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 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.
We take it as a given, almost a fact of nature like the seasons or the geography of continents, that different parts of the world enjoy different levels of prosperity. But there’s nothing “natural” about this since this is almost entirely within human control. The differences are stark, and at one end of the scale, heartbreaking. Consider the extremely rich first. Luxembourg has an annual per capita income of over $110,000, Norway over $100,000, Switzerland around $85,000. Those are small countries and outliers with perhaps little to tell us. But the US is large and has an annual per capita income of $53,000. Why is it so rich?
At the other end of the scale are Burundi and Malawi with only $200 or so annual per capita incomes. Why are they so poor? The richest countries are around 500 times richer in per capita terms than the poorest. What accounts for this inequality in incomes of countries? That question has engaged the attention of people for hundreds of years — starting with of course the great Scottish economist Adam Smith who inquired about “The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” in his famous 1776 book.
Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature makes for interesting and informative reading. He answers the question, “Why violence has declined?”, which is the subtitle of the book. It does come as somewhat of a surprise that violence has historically declined in most of the world. The book provokes many “Aha!” moments. Read it for fun and profit, as they say. Here I post an extended excerpt. It’s a bit that will enlighten and delight the pseudo-secularists in India. (I am kidding. The p-secs would rather have red-hot nails hammered into their privates than admit the truth of what Pinker writes in this bit of his book.)
Here’s an interesting tweet
Sure, Indians are better known for being high-powered CEOs in foreign corporations than Pakistanis. Pakistanis tend to specialize more in the “peaceful” pursuits of high-powered terrorism, which is consistent with the fact that Pakistan is built on the peaceful foundation of the Religion of Peace. So naturally Pakistanis spread peace around the world.
As the population of the Religion of Peace grows in any place, it becomes more peaceful. In time, peace finally reigns. Syria is getting more peaceful by the day, to the point that people cannot take any more peace and are fleeing Syria. Heartbreaking stories of people drowning is merely the froth on a deep ocean of peace.
Enough of the Religion of Peace.
Time to once again ponder the question. Indians are obviously not incapable or stupid. So why are so many forced to migrate out of India to become successful? What’s it about India that Indians find it hard to be successful in India?
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
– Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), Vol. 1, Notes to the Chapters: Ch. 7, Note 4.
“I have insisted that we must be tolerant. But I also believe that this tolerance has its limits. We must not trust those anti-humanitarian religions which not only preach destruction but act accordingly. For if we tolerate them, then we become ourselves responsible for their deeds.”
— Karl Popper. After the Open Society.
I listen to public radio quite regularly for some excellent programs such as Fresh Air, This American Life from WBEZ Chicago, the Commonwealth Club of California, and many many more. I love public radio but as I am not a news junkie, I avoid news programs. However, at the top of the hour, many programs throw in a 4-minute long news update from NPR (National Public Radio produced in Washington DC), or the BBC in some cases. What I have noticed in these news bits is the mealy-mouthed equivocation when it comes to referring to the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, and ISIL. In the news, they never call it “the Islamic State” but qualify it as “the self-proclaimed Islamic state.” Why they indulge in this silly idiocy is revealing.
The article title in Businessweek is “Why People Kill People Over Satire.” But the URL reads “Why the terrorists killed the satirists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.” Curious, isn’t it? The article title generalizes too much, watering down the particular. Sure, Islamic terrorists are terrorists, and certainly terrorists are people. So one can substitute use the general “people” instead of the particular “Islamic terrorists.” The title of the article is overly general, the URL is somewhere along the middle, and the particularized question that needs answering is “Why do only Islamic terrorists kill people over satire these days?”