Americans’ Views, They Are A Changin’

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Cuba, Environment, Guns and Ammo, Immigration, Marriage, Religion, Sexuality

Take a look at the following at see how many of these you agree with.

From ABC:

Support for gay marriage, legalizing illegal immigrants and decriminalizing marijuana all are at new highs. Three-quarters of Americans favor federal regulation of greenhouse gases. Two-thirds support establishing relations with Cuba.

But hold tight.

If some views that may be perceived as liberal are ascendant, so are some conservative ones: Opposition to gun control is also at a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. There’s continued broad support for tighter border controls. And contrary to President Obama, half of Americans wouldn’t flatly rule out torturing terrorism suspects.

I agree with every single one of those views except ruling out torture. I don’t think that should be in our playbook, and I’m sure the readers of this blog know exactly why so I won’t get into it.

But everything else I’m on board with. And, yes, I oppose gun control and I want tighter border security.

The first because it’s not our guns that are making us less safe, it’s our drug laws and prison systems that breed criminality. And look at any study where you have conceal and carry. Crime goes down. Sorry folks, but when more people have guns, society gets more polite.

Turning to illegal immigration, in this new, post 9/11 world, it only makes sense to have much tighter border control. And if we want to begin legalizing illegal immigrants, we’re going to have to lock the border up tight. There’s no other way. You can’t have one without the other, and anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you snake oil.

What this tells me is that we’re definitely a moderate nation, and probably leaning a little bit more towards being center left. And after 30 years of being center right, that’s to be expected.

So, how do you compare?


This entry was posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 and is filed under Cuba, Environment, Guns and Ammo, Immigration, Marriage, Religion, Sexuality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

35 Responses to “Americans’ Views, They Are A Changin’”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Any chance you can point to the concealed carry studies? Numbers I have seen are that the most violent and crime ridden states are red states and I would guess that is where most of the concealed carry laws are and how do they account for rural vs city?

  2. Denots Says:

    Yes Justin, where do you get these numbers?

    If you look at gun deaths in the world, I’m sure you’ll find that countries that have strict gun control have many less gun deaths per capita…

    It’s a bit old, but you can verify this at http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvinco.html
    As the site says “The U.S. has a high gun murder rate, whereas a country like England with strict gun controls has almost no gun murders and a very low murder rate.”

    I can find you other similar studies too if you like.

    It all boils down to a few facts, and it’s not rocket science:
    Fewer guns = fewer gun deaths.
    Tighter gun control = fewer people with guns = fewer gun deaths.

  3. TerenceC Says:

    I’m on-board with most of it – although I would like to see much higher increases in madatory CAFE standards (40 to 50 mpg), media ownership rules revert to pre 1996 levels, and a re-instatement of most articles from the Glass Steagall Act. I don’t have any real preference for the gun laws, although I have often wondered why someone would need a turret mount 50 caliber automatic – bulldozer hunting maybe?

  4. Mike Says:

    Kevin and Denots,

    You can’t come to a conclusion about conceal and carry laws by comparing crime rates across red/blue states or countries. There are way too many variables in the equation, since obviously there are plenty of other differences between one state or country and another. The only way to find out if they work is to compare the crime rate in one particular area with the crime rate in that same area after the enactment of a concealed carry law.

    I’m not an expert in the area, but maybe here is one place to start: Research into the effects of concealed carry laws on crime

    Either the writers of that article are biased or there seems to be plenty of studies that show that there is a negative correlation between conceal and carry laws and violent crimes. Since they cite their sources, you can come to your own conclusions.

  5. Jay Says:

    Hey, I’m a Christian and I love to shoot stuff (I’m sure you are picturing a mullet right?). But please, no one needs fully automatic assault weapons, collapsible sniper rifles, etc. I think there can be a balance between extreme right wing nut jobs and the take-all-guns-away lefties.

    My simple view on gun control is that it is just like illegal drugs. Bad guys will get them, and good guys won’t. As much as I shuttered when the “Guys with the guns make the rules” thing happened, there is a shred of truth to it (at least in the real world – not in government).

    As for the rest of the article, I agreed 100% with Justin.

  6. The Maine View Says:

    Gay Marriage – It’s a legal issue, nothing to do with religion. We’ve denied American citizens equal rights long enough.

    Legalize Illegals – I think it’s a slap in the face to immigrants who when through the process legally. Still we need to address the issue and reform the process.

    Pot Legalization – I was against it for the longest time. I think I’m coming around to heavily government controlled, regulated, and taxed growth and sale of pot.

    Gun Control – You are right to suggest that guns themselves don’t raise crime rates. Unemployment, education, strict drug laws for some drugs which put too many into a penal system which just nurtures criminality rather than reduce it are influential factors. Guns are still a symptom of crime that must be treated. We need to focus more on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals rather than enacting stricter laws on legal gun owners. Crack down on gun trafficking hard. Give task forces the resources and training they need.

    Tighter Borders – Clearly if we are going to control terrorism, illegal drugs, and guns in this country we need to control the flow of people. Everyone focuses on Mexico, which is a large problem, but the Canadian border has vast stretches of land patrolled by only a few guards. They did something on the news here in Maine a few years back about how people on snowmobiles zipped back and forth across the border with no hassle at all. That should be addressed sooner rather than later.

    Torture – We need to lead by example. Life isn’t like “24″

  7. Paul Says:

    If the government were to attempt to ban guns then I would buy one. (I do not own a gun) The right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged. Our border is a sieve. Legalize marijuana-think of all the taxes Uncle Sam could collect ! And legalize prostitution too-and tax it !

  8. kranky kritter Says:

    While citing that support for certian issues is “at a high” is interesting, it really doesn’t speak to whether or not support is approaching a majority.

    I am fine with gay marriage. But the numbers suggest no more than a slow trend. Plenty of states will keep gay marriage illegal for at least another generation unless SCOTUS pronounces it legal nationwide.

    I don’t support legalization of all or even most drugs, but I do think there would be some benefits to a substantial liberalization of drug policy. In other words, deregulation of the sort the gop usually likes and democrats oppose.

    But trends notwithstanding, I think we are a generation (or 2 or 3 administrations, anyway) away from seeing this. Support for drug policy liberalization it still political suicide for major officeholders.

    Substantial changes to gun regulations are off the stove, folks. SCOTUS just settled this. Ironically, the fact that SCOTUS affirmed that the constitution protects the right of individuals to bear arms may make it easier for common-sense regulations that close loopholes and endeavor more systematically to keep guns out of the hands of folks who have proven that they lack judgement and temperament.

    Immigration is not an issue where I expect to see any sort of major changes whatsover. Even the info Justin cites is schizophrenic, mentioning both more support for legalizing immigrants and also support for tighter borders.

    The other myriad scattered facts about immigration speak further to the schizophrenia. Many average americans are hostile to the notion of the illegal immigration of undocumented immigrants into the country, and right or wrong, their perception is that these folks adversely effect the labor market for US citizens ands that immigrants also consume US and state government services that they don’t deserve.

    Meanwhile, it seems demonstrable that illegal undocumented immigrants provide a vital labor source for our economy and that they also contribute in the form of sales, fica, and income taxes as well as domestic spending, just to name a few things. So long as everyday folks are troubled by immigration but politicians are loathe to undertake substantial reform because of the lack of good answers, we’re dead in the water on the issue.

    With the economy as sick and fragile as it is now, I seriously doubt that we will see any major political reform efforts on immigration that might adversely effect the poorly documented portion of our economy.

  9. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Our drug laws don’t breed gun violence, but I agree that our incarceration system absolutely does. Also, supporting a culture of urban poverty and tacit acceptance of the disintegration of a nuclear family unit don’t help.

    And let’s all remember that the point of legal gun ownership isn’t exclusively about reducing crime.

  10. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Turning a blind eye to illegal immigration–tacitly accepting it–creates the equivalent of a new slave class in the US. Better that they go home and come back legally than live as indentured servants. The process and policy needs to change, but the rule of law should have primacy. It’s dispassionate, but the problem isn’t like cheese or a fine wine–it won’t get better with age.

  11. kranky kritter Says:

    Turning a blind eye to illegal immigration–tacitly accepting it–creates the equivalent of a new slave class in the US. Better that they go home and come back legally than live as indentured servants.

    In principle, ok. But in practice, uh, better for WHO, exactly? Surely not better for the people who came here despite the systems many known faults and remain despite its gross imperfections.

    I understand quite well what you are saying, but ideal principles don’t put shoes on feet or food in mouths. In the real world of people and food and jobs and so on, The rule of law is functioning in a perverse manner.

    I would dearly love to see a system where illegal immigrants were identified and sent home and meanwhile legal immigrants were allowed into the nation as needed in a quick sensible expedient fashion and our economy was able to thrive and deserving immigrants were allowed to become citizens. But I can imagine no practical way to get there from here. A colleague of mine married a mexican, and it took over a year for her to get a visa to come here. That’s insane.

  12. Kevin Jackson Says:

    Our drug laws don’t breed gun violence,

    Oh I have to disagree, imagine that tomorrow they made cigarettes and coffee illegal. They’d make drug dealers look like pussies.

  13. Kevin Jackson Says:

    Mike–

    You can’t come to a conclusion about conceal and carry laws by comparing crime rates across red/blue states or countries.

    That was my point. It seemed to be stated as a “the evidence is clear” argument. And I think it is far fuzzier.

    Without going through it state by state hard to tell. You might likely find out that there are other things that on their face also seem to show a correlation.

  14. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Kevin–point well taken ;)

    I personally believe that marijuana is the next big cash crop for Big Tobacco, so I wouldn’t be too stunned if we saw it legalized/regulated within the next 12 year (3 terms).

  15. janjanjan Says:

    I am a baby boomer, and I suspect that some of the “changes” these surveys are finding are in my generation. I am a firm believer in the 2nd amendment, although I neither own a gun nor live in a home with one. I also believe in managing the border, but to speak of getting in line and coming to the US legally makes no sense for Mexicans. Our existing immigration program allowed fewer than 20,000 legal Mexican immigrants last year. Were I one of the millions of illegal Mexican immigrants, it would make no sense to “get in the back of the line.” That line is centuries, not just years long. In the meantime, I’d want to feed my family. I’m opposed to legalizing marijuana, being just old-fashioned enough to believe that it is an entry drug and that some of those who use it will move on to much more dangerous drugs. Marriage is a civil right and all consenting adult individuals should be allowed to marry as they see fit.

    I see myself as a moderate independent, and believe that many moderates have very firm views like mine on multiple issues. Some of my views have been tagged as “conservative” and some as “progressive.” That is why people like me are continuing to move further and further away from the Republican party. That party seems to have several litmus tests for true belief and many of us want to make our own decisions. Strict adherence to a party line and purging of renegades was a feature of every Communist state, and I’m shocked that those who claim to believe in liberty can even stand that kind of thinking.

  16. Kevin Says:

    Thinking is a gateway. I was just in Amsterdam, a place that really loves freedom and they make our war on drugs truly look ridiculous.

  17. bs Says:

    i too am curious about your statistics proving that crime goes down when more people carry guns. if you look at texas (my home state), it looks like violent crime was already trending down when conceal and carry laws passed. that doesn’t prove it had no effect, but it certainly calls into question whether or not gun laws had any effect on violent crime rates.
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/txcrime.htm

    in florida, which passed concealed weapons laws in 1987, crime rates actually go up for another 6 years.
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/flcrime.htm

    you know what both those records indicate? that crime went down everywhere in the mid-nineties, regardless of the status of legal gun ownership.

    frankly, i don’t want to take people’s guns, but i do think we’re far too reliant on mythology when it comes to good lawmaking. i was very disappointed in my well-armed friend’s failure to march on washington when bush was torturing folks and waging illegal war. the second amendment doesn’t seem to function the way the founders thought. now, maybe that’s just because we don’t let folks buy tanks…

    but would you run that experiment?

  18. Kevin Says:

    bs- Most rational people realize there is a balance necessary. When I studied Con Law, every word was important so I do think people saying the section on miliitas not being important is a bit disingenuous. That said, I have heard people actually claim a right to owning tactical nukes. That’s crazy, IMO.

  19. bs Says:

    kevin, i’m not sure what you are talking about re: my comment. i didn’t mean to imply that the section on militias in the bill of rights was unimportant: simply that we don’t seem to ever see it in practice. i am definitely not saying that i oppose the second amendment at all, because i don’t. i do think regulation makes sense, and it’s totally because the broadest definition of “arms” would indeed include tactical nukes. fun!!!

  20. Kevin Says:

    bs-

    I was agreeing with you but pointing out that there is a NO tolerance side to it that keeps the rest of us from coming to consensus. e.g. NO to Drugs, NO to Gun Laws, NO to Abortion, NO to same Sex marriage and most importantly NO discussion on any of them because there is NO tolerance toward a different point of view.

    Not you.

  21. Mike Says:

    “in florida, which passed concealed weapons laws in 1987, crime rates actually go up for another 6 years.”

    Actually when I looked at those numbers (violent crime rate divided by population), it goes up and down year by year. But yes, the general trend over those years is up.

    And I agree with the point I think you are making, which is that there are many variables in the equation which make it difficult to look at a chart of numbers and be able to say with any confidence that policy X had effect Y. But that is why we should defer to the experts, who are trained to study these things, controlling for independent variables and comparing the numbers with other trends, etc. And, from the limited research I’ve done (which I admit is limited to a quick google search), the only studies I found suggest that it does lower the violent crime rate. I linked to the wikipedia article that cites those articles. I’m certainly open to anyone posting links to studies that suggest otherwise.

    Ok, here’s one I just found that didn’t show a decrease: http://utahshootingsports.com/usscstudy.htm. However, even that study suggests that it doesn’t follow the trend of other states. Certainly the issue is complicated. My main objection was the sentence “It all boils down to a few facts, and it’s not rocket science” and the “facts” that followed in Denots post. Clearly it is not so simple, and the facts I’ve seen seem to disagree with Denots conclusion.

  22. wj Says:

    OK, here are some opinions from someone in California who thinks he’s a conservative. (If not what passes here for a conservative Republican these days.)

    Gay marriage — legalize it now. And, in the interests of supporting the institution of marriage, while you are at it get rid of all the domestic partners laws. After all, those laws are what has actually been hurting the marriage. Go with Get Married (and get all the rights and responsibilities) or Just Shack Up (and get nothing).

    Legalize illegals — actually, the issue here is a massive revamping of our immigration laws. Do that, and you might even be able to insist that illegals return home first . . . because it would just be a matter of a few months (rather than year or decades), even if they went to the back of the line. Tighter borders would get easier, too, because you wouldn’t have all the people-smuggling making it harder to see the other kinds.

    Pot legalization — Prohibition doesn’t work. We figured that out a century ago with alcohol, and eventually we will figure it out with pot. Personally, I hate the idea, because I’m seriously allergic to even second-hand pot smoke. (With even trace amounts in the air, it feels like someone is driving knitting needles into the base of my skull.) But what we have benefits nobody but the prison guards’ union.

    Gun control — restrict military weapons, sure; personal weapons, no. I don’t own a gun, and don’t see a circumstance where would want one. But that isn’t a reason to say nobody should be allowed to.

    Cuba — We can see empirically that the current policy doesn’t work. And one might note that the only country where something resembling Communism is still extant is the one that we tried total isolation on. Just maybe a different policy would be an intelligent idea. Fidel would be furious at losing his excuse for the mess he’s made of Cuba. But is that a reason to maintain a failed policy?

    Torture — wrong on moral grounds. Wrong on legal grounds. Wrong on practical grounds — it produces bad information, makes foreign policy harder, and puts our own troops at increased risk. The only reasons for it are sadism and blind unreasoning fear. Put the criminals who ordered it and carried it on trial, and let the law take its course.

    Green house gases — anything that is effective is going to cost money, at least in the short term. Both tax money and increased consumer costs. So pick your time carefully. But in the medium to long term, you are going to end up with increased efficiency, which will lower costs. So focus your decision on how to do it on what will be the most efficient way to get to a less inefficient way of powering the world.
    Or, if you just can’t stand the idea of having the government address this, be a man enough to stand up and say “It’s not worth the price. So we are going to accept immigrants from all those nations which will be flooded out when the seas rise.” Sure, there’s lots of people in Bangladesh (just for one). But, at least in theory, it might be cheaper to just relocate them all. I doubt it; but it might be — come up with some numbers, if you prefer that approach.

  23. Kevin Says:

    wj-

    I guess I am a conservative too

  24. Simon Says:

    WJ, Kevin’s reply (which I take to mean “[if those are conservative positions, then] I guess I am a conservative too”) is telling. Those are all defensible opinions, and I agree with some of them; none of them, however, are specifically conservative positions, and several of them are not conservative positions at all (indeed, contrary to conservative positions). Presumably, in order to be a conservative (or even to think of oneself as such), one has to have at least some conservative opinions on some important issues. Can you point to any opinions you have that fall on the right side of the line?

  25. Kevin Says:

    A couple were conservative ideas before the Palin wing took over. Barry G didn’t like the direction Reagan and those that followed took the party. Neither did McCain when he still had his principles.

  26. bs Says:

    @ mike

    “But that is why we should defer to the experts, who are trained to study these things, controlling for independent variables and comparing the numbers with other trends, etc. And, from the limited research I’ve done (which I admit is limited to a quick google search), the only studies I found suggest that it does lower the violent crime rate. I linked to the wikipedia article that cites those articles. I’m certainly open to anyone posting links to studies that suggest otherwise.”

    why would you defer to “experts” without reading exactly what they say? that’s what i find most striking about what you linked. footnote 39 on your wiki article goes to this page:
    http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Espohl1.htm

    and he says:

    “In 1987, when Florida adopted its current concealed-weapons law, Florida’s homicide rate was 11.4 persons per 100,000. In 1993, Florida’s homicide rate declined to 8.7 persons per 100,000.[107] During this same period, the national homicide rate increased from 8.2 to 9.3 persons per 100,000.[108] Thus, allowing honest citizens to carry concealed weapons saves lives. During the same period (1987-93), the incidence of rape went up 14.4% while in Florida the rate went up only 2.9% and started declining in 1993.[109] Although Florida’s rape rate went up somewhat, Florida women avoided the skyrocketing rape rates that the rest of the country experienced. Allowing honest women to carry concealed weapons thus prevents rapes.”

    do you notice that he doesn’t address that rising trend of violent crime during those 6 years at all, in favor of introducing the national average (and for just homicides!) in comparison? that’s awfully close to what you described earlier as a poor way to compare crime rates:

    “You can’t come to a conclusion about conceal and carry laws by comparing crime rates across red/blue states or countries. There are way too many variables in the equation, since obviously there are plenty of other differences between one state or country and another.”

    it bothers me deeply that people will cite someone’s interpretation of data without trying to see whether or not it is correct. i am not trying to be obnoxious or embarrass you, but we should never presume that someone omitting data for our benefit is being honest without finding out why. i love wikipedia because it does give you the ability to check what is being cited.

    that was my point. the people you’re citing seem to be making up their conclusion instead of proving it. i would be curious to see what else you’ve found, because i have this argument often. the utah study you cite still shows that murder rates peaked in 1996, the year after the law passed. they compare their results to work by john lott, and it is interesting to read about the criticism of his methodology.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lott

  27. Simon Says:

    Yes, Kevin, you’re right: until Sarah Palin and her wing of the Republican party took over, legalizing pot and transforming marriage were conservative ideas. Good lord, are you kidding?

  28. Kevin Jackson Says:

    Simon-

    You are the one that thinks there is anything of merit in Palin. Didn’t say she brought it. I was just putting her in as the figurehead for that wing. You may want to reread Goldwater on individual liberties, the environment, gays etc. He was more about liberty. I don’t know why todays conservatives hate our freedoms. But they do. Both Goldwater and McCain before he lost them thought that wing was dangerous and divisive. America and the world agree,

  29. wj Says:

    I admit, my most conservative opinions tend to be those of a fiscal conservative. But then, I would contend that several of these positions above are also conservative opinions — at least, in the tradition of small government conservatives.

    - Gay marriage. I don’t believe that the government should be enforcing personal morality, especially a specific religion’s take on personal morality. But I do think that marriage is worth supporting. So why not bring a few more people into the fold and give them the option? Sounds like a small government conservative opinion to me.

    - Fixing the immigration system. The current system is obviously not working. What is not conservative about trying something different? Not to mention that prosperity will be enhanced is we are willing to let in people who want to work and are willing to create jobs for others as well.

    - Pot legalization. Again, what conservative purpose is being achieved by the current situation? Unless you believe that any and all drugs are immoral, and that the government should enforce morality, the current situation makes no sense. (Or if you are in favor of supporting organized crime — which is what prohibitions, whether of alcohol or drugs, historically do.)

    - Gun control. OK, I admit that that one is a moderate position, not a conservative one. (But then, I don’t claim to value ideological purity.)

    - Cuba. I would suggest that willingness to change approaches, when something is demonstrated not to work, is not an un-conservative position. And anybody who claims that the existing policy on Cuba has accomplished anything: please give details. ‘Cause I sure can’t see it.

    - Torture. A belief in the rule of law is a conservative position. If you don’t like the law, change it. But until and unless you do, it should be enforced. And if you believe that special circumstances require you to break it, stand up and take the legal consequences. After all, you thought it was necessary — so be prepared to pay the price. If support for torture is the litmus test of a conservative, then Ronald Reagan was a liberal — since he pushed for the Convention on Torture that the last administration violated. And if Reagan counts as a liberal for you, then that says something.

    - Green house gasses. I’m not sure whether Simon et al. think that it is not a conservative position because
    – you don’t believe climate change is happening. A conservative would say, “let’s look at the data.”
    – you believe that climate change is happening, but don’t believe that human activity has anything to do with it. You could be right. But if something is going to be done about it, green house gasses are the only area where steps can be taken. At least, I haven’t heard of anyone who knows how to adjust the solar constant.
    – you believe that climate change is happening, and you accept that human activity is largely responsible, you just don’t want to do anything about it. Whether for reasons of cost or unwillingness to have the government involved.
    The last of these might be held to be a conservative position. And I admit to thinking it is. I just happen to think that more efficient technology is worthwhile, and I admit to having let that sway my opinion.

    (Actually, my reading of the evidence is that the solar constant actually dropped in the 19th century. Absent the industrial revolution and the green house gasses it generated, we would have seen another Little Ice Age like we had in the Middle Ages. Whether the solar constant has merely reverted in the last few decades, or whether the level of green house gasses has gone way up, I don’t know.)

  30. Simon Says:

    WJ, recasting the status quo on marriage as one where the government is enforcing personal morality is a cute rhetorical spin, but that’s all it is – spin. Or, to switch metaphors and paraphrase Prof. Althouse, it’s a hook, something that one goes looking for after the need to hand one’s hat upon something. You happen to support a radical socially liberal policy (that’s the hat), but you like to think of yourself as a conservative, or you want to be able to rhetorically appeal to conservatives to advance your policy preference (that’s the need for somewhere to hang it). So you invent this hook by the facile rhetorical trick of recharacterizing government’s present involvement in marriage and the sub silentio assumption of your own redefinition of marrriage as a fait accompli.

    Someone tried the same trick in these very pages the other day (Jan, maybe?) and it was no more convincing then. Look, any time when an issue is deeply divisive, if you hear someone who supports one side make the claim that if the other side were really true to what they believed they’d change their position, nine times out of ten, that person is either missing something or selling something.

    The bottom line is that you’re still talking about making a fundamental change in the nature of the institution of marriage, both generally and specifically vis-a-vis government. Reasonable people can and do differ on the wisdom of that policy, and to the extent that libertarians are nominally on the “right,” it can be said that some republicans share your opinion. Whatever might be said for your side of it, though, your side of it isn’t that of small government conservatives (or any other kind of conservatives), no matter which way you slice it.

    I’ll tackle the pot thing, too, because it’s an awkward one for me. I think that the conservative position would be, here is conduct that is of dubious morality, that has significant collateral effects on users, and which has been illegal for a fair amount of time. It isn’t a traditionally-proscribed substance, it’s only been illegal for about a century, but the proscription of substances deemed harmful to the individual and to society is a traditional category of government regulation that I accept as legitimate. It should therefore remain in its present state of legality until a compelling reason to change emerges, and to the extent change is necessary, it ought to focus on improving ways to tackle supply and demand.

    The reason I say this is an awkward issue for me is that I happen to agree with your opinion. I think the war on drugs has utterly failed and has caused a great deal of unnecessary misery and harm. It is, without a doubt, the flagship example of my more moderate, pragmatic leanings. When a policy isn’t working, the pragmatist in me says, we should consider whether the object of the policy is still a policy goal we want to pursue; if it isn’t, we should seriously consider dumping the policy, and if it is, we should consider what alternatives are available. In a few cases – and I think this is one of them – the failure of the policy combined with the lack of other realistic ways to pursue the goal – justifies waving the white flag and calling it a day.
    So I agree with you, but here’s the thing: although I’m a conservative, my view on this issue is not a conservative view, and neither is yours. My opinion on the war on drugs is a moderate, pragmatic, even technocratic opinion – it’s an exception to my being a coservative, not a product of it, a product of my being a fairly moderate conservative, as conservatives go. I understand the desire to be consistent, but sometimes you just have exceptions and inconsistencies in your views, and that’s okay. You don’t have to invent unconvincing little theories about why the outliers are actually consistent.

  31. wj Says:

    Ah, I think I see one of the places where we differ, Simon. As I find rather often, it’s a matter of definitions. In my opinion, a conservative philosophy is necessarily a pragmatic one. As in: I am not at all sure that it is really possible to have a conservative position which is not a pragmatic one. I gather from your latest that you do not see them as necessarily in conflict.

    As you say, the policy on drugs is one such. But I would say that gay marriage is another.

    At the present, the choice is not between a) only heterosexual marriage being recognized and b) recognizing marriage between any two consenting adults (i.e. gay marriage). Like it or not, the options at the present are 1) marriage between any two adults, and 2) some kind of “domestic partnership” (under a variety of names) available to any two adults, with marriage reserved for heterosexual couples. The latter being what we have today.

    My observation is that the latter option results in damage to the institution of marriage. In particular, I note that a substantial majority of the couples who end up as “domestic partners” are not homosexual couples. They are heterosexual couples who could get married . . . but choose not to. Why not? I would speculate that in many cases the reason is simply an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities that come with marriage. Responsibilities which are not included in the laws on domestic partnerships. In short, by taking the option of allowing domestic partnerships we have encouraged people to evade responsibility.

    I submit that (whether you agree with the rest of the analysis or not), evading responsibility is not a conservative position. Which is why I want to get rid of domestic partnerships.

  32. Mike Says:

    bs,

    No worries. I’m not embarrassed at all. It is impossible for one person to be knowledgeable about all, or even most, topics. And yet since we live in a democracy we are still encouraged to do the best we can and form opinions. If I spent even a few hours researching every topic that is somewhat important, there would not be even close to enough hours in my life. So I’m perfectly willing to admit that I am ignorant about most things, and if I would be so bold as to guess that almost all of us are.

    I learned this when I attempted to get to the bottom of the global warming debate. I spent many weeks reading arguments from both sides, trying to understand the science, watching movies made by ex-VPs, etc. I would read arguments from one side that made sense, and then read counter-arguments that also made sense to me, and continued in this cycle until it became clear I was way over my head and would need a degree in climatology in order to proceed further. It was at that point I decided that there are times that I need to defer to experts (and not just conveniently chosen ones) on some issues.

    So, I respect that fact that you’ve found some holes in the argument presented by one of these experts. I’m not ashamed to say I don’t have time to research the methodologies of John Lott. But I’ll say to you the same thing I would say to global warming skeptics: convince the other experts, and then I’ll believe you.

  33. bs Says:

    mike, as someone who has spent a great deal of time trying to understand global warming, i can say you ain’t whistling dixie. my science and math background are sorely lacking when it comes to understanding climate science.

    but i don’t think there is any comparison here. if it’s true that gun ownership decreases crime, it should be easy to prove comparing crime rates to changes in gun ownership/regulations. i find it odd that you insist that these experts are right at the same time you acknowledge that you’re too ignorant and busy to look at what they are saying. but fortunately, i am happy to inform you that i am actually john lott. and i disbelieve me. i can tell you that my methodology is just atrocious, even to me!

    problem solved!

    anyhow, it bothers me deeply that justin never came back to explain what he based his assertion on. this is why it’s so hard to research these things: his post will come up and someone will probably cite him as an expert, on the assumption that he based it on something.

  34. Mike Says:

    If I had to read every word of what the experts wrote, and analyze them to see if the arguments they made are bullet-proof (in my own non-expert opinion), then I am not by definition “deferring to the experts”. And would be, in fact, researching the issue from the position of a peer, which I am not qualified to be since I am not a fully-trained statistician or social scientist. So when I say “deferring to the experts”, I mean briefly reviewing what the majority of them are saying and taking them at their word. If they are all wrong, I trust that someone else smarter than me (at least regarding the issue at hand) will come along and debunk them sufficiently as to be able to change not only my opinion but also the opinion of other experts. Isn’t that what “restoring science to its rightful place”, a cause championed mostly by liberals, is all about?

    And I don’t think it is as simple as looking at the numbers to see if violent crime increases or decreases. As I said before, there are many other variables to consider. It sounds reasonable to me to compare a small increase in violent crime with a larger increase in the national average, although that by itself wouldn’t prove anything. I actually can’t think of any single (or even multiple) metrics that I would use to prove this issue one way or the other. It is complicated. Maybe not as much as climate science, but still complicated.

    It is an entirely different degree, however, to say that since red states have more crime than blue states, concealed carry laws don’t work. It was that sentiment that I was protesting in what you quoted me saying in your original comment. There is some room for careful comparison between states (particularly so when it comes to rates of change, rather than raw rates), but not to that wholesale degree.

  35. Gregory Perrone Says:

    Gay marriage, What made it “Illegal” to begin with? What idiot would have done that? Maybe the voters at some point decided that marriage was between a man and a woman? It is not the purpose of law to regulate morality, only to set consistent consequences for an action.

    Although I use the internet often, because of it’s obvious benefits, it amplifies the flaw in statistics; numbers can mean whatever the author wishes to say they mean. It’s all in how you collect and organise your data. Information found on the internet should not be assumed to be reliable. No matter what the source. Ironically, making decisions based on intuition may be more reliable than taking a pundants word for it. I am a trained statistician, and do not work in the field because of the unreliability of the product.

    Theresome simple facts that no-one can deny;

    A gun needs a human to load it, aim it and fire it (I’ll give it to you, there have been malfunctions resulting in a discharge, but they are EXTREMELY rare).

    The most usefull firearm for crime is also the most useful tool against crime. A handgun. You may know someone who carries one. Perhaps a poice officer.

    Police cannot be everywhere at once. The chance of a police officer preventing crime is very small, go to a slot machine for better odds of winning.

    Law abiding citizens have a right to defend themselves. Bullet proof vests are more expensive that handguns.

    A open-carried handgun is a more effective deterent to crime than a concealed one, but concealed works well to; If you see a lady with a gun strapped to her hip and carrying a couple hundred dollars in her hand, and a guy that looks like he just came back from white racist training camp, who would you rob? Niether right?

    Automatic weapons are; expensive, reletively heavy and reletively dangerous to handle. They make fantastic collectors items. They are also very usefull in defending against military action, such as the one I might be involved in when the ATF comes to take my guns away from me. But they are not autonomous beings, they still require a human to operate them. Taking away the citizens right to bear arms, at any level, is as good as a threat to attack the citizen. It is the same thing as building up an arsenal or stationing an aircraft carrier off the coast of a foriegn country.

    Laws are easier to enforce when they are easier to understand. Too much legislation makes law more complicated and harder to understand/enforce. (It is conceavable to reach a point when everything is illegal, and everyone is a criminal. In this case law actually gets simpler!)

    If the laws that are in place allow easy and inexpensive ways for law abiding citizens to aquire what they legally have a right to aquire, the illegal ways will deminish, and become more apperant. That is common sense.

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