Five Forms of Activism

Suppose you’re someone who wants far less government control than we have now. How would you make that the new norm?


I’ve asked myself this question for several years now. It didn’t take long to realize that political views alone are pretty inert if they never get implemented. The “activist” who does nothing but argue online and listen to podcasts all day (yes, that describes a lot of people these days) isn’t going to change the course of history anytime soon. So what should they do instead?


A couple years ago, I decided that most of what can make a difference falls into at least one of these five categories, and I plan to do a separate blog post on each of these in the months to come. To be honest, I’m not sure most Libertarians even do a good job with the first thing listed here…


1. Educate Yourself: Make an effort to learn about various policy issues, broader political philosophy (in addition to the structure of argument), and how to persuade others. For policy issues, you’re learning about the various ways government intervenes in people’s lives and what the unintended consequences of them are. Political (and analytic) philosophy is important for clarity of broader discussions that don’t boil down to cost/benefit analysis of specific policies. And it doesn’t hurt to know a thing or two about the common fallacies that come up in political debate either, in addi


2. Persuade Others: It’s one thing to convince yourself of an idea, quite another to get others to see it’s merit. The problem with most Libertarians I’ve met (and yes, I too have been guilty of this) is that we are often good at working through the logic of an argument, but terrible at actually persuading others to come to the same conclusion. Although there is some overlap, being analytical and being persuasive aren’t necessarily the same thing (conveying the differences and giving examples will require an entirely separate blog post). For now, you should ask yourself: What’s the least amount of information someone would need to know to have the biggest change in perspective on any given issue? The answer to this will vary by whether you’re aiming for a change of opinion on particular topics, or in the broader way that they go about evaluating any issue in general.


3. Create and Demonstrate Alternatives: For many people (including me), seeing truly is believing. Ridesharing apps demonstrated the folly of taxi medallions better than most policy papers on the subject ever could. Consumer-driven health care options (such as Direct-Primary Care) can help illustrate why the government’s focus on insurance doesn’t solve anything. Affordable housing designs can demonstrate how zoning laws contribute to homelessness. Market-based alternatives to government regulation (such as decentralized supplement testing, among many other things) can show that you don’t necessarily need a government agency to protect consumers. Hell, there’s even intrepid examples of alternatives to government projects that were once limited to science fiction. And recently there’s even been a successful implementation of zero up-front cost vocational schooling that Milton and Rose Friedman theorized decades ago. For long-term investing, we even have app-based retirement savings services. I could go on forever with voluntary alternatives to government functions, but for now this video should drive the point home.


4. Change the Laws That Are Enforced: There are several layers to changing what the size and scope of government is, and not just when it comes to local vs. national politics. You can influence things through which candidates win party primaries, who wins a given election, and what laws they try to pass, block, or repeal (in the form of bills that go through different stages before passed). Most people focus almost entirely on who wins on election day, and very little attention is paid to what happens after that; don’t be so short-sighted. There’s also the judicial side of things, which some would argue is just as important as who gets elected for local office. Overall, your end goal is to influence what bills actually get signed into law, and this process goes far beyond what happens on election nights. Learn how this process works at local as well as national levels of government, and don’t forget the power of courts in deciding what kind of bills are even permissible – or how they get implemented. Which brings us to our last category of activism…


5. Make Existing Bad Laws Irrelevant: To understand this domain of activism, consider what it means to say that something is illegal. A law essentially says, “If you do X, you will face consequences that range from fines to imprisonment.” This fifth category of activism involves making those consequences less likely to happen for activities that don’t involve inflicting harm on other people. Consider the impact that Napster, or Pirate Bay had on making copyright law toothless. Or what grow lights did to marijuana laws. Or what 3D printers do for laws against the possession of certain objects. Or what cryptocurrency does to controls over who may buy and sell. Or what encryption as a whole does for enabling secure communication and commerce between willing participants. The theme behind this form of activism is to learn to subvert the legal consequences of the controls government places upon you in the first place. That could potentially mean cutting off revenue to government (which it raises through taxes and currency inflation), avoiding the consequences of laws against non-violent activity (methods will vary by the activity of course), and building up the portion of the economy that avoids influence by government in the first place.


For any liberty movement to succeed, it can’t consist of a handful of people that barely do a good job of understanding the costs and benefits of certain policies, or of understanding general political philosophy as a whole. We need a greater number of people that are effectively executing each of these five domains. If this five-part list was too much to comprehend in one sitting, consider learning the differences between voice (changing the system from withing), and exit (leaving it entirely) as well as how that might apply to technological innovation today.


My next several posts will be entirely focused on exploring each of these five things in greater detail.


New Project: “Points of Liberty”

Here I go again, starting a new post with the complaint that I never get around to using this site as much as I should. Anyways…


I started this site about 7 years ago with the intent that it would be for promoting and supplementing a book that still hasn’t been written, and won’t be anytime soon. Recently though, I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be better to get a more concise project done instead. I’ll be writing up a short booklet that’s under five-thousand words long (a 30-minute read for most people) that can be printed and stapled in the same format as the publications featured here on Invisible Molotov.


The working title right now is Points of Liberty, with a subtitle to the effect of, “The concise case against government control.” You can think of it as a Cliff’s Notes summary of how to think through major policy issues, and some general heuristics to help you along the way for topics you don’t have hard knowledge of yet. A lot of it will be based on bullet points I plan on including in “State Exempt: Guide to a Voluntary Society” – but that book won’t get done unless I can complete something on a smaller scale first.


I’m a little uneasy about having the word “liberty” in the title, because that might give the impression to skeptics that I aim to assume more in the book than I really do. Rather than arguing from any political values, I’m hoping to argue from premises everyone already has. But more on all that later in this post…


Now for some backstory on why I suddenly decided to start throwing this together. It all comes down to what I’ve learned about public opinion research, and how Libertarians in real life try to (poorly) make their case.



In case you didn’t know, the median voter has a ton of misconceptions about policy issues that are far out of wack with what economists believe on the same matters. If Libertarians of any stripe (minarchist, panarchist, anarchist, you name it) want to see change happen, they’ve got to get a grip on how to persuade the highest number of average joe and janes with the least amount of effort.


Which brings me to my latest random instance of inspiration.


A while ago, I came across a talk given by Bryan Caplan on public opinion and why it’s a sobering field of research for Libertarians. You can summarize his talk as follows:


1. If you want to predict what politicians are most likely to do, you have to look at what the median voter wants. Special interests may play a role, but only because ignorance and irrational beliefs held by the general public allow them to get away with what they do.

2. Much of what the public thinks is extremely antithetical to what Libertarians wish they thought about political and economic matters. As a general rule, the more specific the issue the less Libertarian the answer.

3. If Libertarians want any hope at all of having their ideas change the world, they’ve got to be honest with themselves about what the public really thinks about policy issues rather than exclusively blame bad politicians and special interests. Change the revealed preferences of the median voter, and the popularity of politicians who are skeptical of government intervention in different areas of our lives will rise accordingly.


For staunch Libertarians to change things in the political sphere, you’ve got to learn what makes the median voter tick, and Bryan Caplan mentioned a point in the talk I linked to earlier that does give us hope. In surveys about what the public thinks about raising the minimum wage, support drops in half if people are asked to consider the possibility of reduced hours of employment for the workers it’s supposed to help. That pattern has been replicated in more recent surveys as well. All it took was the mention of a single trade-off and the general opinion of those surveyed reversed, so what if Libertarians took the effort to find similar points of persuasion with other issues?


About five months ago, Bryan Caplan participated in a Reddit AMA in which I had the chance to ask him directly about the possibility of using polling to find what trade-offs change someone’s mind the most on respective political issues. He replied stating that it would be an expensive venture, but it would be great if it became a common genre in public opinion polling (my thoughts exactly on both).


All this is only one side of the coin. Not only have I become convinced that there is a potential new strategy for deciphering what is most likely to change minds, but for over a decade now I’ve found myself frustrated at how bad people in my own camp are at making the case for their views.



In the last few years in particular, I’ve had a chance to really see firsthand how people from my own political camp tend to go about the process of persuasion. God damn is it stomach-churning to see how often they argue from premises that no one else agrees with to begin with.


My favorite example of this? Definitely Molyneux’s “Against Me” argument. Besides being a racist asshole as of late, he basically turned thousands of younger liberty-minded types into droids that do nothing but claim anyone who disagrees with them is a no-good terrible person who wants everybody to get shot. Go ahead, read that link again if you don’t know what I mean.


My point here is that things we take for granted (such as the famed “non-aggression principle”) are not at all taken seriously by people who don’t already agree with us. If you can save someone’s life by a modest initiation of force (like taking a penny from thousands of people), why shouldn’t you? That’s a consequentialist objection to natural rights that many lay people are right to bring up; a moral principle that allows someone to die for the sake of a slight


Instead, I really wish people in my political camp would admit that there are many politically-relevant values that people have a psychological attachment to. If you want to persuade more people, you need to do more than claim everyone who disagrees with you just wants you to get shot.


But the problem with most of the Libertarian arguments I hear isn’t just a matter of arguing from values that differ from those that disagree with us. The biggest problem I see is that people of my political stripe tend to argue for their views in a manner that’s completely different from what got them persuaded in the first place.


I call this arguing downhill. You start from the premise that NAP is a value any common-sense person would agree with, so you proceed to call every policy you hate an act of “force.” It’s easy to do because it flatters what you already take for granted. The problem with this? I’m betting you were persuaded by an “uphill” set of new information that built upon itself piece by piece instead. That is, you encountered multiple examples of why – for example – market competition is better able to drive down prices and boost quality than other approaches. No single finding was totally compelling by itself, but combined together you eventually became convinced as a matter of principle that market approaches are the best way to deliver goods and services. Oh, and you probably had to actually learn how markets and government operate differently before those examples could even resonate with you.


Let’s take economic issues for sake of argument. Did you once think the Great Depression was the result of too little government oversight? Did you think markets would lead to monopoly firms if government was left out of the picture? Did you think there were no viable alternatives to Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid because you didn’t know what the returns were for IRAs, or how cash-only health care centers work? Did you not understand what money even is, or why fiat currency is something to shy away from? Were you unaware of the difference between crony capitalism and true markets? Did you think many municipal services were just natural functions of local governments? Were you unaware of all the evidence that school choice programs deliver better results at a lower cost than traditional public schools? Did you think without an FDA, drug companies would be in a rush to kill their own customers, and thus their bottom line? Did you think raising the minimum wage was a no-brainer thing to do that wouldn’t lead to any negative consequences for the workers you thought it would help? Were you convinced that taxing everything the richest CEOs make each year would balance the budget?


I’m not expecting you to know your personal answers to all those questions. But what I do want to get across to any like-minded readers is that you probably didn’t adopt the views you have because someone came up to you and said “initiating force is wrong” and suddenly you agreed. That view had to be built up over time with more isolated “points of persuasion” before you were willing to buy into it. You needed an answer to quite a few questions before you became skeptical of government as a matter of principle.



Both the goals of highlighting compelling trade-offs, and arguing from premises most people already agree with are what I hope to pull off with this booklet. I’ll update it every several months based on feedback and my own experiences in putting the information to use. The format will be inspired by that of the FEE article, “Effectively Irrational.” Rather than a single paragraph per topic, I expect to have one giving an overview of it, another giving real-life examples that confirm the point I hope to get across, and then a little bit of space for references and further reading.


Learning to pack the most amount of information in the least amount of space will help me go a long way towards making State Exempt easier to write as well.


With all this in mind, a dream come true for me would be a pollster testing out the efficacy of some of the book’s content in the same way that people like Emily Ekins test out what convinces people to change their minds on major political bills today. Who knows? Maybe Caplan was right, and this really does need to become a new genre of research that gets the backing it needs?


“Democracy in Chains” – A List of Published Critiques

It’s been almost a year since I’ve updated this site, but recently a new book has given me the perfect excuse to do so. This post will serve to collect criticisms of what would undoubtedly be one of the more disingenuous books published about the history of political and economic thought.


Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend when it comes to historical works that are too terribly one-sided to maintain a respectable baseline of accuracy: As misleading as such works may be, they still give insight into the mentality of the person who wrote it (and often the people who find it reliable). This was the case with Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” which (among many other errors) falsely claimed that Milton Friedman supported the Iraq war, and based the entire premise of the book on a quote mine.


Recently a book that takes a similar approach has hit the stores: “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.” In a nutshell, the book claims that putting limits on majority rule (Bill of Rights anyone?) to protect minority rights is a sinister plan to impose an evil agenda on the masses. Additionally, it makes numerous false claims about the history and origins of public choice theory – which is really just the economics of how political affairs take place.


A List of Published Critiques

In just the past couple weeks alone (of this post being published at least) a number of glaring errors in the book have been discovered as more people have had the chance to analyze what the book claims. Here they are in the approximate order that they were published. I’ve included links in raw form so anyone who prints this post can still see what they are. From sliced quotes, to unsubstantiated claims, to outright misrepresentations of the field of public choice theory, this is looking more and more like one of the most deeply flawed works of historical revisionism to hit the shelves in recent years. Don’t take my word for it:


  1. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan” –
  2. “Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology” –
  3. “Six Degrees of Jim Buchanan” –
  4. “How Nancy MacLean went whistlin’ Dixie” –
  5. “Nancy MacLean’s Distortion of James Buchanan’s Statement” –
  6. “MacLean on Nutter and Buchanan on Universal Education” –
  7. “Some dubious claims in Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’” –
  8. “Does ‘Democracy in Chains’ paint an accurate picture of James Buchanan? [with updates]” –
  9. “Nancy MacLean’s Calhounite Imagination” –
  10. “Against Guilt by Historical Association: A Note on MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains”” –
  11. “Nancy MacLean’s Ideologically Motivated Shortcuts” –
  12. “It turns out Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’ is ‘a work of speculative historical fiction’” –
  13. “On the Origins and Goals of Public Choice” –
  14. “The Butcher with a Smile – More Mangling from Nancy MacLean” –
  15. “Is Libertarianism a ‘Stealth Plan’ To Destroy America?” –
  16. “The Case for Abolishing the National Endowment for the Humanities Just Got Stronger” –
  17. “Another Misleading Quotation in Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains”” –
  18. “The Juvenile “Research” of “Historian” Nancy Maclean” –
  19. “Yet more dubious claims in Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’” –
  20. “”Democracy in Chains” Is The Perfect Book for the Age of Trump. The Reasons Why Will Surprise You.” –
  21. “Democracy in Chains versus Public Choice” –
  22. “Who wants to put democracy in chains?” –
  23. “Nancy MacLean’s conspiratorial response to criticism of ‘Democracy in Chains’” –
  24. “Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them.” –
  25. “Duke professor Georg Vanberg on ‘Democracy in Chains’” –


At this point, Nancy Maclean has done nothing but insist her critiques can’t be trusted merely because the rare couple of Libertarians on the Forbes list (Charles and David Koch) support Libertarian causes – a circular argument that assumes the conclusion it tries to support. A new word for this fallacy has recently emerged, “Six Degrees of Charles Koch.” Basically, if someone who agrees with you supports your work, that’s evil – unless you’re a politically progressive polemicist.


For almost a decade I’ve asked myself the same question: If anything Charles and/or David Koch donates money to must be false, why not just point out the actual errors in the works they allegedly supported? I guess that’s pretty hard to do if there aren’t any to begin with.


Hiding Behind a Pseudonym: Ten Things to Avoid Discussing

UPDATE: I originally wrote this post after having some conversations with people from a certain East-Asian country with quite the surveillance state in place. Just recently I came across this resource which is a great list of things that go beyond what is discussed on this post. The post below can be thought of as a set of ten fundamentals that are by no means the only things to take into consideration.


People may have different reasons for using an alias online or “away from keyboard,” but that doesn’t mean the things you need to shut up about to keep under wraps aren’t more universal. This post is meant to be a simple but sufficient checklist for anyone wanting to hide their real identity online. Before you hit “send” or “publish” or put anything else about yourself on the web, make sure it isn’t any of the following:



1. Your Name: Do I really need to explain this one???


2. Education: You might be able to get away with disclosing your major if it’s not too niche, but you sure as hell don’t want to make your alma matter public. Like everything else on this list, you may as well not even bring this subject matter up.


3. Occupation: Nothing whatsoever about who you work for, let alone specific job title. You can get away with disclosing special skills you have in some cases, and chances are you probably will anyway.


4. Location: What I said about #1 on this list applies here too. If anyone asks, begin with the broadest boundaries or descriptions possible and try to avoid county or city-level details.


5. Family: Your biggest concern here has more to do with keeping family history and background under wraps rather than what parents or siblings you have. The former is more likely to distinguish you from everyone else.


6. Friends: If you talk about “AFK” friends, establish a habit ahead of time about what you will avoid bringing up (such as names) online so you don’t slip up later. Any “I know someone who” statements should be as broad as possible.


7. Favorites: Limit what you say about favorite bands, favorite TV shows, favorite places, etc. The more hipster you potentially are the more this crap will come back to haunt you later. Just pretend to like top 40 if you can.


8. Events: Limit talk about concerts you’ve been too, or major conventions or social gatherings that are big enough to warrant a website, or small enough to narrow you down to a small set of people. Which could be any event really…


9. Organizations: Are you an NRA donor or a card-carrying ACLU member? Not anymore, or at least don’t say anything about it. The same rules about occupation apply to this category as well.


10. Possessions: Have a bookshelf or DVD collection? Don’t disclose every last title, and if you need to just say you’ve “read” or “watched” something rather than reveal whether you specifically own it or not. I should mention here that along with everything else on this list, you are more at risk if someone already suspects you have something to hide in real life and tries to uncover it rather than vice versa since it’s easier to match real life details about yourself to an online identity rather than narrow down an internet persona to millions of possible persons.



For honorable mention, I’d like to add two more broad things to keep in mind as well: Take the time to research secure internet surfing and communication as well as the overlooked field of stylometry. If you would like some additional advice, take a look at this presentation, but only if you aren’t logged into a Google account of any kind!


Abiding by these guidelines won’t guarantee perfect secrecy, but they should be more than enough to provide plausible deniability without making your life a tinfoil hat hellscape in the process. Be careful out there…


My Biggest Phobia About Blogging Might Be Over

Not once has this ever been a site I’ve taken time to actively maintain. And if I had to be honest with myself, a lot of why that’s the case stems from an area of research in the world of privacy that really spooked me somewhat. If you give this presentation the time, I think you’ll see what I mean:



And if you like to read about things in more technical detail (which I sure as hell did for this), then read this from abstract to footnotes: Adversarial Stylometry


It looks like a utility that conceals unique writing styles and is easy to implement might soon be a reality. So far it has been suited for analyzing Tweets but it could just as easily be used for longer passages of text. The fact that Twitter’s character limit doesn’t make it less likely for a unique “style” of use to appear scared the hell out of me when I first let the README for that project sink in. But I guess I should be in the clear if I don’t have another account under my full name for someone to compare.


If I had the patience I would familiarize myself with Anonymouth, but Stylext seems sufficient for adding some plausible deniability. I look forward to how both projects get implemented!


The Trump Supporter Mentality Summed Up in One Comment

On a Freenet discussion group I’ve participated in for several years now, someone posted a link to this article in the Economist. What struck us all was a featured comment that we agreed was an accurate summary of why Donald Trump – an insanely unqualified candidate – is so appealing to those favoring him. Take a look below and let it sink in:


Trump Supporter Comment

A man with no clear policy agenda isn’t supported for his policy agenda. Why am I not surprised?


Rule number one for understanding people whom you disagree with: recognize that not everyone has the same motives. Obviously Trump supporters are no different. But if I had to encapsulate the mentality of a typical Trump supporter in one internet comment, the one above would likely take the cake.


I’ve noticed a pattern more and more with each passing presidential election; first in 2008, and even more so in 2012. And that’s the hard truth that people don’t vote for candidates because they’ve done a cost/benefit analysis of their platform, or decided it’s a morally desirable thing to implement. People start with parties or candidates they like and only then do they try to find policy justifications for why the person or team they’re rooting for is so damn great.


This has been confirmed by recent polling which found that who a policy is attributed to can matter just as much if not more to it’s approval than what people think of the proposal itself. I recently started reading two books in tandem that describe this psychological pattern quite well: “Thinking, Fast and Slow” along with “The Righteous Mind.” All I can say right now is that so much partisan behavior in others and myself that I never really understood is starting to make sense – irrational as that behavior may be.


In the end, Trump is winning support among a white underclass that feels squeezed out of the job market yet isn’t considered a traditional victim class to the media. The only way to stop future Donald Trumps – aside from better voting methods – is to convince this demographic that excessive government is what’s holding them back. Not immigration from Mexico – which has actually reversed in recent times.


Nolan Chart – Neon Edition

That’s what this looks like to me. Or at least this is the result of inverting the colors on the standard pic and changing the inside text to gold. For what may be a decade, I’ve seen this image as being the best map ever of major political groups in the Western world.


Nolan Chart Neon

Best introduction to how political groups differ.


I haven’t used this blog much, but I thought this would be a good way to split the hiatus that never ends. Several years ago I was obsessed with this chart and the various online quizzes that map your result upon it. I recently had a discussion with someone about how forcing people to focus on policy would mean the end of any Bernie Sanders/Donald Trump types. And using questions that talk about the costs of many policy goals wouldn’t hurt either.


But with all that aside, political quizzes are a tough thing to execute. The less someone knows about policy (and less confident they are), the less accurate any quiz for them can be. This is part of why I don’t buy claims that The World’s Smallest Political Quiz is intentionally inaccurate. No quiz that measures a lay person’s policy preferences can work effectively on someone who doesn’t have the knowledge to form strong opinions to start with.


Without that knowledge, it looks like people make decisions based on group pressure and how much they feel inspired by a political figure’s speaking ability. Fortunately most people know enough history to understand that both those influences haven’t fared well at delivering effective candidates, so there’s some hope at rolling them back.


Hey, at least that’s a start right?


The Basic Case Against Gun Control – Part II: General Gun Ownership

With the subject of public opinion trends already discussed in a previous post, we now turn our attention to gun control laws that generally fall under three categories (concealed carry, types firearms or accessories, and restrictions on how one may acquire a gun or possess one). Let’s begin with the effects of gun ownership in general for this post. We will be looking at international comparisons, concealed carry effects, and Kellerman’s fallacy.

Crime Rates and Concealed Carry

This is the most overarching topic in the debate over gun control, and one that the pro-gun side has luckily managed to make amazingly high legal progress in! This comes in the form of both a supreme court case (DC vs. Heller) as well as the state-by-state spread of concealed carry laws in the US over the past couple decades. Here is an excellent GIF that shows the progress year by year of that latter trend:


right to carry

Who said things are in a trend for the worse?


So what have the effects of gun ownership and concealed carry been on crime rates? Given that both are already widespread, what should we make of critics who say banning such things would put fewer lives at risk? We now turn to international data and data on crime within the United States. Take a look at this image from NoProhibition:


International Gun Deaths

While I would probably word it differently, this picture kind of sums up the discussion of international deaths.


I actually made a post a while back on the DefCad forums in which I mentioned more or less the same things. When using international laws and respective crime rates to make a point about what legislation we ought to pass, it’s pretty typical for people to just quote the raw death rates by firearms alone. Michael Moore did this in “Bowling for Columbine” and Piers Morgan did the same on national TV on more than one occasion. But as the graphic above makes clear, this completely sweeps all sorts of factors that are behind those death counts under the rug.


1. We begin here by adjusting for population differences – the most trivial step of them all. Many official sources like to use per capita rates by using the number of deaths per 100,000 people; fine by me.


2. Next make sure you’re using total homicides by any cause, not just firearms. Someone’s life doesn’t become meaningless just because they were murdered in a manner that didn’t involve the use of a gun.


3. In fact, make sure you really are citing total homicides in a given country. Murders aren’t reported until after they’re solved in the UK – which can be hard to come by. US homicides would also appear to be far lower by that same standard.


4. One important point that I was unaware of until I saw this video is the fact that US crime is centered in mostly large metro cities. With so many more such places in the US, crime rates have far less to do with firearms as a result.


5. Finally, stop using cross-sectional analysis in statistical comparisons. Compare crime rates before and after a given law is passed. Right to carry laws seem to be correlated with reduced crime as they’ve been adopted (see above GIF image).



This last point brings us to the question of data about the US itself. It’s one thing to show that international crime rates do not support the thesis that more gun control means less violent crime. Let me drive that point home even further with this link to Australian crime rates before and after a sweeping gun ban, and this picture:


Globally More Guns Means Less Crime

Looks beyond developed countries, and uses *UN* data. Click for better resolution.


Now comes a final question regarding what a gun in the home is likely to be used for. You likely have heard a statistic that originated from a man named Arthur Kellermann that says something to the effect of, “A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against yourself or a loved one than to be used in self-defense.” Okay, so he later revised that number to 22 times because he admittedly screwed up, but you get the point.


Variants of this argument still circulate to this day. While the kinds of measurement used in such studies is often flawed to begin with (assuming the only way a gun can be used defensively is to actually kill someone for instance), there is an even bigger flaw. Let the point of this image below sink in for a moment:


Kellermann's Fallacy

Whether will use this is yet to be seen. They’ve been inactive for a while.


The point of this meme is that you could apply Kellermann’s logic to just about anything. Recently people have twisted the logic to say gun ownership puts women at risk because they are more likely to be victimized with a firearm than to use one defensively. Yes, a lawmaker (Democrat) said this to a rape victim. Yet these refer to cases in which someone else (other than the victim) is using the gun. If someone argued that physical force was more likely to be used against women than by women defensively, should we ban all women’s self-defense classes by that logic? In fact, you could argue for banning martial arts classes altogether using the logic of Kellermann’s study.


Any way you look at it, gun ownership can’t be causally tied to an increased personal risk of death. And yes, this is even the case for suicide rates – as we can see in this image of multiple countries of differing gun laws:


suicide rates by country

Strict gun laws don’t necessarily mean fewer suicides.


As I made clear in the first post of this series, public opinion is increasingly in favor of allowing people to carry concealed firearms. In my next post, I will drill it down to the debate over specific types of firearms and accessories – namely so-called “assault weapons,” magazines that hold “too many” rounds, and even things like suppressors. This is where the general public becomes more divided over various proposals, and it’s important that gun rights activists learn how to put these issues to rest.


The Basic Case Against Gun Control – Part I: Trends in Public Opinion

In this post and the one that follows, I want to put up a draft of some stuff I will have in “State Exempt.” Rather than argue over Second Amendment matters (which are totally irrelevant in other countries), I want to focus entirely on why gun control is a bad idea from a law and economics perspective. Three categories of legal issues will be discussed: The effects of concealed carry, bans on particular firearms and accessories (e.g. assault weapons and magazine capacity limits), along with more general restrictions on firearm acquisition and possession (background checks, “liability” insurance, and registration). Each of those will have their own section in a subsequent post, but for now I want to devote a section to trends in public opinion for this one.



Public Opinion on the Matter


About two years ago, I shared a pessimistic state of mind with millions of others about legislation that was under consideration. One of the worst school shootings in US history had taken place weeks prior and it seemed like every other major news story was thinly disguised advocacy for banning things that have little effect on overall crime rates.


Little did I know, public opinion and grassroots activism had a different say on the matter…


More Americans Say Guns Make Home Safer

Recent Pew studies and Gallup polls have shown that this awesome trend has continued!


This trend of public opinion looks pretty unstoppable at this point, and yet most Americans have no idea that gun homicide rates have actually dropped over the last two decades. If they did, the more recent surveys showing six in ten being supportive would likely show even more prominent results.


But obviously this isn’t the case. Despite becoming more anti-gun control in a broad sense over the past couple decades (I’m sure internet access helped out there), the public tends to be lightly supportive of some specifics. These tend to have less to do with whether or not various firearms should be legal (the first two categories I listed at the top of this post), and more to do with how you may acquire them. Sure, the public has mixed feelings on so-called “assault weapons” – something I blogged about before here. But even this is turning out to be a fading opposition; to the point where even a staunchly left of center writer in the New York Times wrote that such a ban was pointless.


The focus thus far has now turned towards the question of how background checks are conducted, as well as the possibility of things such as “smart guns” or “liability insurance.” Oh, did I mention 3D-printed guns and magazines? In the next post I want to go over three main categories of gun control, and make the case for scrapping all such laws. Here they are again described in greater detail:



1. The Effects of Concealed Carry: What can we infer from international data as well as longitudinal data in the US about the effects of allowing civilians to carry firearms for personal defense? Has gun control worked in other countries? Are you more likely to use a gun to kill yourself or a loved one than to use it to stop a crime?


2. Bans on Weapon Types and Accessories: Do “assault weapons” bans make any sense? Does limiting magazine capacity (how much ammunition a gun may hold before you must add fresh rounds) boost public safety? What about things like suppressors or other “unnecessary” accessories? Should those be regulated?


3. Firearm Acquisition and Possession: How effective are background checks at stopping criminals? Do we need to expand them for any reason? What about forcing gun owners to have liability insurance of some kind for the weapons they own? Last but not least, should we ban people from using new technologies (3D printing) to make firearms?


The post won’t be exhaustive; the best comprehensive (as opposed to concise) guide to the debate over gun control can be found at GunFacts.Info.

My New Year’s Resolution? Ditch Labels As Much as Possible.

Yet another hiatus broken. 🙂


Here’s something that likely applies to anyone who comes to hold well-defined views: We start off broad and less than certain, yet over time we begin to narrow our views down to an overall perspective that’s more rigid. From that point on it’s only a matter of filling in the cracks, or making up our minds about subtle nuances that are pretty trivial compared to what we think as a whole.


Okay so that’s probably not the best way to word it but you get the idea. In my case, my political orientation went from a kind of weak neoconservatism (I didn’t even know half the issues listed on many popular Nolan Chart quizzes existed) towards full fiscal and social conservatism – that was after I learned what the terms “capitalism” or “free market” even meant. Then over time, I slowly began to realize that conservatives were simply dead wrong to try and centrally plan moral values, engage in foreign adventurism, or endanger various civil liberties in an effort to fight “terrorism.”


By then, I noticed that I was scoring in the upper quadrant of two major Nolan Chart quizzes. You can clearly see from the image below that the label “conservative” no longer applied to me at that point:


Nolan Chart

Probably the best illustration of how the major political persuasions relate to one another.


So there I was in the summer of 2008, suddenly realizing what the hoopla over Ron Paul was all about and suddenly becoming fascinated by the Bob Barr campaign. I was a full-blown Libertarian of the Stossel variety – more or less. As a general rule of thumb, I felt that the market was able to provide many goods and services more effectively than government could ever dream of. I also was in favor of scrapping pretty much all victimless crime laws, and wanted the military to focus entirely on defending our borders – nothing more.


Yet even this took a turn within a few months. After spending more time surfing the net and coming across arguments in favor of “Anarcho-Capitalism” (or Market Anarchy, Voluntarism, etc), I started to consider the possibility that maybe all “necessary” functions of government could be provided on a profit/loss basis rather than a compulsory one based on your zip code. Yes, that included police, courts, and thus law as a whole.


Since that time in late 2008, my views haven’t really changed much. I’ve become more confident over time that they have merit and continue to feel more confident about how to articulate them. But small details within that framework continue to be worked out every day. In particular, I’ve had a hard time deciding how to label myself. On a casual basis, I just tell people my views happen to fall under the Libertarian camp of thought. And I no longer feel a need to be up front about labeling myself at all if I can help it.


I could go on for several paragraphs with examples of why I take this approach now, but just a few will suffice. Have you ever seen a profile page or description of someone who had views you strongly disagreed with? Maybe you just saw the ideological label(s) they adopted and immediately attributed all the most negative things about that political camp to that individual. You know, “them is fighting words.” If anything, whatever exchanges you ended up having with them would’ve gone a lot more smoothly if you were forced to find out for yourself what they actually thought about the biggest political issues of our time rather than projecting your own prejudices on them.


That sums up the biggest drawback of political labels – they can often do more to mislead and shut down discussions before they can really take place. Take a look at the image below:


Pew Political Polarization

Pew’s questions may be imperfect, but it gets the basic point right about growing ideological disparity.


Considering that I don’t fall under either camp mentioned in that pic, and that people who do will assume I do as well, making it harder for them to jump to conclusions about me seems like a pretty good idea. And what better way to do that than to just avoid labels altogether? Well, labels obviously aren’t useless. But when people associate things with labels that discourage them from wanting to hear you out, what’s the point? Why not force them to have to ask you questions before they can even begin to make bogus accusations about how you’re a bad person for not having the same views they do? For me, that meant changing my Twitter description to begin with, “Let’s discuss policy issues and see where we agree” a couple months ago.


What about terms like “feminist?” Do we go by what the dictionary says or do we look at what is commonly characteristic of people who actually apply that label to themselves? I would think the latter gives you a better idea of what someone truly stands for. And it’s that process that encourages two people who label themselves entirely different things to actually find where they are similar.


This issue goes beyond political labels. What about economic systems? Capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, social democracy, anarchy, etc. With labels, most people accuse everyone else of having bad or stupid intentions rather than explain in clear concrete terms why their preferred system does or would deliver better results. Folks, this is an area where you can raise the level of discourse in no time simply by ditching labels, and explain how resources are to be allocated and why. If you rely on a lot of tautologies to defend your preferred political/economic system, then having to explain how it actually works without giving it any kind of label will expose your flawed reasoning in no time.


So now that 2015 is about to kick in, I’m going to take it upon myself to focus more on individual policy issues and the principles behind them before I mention a word about what my views are as a whole. I’m doing both myself and any potential critics a massive favor by doing so.