Saturday, February 9, 2013

Make Guns Central To Politics

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

The un-infringable right of the people to keep and bear arms is necessary to the security of a free state, or was that a free State? The state of individual freedom or individual freedom within the State? Embedded as it is in a State's Constitution one must assume the framers of it were at least aware that their freedoms were constrained by the strictures of that State. Of course amongst the dissension and horse trading of ratification the capital letter strayed from State somewhere between the convention and the congressional vote: plus ca change, one of the beautiful things about Congress is it's super human idiosyncrasy, no individual could ever aspire to such blessed idiocy.

So we are left with some deliberate ambiguity about the nature of the enumerated freedom, whether it is that of a state in which individuals find themselves or of a State of individuals bound together by a common identity, but I really have any no complaint with that failed distinction: the freedom is ultimately, to the degree our society coheres, both. The freedom of individuals within States should remain as loosely stated as practicable as our rights should remain our own, unnamed, until they infringe on others. Explicit specification of rights, as a preventive means, too easily drifts to coercion when those unspecified simply vanish.

So we have rights within civilization that make us free to the extent we do not abuse the rights of others, but it is a constrained freedom: the freedom to be within civilization is constrained by the laws and norms of civilization, free to a point and for a point. But make no mistake, civilization is a coerced state, it is not a state of nature: people make it even as we make ourselves conform to its norms. Perhaps it is in our nature, but across the human platform that nature drifts enough to not be counted on as universal, and particularly with regard to our commitment to obligations to our fellows, we chafe to varying degrees in our relationship to that coerced state.

So here we are several hundred years latter in a world of profoundly changed technology, demographics and institutional structure. That particular several centuries has seen a sordid assortment of ideological systems based on sub-classification of humans into strata of master and servant, pure and profane, blessed (Capitalist/Proletariat) or profane (vice versa, from whichever side you started on), founder on the righteous indignation of a universal principle of justice that appears in the human heart with enough frequency and vehemence to muster victory in mortal combat against these exploitative systems of slavery, racism and xenophobia. That sense of justice binds effective majorities in freely selected union against the glamorous, psychotic tendency to elevate a narcissistic sub-class to some exalted pinnacle no human has the right to lord over another. And at the heart of these wars have been those well regulated militias securing this freedom, not from the coercions of civilization, but the freedom to enter into the vast mutual benefit of a civilization built on ever expanding universalization of human rights, the rights of all people to those freedoms that do not harm others even as they are achieved by "his terrible swift sword".

Now with the issue of the Second Amendment again in the news, the terms offered by civilization for full participation suggest the need to tune what it is to be well regulated. Markets are one of the most profoundly beneficial results of regulated behavior where the universal and equal enforcement of rights combine with the constraints placed on power by civil law to allow the freely made decisions of discrete individuals to pull forth wealth enhancing activity serving broad public purposes through the simple mechanism of individual financial incentives. Market systems have conjured an assortment of tools into existence that could easily be brought to bear on the gun culture that results from America's historical relationship to it's Second Amendment. For instance registration and insurance as we have with our cars could easily be applied to guns. Guns are intrinsically dangerous, like cars, and as such manufacturers should not be held accountable for their misuse, however individuals should.

One can not put a price on human life and a gun owner's insurance would not be expected to pay for that: civil and criminal procedures exist to ameliorate the tragedies of murder and accidental death to the extent possible which though inadequate are the best we can do. Insurance could however cover all the economic costs of the implementation of these procedures. This alone would make such insurance expensive, perhaps and I hope very expensive: there are a lot of costs to gun ownership,  both intentional and accidental misuse that are currently borne by society at large, they are a massive market externality I would see charged back to the gun culture that produces the costs. It is here however that we run up against a real impingement on the freedom of citizens to bear arms for the necessary preservation of a free state, or State as you like. Money and access to it can not become the determinant in ones access to a constitutionally protected right, whether to bear arms or to political speech as I addressed several years ago.

Citizens, I would propose, should receive some large and perhaps complete insulation from the insurance cost of gun ownership to the extent they participate in public and well regulated militia. Amongst the central peacetime charges of such militia would be the peaceful preservation and maintenance of privately held fire arms. Those who participate in militia would be organized and known to each other along with their intentions and armaments. The public nature of these bodies would allow all interested parties to engage, meet and understand those amongst them who chose to be armed and the civic nature of the organization would restore a prestige to participants that would have real political consequences: such organizations would inevitably become spaces of protected public speech as those involved would have a prior expressed commitment to constitutional purpose and a certain means to effectuate it to the extent they are in conformance with the will of their larger community. I can imagine no better protection of the American citizen from the overreach of our executive authorities in the "War On Terror" than a truly well regulated militia committed to constitutional function exercising the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

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