Wednesday Highlights

I think we’re going to be doing evening links posts this week. I’m leaving early in the morning each day to beat traffic to get from South of Chicago to North of Chicago to a job site.

Links?

  1. Hard to amend, a bug or a feature. I’m leaning toward feature.
  2. Well, that counters conventional wisdom I think.
  3. Gun ownership and demographic opinion movement noted. So were you once “anti-gun” (or are now) and why did you soften your views (or have youfelt any notion to soften your views)?
  4. Of unions and markets.
  5. Geometry and 19th century land reform.
  6. Another way to “hide the decline”
  7. If you don’t think moral trumps legal, that’s just one more thing you’ve got wrong.
  8. On decency and public standards. Should public standards have scare quotes?
  9. Speaking of scare quotes.
  10. On the return from the depths.
  11. So … do you agree? Will Mr Obama blink?

12 Responses to Wednesday Highlights

  1. I was somewhat anti-gun until a friend made an argument I couldn’t refute. I can’t remember what it is exactly, but it was basically about the right to defend yourself. It’s one of the few instances in which I changed my mind on a major issue during the course of a conversation.

  2. 5.Geometry and 19th century land reform.

    Not bad but why is this particular to the 19th century US? Aside from rectangles what other feasible way is there to divide up land? Curves only make sense when you have some natural boundary like a river or lake.

  3. JA,

    I grew up in a New Jersey liberal household, and while not anti-gun I certainly wasn’t interested in them myself and was basically a fence sitter on the issue. I think the turning point for me was in conversation when someone pointed out the gun provision in the Bill of Rights wasn’t a hunting provision but explicitly for personal defense and to keep the government “honest.” The sportsman use of guns is interesting but it’s beside the point. The point that the bill of rights defends the possession of use isn’t “for sportsman” but an issue of personal sovereignty. As you note, I had no response accept to accept the point.

  4. Boonton,
    So why is rural Germany and France (for example) not orderly rectangles? The answer is that it wasn’t one movement that released property from the landed owners to the people. Orderly rectangles arose because 1 mile x 1 miles squares were divided up regularly, giving rise to standard repeatable patterns. Otherwise you get rectangles of a mishmash of sizes and shapes.

  5. I think the turning point for me was in conversation when someone pointed out the gun provision in the Bill of Rights wasn’t a hunting provision but explicitly for personal defense and to keep the government “honest.”

    Or to keep the Fed. gov’t honest? The Bill of Rights as originally understood was not a prohibition on state gov’t actions. Before the Civil War it was accepted that state gov’ts could do things like restrict free speech, establish a state religion and so on. Only after the Civil War was many, but not all, of the provisions of the Bill of Rights incorporated to apply to the states (which is why, for example, you can’t demand a jury trial for your speeding ticket). The term ‘well regulated militia’ implies something other than the open ended freedoms of ‘press, religion, speech, assembly’. To me it implies the US Fed. gov’t can’t stop the states from having their own armed forces or allowing individuals to have weapons so they could be easily called into an armed force (i.e. militia).

    IMO a ‘right to self defense’ doesn’t really make sense for the 2nd. The right to self defense is a right in criminal law to assert self defense if one is accused of committing a crime. Trying to read the 2nd as a ‘right to self defense’ to me ends up becoming an entitlement, like a righ to health care or food stamps which conservatives love to point out is now how the Constitution thinks of rights. If you have a right to self defense and that means owning guns then it would seem you have a right to not only demand the ability to buy guns free from legal prohibitions but also have the right to have guns provided for you.

    So why is rural Germany and France (for example) not orderly rectangles?

    What exactly are they in? How does on buy plots of land in rural France or Germany? In circles? Hexagons?

  6. Googling arial pics of rural France, I stumbled upon images like these
    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/another_lesson_from_les_bastid.html

    Does this not look like orderly rectangles with the exception of cities that tend to be enclosed by ancient geographic boundaries like rivers or walls?

  7. Boonton,
    OK. Now Google maps yourself to a view of say central Kansas. You’ll see mile after mile of roads setting up a one mile grid, with farms blocking the interior of that square mile in fourths. You’ll also see lots of circles inscribing the quarter mile fields via irrigation units.

    The European grid is more irregular and smaller.

  8. Boonton,

    IMO a ‘right to self defense’ doesn’t really make sense for the 2nd. The right to self defense is a right in criminal law to assert self defense if one is accused of committing a crime. Trying to read the 2nd as a ‘right to self defense’ to me ends up becoming an entitlement, like a righ to health care or food stamps which conservatives love to point out is now how the Constitution thinks of rights. If you have a right to self defense and that means owning guns then it would seem you have a right to not only demand the ability to buy guns free from legal prohibitions but also have the right to have guns provided for you.

    You’re falling into the liberal trap of seeing every right as a positive right and forgetting negative ones. If you have a right to health or self defense, that is a prohibition on the state against preventing you to have access to this. It is not a mandate for the state to provide said thing. You have a right to breathe. The state however does not breathe for you.

  9. The European grid is more irregular and smaller.

    Isn’t one of the defining features of the midwest the huge areas of fertile land compared to New England or Europe? I recall reading that when that area was beginning to be opened up for settlement, it was quickly realized that the ‘optimal’ farm would be much, much larger than what was standard before it. This would seem to turn cause and effect on its head. The regular grid is due to the market forces that are imposed by the geography of the land. The irregular grid of the ‘old world’ is imposed by irregular geography.

    You’re falling into the liberal trap of seeing every right as a positive right and forgetting negative ones. If you have a right to health or self defense, that is a prohibition on the state against preventing you to have access to this.

    You are neglecting, however, the fact that the original Constitutiona nd Bill of Rights had a lot less emphasis on individual rights than the Constitutution of today, esp. individual rights in relation to state and local law. In fact almost none of the Bill of Rights originally applied to the states.

    It also asks the question of what where they thinking of? The idea of gun control as law enforcement for the reduction of crime was not really real back then. Regular police forces were still almost entirely a local affair, if they existed at all. Guns were pretty much standard household equipment. The idea of gun control in the modern sense, trying to reduce common ‘street crime’ by reducing the number of guns people could own, was just not a factor back then.

    What does make sense is the militia argument. They wanted states to have the right to preserve their own version of a standing army which was called a militia. Why? Well you have a state right to self-defense (from hostile Indian nations as well as foreign nations) as well as the common argument as a check on the Fed. gov’t's power. This would inhibit the Fed. gov’t from enacting certain types of national arms control laws (note also how advocates here seem to swap out ‘arms’ for ‘guns’, even 300 years ago arms included more than just guns), but not the states. In fact the states would have to have had a free hand to craft their own gun laws in order to work a ‘well regulated militia’. Many of the Founders had direct or indirect military experience, they knew a militia was not a ‘wiki-type’ affair where everyone came and went as they pleased.

    This would also explain why the language of the 2nd is so dramatically different in structure from the 1st. The first doesn’t talk about the need for ‘well regulated presses’ to advance debate and discussion or ‘well regulated religions’ to promote a civilized polity. It speaks more of an absolute freedom of those things. The press may advocate monarchy, for example. Religion may preach rejection of all interest in wordly affairs. The interests of the state are not given any play in the first while it is in the second.

  10. Boonton,
    The regular geography/roads of Kansas are formed by land grant policies of the 19th century not “ideal” farm sizes.

    The idea of gun control as law enforcement for the reduction of crime was not really real back then.

    It isn’t now, except in the minds of anti-gun legislators who are ignoring statistical evidence that fail to link gun (concealed carry for example) to reduced crime. Remember, open carry in bars doesn’t increase gun violence.

  11. Again the land grants were flowing from the geographic facts on the ground. Just suppose they weren’t, suppose they were tiny and ‘irregular’ because lawmakers following the old world thinking just couldn’t conceive of any other way.

    Individual landowners would find themselves at a disadvantage, with high fixed costs relative to their small plots. What would have happened is that some would have left and neighbors buying up their plots would be able to spread their fixed costs over larger areas of land. Eventually you would have had giant plots of land as a few landowners would have discovered the way to make really good money was to buy up huge continuous plots of land and use economies of scale to farm them….not unlike Standard Oil ended up running the oil business by ‘going big’ and achieving lower costs than nearly all the small time operators.

    Gun control:

    You’re missing the point. What exactly were the 2nd amendment’s authors thinking of when they wrote it? It wasn’t fear of misguided anti-crime legislation.

  12. Suppose that land grants were done on the small scale, old world, model. Farmers in Kansas and elsewhere would have discovered that small plots did not make much economic sense. They could spread the fixed costs of equipment over much larger areas of land. What would have happened is that owners would have started buying up plots of land adjacent to the ones they already owned, gradually building up to the ‘giant’ land grants you see today. As landowners get bigger, their costs go down even more enabling the process of buying out smaller plots to become even easier. End of the day it wasn’t the ‘innovation’ of large grants that made geography, it was geography that made the innovation. Not unlike the story of Standard Oil, which was able to achieve low costs by becoming bigger and bigger thereby squeezing out nearly all smaller operators.

    It isn’t now, except in the minds of anti-gun legislators who are ignoring statistical evidence that fail to link gun (concealed carry for example) to reduced crime. Remember, open carry in bars doesn’t increase gun violence.

    You’re missing the point. What exactly were the authors of the 2nd trying to protect against? As you admit, it wasn’t anti-crime legislation. You are also making the freshman error of equating Constitutional with good. Whether or not something happens to be a good policy idea has nothing to do with its Constitutional status.

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