Friday, April 23, 2010

Force Bad, Persuasion Good. Guns Rule Out Force.

One of those internet sensations going around. Still, worth thinking about.

The Gun is Civilization

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society.

A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.

The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone.

The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

by Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret)


Shawn said...

I wish that there were a society where even one individual wouldn't use force (whether that be bullet-force or bench-press force) in their interactions with someone else. However, until that happens (on the other side of the second-coming of Christ, in my world view), the instant that someone decides to utilize force, the whole game falls apart, and everyone should reasonably be armed (or at least a sufficient majority that the force-user can possibly believe that their victim is armed).

As someone who does not like violence (as it is an affront to human life and dignity and creation-in-the-image-of-God), and really wishes that people could interact peaceably, I really have no category in my brain for people who would deny the logic of my (and Major Caudill's) argument.

I welcome the challenge.

Shawn said...

rephrasing: I don't even think a majority would need to be armed. Make that a sufficient minority. Schelling's k fits here: there's some number where we would all move toward a higher equilibrium, even if only a small number of us were packin' da heat.

Anonymous said...

For the same reasons given, I support nuclear proliferation.

Anonymous said...

Nuclear proliferation is different, or might be because of the radically different ways the political process makes decisions compared to how individuals make decisions.

Leaders with their fingers on the button have much, much different incentives than individuals with guns strapped to their hips.

Tom said...

These thoughts are especially poignant coming from a marine, a former agent of state force. I wonder if he would join me in working for a time when nobody pays taxes or obtains a business license, except when persuaded to -- a time when a person makes a choice about marijuana or paid organ donation, solely on the basis of sober, thoughtful argument -- and, of course, one chooses to carry a weapon (or not) without fear of an overwhelming force response from agents of the state.

Tom said...

Merriam-Webster thinks that dissuade is an antonym of persuade. I disagree -- compel is the opposite of persuade.

James said...

"Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force"

Most human interaction is governed by emotion, social norms and voluntary exchange; it is hard to shoehorn these into the categories of "reason" or "force".

Shawn said...

does your emotion lead you to force or reason with others?

do your social norms favor forcing or reasoning?

is your exchange truly voluntary, or forced?

doesn't seem to be much of a shoehorning to me. when it comes down to it, what is driving your interaction? emotion and norms can be evaluated by how they're used, can't they?

James said...

Do you reason restaurant workers into giving you cheeseburgers?
Force students to come to class or face your violent wrath?

Matt Gilliland said...

To obtain your cheeseburger at a restaurant, you use the reasonable means of obtaining that cheeseburger normalized by society (currency). The alternative is force.

Likewise, students come to class because that is the reasoned response. If they don't come, they will either be directly penalized (if attendance is graded) or indirectly penalized (by missing out on the knowledge that could have been obtained through attendance). A student uses reason to determine whether the gains in the situation outweigh the loss of their valuable free time. Consequently, most students show up most of the time.

Reason and force. That's it.