Saturday, May 25, 2013

Academics can be trolls too

Referring to the pic above and its accompanying post, Munger at Kids Prefer Cheese says, "Only libertarians recognize that these really ARE essentially the same issue." My criticism is of the word recognize and its implication that anyone who disagrees is simply wrong. A more accurate characterization would be that dogmatic libertarians view these as the same because they are focused on personal liberty to the exclusion of all other considerations. The poster masks one issue behind another in a manner common in today's political pseudo-discourse. The issue placed at the forefront is stated in the second sentence, "We should not base our laws on personal dislikes." I wholeheartedly agree with this one, and I would argue that it is key in a number of contexts. However, this is not the issue (or at least not the primary one) for proponents of gun control. Rather, it is public safety.

Physical injury or death is a very different kind of harm from moral outrage. We can't expect to achieve consensus on moral issues, and so the political question is what to do in the face of disagreement over morals. In the absence of any other kind of harm, the only reasonable answer is nothing: i.e. let people do what they want. Some opponents of same-sex marriage have tried to make the case that there is other harm involved, like damage to children raised by homosexual parents, but there is no compelling evidence of this, and probably never will be. In the case of gun violence, there is much room for debate over how much harm can actually be prevented by various legal restrictions and to what extent it is reasonable to restrict some freedoms in order to prevent such harm. However, it is certainly reasonable to expect that the government will take some measures to protect citizens' physical well being, even if that means restricting other citizens' rights in some ways (contra dogmatic libertarians, who claim that restricting anyone's freedom is bad, no matter what benefits are created or costs avoided).

I imagine that the poster above will come and go, although the kind of deflection of which it is an example will continue. The main reason I am writing this post is that I have to wonder what is going on with the bloggers at KPC. I subscribe to the blog because they raise a lot of interesting issues and are thoughtful in many ways. They also are frequently inflammatory, which I don't like so much. In this case, I wonder if Munger really doesn't see the distinction between support of gun control and opposition to gay marriage. Either that or he is being disingenuous. Regardless, not much is being accomplished.

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