by Michael Eliot
With all the (nauseating) discussion I have seen on the interwebs and in real life, back and forth, about what could be done, should be done, will be done in response to yet another horrific school massacre, I would like to paint a picture of possible responses were we living in a free society. And the interesting thing is that everyone gets to have their own way.
A free society means the end of politics as we know it, because ‘politics’ means the majority choosing a policy to force on the minority, which the latter must then endure. By contrast, in a free society, which would be marked by the sovereignty of individual decision-making more than any other factor, each family would be free to pursue whichever strategy they felt the most efficacious in achieving their desired goal.
In response to this most recent shooting, several policy prescriptions have been put forth from all quarters. There are those who want to further restrict gun ownership and availability. Some feel that only on-site protection along the lines of armed guards in schools can prevent further tragedies. And there are those who want to focus on improving mental-health-care availability. I’m sure there are others, but let’s focus on these three main responses.
I called the discussion of which policy to apply ‘nauseating’ because I reject the very idea of society choosing one path to force on everyone. Why not let each household choose their own response to such a tragedy, especially when something so important as their child’s safety is at stake? Then let those who believe in similar solutions group together. That way, nothing gets forced on anyone.
Some people blame gun-availability. But in a free society, those who view gun-restriction as the answer to stopping gun-violence could group together for living and schooling, pooling their property into large privately-owned regions in which they all share a common rule: that no one be admitted to their individual private properties unless they agree not to bring in a firearm. This would have the effect of replicating something like a city-wide ban on firearms in a region, but does so through completely voluntary and private means, without the need for a law to be passed or anyone to be coerced against their will.
Such people who want to pursue a strategy of territorial gun-denial would themselves refuse to own guns, and would demand of anyone seeking entry into these privately owned regions and roads that visitors be subject to a search for firearms, or at least ask them to promise that they will not bring firearms inside and to warrant that they will not do so by posting a performance-bond at a large monetary value, and to forfeit the bond if they violate this agreement.
Anyone caught inside with a firearm would immediately forfeit the bond they’d posted, costing them hundreds or thousands of dollars depending, would be blacklisted from that region, and would have their admission to that region revoked, resulting in them being immediately escorted off the property. Should the person protest, the matter could be brought quickly to an arbitrator who would likely rule that the violator of the agreement must forfeit the bond and leave the property immediately. Anyone caught bringing firearms into one gun-banned region could be immediately black-listed from entry to similar areas.
Hopefully, these regions would not take such policies to the ridiculous extreme that has happened in some places, where children have been punished for merely drawing a gun on a piece of paper in school as part of a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach. This actually happened.
Naturally, other people outside these regions with a different idea of how to stop gun violence in schools would be free to pursue other solutions.
People who blame the ban on guns in schools as the problem – saying that, of course, gunmen are going to target schools if their goal is maximum carnage, knowing that no one inside has a firearm – could pursue a policy that takes that theory into account. It was Lenin who quite correctly wrote, “One man with a gun can control 100 without one.” These people believe only an armed defender can oppose an armed attacker.
Those who think this way will want to put guns into the schools and into the hands of trained defenders, as a defensive measure. That could be done a number of ways; either the administrators and/or teachers themselves could be trained and armed, or you could purchase additional security in the form of guards and other measures. These people would have to be willing to pay for this kind of extra protection, and may feel better knowing that if a gunman bursts through school doors with weapons ready that someone on-site definitely possesses enough force to oppose them and end or stall the threat with the minimum loss of life possible.
As for people who want to focus on getting mental-health-care to those who need it, first we need to realize that, in a free society, it would be impossible to force anyone to receive treatment unless they had first threatened or harmed another person. News reports released recently indicate that one possible motive for this recent school rampage may have been the suspect’s mother’s attempt to have her son forcibly committed. No peaceful person should ever be committed against their will. Other reports say that he was never violent with his mother, nor threatened her, even if they were known to argue on occasion.
Apart from the issue of coercive mental-care, in a free society, the mentally ill could be cared for by institutions funded through voluntary subscriptions (never coercive taxation) or other voluntary means such as foundations, or even for-profit services. No patient should be held against their will unless judged an immediate threat to themselves or others.
As for the actively suicidal, I think people should be allowed to end their lives by free choice, with dignity, legally, and without penalty. It should be the product of a well-thought out decision, generally, not done in the heat of the moment or in passing despair. But we must respect it if we hold to personal autonomy and self-determination. By making it both illegal and difficult to end one’s own life, we may be forcing people like this young man to the breaking point, where they feel they must do something drastic in order to obtain the will to end their own life. Perhaps if he had had access to a path of dignified and socially-acceptable suicide, he would have chosen that rather than taking his frustration out on innocents.
If we are to respect the rights of all individuals we must respect their right to control their own life, and that means the right to end it as well. And in a free society, no one would have the right to deny you or anyone the ability to end their own life, as is currently done by law in most of the Western world.
As a result of the increased numbers of options in a free society, it would not take long to see which strategies actually produce results. Perhaps regional gun-restriction is the best policy and results in the fewest number of shootings; but perhaps when shootings do occur an attacker may be able to kill large numbers of people virtually unopposed, leading to large death counts.
Perhaps the second scenario of not restricting guns in society but having armed, on-site security leads to more frequent shootings but far lower numbers of students actually being killed when they do occur.
How can we tell which would be most effective, unless the various policies are allowed to exist, undiluted, amongst those whom would pursue them?
This is one of the biggest problems with the political game of ‘winner takes all’ policies. When society at large is forced to pursue a single path from many options, not only is it tyranny over those who favored another path, but we are deprived of seeing the result of other paths thus drastically slowing the pace of societal evolution towards more effective ways of ordering society and the discovery of methods that are most effective for desired outcomes.
There may be even more effective third and fourth policies which neither you nor I can imagine, that others could think of and successfully apply—but only if they do not have to convince an entire country to get behind their plan first.
The ability to rapidly iterate, to take multiple approaches to any problem, and for solutions to then rapidly spread through a society, is one of the greatest strengths in theory of a free society, marked by organizational individualism.
At the end of the day, we must consider it tyranny for anyone to demand a particular solution be forced onto the lives of other people’s children. The decision for which policy will most likely stop school shootings and keep children safe is not one that can or should be made in the halls of Congress, but within the walls of each household. Let households freely patronize the schools that pursue the policy they personally agree with. Anyone forcing a solution on a household that wanted a different policy has blood on their hands when the next school shooting breaks out.
The truth few want to admit is that such attacks may not be entirely preventable at all. Laws cannot take guns out of the hands of law-breakers. Gun-free zones are entirely disregarded by lawless attackers, and may actually be painting targets on schools as easy marks. Could we end bank-robberies by making them “theft-free zones?” Of course not.
A rational strategy to address the occurrence of school shootings must assume armed attackers can make their way onto school grounds as a basic starting point and build a response strategy from there.
But politicians cannot admit this truth, cannot throw their hands up and say there’s basically nothing they can do. Because if they do so, people will vote for the other candidate that will claim they can do something, anything, even if the candidate is lying and those voting for them suspect they are, too.
Only a free society, one without anything that can be called a ‘politician,’ can be honest with itself.
Setting up a gun-free zone would be impossible in the modern world. It’s not a realistic option. Not even throwing money at that idea could make it feasible, e.g. paying people to move who are too poor to afford it. Some people would want to continue to own guns and also continue to live near by their relatives who don’t like guns.
Sam: Granted it would be difficult now and in the present context. I’m mostly concerned with how it could be done voluntarily and without coercion, and I think I’ve demonstrated how it could be done. Your suggestion that people don’t value it highly enough to order their lives around it is perhaps correct.
But I’m also thinking of future free societies, such as seasteads and even spacesteads, where the cost of moving aroundone’s domicile is negligible compared to the costs of re-organizing land-based societies. In such societies, they may choose to do exactly as I suggest. And nothing would stop smaller land-based communities from implementing my suggestion right now. Nothing except government, that is.
Fantastic article! Reads really well and hits right at the problem. I’m often surprised by the quality of posts on our own blog! Great job!
I best liked the point about multiple approaches possible in a free society. Imagine how far back we would be in say cellphone development if their development were centrally controlled, and everyone voted on which model of phone to produce and then everyone got only that model. Consider how much heated debate there’d be on what features to add to next year’s model, whether it would be a rigid or flip-phone (touchscreen phones wouldn’t even exist), whether to give it a larger battery for more life or make it lighter, etc.
Shay: We already are that far back in cellphones. The first cellular phone was demonstrated in the 1930s! Robert LeFevre recounts making a cellular call to his wife back then on a demo unit. It wasn’t until the break-up of Ma Bell in the 80’s that cellphones were released from government shackles.
Well the suicide bit raised an eyebrow with me. As a hypothesis it is straightforward enough. If the would-be spree shooters off themselves then they aren’t around to commit spree shootings.
On the other hand a culture where something as egoistical as suicide would be socially acceptable doesn’t sound like a culture that would emphasize taking others into account prior to taking action. Which could be a real problem if it indeed turns out the underlying cause of spree shootings is the culture of self-obsession as I have seen argued.
It may be a society where suicide was frowned upon and the suicidal were encouraged to suck it up and soldier on, not for their own sake, but for the sake of those to whom they are dear, would be likelier to ingrain thoughtfulness about effect of one’s actions on others, and cut down on spree shootings as a result. It may be having a culture that would be down with offing oneself is, if the goal is to have fewer cases of spectacular anti-social acts, exactly the wrong turn culturally.
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