Monday, November 8, 2010

Can't Trust My Neighbor Syndrome

In my last post, I said that libertarianism is scary.  Why is it scary?  I rambled on a bit, but I don't think I adequately answered my concern.  It can be best summed up by a comment I read years ago, that went something like this:
If you put me in front of a table with rocket launchers, machine guns, and grenades, I would be ok.  I won't touch them.  But they need to be illegal, because I can't trust my neighbor, who would probably pick one of these things up and shoot it into my house the first moment he got mad at me.
Perhaps the person who made this comment had a specific neighbor in mind, who he knew would do such a thing, but somehow I doubt it.  It is this tendency that we seem to have, that says, "Oh, I can be trusted with Adult decisions, but my hypothetical neighbor cannot be; thus, no one should be trusted with them."

Ironically, if a person can't be trusted with a rocket launcher, that same person shouldn't be trusted with gasoline, or cars, or bulldozers, all of which can be easily obtained.  Indeed, it's almost illegal for a civilian to purchase a rocket launcher in the United States*, but an individual bent on mischief could easily obtain gasoline, or a car, or even a bulldozer, without a license.  (Admittedly, the latter two may have to be stolen, but they are so prevalent, it would be fairly easy to do so.)

So, if we have crazy neighbors who can't be trusted with rocket launchers--because of their short tempers and lack of common sense--why do we trust them not to torch our houses with gasoline, or not to run us down with their car, nor to steal a bulldozer and tear down our house?

Answer:  Because most people are reasonable about these things, enough so that, when they aren't reasonable, it's a Major News Story(tm).  And sometimes, even when these things are abused, there might be a reasonable explanation--such as unexpected erratic behavior from someone who has diabetes, but has not been diagnosed with it yet.

It is sad when we don't trust our neighbors--even the ones we have a reason not to trust--to make basic, personal choices about the things around us.  And the saddest thing about this is that, when we limit other people's choices, we limit our own, as well.

Thus, you might wake up one morning, and think to yourself, "I'm tired of my drab brown house.  It's been like this for a decade!  I think I'll paint it blue...or red...or maybe green" and then discover that you can't, because your Home Owners Association couldn't trust you to choose the correct color of your house, and so you must choose your colors from a stunning palette of drab brown colors.  And continue to live in a stunning neighborhood, consisting entirely of houses of drab, brown colors.

Enjoy your distrust!

*Or is it?  I'm a little confused about the law on this matter:  it seems that certain volatile things, like flame throwers, are surprisingly perfectly legal, at least in most States; most people don't own them, though, because they are also impractical weapons.  Have you ever tried to conceal a naphtha tank?  In any case, it's possible that rocket launchers are legal where you live, too! but I'm too lazy to try to find out right now.

1 comment:

  1. Rocket launchers are legal pretty much everywhere (some states or localities might specifically ban them, but I'm not aware of any). I myself own an empty M-72 LAW tube.

    The rockets themselves, however, would be "Destructive Devices" under the National Firearms Act.

    $200 tax stamp and Federal background check per each assuming you can find someone who has one to sell, which would be difficult in the extreme. There's never been a civilian market for them, and the Federally owned ones don't get surplused out to civilians.

    So, yeah, legal. But prohibitively difficult from sheer scarcity.

    (If your neighbor wants to kaboom your house, like you said, he can do that without a rocket launcher. It's not like high-schoolers aren't perfectly capable of making a pipe bomb.

    'taint lack of rocket launchers that keeps people from blowing stuff up, it's either lack of desire to or fear of consequences.)