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Gun violence in Chicago is a problem for Obama, says Bloomberg, and gun control backers are “left cold”. (via memeorandum). Newsdesk tells us that The Authorities™ are going to Chicago to discuss “youth violence”. The Jawa Report sneers, and is fully justified in doing so.

As I am personally prepared to attest, a heart attack hurts. There are many items in the modern pharmacopeia that will relieve pain, but giving a heart attack victim Oxycodin is unlikely to do much for the unfortunate sufferer of something much deeper. It’s simple to treat the pain, but treating the pain doesn’t address the underlying cause — and even if the victim survives the heart attack, giving him sufficient pain medication to make him feel better is likely to have side effects that make the problem worse, not better.

Gun violence isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem. Treating symptoms without addressing the underlying problem is more likely to make it worse, not better.

The problem is breakdown of orderly society. When we submit to Government, one of the things we receive in exchange is transfer of the necessity for violent action to “the Public”, as expressed by Government. This is one of the principal features that distinguishes Western societies from many others: less ordered societies still permit, or even require, personal retribution for injury — revenge. By assigning responsibility for revenge to Government, and abjuring it on a personal basis, we create a situation that is more orderly, and therefore more conducive to trade, commerce, and the creation of wealth.

Inner-city residents have been excepted from that reassurance, and in many cases have been specifically taught not to accept the bargain, on the ground that — well, you know all the excuses: the cops are racist and all the rest. The result is that they revert to the earlier and less efficient forms of Government, choosing leaders according to strength and depending upon private revenge to redress wrongs. Guns are a handy way to facilitate that, but (as revealed by the video Bloomberg references) they are by no means necessary. Almost any object can be used as a weapon. You could choke somebody to death with marshmallows, if you wanted to work hard enough at it.

Controlling guns — treating the symptom — will do nothing to address the real problem. Not only is “weapon” a state of mind, guns themselves are simple technology. Sam Colt built the first practical revolvers using tools that are, by modern standards, little better than hand-files and hammers, and in any major city you can find dozens, perhaps hundreds, of machine shops that could turn out practical firearms in job lots. It isn’t really necessary, though. For many reasons, there are millions of guns out and about in our society and most others. A person who wants a firearm can have one if he wants to take the trouble, and legal barriers are minor to nonexistent — the basis of the problem is that legalities are irrelevant, because those who are charged with implementing the Law have abdicated their responsibilities.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post huffs and puffs about the “gun show loophole”. Even the Mayor admits that gun shows are, at max, 30% of the problem, if it is a problem.

News for you, Mr. Mayor: to a street gangbanger, gun shows are as irrelevant as firearms laws. Down on the corner and out in the street, there are plenty of “private sales” available.

It is foolish and counterproductive to define animals as either “good” or “evil”. When an animal is hungry it seeks food. The fact that the food is another animal is part of the process only to the extent that it constrains food-gathering strategy. The animal is not making a conscious decision to deprive another animal of life; it has no process for making such a decision. Hungry, hunt, eat (or fail to catch food, and remain hungry). Mechanical, in a way.

A baby starts out the same way. The condition is masked by the fact that the human infant is for all practical purposes a worm, devoid of any means of gathering its own food or even getting to where the food might be. It has no conscious apperception of the existence of other beings; that has to be taught as the infant brain develops the capacity.

Even an adult human being isn’t much better. No fangs, no claws, no armor, not even strong teeth and jaws for biting off vegetation. Humans only succeed in groups, so our “instincts” (heritable behavioral characteristics) tell us to teach our infants socialization and provide our infants with the precursors for that teaching.

Everything we call “evil” traces back, ultimately, to selfishness — to privileging our individual selves over the good of the group. This is what the Socialists build their concepts upon, and it’s hard to argue against because it’s true.

The problem is that an agricultural society, or even more an industrial one, requires behaviors that are “selfish” in the context of group socialization. The children are hungry and need food — but if you feed them the seed grain, everybody starves next year. The resources taken out of society to build a factory can’t be used to feed the sick, house the hungry, or cure the homeless, and that’s not fair — that is, it doesn’t match our “instinctive” reactions to how-to-support-the-group. Agricultural and industrial societies are intellectual constructs that don’t match our “instincts”, and are vulnerable to people who can’t or won’t do the intellectual work to support them.

All die. O, the embarrassment — and the confusion from people who aren’t reasoning but emoting, based on “instinctive” reactions. What the hell happened to all the food?

h/t: Q and O

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October 2009