Re: Externalities (was Re: Gun census Tally: Sun, Dec.21, WAS:Re: Gun Owner/Extropian census)

Michael Lorrey (
Sun, 21 Dec 1997 17:44:08 -0500

Keith Elis wrote:
> Mike wrote:
> > Political rights, authoritiy, and power are thought to be derived from
> > one of two sources: [...] b) from the exercise of force by individuals willing
> > to fight and die to gain such rights, authority, or power, either for
> > themselves, or for the group of people they represent. Since
> > Libertarians around the world tend to also be athiests, especially
> > non-American Libertarians, I cannot understand any justification for a
> > libertarian atheist to not support the force doctrine, and givne the
> > nature of Libertarian philosophy, which holds that all power and rights
> > derives from the individual, I cannot understand how any Libertarian
> > atheist can not support the right of the individual to keep and bear
> > arms. ANything other than this seems extremely hypocritical to me.
> The force doctrine doesn't imply that *firearms* are necessary to
> preserve freedom. It merely requires that an individual have the right
> to keep and bear arms. I agree that this essential point is obvious and
> unassailable in light of the Second Amendment. Much of the debate going
> on around here concerns whether firearms are a practical means to this
> end.
> Firearms are easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and the most powerful
> type of weapon the average person can get. In this regard, they seem to
> be the most practical choice for self-preservation.
> However I'm not so sure that the production costs of firearms reflect
> the external costs associated with their distribution. Firearms are
> practical in large part because they are so inexpensive. But are they
> artificially inexpensive? Shouldn't the price of purchasing a firearm
> mirror the increased risk to self, and others even if only accidental
> harms are involved?
> The purpose of a firearm is to throw metal at high speeds, over a
> considerable distance, with accuracy. We all know that the intent of
> such a stated purpose is to make killing more efficient.
> A tool used for killing is useful only insofar as the probability of
> causing death increases with its at-will use in a wide variety of
> circumstances. Firearms seem practical for self-preservation in large
> part because they are useful by this standard. Consider that a nail-gun
> has the same general purpose as a firearm (throwing metal at high
> speeds) and would suffice to kill something, but its effectiveness for
> killing is limited (a nail-gun has a short range, it is heavy, it
> requires a pretty powerful compressor, it is inaccurate, etc.) In short,
> it is an impractical killing device.
> Now, the point: the purchase price of a nail-gun may not reflect the
> external costs of accidental harms, but it also does not reflect the
> external benefits that result from its use for the purposes it is
> designed for and the purposes it accomplishes most efficiently. A
> firearm designed for the express purpose of making killing more
> efficient has external benefits only insofar as killing something can be
> a benefit (rare and isolated situations which constitute a separate
> issue).
> However, this analysis neglects to weigh a possible external benefit
> involved in throwing metal at high speeds, over considerable distances,
> with accuracy. Namely, it is amusing for some people. Does this benefit
> (in the aggregate) outweigh or equal the aggregate costs of accidental
> death? I would guess that it probably doesn't.
> If this is so, then firearms are not as inexpensive as the market is
> telling us, and they may not be the most practical method of ensuring
> your own personal autonomy and freedom.

Given that the annual number of times firearms are used in self defense
here in the US is anywhere between 600,000 to 2.4 million, depending who
you talk to, this comes out to a rate range of 240 to 1,000 incidents of
successful self defense with a firearm per 100,000 population. Comparing
this to a murder rate of around 10 per 100,000 population, and a
firearms related accident (not necessarily fatal) rate of .06 per
100,000 population, I think it shows pretty clearly that the benefits,
not even counting the recreational benefits, far outweigh the potential

This could be formulated in a very easy question as an analogy:

If you could take this magical pill that would increase your chances of
living to 100 years of age by 24 to 100 times, would you take it??? I
sure would.

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------	Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
How many fnords did you see before breakfast today?