals are shot, I bet your ideas about how people actually think are suffering from some sort of echo chamber effect. Why do you think mainstream news outlets, which should be generally negative about civilian sheepdog and self-defense action, love to run stories about criminals getting shot?

    Yours,
    Tom

  285. >I keep saying that protecting the sheep without their consent actually constitutes controlling the sheep,

    bennett: again i say: re-read what i wrote. carefully this time. you have merely re-instanced my points.

  286. Andy Freeman: >> No, my entire argument is that you can’t protect someone’s liberties against their will.
    That’s one of the places to which Bennett retreats, but it’s wrong.
    For example, I can protect someone’s free speech liberty against their will.

    did someone declare Deliberate Misinterpretation Week and i missed it?

  287. Tom DeGisi: >Bennett,
    I understand your argument. I believe you are making a fundamental error.
    Protection does not equal control

    quite

  288. From time to time I enjoy this forum but have never before made any comments. This time I feel tempted though…

    A bit of background: I have never had a gun, intend to have none and plan to do whatever I can to stay away from physical violence. I have lived in different countries, including the US (I am writing this in the US), different locations in Europe, etc.

    That doesn’t make me feel defenseless. I have repeatedly weighted my options and seem to believe that treats people I care and feel responsible for and I (collectively “mine and I”) face are best defended against by _not_ having a gun.

    To start with, the biggest treat is the government and more precisely the police and military. They have more guns that I can possibly own or operate… Spending money on legal education and having a better lawyer handy is, I feel, vastly more effective in the modern world than guns. No, I do not run any illegal enterprise. My dealings are as legal as anyone’s.

    The idea that I cannot stop the government but “many with guns” can is, I feel, Utopian in two ways. Many with guns will likely not unite because many individuals have many different ambitions. And if a police officers decides he doesn’t like the fact I fucked his 25-year daughter and he is going to make my life suck “many with guns” are not going to help me. Not a bit.

    Tyrannical governments and their opposition are lofty and worthy considerations. But everyday world is far more small-time practical.

    Crime is a very important consideration but I am unconvinced a gun is going to help me. There are, it seems to me, broadly speaking, two sorts of crime: small and big. A “small” criminal would stop me in the street asking for my wallet. I would (and I have) hand them the wallet and wished them well. They may break into my house or apartment and steal things. That has happened to me too. (On one occasion I woke up locked from the outside in my room in house I was staying at. Having a sound sleep I never heard that they just ferried the contents of the house out :)

    Big crime is different. I have seen it in operation. There is a fundamental reason that makes a gun useless against a large group of thugs.

    There are too many of them and too well armed. Even if I manage to take out 2 or 3 or 4, there are going to be back. Quickly and many of them. No, I do not watch movies. I have not seen The Godfather, even though I am informed similar scenes are part of the movie. I have actually _seen_ this in real life. Admittedly outside the US but things I have seen in the US sort of suggest that it is not really too different here. What would I do if I get into a mess of this caliber? I’ll be damned if I know… try to negotiate my way out of it somehow. Try to stay out of trouble. Cliche? It sure is. But I’d try anyway. In any case _not_ calling the police. Ever.

    I am also tempted to point out what I perceive as a huge fallacy: that sheep, sheepdog, wolf thing.

    People are arbitrarily divided in three groups and then an allusion is made to sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. I am not sure what is meant by this analogy. The thing is that sheepdogs do not exist. Sheep in a way also. Only wolves do. Sheepdogs and, to a large extend, sheep are _created_ by humans. Sheep — domesticated, helpless sheep — do not exist in the wild. Dogs, as we know them, practically do not. Sheepdogs much less.

    May be there are sheep amongst us out there. May be there are sheepdogs — even though I doubt it. Wolves there are for sure. It is not the wolves however that are treat to the sheep. It is the human shepherd that will slaughter the sheep. The dogs will then get part of the food. Or be punished if they do not do their job.

    So I am entirely uncertain what is meant by this allusion. The dynamics of sheep/sheepdogs is only possible because intelligent humans have created it.

    And one more thing. As stated I have no gun. Which absolutely doesn’t mean I’d run to anyone with a uniform to protect me. I do not believe a reasonable, honest man can be part of the police or military.

    Oh, sure in the modern world they are needed. I just do not want to have anything to do with them because I find them revolting.

    Am I right or not? I have no idea. I will _never_ know. It either happens that I live a long and happy life and die a happy man of old age or be killed in a street mugging. Or in between. Either way nothing would be proved.

    Some of the guys here — not least our host — feel that having a gun protects them better. They may be right. As far as I am concerned they are welcome to keep their guns.

    But I feel that those of us that live in the non-Russia Europe and the US, i.e the civilized part of the world, are better off not having guns. For better or worse we do not live in a libertarian or anarchic societies. If this ever changes, then having a gun and learning to use it may start making sense for me too. I would then reconsider.

  289. esr > civilian firearms are ever decisive in the future history of the U.S., that is likely the way it will happen. In particular, the group culture of U.S. military officers is pro-civilian-firearms, strongly constitutionalist, and aware of history. Our politicians know they’d be taking a severe risk of mutiny and defection if they ordered troops to fire on armed civilians fronting a genuinely popular uprising.

    That is why unlike many I think Obama will be limited in the harm he can do. Some worry about Obama becoming a dictator. As long as our military is formed from citizens , is voluntary,they take an oath to the Constitution and have their culture you are 100% correct. I think that the rank and file would not fire on their own countrymen in that situation either, even if ordered by their officers. I come from a military family and know its culture well.

  290. goopheex > But I feel that those of us that live in the non-Russia Europe and the US, i.e the civilized part of the world, are better off not having guns. For better or worse we do not live in a libertarian or anarchic societies. If this ever changes, then having a gun and learning to use it may start making sense for me too. I would then reconsider.

    While not reported that well in our (USA) media there are many times each year arm citizens save lives by preventing crimes by deterrence or stop violence. Where I live, their is a culture of dogs, hunting, guns and live me alone or else. No home invasions here. but 10 miles away that happens because those people are not ready to defend them self. Anarchy is always just below the surface no matter where you live. That is because man is in reality a wild animal and hugely dangerous.

  291. >I assume Grossman’s work came significantly after Starship Troopers. Was Heinein just prescient, or did Grossman merely note something we should have known all along?

    Grossman’s work was well after ST. Most of it appears to have been done in the late 1980s and 1990s.

    Heinlein was prescient – and Grossman was influenced by Heinlein. Though he’s never said so explicitly to me, it has been implicit in several of our email conversations.

    >Postulate an armed civilian uprising in the US. (This would require behavior on the part of the government egregious enough to actually cause a significant part of the population to take up arms against its government.) What portion of the US armed forces would obey orders to put down the uprising by force?

    Nobody knows. I will say this, however, based on my knowledge of the group culture of the U.S. military: if the uprising were on anything like sound constitutionalist grounds, there would at a minimum be extremely widespread passive resistance to such orders. I have known more than a dozen military officers well enough to be sure, for example, that every one of them would have regarded orders for the preventative confiscation of civilian weapons as unlawful even before the Heller ruling.

  292. Most people today are terrified of any real responsibility. Bennett just strikes me as a particularly voluable member of this type of coward. It’s hard to believe so many of you spent so much time and energy arguing with him (about as useful as arguing with a Creationist).

  293. William B. Swift,

    I don’t think Bennett is a coward. I think he doesn’t like the police. Arguing with him was good practice, except that he worked very hard at being civil. Most people aren’t that civil, so they aren’t pleasant to argue with.

    Yours,
    Tom

  294. nope, bennett was off in la-la land, profoundly re-defining what eric wrote according to his/her own self-obsessions. seeing the world through purple-tinted glasses. re-read my comment pointing out precisely how and why bennett was (deliberately?) arse-about from the language used in eric’s post.

    goopheex: >I am not sure what is meant by this analogy. The thing is that sheepdogs do not exist. Sheep in a way also. Only wolves do.
    heh. this is a GOOD injection of a wider, non-westerners, perspective. as a westerner raised on utterly PC ideals that all humans are fundamentally identical, something you eventually notice/have rammed down your throat once you start working closely with non-westerners, is that: no, there ARE real fundamental differences in how other cultures’ individuals treat each other. and western societies have by far the lowest proportion of wolves. a general observation: the lower the proportion or effect (vs higher proportion of sheepdogs) of wolves, generally the richer the culture tends to be. [eric's model here is NOT a good general model for the inter-cultural differences, though; typically all humans have proportions of each behaviour pattern]
    afghanistan, for example, has been repeatedly noted for centuries as being essentially predominantly wolves. i always loved churchill’s (i think) description of the joy the average afghan got, and the expressed perception in the improvement of his life and lifestyle, from the new late-19thC high-powered rifles that let him merely lean out his window to shoot at his nearest (mile-distant) neighbour, rather than have all the faff of setting up an ambush. the idea of “bringing peace to afghanistan” has been repeatedly learned to be fatuous by various parties over the centuries, most recently the russians and currently the US & UN. approaches that work well for one particular proportion of wolf:sheep do not necessarily work well for another.

  295. Shenpen,

    I don’t see Bennett like that. I see Bennett as someone who thinks there are very large number of sheep (defenseless humans), a very small number of skunks (humans who engage in self-defense), an even smaller number of sheepdogs (humans who defend other humans as well), a large number of wolves (criminals) and a large number of shepherds (police, soldiers and government).

    I feel like I’m writing an essay about Sonic the Hedgehog, furries, or some other group of anthropomorphic animals. This metaphor is getting a bit stretched. For example, our sheepdogs do not work for the shepherds, and we consider duly elected legitimate government as sheepdogs, while tyrants are shepherds.

    You will notice that wolves and shepherds both eat sheep. Someone with Bennett’s mind set would be very worried about sheepdogs becoming wolves or shepherds. I think the Founders were also concerned about that. As despots go, George III wasn’t very despotic. I’d say he was more interested in wool than mutton. Stalin and Mao loved gyros and rack of lamb. But Washington was all sheepdog.

    Yours,
    Tom

  296. We are going to need more pro-active “sheepdogs” to stand up to the “wolves” who did the following. Or will the “sheep” ever wakeup?

    Best proof I have ever seen, that 9-11 Pentagon attack was a hoax (and you know from my infrequent prior posts in esr’s blog that I don’t post nonsense).

    Well worth watching and forwarding to others. I thought I had already seen
    all the relevant evidence on the twin tower hoax arguments, but this one
    blows my mind and it is on the Pentagon attack:

    http://www.citizeninvestigationteam.com/nsa.html

    Afaik, this is newly published as of June 2009, and is the culmination of investigative work started in 2006. So this is apparently new (or at least to me).

  297. Saltation: > goopheex: >I am not sure what is meant by this analogy. The thing is that sheepdogs do not exist. Sheep in a way also. Only wolves do.
    Saltation: > heh. this is a GOOD injection of a wider, non-westerners, perspective. as a westerner raised on utterly PC ideals that all humans are fundamentally identical, something you eventually notice/have rammed down your throat once you start working closely with non-westerners, is that: no, there ARE real fundamental differences in how other cultures

    For the record: I was born, grew up, and spent my 40-something years in the western world.

    What the sheep/sheepdogs/wolves allusion is (probably) trying to say is that there exist individuals that own a gun that would be willing to use that gun to defend someone else — defenseless or not — from a danger posed by a “bad guy”. Further, the mere existence of these individuals reduces the risk for everyone. More so in areas where there is more of them.

    This interpretation can be elaborated upon and made less ambiguous but I cannot do so lest I make it much longer.

    If my reading is correct then I would label this individuals “defenders”, because I find the sheepdog label grossly misleading and certainly very ambiguous.

    Then I have to admit that in the 40-something years of my life I have not met a person that would qualify as a “defender”.

    In no way am I trying to say that there are no such individuals in the world. I have no way of knowing that. Or that the self-assessed “defenders” in this forum are not. (To the best of my knowledge I have never met any of those writing here.)

    People that privately own guns that I know or have known in the past tend to be in two categories. Stupid (the majority, but that’s always) or dangerous.

    Anyone that procures a gun without getting adequate training is stupid to me. This includes, in my experience, the vast majority of private gun owners.

    Dangerous is more difficult to define. I have known people that ran extortion schemes and other types of individuals that I would call dangerous. I refrain from using the word “criminal” because this is someone that has violated the law. That does not make them necessarily “bad” or “dangerous” to me.

    Many of these privately own guns.

    Ignoring my own experience is not something I am willing to do. In my experience “defenders” do not exist or, if they do they are _extremely_ rare.

    Me? I think I would be willing to defend someone else, even complete stranger, running a risk for my life. I am not sure, because it never happened. I wish I have the strength to do it but I have no idea if I actually do.

    Owning a gun and being trained to use it however, I am afraid, would inevitably change my perception and judgment in subtle ways in a direction I dislike. This may be needed — or desirable — in an anarchic or libertarian society, but we are not.

    What I am saying here is that “there are defenseless cowards, defenders, and bad guys and defenders own a gun or other weapon” is quite false. Many people that I know or have known — I hope myself included — are in neither of these categories.

  298. interesting article in the sunday times this weekend re reactions to life-threatening disasters. outcome of big research:
    10% just sort out the problem as best as possible, saving themselves and whoever else possible
    10% just meltdown
    80% freeze and wait for someone else to tell them what to do. (even where that something is obviously irrational — the observation of [many] commuters walking into the flames as (accidentally) instructed during the Kings Cross tube fire is chilling)

    not an exact fit with eric’s model (environment threats rather than people threats), but in a wider sense quite similar

  299. I don’t know who goopheex is hanging around, but every gun owner, writer and commentator I know says “Get more training” and “practice”. They don’t mean private gun owners, either. They mean private gun owners, policemen and soldiers. It’s true that lots of gun owners get almost no practice. It’s also true that lots of police and lots of soldiers get almost no practice.

    This is particularly true of police and soldiers in poor countries.

    How stupid is this? Less stupid than driving while phoning. Guns, in practice, are actually much safer than cars. There are no solutions for human stupidity.

    Yours,
    Tom

  300. one of an endless number of gun control arguments on Eric S Raymond’s blog… I was checking up on something on this website but I know this thread will change no opinions on either side just like all the others.

    > Me? I think I would be willing to defend someone else, even complete stranger, running a risk for my life. I am not sure, because it never happened. I wish I have the strength to do it but I have no idea if I actually do.

    Sun Tzu talked about the dangers of being too eager to live, or too eager to die. The way I think of it is that we live our lives with certain expectations about how we will act in different situations. This prediction of ourselves allows us to have confidence in our future actions which lets us make promises to other people. Knowing that we would act a certain way in the future allows us to act a certain way in the present without constantly worrying about the implications of each action.

    When faced with a situation you do not expect, you must decide whether to do as you have told yourself you would do, or act differently and be faced with the reality that your previous assumptions about yourself had been incorrect, and you cannot rely on yourself to act that way in the future apart from any outcome of the current situation. If you are accepting of the consequences of acting the way you expected you would, you will act that way.

    The United States is unique among developed countries in its high murder rate. Of course, there are countries with much higher published gun murder rates, such as South Africa and Thailand. The real shame is when the culture of the United States spills into its foreign policy and ends up affecting the rest of the world; but the United States now is not what it was 10 years ago.

  301. debate.
    Ken Burnside:
    We can mobilize an efficient air operational campaign in 36 hours and expect everything to work with 97% or better reliability. Second best (arguably Japan, maybe Britain or Germany) couldn’t mount an operation of comparable reliability and state tracking in less than two weeks. Everyone else is using pre-scripted air defense and offense doctrines.

    It’s hard to overstate how amazing that advantage is. It gets inside the OODA loop of potential opponents before they get their planes off the ground….and goes to show that ‘lethal people’ need not be the ones in the cockpit pulling Gs.

    Have you read the Chinese book that ‘predicted’ the events of 11 Sept 2009? “Unrestricted Warfare”. Sadly, finishing that book is still on my list of to-do, but it theorized that the 1991 Gulf War would be the first and last of its kind. Military conflicts may continue but they will never be as ‘principled’ as they were in the past. It is unlikely the US will run into any surprise conflicts that require the use of its ‘expeditionary force’.

    Andy Freeman:
    I ask because I’ve been approached by folks offering to sell me guns on the sly in both Japan and the UK. Maybe they were undercover police running a sting, but ….

    The fact that guns are illegal some place has nothing to do with whether they are available. (The same, BTW, is true of drugs.)

    Guns are available in Japan, but they are very rarely used because they are illegal.

  302. >Have you read the Chinese book that ‘predicted’ the events of 11 Sept 2009? “Unrestricted Warfare”. Sadly, finishing that book is still on my list of to-do, but it theorized that the 1991 Gulf War would be the first and last of its kind.

    Already falsified by at least two wars since 9/11 in which airpower and conventional land forces were decisive.

  303. The United States is unique among developed countries in its high murder rate.

    The Russians will be surprised not to be counted as a developed country, or that their murder rate has dropped.

    Yours,
    Tom

  304. >The United States is unique among developed countries in its high murder rate.
    >
    >The Russians will be surprised not to be counted as a developed country, or that their murder rate has dropped.

    Let’s be fair: the U.S.S.R. was, and Russia is, not a “developed country” in the normal sense. It was better described as a Third World pesthole with nukes. It makes a poor counter to the implied accusation.

    Not that the accusation has much force. The U.S. is also unique among developed countries for its low suicide rate. Are we to conclude that the rest of the G20 is composed of self-destructive loons?

    No, that would be unfair. The Aussies are a counterexample :-)

  305. High murder rate, high infant mortality rate, highest incarceration rate (we beat the Russkies on that count about ten years ago), among the lowest scores in the Western world on basic math and science literacy, absurdly low multilingualism, about half of the population believes God literally created the world in seven days, and we’re the only developed nation not to implement full nationalized healthcare (which partially accounts for the abovementioned high infant mortality rate).

    The U.S. doesn’t seem like a “developed country” in the normal sense, either: for the rich it’s wonderful, but for the poor it’s a Third World pesthole with nukes.

  306. The U.S. doesn’t seem like a “developed country” in the normal sense, either: for the rich it’s wonderful, but for the poor it’s a Third World pesthole with nukes.

    This is errant nonsense. Utterly ridiculous. Poor people in the U.S. have orders of magnitude more income and more possessions than poor people in the third world. Middle class people in some third world countries make $1500 per year.

    Yours,
    Tom

  307. >high infant mortality rate,

    This is an artifact of different reporting practices. Many countries other than the U.S. have a large class of perinatal deaths that they have not historically counted in their “infant mortality” statistics – miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and the like.

    When you correct for these disparities, the U.S. stops looking abnormal – its true infant mortality rate is well below (for example) that of Sweden.

    >highest incarceration rate

    This is an artifact, too, but of a different kind. It’s a result of the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s. If you aggregate the populations of prisons and mental institutions, the U.S. again stops looking particularly abnormal for a developed country.

    As a separate issue, it is genuinely ridiculous that we have so many people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.

  308. This is an artifact, too, but of a different kind. It’s a result of the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s. If you aggregate the populations of prisons and mental institutions, the U.S. again stops looking particularly abnormal for a developed country.

    Clayton Cramer has many posts on the evils of deinstitutionalization.

    I’m not a pure libertarian on mental institutions, either.

    Yours,
    Tom

  309. >Of course many libertarians claim that most drug offenders are actually self medicating

    Hm? Not the libertarians I know.

    As it happens, I contingently agree with that claim. But I consider it independent of the real ethical case for drug legalization, which is founded on different grounds.

  310. >Hmmm. Maybe it was just MSimon saying it over and over.

    You can correctly deduce from those posts that MSimon facvors drug legalization, but not the more specific claim that most drug users are self-medicating.

  311. I live in Australia. Exceedingly few people own guns. We have a significantly lower murder rate. How are America’s civil liberties greater than ours? The proliferation of firearms leads to a huge toll, and doesn’t have any tangible benefits except the illusion of security (come on, how many times has your gun saved your life or of any other person?) and the fact that you get to tease people on the internet about their ovine nature.

  312. Sorry, i can’t help but throw my $0.02 in here.

    Disclaimer: My opinion may be biased, prejudiced and wrong, but that will neither stop me from keeping it nor will it stop you from keeping yours.

    I do understand that “getting a firearm” and “developing a sheepdog mindset” is not the same. But the more you pound on the 2nd amendment, the harder the distinction gets for the average, non-involved reader.

    I learned where to point the business end of a Heckler&Koch G3 and P8 while i was with the German Bundeswehr. I was told that i was exceptionally good for a novice, but still i didn’t like those cold metal things in my hand(s).

    I also understand that Bennet actually has a point, (s)he’s just trying to say: “Who watches the watchmen?”, but (s)he overlooks the fact that having only government-employed sheepdogs leaves you with the same question.

    In Germany firearms are relatively rare and hard to get. That doesn’t mean there are none, but they’re rare enough to leave the police’s “monopoly on violence” firmly locked in place. Which is a good thing, as it scares most would-be-criminals out of doing something silly; and that’s the point of having a police in the first place. BUT: this model only works if you can trust the full-time sheepdogs to not turn into wolves and to be effective sheepdogs. If a sheep ever feels so underprotected that it declares itself sheepdog to compensate for that lack of protection, THE SHEPHERD HAS FAILED.

    And that’s why i think that enforcing a more rigid gun control in the US is an even worse idea than having given everyone the right to have a gun in the first place. By allowing every sheep to get a gun and declare itself sheepdog, they’ve driven the wolves into an arms-race; disarming those sheepdogs now and forcing them back into the sheep role not only makes them feel less protected than ever, but it also leaves the wolves well-armed and, in the worst case, hands them the “monopoly on violence”. BAM! Instant catastrophe!

  313. >And that’s why i think that enforcing a more rigid gun control in the US is an even worse idea than having given everyone the right to have a gun in the first place.

    Re the right to bear arms being a bad idea: If the only way you can maintain social stability is by regulating a right like that to bear arms, which completely independently of any moral implications is a right that many people, even the majority, will feel the need to avail themselves of in times of trouble, then you have an unstable society anyway. If your society can’t survive people having weapons, then it won’t survive any upheaval. It’s a much better idea solely from a social-stability standpoint to foster a society in which people have weapons and make that society stable, so that it won’t collapse under any stress that makes people want to be armed.

  314. “Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards. A victim who fights back makes the whole business impractical.”

    – Jeff Cooper, Principles of Personal Defense

  315. respectfully, eric s raymond:
    Already falsified by at least two wars since 9/11 in which airpower and conventional land forces were decisive.
    And yet the US is still involved in both conflicts, 8 years later….

    Was it not the slogan of the initial invasion of Iraq that the objective was to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people, not to just kill everyone? In neither of these cases, too, was the United States’ expeditionary capabilities a decisive factor. Military power of course; but in the present world the political implications of an action far outweigh the operational and logistical costs.

    Tom DeGisi,
    The Russians will be surprised not to be counted as a developed country, or that their murder rate has dropped.
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html?countryName=Russia&countryCode=RS&regionCode=cas#RS

    They may have the second-highest number of nukes in the world, but Russia has a huge diversity of people and correspondingly high economic differences in different parts of society and its territory. The US has a per-capita GDP of thee times Russia and the only reason for the crime rate in the United States is its culture.

    I love overgeneralizations. Tom Dickson-Hunt,
    If your society can’t survive people having weapons, then it won’t survive any upheaval. It’s a much better idea solely from a social-stability standpoint to foster a society in which people have weapons and make that society stable, so that it won’t collapse under any stress that makes people want to be armed.
    Do you support the right of the Iraqi people to bear arms, as long as they are not part of a terrorist group?

  316. >Do you support the right of the Iraqi people to bear arms,as long as they are not part of a terrorist group?
    In principle, yes, though I’m not sure how well it would work out in an already-unstable country. By the way, does anyone have statistics on civilian gun ownership in Iraq before and after the invasion?

  317. >And yet the US is still involved in both conflicts, 8 years later….’

    Stop making assumptions. One of the examples I was thinking of was the war with the Tamil Tigers in Ceylon.

    >Was it not the slogan of the initial invasion of Iraq that the objective was to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people, not to just kill everyone?

    A task at which, despite persistent counter-propaganda by its own press, the U.S. largely succeeded. Had the U.S. not done so, a significant indigenous resistance would have continued after the Baathist dead-enders were killed or neutralized. In fact, this did not occur; the second phase of the counterinsurgency was critically dependent on foreign support (notably from Syria and Iran) and foreign fighters (notably from Saudi Arabia and Yemen). Those second-phase insurgents mode themselves so thoroughly hated by the Iraqi populace that the U.S. was able to destroy them with local support and intelligence.

  318. @Tom Dickson-Hunt:
    > It’s a much better idea [...] to foster a society in which people have weapons and make that society stable,

    I invite you to explain how that can be done. When looking at homicide rates of Canada, Germany and the US, Germany with the most rigid gun control of the three seems to be the best off. (I assume the comparison is valid because standard of life and unemployment rates don’t differ that much; i also assume that homicide rate is an indicator of a society’s stability)

  319. Tom Dickson-Hunt,

    In principle, yes, though I’m not sure how well it would work out in an already-unstable country. By the way, does anyone have statistics on civilian gun ownership in Iraq before and after the invasion?

    I tried to find some, but alas I cannot. What I did find:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3852505.stm (June 2004)
    “Iraq changed almost overnight from a state with a well-equipped army to a country with no troops and seven or eight million abandoned weapons.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Market_Sweep
    “After a June 8, 2003 raid supported by a security fireteam from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division had led to the death an Iraqi arms dealer, the following report of the incident appeared to show that the team’s work might have been having some effect:

    The incident enraged merchants in the bazaar. They had grown accustomed – even under Saddam’s rule – to smuggling and selling weapons with impunity. “We never saw a policeman in here before. Now the Americans send in their soldiers,” said Hassan Ali Azobayi, a butcher. Mohammed Dulaimi, a self-described engineer, led a crowd in chants of “vengeance” and “We want Saddam.””

    Generally tho, certainly since since the US invasion and possibly before, many families had a weapon or weapons for their own protection. The real black market items were things like surface-to-air missiles, which in the beginning were going for just a few hundred USD each. The US military used to assume during its random raids and house searches that any weapon implied a link to the insurgency; but total disarmament of the country was never really a goal. More lately the Iraqi government has seen protests at its confiscations of arms, with the excuse of ‘security’ seen as no more than a veiled attempt to reduce the power of other political bodies or especially the Awakening groups; but even with this the primary focus has been on ‘heavy weapons’ like machine guns and weapons such as bombs, grenades, etc that do not serve a security role. It seems that in some cases the Iraqi government has lately been confiscating any kind of weapon (AK-47s) even if the owner is not suspected to be a member of a violent group; however there is fervent opposition to the government, or specifically the political parties currently in control, from having sole ownership of weapons and as such it has not yet developed into a national policy.

    In other words, it is not a question of ‘how WOULD it work out’, but rather how it HAS been working out in an already unstable country.

    eric s raymond,
    Stop making assumptions. One of the examples I was thinking of was the war with the Tamil Tigers in Ceylon.
    This conflict was also unlike the stage for the 1991 Golf War, or conflicts prior to that one. The United States cannot expect to ever again fight a truly decisive war with its ‘decisive’ and expensive advanced military capabilities.

    In fact, this did not occur; the second phase of the counterinsurgency was critically dependent on foreign support (notably from Syria and Iran) and foreign fighters (notably from Saudi Arabia and Yemen). Those second-phase insurgents mode themselves so thoroughly hated by the Iraqi populace that the U.S. was able to destroy them with local support and intelligence.
    Indeed, the foreign fighters of Al-Qa’ida did make themselves hated by the local populace. They also made themselves hated, to the point of conflict, with the indigenous insurgent groups that you say do not exist. That does not mean the populace fell in love with the US; it just means they were sick of instability, and that some of them (the ones that became the Awakening forces that turned on Al-Qa’ida’s organization in Iraq) hated Al-Qa’ida more than they did the US.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_insurgency#Iraqi_public_opinion (random snippet)
    “…These results are consistent with a January 2006 poll that found an overall 47% approval for attacks on US-led forces. That figure climbed to 88% among Sunnis. Attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians, however, were approved of by only 7% and 12% of respondents respectively. 87% favored a U.S. withdrawal, but only 23% believe the U.S. would actually withdraw if asked. 80% believed the U.S. plans permanent bases in Iraq.”

  320. >I invite you to explain how that can be done. When looking at homicide rates of Canada, Germany and the US, Germany with the most rigid gun control of the three seems to be the best off. (I assume the comparison is valid because standard of life and unemployment rates don’t differ that much; i also assume that homicide rate is an indicator of a society’s stability)

    First of all, when I was talking about social stability, I was not referring to violent crime rates as much as stability against total collapse. I think it’s not unreasonable to conjecture that if a country that had no previous notable gun ownership and no gun culture was subjected to survival stress that made its citizens want to become armed, the turmoil would be much greater in that transition than that in a country where gun ownership was previously more entrenched. It’s worth noting that I have no sources or backup for this; it’s only my conjecture. Secondly, the comparison of Canada, Germany and the US is not valid, because standard of living and unemployment rates are far from the only variables you have to control. Other people can make that argument much better than I can, so I’m not going to pursue it any farther.

  321. > Secondly, the comparison of Canada, Germany and the US is not valid, because standard of living and unemployment rates are far from the only variables you have to control.

    Of course these aren’t the only variables, but i had hoped to have covered the most important ones.

    > stability against total collapse

    So, if people were used to having weapons before, the collapse won’t be as total? As if it mattered whether people kill each other with guns or with clubs.

  322. >Of course these aren’t the only variables, but i had hoped to have covered the most important ones.
    I think more important in this case are certain cultural factors, like the presence or absence of a gun culture.

    >So, if people were used to having weapons before, the collapse won’t be as total? As if it mattered whether people kill each other with guns or with clubs.
    Well, my point was that if people are used to having weapons, there won’t be as much of a transition shock if they are put under survival stress in which they need weapons. Guns vs. clubs is completely irrelevant here; it’s weapons vs. no weapons, and the weapons would presumably be whatever is most effective and obtainable at the time.

  323. The question when contemplating social chaos is, are you competing against selfish people or against unselfish, cooperative people. People in the US usually assume the former; and they are probably correct.

  324. Really really awesome post. Your philosophical essays on gun ownership (like this and “Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun”) offer a fresh and extremely interesting perspective!

  325. Genius…sheer genius. I guess we’re all so concerned that, as gun owners, we need to be “non-threatening” (lest we scare the sheep) that we’ve failed to consider that maybe the sheep need to be scared.

    I’m looking forward to a test application of this method. I may even try it for other areas of “discussion” where a similar dynamic is at work.

  326. Bennet makes an important point about the limitation of the sheep and sheepdog analogy that the sheepdogs need to consider.

    Context: I live in the country, and am always armed (unless prevented by law). Out here the chances of me drawing my weapon and killing something is not vanishingly small, but happens probably on a monthly basis. That is why our chickens are still alive.

    Bennet’s point (I think) is that the relationship between people, some of whom choose to be armed and others not, needs to be different than the relationship between my chickens and myself, and the notion of sheepdogs and sheep makes a false distinction. The point is important.

    The law that allows me to carry lethal force does not give me the right to be a sheepdog to Bennet’s sheep. It allows me to use lethal force for self-defense, under some pretty tight restrictions. If I’m carrying, and see someone beating the crap out of Bennet, I’m going to call 911 and be a Good Witness. If I live next door to Bennet and hear howls and commotion, I’ll call 911 and be a Good Witness. If I see Bennet held at gunpoint down an alley, I’ll c2all, and then be a Good Witness. If we are at church together with an Active Shooter, maybe it is different. Maybe not.

    The bottom line is that any bullet that pops out of my gun not destined for a coon, skunk, snake or feral dog comes with a attorney’s card and between 10K and 20K out of my savings. If I’m lucky. IThe idea of the sheepdog and the sheep blurs that reality. I can be Mr Lethal Warrier Sheepdog from daybreak to sundown, and except for my wife, my children and my chickens, the rest of the sheep will never notice. And that’s the way it should be: there are Real Sheepdog in Blue Wool three little digits away (911), and, except for myself, my wife, my children and my chickens, I’m Mr Good Witness.

    Where things get murky is with the idea of an armed populace checking an out of control government. With over 60m hunting rifles in the US, it seems unlikely that if a situation developed here similar to that in iran that folks i(n Oklahoma or Texas, at least) would be only throwing rocks. Then the sheepdog and sheep ideas apply more directly, and Bennet may argue that it is better to live under tyranny than to be ducking live fire between the rednecks and the black ninjas. That’s not a bad discussion to have, but it is different than feeling uncomfortable that ordinary citizens carrying lethal force will diminish the liberties of those who choose not.

  327. If only everyone took the same view as you, Floyd Ferguson. Then we wouldn’t have all this exciting drama.

    As the Wikipedia article for gun politics notes, most of the controversy is over handguns. People get upset about rifles when something sensational happens, but since this isn’t a defensible argument against rifles this is not a major component of arguments of gun control advocates. As Bennet seemed a reasonable person I doubt he/she would disagree with you.

    People in Iran do sometimes have guns. It is what caused violence during riots. Contrast the protests in Thailand, where the protesters are determined to be almost entirely peaceful and the crackdown during the last round was after there was at least one incident of gunfire that caused injuries/deaths. However, Iran is very different from the US, as at least one Iranian commentator has noted there were no major protests in the US even when there was violations during the 2000 presidential elections. Iranians have managed to protest (due to strong feelings and attention leading up to this recent election) despite a 60/30% vote spread. Mainly it is a more individualistic ethic in the US that weighs personal loss or gain, compared to a more social ethic in Iran that perceived group benefit and justification for the protests.

  328. >People in Iran do sometimes have guns. It is what caused violence during riots.

    If you’re implying that civilian weapons caused the violence in Iran, you’re horribly wrong. The violence in Iran is basij throwing women off bridges, clubbing old men to death, murdering young women with sniper shots. Civilian firearms don’t cause this kind of barbarism; they prevent it.

  329. According to the incredibly biased Iranian government’s media organs, out of the 20 people who died from the protests eight of them were Basij and all of the Basij died from gunshot wounds.

    But oh wait, they deserved it right

  330. “Ok, let’s state my argument the most seriously possible : if there is a revolution, a generalized civil war, then it is better to have the smallest amount of firepower available to everybody.”

    Thats actually the worst possible answer. To see how that looks, look at the 30 year’s war in German or the massacre in Rwanda (carried out mostly with machetes btw.) As long as you are disarmed you will be helpless in the face of someone who is armed and actually wishes you harm. Against a relatively benign enemy you will be fine, but against anyone with teeth you are screwed.

  331. “The metaphor there is obvious. What I’d like to know is why people who are for gun control sometimes equate guns with male genitalia? I’ve never seen or heard a gun owner use that particular metaphor.”

    Its because sheepdog see a weapon as an extension of a hand, whereas anti-gunners see it as an extension of an ego and projection of dominance. These are very different attitudes to have, and result in very different conclusions and behaviors.

  332. “To start with, the biggest treat is the government and more precisely the police and military. They have more guns that I can possibly own or operate… Spending money on legal education and having a better lawyer handy is, I feel, vastly more effective in the modern world than guns. ”

    This fails as soon as the legal system decides to change it mind wrt protecting you. Don’t laugh or look shocked, less than 70 years ago, this happened all over europe. It happened in asia more recently than that, and and its happening in latin america and africa now.

  333. “People in Iran do sometimes have guns. It is what caused violence during riots. Contrast the protests in Thailand, where the protesters are determined to be almost entirely peaceful and the crackdown during the last round was after there was at least one incident of gunfire that caused injuries/deaths. ”

    Contrast this to the protests in the Tianamin (sp?) Square China where tanks rolled over perfectly peaceful protestors. Peaceful protests only work against a very benign force, against anything actually malicious (like Iran), you need credible threat of violence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>