Megan McArdle confounds me

I think Megan McArdle is very smart. Even though I know something only just slightly to the north of "zilch" when it comes to economics, I think much of what she writes on the subject for The Atlantic makes sense. (I don't believe that her fears about health care reform stifling innovation are well-founded, but that's a different topic for a different day.) But I think she is completely around the bend when it comes to the topic of people carrying guns to presidential events.

She's gotten into something of a back-and-forth with Jason Zengerle at The Plank on the topic. Their exchange seems to focus mainly on whether the people carrying the guns pose imminent threats to the POTUS. While I agree more with Zengerle than McArdle on that particular question, I think it is beside the point. In her initial post on the topic, she wrote:
I think carrying guns to protests is entirely counterproductive. Indeed, I'm not sold on the general virtues of protesting, which worked for Gandhi and the civil rights marcher, but has a dismal track record on other concerns. But I think people have a perfect right to do it, including with guns, though I also think the secret service is within its rights to ensure that they don't have a sight line on the president.

But the hysteria about them has been even more ludicrous. Numerous people claim to believe that this makes it likely, even certain, that someone will shoot at the president. This is very silly, because the president is not anywhere most of the gun-toting protesters, who have showed up at all sorts of events. It is, I suppose, more plausible to believe that they might take a shot at someone else. But not very plausible: the rate of crime associated with legal gun possession or carrying seems to be very low. Guns, it turn out, do not turn ordinary people into murderers. They make murderers more effective.
I will leave aside whether the sociopaths carrying the guns have a "perfect right" to do so or not. Let us accept that they do. It is still totally, 100% wrong.

What is the point of carrying the guns? Sure, maybe they don't actually intend to harm the President. But what are they trying to communicate by bringing a deadly assault rifle to a public forum he is attending? It is an inherently menacing thing to do, Second Amendment rights notwithstanding, and communicates an implicit threat of violence, if not now than potentially in the future. It is uncivil in the extreme, and does not comport with the expected behavior of responsible adult members of society.

Let me make two finals points, just to (probably pointlessly) head off a couple of potential criticisms:

1) I am not stridently anti-gun. I know many people who are perfectly honorable, sane, responsible gun owners. I do not begrudge them their right to own their guns, and do no conflate all gun owners with the reactionary thugs in question.

2) I detested George W. Bush, and have never been more pleased to see the departure of an American president from office. It was so bad that, at one point, I could barely stand to look at his face on television. But, had someone taken a shot at him or committed an act of violence on his person, it would have been a wholesale tragedy for the country and the world. I would have felt no less exercised if a bunch of leftist crazies had shown up at his rallies toting guns. This is an issue that transcends ideology.

You don't bring guns to a civic event, period. You especially don't bring them to a presidential event. We may have the right to do all manner of things that are nonetheless wrong. This is one of them.


  1. "I think Megan McArdle is very smart."

    I have located the problem.

  2. What is the point of Carrying Teh Gunz? Simple. The President has been known to have SEIU "members" in the audience at speeches. Who wants to get the crap beaten out of them for exercising the highest form of patriotism?

  3. by the way gj, what is your definition of the highest form of patriotism? What I was taught, and still believe, is that it is to give ones life for ones country. Don't dishonor fallen soldiers by defining it down just to suit some political point of yours. Show some respect please. If we (by we I mean you and your ilk) have gotten to the point where they legitimately feel they must carry guns so their political voices can be heard, then America is in a sad state. Of course, we have not gotten to that point, and conflating physical confrontation between two sets of blowhards as being the equal to that state is indeed sad for you. How interesting it was that Obama's own townhall meetings it was a vision of courtesy and respect, the naysayers had their say with not a punch thrown. It should be that way at every townhall.


  4. Hi charo! A right belonging only to whites? Better tell the guy carrying the "assault rifle" at the recent rally; he was black.

    As far as your personal comfort level, who cares? Protest isn't to make everyone comfortable. And in the US, ideally, we do not arrest people unless their actions are in violation of the law or threaten to seriously disrupt the public order. I have no problem with watching the armed Arab protest very, very closely. I do have a problem shutting it down just because it makes you itchy.

    Google "highest form of patriotism" and I'm sure you can figure out what that means in comtemporary culture. If you are unhappy with that meaning, go pound sand.

    Finally, open carry is lawful in the majority of States, and the 2nd Amendment is still the law of the land. A right that is unexercised due to fear or official displeasure is no right at all. Open carry is a political statement as much as burning the flag or carrying signs. It isn't appropriate in all circumstances, but free Americans are not subject to the wishes and prejudices of elected officials and buysbodies. Until people start breaking the law or inciting others to break the law, get over it.

  5. There is no virtue in dissent per se. When John F. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" — and, believe it or not, that's a real quote, though it's hard to imagine any Massachusetts Democrat saying such a thing today — I could have yelled out, "Hey, screw you, loser." It would have been "dissent," but it wouldn't have been patriotic, and it's certainly not a useful contribution to the debate

    Hey, who said this? Even though I loath him it was Mark Steyn. Hey gj, why on earth would you ask me to google something that would make you look like an even bigger jackass. Don't hide behind google, write down that I am wrong. Say you agree with Howard Zinn that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. I am sure you are not man enough to admit you are wrong, that indeed giving ones life for ones country is the highest form there is. Prove me wrong, for once.

    As to my comfort level, so you find it ok that millions of people will fear for their lives because some douchebag loves his gun. I am supposed to trust that he is not some Columbine style nutjob. I am not saying it should be illegal, I am saying these people are serious jackasses who should be shunned for the losers they are. It is done only to provoke and intimidate and not for security (I would welcome citizens who co-ordinate with local police to provide additional security) Give em police aide uniforms and deputy badges and I say great, they would then be performing a civic duty, in that way they can know that like minded people can express themselves without being harassed. This is called being reasonable and civic minded. You talk about what is legal, but not about what is right or decent. I don't dispute the legality (show me where I do) but I will be damned if I will cave into knuckledraggers who think because something is legal, it is also moral. Burning flags is also legal, but anyone who does is a serious jackass and I will damn well say so - to their faces. What is the worst that can happen? I might get singed. With a gun nut what is the worst that can happen? Oh, right. He might murder me.
    But I should just get over that, right?

    And you are lying that you would confront a bunch of heavily armed Arabs who would carry signs stating the martyrdom for Islam is the highest form of fidelity and that America must become Islamic. You say you would watch them? Wow, I am sure that would be an effective counter protest. Of course, the reason we have not seen any Arabs do such a thing is because you and I know it would end in disaster. A few Muslims saying a prayer on a plane got the plane diverted and you are going to pretend that nothing would happen. Please. I guess since you have a fetish with sand (why else with the silly expression "pound sand") it is because you have had you head buried deep inside it.
    Why can't you ever be reasonable?


  6. oh snap. that was as brutal an open field tackle I have ever seen. I kind of feel sorry for this gafly john person.

    Hey, is this the drdannyu from TNR? They changed the website over at TNR and I don't really like it that much. I saw an article of yours cross referenced at the league of ordinary gentlemen and I have been meaning to give your site a looksee. I have not seen you much at TNR lately, how is it going?

  7. Hi, charo! Regarding dissent, no, I don't agree with Zinn, in fact, I dissent from his view! But I do confess to a sardonic sense of humor, and I do believe you must be trying hard to misunderstand what "highest form of patriotism" means in contemporary discourse.

    Regarding your comfort level, true, I have no regard for your comfort or anyone else's comfort when it comes to basic constitutional issues. I would wager a large sum that you couldn't care less about my comfort level with liberties you deem fundamental. Shun all you wish, and I'll carry all I wish. BTW, I don't think we would agree on what is right or decent in all cases, and I'm not about to defer to your morality if we disagree, just as you are almost certainly not going to defer to mine.

    As far as watching armed Arabs calling for jihad, if it is a call to violence, then the police arrest them and the courts prosecute. One cannot legally call for armed overthrow of the government. If they call for a peaceful overthrow, well, that is their right, even if it makes you itchy or me itchy.

    Finally, why can't I be reasonable? Because I suspect your definition of reasonable is "agrees with charo." I don't agree with you on lots of issues. And that's OK. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

  8. "let a thousand flowers bloom?" what, you are you Maoist now?
    My definition of reasonable is certainly not "agree with me" and show me anywhere where I have said anything close to that. My def is pretty standard, it is someone who is capable of rational behavior, decision, etc. How can I reason with someone who has a gun with its implied threat of violence? And again, you are talking past me, I never disputed the legality, I disputed the morality, and relativistic crap just doesn't cut it. The whole: I don't care what anyone else thinks I will do what I want. Is legal (provided what you want is legal), but it is immoral. It is or the word morality means nothing. Now if you are a godless commie who quotes Mao (see above thousand flowers bloom), then so be it, to quote Lennon, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.

    If you have legitimate complaints about the health care reform bill, carrying guns is not the way to get your issues addressed. If you want to carry a gun to a protest to protect gun rights, go right ahead. Anyone counterprotesting would know the risks. Reasonable is going to a debate about health care and debating health care. If public security is an issue then volunteer with the police. These are reasonable things. Are you that far gone that you don't know this?

    As to Zinn, you quote him, then claim you were being sardonic but where is the biting humor of: Who wants to get the crap beaten out of them for exercising the highest form of patriotism?
    This seems pretty straightforward to me, it certainly is not funny nor is there anything to lead me to believe you don't believe this. So you dissent from him, yet quote him and leave no explanation. Wow, how subtle. You were actually against it before you were for it, or is that the reverse, with you I have no idea?
    And claiming "its contemporary" is sad, especially when there are thousands of Americans risking their lives in the middle east. What Steyn wrote was "contemporary" too. No, I am right and you are wrong about what is the highest form of patriotism, using weasel words like "contemporary" just digs you deeper into the sand trap. Admit you were wrong. Man up. On other blogs I have been wrong and been called out and I admitted my mistake.

    Damn, you are just too easy. I feel like Mike Tyson beating up Woody Allen.


  9. "Who is wise? He who learns from all people, as it is said, 'From all who taught me I gained understanding.'" One need not be a Maoist to use the thousand flowers quote.

    "I suspect your definition of reasonable..." is what I wrote. I've not claimed you actually said that. You do appear to react stridently to anyone who disagrees with your weltanschauung, as you so helpfully demonstrate[1].

    As far as your morality, it is an invention of your mind. There is no objective basis for suggesting one morality is superior to another. You can see why I'm not especially impressed when you suggest I'm immoral (according to your lights).

    One more thing, public security is the responsibility of the police. OTOH, the police legally have no responsibility whatsoever for my personal security, which is why I carry. I can choose to defend others if I wish, but I am under no legal obligation to enforce public security as a CCW holder. The fact that you are apparently unaware of this legal distinction (which is well established in law) tells me you aren't educated about 2nd Amenment rights and responsibilities. Go educate yourself, and then we can have a rational discussion.

    [1] "No, I am right and you are wrong about..." Nuance doesn't exist in your black and white world, does it?

  10. Again, you have completely avoided the central issue and continue to talk past me about issues I don't contest. You have a legal right to carry a gun, I said that, but that does not make it moral. There is no reason to carry a gun to a well organized political rally except to provoke and antagonize, and the dangers of accidental discharge alone would make any sane person think twice. And again with the relativistic rubbish. Morality is not an invention of my mind. I am not God, you apparently think I am as to ascribe all of morality to me. If you are an atheist, so be it, but if there is no God then I would be ever more determined to rid the world of gun nuts such as yourself. As I believe there is a God, then I believe in free will and the right to be stupid, but that also means determining, as best as possible, what is right and moral and what is not. Apparently, that is beyond you, it is all what is legal and what is not.

    And why would I have nuance when you say something utterly stupid. You quoted Howard Zinn as the whole justification for your original response, and when called on it said you don't agree with what you wrote and called it "sardonic humor" as though you picked out a ten dollar word and gave it a meaning nowhere in evidence. And, of course, you have not bothered to refute my calling you on your stupidity, first saying it was valid because it can be googled. Secondly, because it is somehow true in "contemporary terms" which, is even dumber, and finally you are going to outright silliness: there is no right and wrong, only shades of gray, blah blah.

    The simple thing to have done was say:

    I was wrong in my first comment, carrying guns to a political rally is not a sign of patriotism (anymore than not carrying guns is) true patriotism is made of much sterner stuff, and to give ones life for freedom is the highest form of patriotism.

    And you know what, I will even admit I am wrong about something. Sometimes dissent is the highest form of love of Liberty. being a dissident in North Korea (or Cuba) and facing the gulag there is extraordinary as it faces a prospect of a fate even worse than death. But, obviously, such an rebuttal is far beyond your ken.

    It is too funny, your only hope in defeating me in an argument is my help.

    So I admit it, there is a qualifier, one that has zero to do with our argument, that in America the highest form of patriotism is giving ones life for America, but it does existin a different form outside of America. The highest form of patriotism sure as hell is not carrying a weapon to a health care rally and pretending it is either patriotic or dissent. It is just assholery.

    Fundamentally, you are a coward for not admitting your mistake. I have no patience for cowards. You have dishonered and disrespected American soldiers who have given their lives because you place your petty pride above their contribution to our freedom.

    God help me, have you no decency at long last?
    This isn't about winning some argument. You know you lost it. Take a poll: which is more patriotic, taking a gun to a health care rally, or giving up ones life in service to our country?

    You know the answer. This isn't about me. This isn't even about you. This is about respect. Have the teeniest bit of decency and show it. Don't whine, don't prevaricate, just admit it and I will leave this thread forever.


  11. OH charo, you are so very bright and witty and intelligent. How did I ever think I could possibly match wits with your incomparable brilliance? You are right, you have always been right, and there is no error in any position that you hold. Your morality is perfect, and is objectively better than all possible moralities. For information vegetable, animal, and mineral, you are the very model of a modern major-general.

    There? Can you have a happy weekend now?

  12. Yes, I can, thank you. It was big of you to admit your mistake, there is hope for you yet. I know deep within that sarcasm is genuine regret, that people resort to sarcasm when they have no other recourse. The pretense is sarcasm but the forming of the thoughts reveals the deeper truth. I accept you know I am right, and in your own limited way, you are apologizing; not to me, of course, but to the spirit of truth.

    I only wish you had accepted your rhetorical mistake earlier and saved yourself the humiliation. But I shall do as I promised and not return to this thread. Respond or not to the ether as you will. Have a good weekend yourself.