|THE RECENT killings in Blacksburg, VA suggest that a theoretical
examination the role of gun control is needed.
background: I was looking at Carlin & Soskice's (very good but hard)
macroeconomics textbook which shows a graph indicating the theoretical
relationship between the degree of centralization of wage setting and
the unemployment rate (in the long run). (p. 117) High
decentralization (fragmented or no unionization) means that less
unemployment is needed to restrain labor demands than with
intermediate decentralization. But highly centralized wage setting
also implies low unemployment, because Labor and Capital can strike a
deal to restrain wage demands (e.g., Sweden -- still true?)
Returning to the original topic, in analogy to the labor/unemployment
relationship, it seems that maybe both a high and a low amount of
distribution of guns among the public could deter gun violence.
The idea that having a small number of guns distributed among the
public would prevent gun violence is the dominant US liberal position.
This of course, would require strict state gun control -- or perhaps a
culture that involves a popular opposition to gun ownership. More
likely, it would involve having both of these: without an popular
anti-gun culture and general support for the state's restrictions, the
state anti-gun strictures are very hard to enforce.
On the other hand, some US right-wingers believe that if (almost)
_everyone_ had a gun, they could defend themselves against gun
violence. In that case, it's as if the armed public would be replacing
the state in maintaining order. Or the public is complementing the
To be successful at minimizing gun violence, this right-wing solution
would have to
(1) have a highly-unified culture dominating civil society (i.e.,
society outside of the state) so that the different groups don't get
into wars with each other; and
(2) the "people armed" would have to accept the current _status quo_
of the distribution of property and power.
(The liberal consensus sketched above would also need these two.) The
unity of the culture thus could not reflect proletarian class
consciousness but would have to be unified in some other way. This
kind of cultural consensus seems much more fragile than the one that
the liberal position requires. It might be unified using national
chauvinism and the like.
I wonder how many of these right-wingers would like the idea of the
Black communities being armed. Or the Latinos? or the gays? The
advocates of this perspective seem to be envisioning small towns in
Texas that are totally dominated by their (straight male) Anglo
populations. How many of these are there nowadays?
Then there's the problem of the lone nuts who are prone to gun
violence (which seems to be what happened in Blacksburg). In the
liberal scenario, we might see only 10% of the US population holding
guns. If 10% of the population consists of lone nuts (only some of
them on pen-l), then then we might see a 1% chance of one of the lone
nuts getting a gun. (I know that the math is shaky, but bear with me.)
In the right-wing case, say 90% of the adults would have guns. That
means that there would be (say) a 9% chance that a lone nut would get
a gun, following the same mathematical trick. This suggests that the
possibility of gun violence would be significantly higher under the
right-wing regime. So the need for a ideologically well-knit
gun-toting civil society is more important.
Further, the different types of culture would deal with the lone nuts
differently. The liberal culture would likely be more "communitarian,"
sort of like in Austria. It would try to enfold the lone nuts in the
community's loving arms, to prevent violence. This might succeed in
lowering the number of lone nuts, by making them less lonely.
Alternatively, technocratic solutions such as forced psychotherapy
(including forced meds, electro-convulsive therapy, etc.) may prevail.
This latter "solution" seems more likely in a more atomized and
The right-wing culture these days seems to involve either
"libertarian" competition or religious communitarianism. The former
seems more likely to encourage the lone nuts, by treating them as
"losers" or worse. Alternatively, the lone nuts might be made less
lonely by incorporating them into right-wing militias, perhaps to keep
unwanted ethnic groups out of town or in line.
Religious communitarianism promises to provide a version of the
liberal solution sketched above. But of course, it's less inclusive.
You have to believe in the Faith.
which solution is better. To quote the judge at the end of that
classic film "Chained for Life," "You be the judge."