Friday, March 18, 2011

More Thoughts on Statistics and Guns

The day after I posted these observations on statistics, I started to reflect on another point I found amusing:  Kelly complained that I accept those criminologist that I agree with, but reject all those criminologists that I disagree with.  This reflection started as a comment, but it grew to the point where I decided it desereved a post of its own.  Here it is.

There are a handful of reasons for why I trust "pro-gun" studies over "anti-gun".  A major one that I cannot ignore is this:  I have my own biases, and they are likely coloring what I trust or distrust.  Having said that, when I first read "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott, I didn't feel all that strongly one way or another about guns at all.  Indeed, after reading it, my thought was "Perhaps I should get a concealed carry permit and a gun."  A year later, I was in New York State, where it would have been much more difficult to get either.

It wasn't until I read the essay A Nation of Cowards; by Jeff Snyder that I realized that carrying a gun is a duty, and the political issue of guns became so important to me.

But beyond that, I simply find the "pro-gun" studies more thorough than "anti-gun" studies.  They tend to be more up-front about their methods, go into greater detail about how they acheive their results, are more likely to provide their data, use common methodologies that avoid obvious flaws, and so forth.  The last chapter of "More Guns, Less Crime" is an eye-opener, too:  Lott details all the efforts, and even lies, that were put into debunking his study, by people who never saw it.

Meanwhile, "anti-gun" studies, time and time again, have glaring flaws.  Studies that find a high correlation between gun ownership and crime, for example, leave off glaring counter-examples known around the world.  Studies between groups (say, for example, a recent comparison between Arizona and Scotland) bend over backwards to explain why the comparison is valid, but ignores the reasons why the comparison is invalid.  "Deltas"--that is, changes over time--are ignored.  Gun violence is emphasized, but violent death by other means is ignored.  Different countries use different methods for gathering (and sometimes covering up) data.  Overall, data that would hurt their position is often ignored, sometimes even dismissed outright.

And finally, there's the reason why none of these studies matter in the first place--why I would accept gun violence, even if the studies really implied that guns increase the murder rate.  Every individual has the right to self-defense.  That is, each individual has the right to judge when their life, and/or the lives of their loved ones, are in danger, and to act to defend innocent life.  Even if it means using lethal force to neutralize the threat.  Every individual has the duty to overthrow tyrannical government, even if such a duty cannot in practice be fulfilled.  Banning guns says, in effect, that individuals are not capable of using correct judgement to defend lives--that only the Government can do that.

This philosophy--that only Government agents can make life-and-death decisions--means that only Government can decide what health care you get.  Or what you can eat.  Or what light bulbs and washing machines you can use.  Or where you can go to school.  Or what ideas you can learn.  Or what you can publish and broadcast.

This very philosophy runs completely counter to the idea of Representative Republics, where the People are entrusted with selecting their leaders.  In this system, at least in theory, the People are the ultimate holders of power.  If we can't trust these people with guns, then how can we trust them with the vote?  After all, the people will have the power to vote for people who will give them the right to keep and bear arms.  Just because they haven't yet, doesn't mean that they won't do it in the future!

This very philosophy assumes that people elected to office, and the bureaucrats those people appoint, and the agents those bureaucrats hire, are somehow superior at making these types of decisions, and are somehow so special, that they are either allowed to carry a gun, or can have bodyguards that carry guns.

Politics is ugly.  Elections are usually popularity contests.  By the very nature of bureaucracy--whether in government or in business--bureaucrats become slow and sluggish.  You will have a very difficult time convincing me that people selected in such political processes will be on par--let alone superior--than those people who elect them.

No matter what government we put together, people on the street will always be better at making decisions--whether it be choosing a light bulb, or deciding to shoot a mugger--because they will always have far more information than any bureaucrat sitting at his desk, or any police officer arriving to the scene five minutes after the crime starts.


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