“An Eye for an Eye” is Deterrence Against Violence

The concept of deterrence is the credible commitment to retaliation by one party to convince another party to not initiate force. If one party can convincingly persuade another party that any act of unprovoked violence will be met with equal or greater violence, that would constitute effective deterrence. The assumption is that both parties are rational. Here rational is defined as apprehending a situation accurately and acting in one’s own self-interest. Gandhi did not understand this simple idea, being blinded by his admiration of the Christian bilge about “turning the other cheek”.

Gayatri Jayaraman (‏@Gayatri__J) wrote this on twitter:

“an eye for an eye will leave the world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi. Why ahimsa is the only force that can win us our wars

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Guns are Instruments, Not Sentient Volitional Beings

In yesterday’s Ask Me Anything, Abhay Rajan asked what I thought of the Second Amendment, no doubt prompted by the horrific mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday night/Sunday morning at 2 AM Eastern. So far there are 50 people dead, and some from the critically injured may push that number up. The dead terrorist has been identified as Omar Mateen, a supporter of the Islamic State.

The 2nd amendment to the US constitution says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” [See the Cornell University Law School page on the 2nd Amendment for a brief discussion of it.]

My view on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is based on the principle that people should have the right to protect themselves against aggression. My ethical and moral position is that initiating aggression or coercion is almost[1] never justified, and one is perfectly justified to resist, violently if necessary, anyone who initiates force against one. The right to bear arms is therefore instrumental in keeping the peace by deterring those who would initiate violence.
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Open Thread — Ask Me Anything

Been a while since the last open thread. Feel free to ask questions, or make suggestions.

Here’s a nice picture. It’s from the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest. A smoke column billows above the forest fire in Banff National Park, one of Canada’s most beautiful places.

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Update Jun 18th: Responses to the questions asked in the comments below are here.

Speaking of Freedom of Speech

“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.” –George Washington

The importance of the freedom of speech is underestimated by most people.

George Washington stressed the instrumental role of the freedom of speech — as a defense against oppression. But freedom of speech, like the right to be left alone, is also something of value in and of itself, even if there was no possibility of being oppressed.

I wrote this piece for India Current (June 2016 issue). I reproduce it here, for the record. Continue reading

What’s wealth and where does it come from?

10 million years ago, there was no wealth on earth

Wealth comes from human action. It does not exist in nature although the ingredients from which wealth is derived through human action does exist in nature. A simple example illustrative example is hydrocarbons in the ground (coal, crude oil, natural gas, etc.) They simply exist in nature. Whether it is useful or not depends on the user. Primitive life forms on earth had no use for it. Dinosaurs did not dig up coal to use as an energy source. Even primitive hominids had no use for coal. Though coal existed for millions of years, it did not become wealth until modern humans figured out only a few thousand years ago that it was great fuel for fires.
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