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

Keith Elis (
Sun, 21 Dec 1997 19:24:51 -0500

Michael Lorrey wrote:
> 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
> costs.

If you want to consider the external benefits of firearm-related
defenses, then you must also consider the external costs of
firearm-related offenses. As far as I can tell, firearm production has a
tenuous causal relationship to both.

Keith M. Elis
A/K/A Hagbard (to the initiated)