War Is The Enemy Of Liberty

Admittedly, I have very little faith in violence as a problem solving tool in general. But I am not a pacifist. I do believe there is a time to fight back. If someone shoots at you, you certainly have every right to shoot back in order to avert the attack. In that sense, I really wish at least some people in the crowd that became the target of terrorists in Paris had a gun to shoot back. Even I admit that that would probably have prevented more damage and therefore to some degree solved the problem.

But we live in a world in which individuals have given up the control over their lives to Leviathan. And in Paris we could see what happens when you trust the state with your security. This however is unfortunately not the conclusion that many people have drawn from the events. The state knows how to distract the public from its own failures. There were no questions asked whether the state is the right institution for the security job. Instead the only question that was debated was how much more power do we now have to give to the state so that it can effectively deal with the problem. Bizarrely, it is rarely noticed that giving the state more power did not solve the problem last time, in fact it made it worse. And yet, once again it is concluded that this time it will work. Einstein’s definition of stupidity, trying something again and again and expecting a different outcome.

But that is the society we live in and so once again Leviathan’s big hour has come. The government has decided to solve the problem with the absolute worst government program imaginable: War. They are planning to bomb the IS. This is indeed the worst possible ‘solution’ for a number of reasons. First of all it is a moral disaster. Bombing areas in which innocent civilians are living is never morally acceptable. I am a libertarian. I believe in the maximum possible Liberty for individual human beings. That is why I reject the idea that individuals can be forced into the service of a higher good like a society. And the worst possible sacrifice to demand from a human being for a greater good is to die for it. So if you are killing innocent people in a bombing attack, then what are you fighting for? Certainly not individual liberty. That has been killed with the innocent that died.

People who support bombing areas with civilians essentially accept the moral code of terrorists. They too believe that it is acceptable to kill innocent people if only it serves a greater good. War is the arch enemy of Liberty and the health of the state. If we ever want to live in a freer society it has to be number one priority to keep the state out of wars. This is also the tradition of classical liberalism. Many classical liberals were first and foremost anti war activists. War not only completely abolishes the Liberty of those who die in it, it also makes the state more powerful in every other aspect. War sucks a lot of resources out of the productive economy into the unproductive war economy. War can only destroy it cannot build anything. It destroys not just material things and people but also morality itself. Suddenly things that seemed morally unacceptable, like killing and torture become acceptable. War also kills the political debate. People are forced to take sides. Either you are with us or you are with them. This regularly even forces state critical voices to rally behind the flag or at the very least to shut up. In order to win the war we are told that we need to surrender a lot of our other freedoms to the state. Big surveillance institutions, high taxation, capital controls, inflation, immigration controls etc. are created in war times and then more often than not never abolished afterwards.

And these are just the obvious libertarian objections to war. It also does not work from a very statist point of view. The reason the government is now supposed to fight the IS is because the last couple of wars that were supposed to solve the security problem have backfired big time. Politicians don’t like you to know about this, but the IS is of course a product of our disastrous foreign policy in the region. And at the moment, two big supporters of the IS, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are our best allies in the region. We are essentially helping the IS to fight Assad. Officially of course we are just helping the moderate opposition to Assad. The problem is this army of moderate Assad enemies does not exist. It is pure propaganda. The people that fight Assad are the IS and Al Nursra, the being essentially Al Qaida. So 14 years after the war on Terror started, we are now allies of Al Qaida against secular forces.

One could be surprised by this, if only one were to ignore what states do in general. They more often than not end up creating the opposite results of their intentions. The war on drugs has created more problems with drugs, the war on poverty more poverty. Of course the war on terror was always doomed to create more terror. And now we have a war on the IS. The IS is probably popping some champagne bottles (or whatever muslims do in this situation). Unlike western politicians, I am sure they can figure out what is coming: more IS.

It is impossible to win a war against a guerrilla army by bombing them. If you want to finish off the IS you will need to go in with lots of ground troops. But if the government did that, we would see a lot of dead western soldiers. That is because if you are fighting in the streets of a city, all your military superiority does not matter that much anymore. In that case people would see a bit more clearly what kind of nasty business war really is. And I bet, once that becomes clear, people will not support it anymore.

I am not a pacifist, but I am against state militarism. I do believe that if you want to fight for something, you have to do it yourself. If you believe that the IS is a threat to you, then fine, go ahead, take a gun and fight them. But don’t do it in my name and with my money. That is not to say that I like the IS. I think the portrayal of them as crazy savages is probably quite accurate. However, where I am, I do not feel particularly threatened by the IS. I do however feel threatened by the UK government. So I will not give the latter any more power in order to make me safe. I would be a lot more safe if the government would not try to keep me safe. And of course if you believe that that is the honest intention of the these people anyway, I have a bridge to sell you.

Demand mediocre gun laws

Since the Newtown shootings I’ve been hearing a great deal, understandably, about murder and violent crime statistics. Richard compared UK and US homicide statistics and Michael looked at the media angle. It’s time to look at the two together.

You may remember that a variety of celebrities took to TV to demand that the people of the US demand a plan from their politicians to, well, demand criminals to kindly not commit the crime of murder again, please. A lot has been said already about how asking criminals to obey a law that takes guns away from them is unlikely to be ineffective, but lets not dwell on that. Let’s take at the laws the celebrities were, in effect, endorsing.

It turns out that the people behind the “Demand a Plan” video called the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (owners of smartgunlaws.org) have a plan of their own to sell. In fact they’ve been cataloguing and grading the gun laws of every US state (excluding, for some reason, the District) with a score from A- to F. They did not award any A or E grades. It’s their goal, as you may not be surprised, to reduce gun violence in a “smart” way using laws as a tool. Obviously, at least to you and me, the choice of murder weapon is of little consequence when you’re dead so I had a look at total homicides (inevitably combining non-negligent manslaughter) from the FBI crime statistics.

I wanted to know whether the states they graded highly had better overall homicide rates. The results are interesting:

Homicides by Law Quality

Law’s graded by SmartGunLaws.org. Crime stats by FBI.

The graph shows the mean rate per 100,000 people as calculated by the FBI, then averaged across states. The X axis is the grade assigned by gun-control advocates, listed alphabetically. The Y axis reflects the combined performance of all laws in the same grade-band in all the states awarded that grade by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As you can see, C grade laws tend to produce fewer homicides regardless of the perpetrator’s choice of weapon. Bizarrely, A-, B-, D, D- and F grade laws all produce more homicides.

What about other forms of violence. Frankly, I have no idea if it’s better to survive a gun shot wound or a beating with fists, I’d like to avoid both. So I wondered how does the “quality” of gun law impact overall violent crime? Most gun-ownership advocates would say that more guns means less violence, since guns are a force-leveller. Most gun-control advocates, I have noticed, don’t seem to care much if I get beaten with an iron rod for want of a firearm.

Violent Crime By Gun Law Quality

Law’s graded by SmartGunLaws.org. Crime stats by FBI.

A second time, it seems as though mediocre C and D grade laws produce better outcomes in terms of the amount of reported violent crime. Even A- states reported nearly 383 crimes compared to just over 362 in F grade states. Nearly 21 extra violent crimes, per 100,000, were caused by “better” gun laws. Wowser!

So what do I think is going on? Well, seriously, I don’t know. The case for gun-control is done no favours by the fact that A-, B-, C and D- states are all more violent that F graded ones, but the averages actually look random. I am not a US citizen and I don’t know enough about each state’s circumstances to speculate at why. The raw stats are there for others to work with and if you want my tabulated spreadsheet and pivot tables, write in, I’m happy to save you a couple of hours of making annoying formulas that I already made. Most likely there are a lot of better mathematicians too, for example, I would like to control for population density and poverty rates but I don’t have a grasp of the required mathematics.

My feeling about it is that actually gun laws are making no difference whatsoever. States have the problems they do for all manner of reasons, I am sure, and I am sure I don’t know how to untangle it. The eagle eyed among you will also notice that C, C- and C+ are not in grade order. I’m sure that were they in order the result would point even more clearly in favour of laws meaning nothing and saving no-one. A little factoid to call out is that D- states experienced 178 more violent crimes per 100,000 people than F graded states. If you were in an F graded state, would you really want your gun laws to score a D- instead? I mean, would you vote for it?

Instead, I look at things in a different way. If I have a right to be alive, and to be happy, then why is it right to limit my use of self-defence? I am responsible for my existence, I would not want to burden others with a duty to act as a white-knight; but if I did I would want them to be armed too so that they can do so safely. Frankly, even if my use of armed self-defence meant that there were more mishaps, then I am sure I would still possess the right to try and defend myself; if not the inclination.

And as for the 2nd amendment, I’m not sure it really does say that I get to use a gun to protect me from my Government, but just look at Syria.

Civilian Disarmament: Prelude to Tyranny

Here is an excellent historical exposition of civilian disarmament and the key role it has played in mass murder by William Norman Grigg, as well as some interesting quotes regarding the reasoning behind the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution and the UN’s schemes to ensure the state’s monopoly of power.

For those readers wishing for a break from gun laws, read this eye-opening article from Grigg on the bogus war on drugs, and what happens if you try to bust the wrong people.