Reflections on American Gun Laws

Sensible gun laws will not be achieved by demonizing peaceable gun owners or by ignoring the realities of gun use (including defensive use) and gun laws. Some possible changes in gun laws are worthy of reasoned discussion.

Some people who believe that changes in American gun laws would save lives seem to think that somehow it will help to demonize the millions of peaceable (and voting) Americans who own guns or who are members of the National Rifle Association. This is despite the fact that many gun owners favor certain changes to gun laws and that many have good reasons to oppose certain changes.

Is the goal to gin up partisan rage for the 2018 elections or to actually achieve the most sensible set of laws? Continue reading “Reflections on American Gun Laws”

All One Tribe: Black Panther’s Message of Openness

I recommend Black Panther and I found it enormously interesting. Readers may want to delay continuing with my notes on the film until they’ve seen it, as there is some value to viewing it with no preconceptions or knowledge of the story. If you do go, stay until the very end, by the way, past all the credits. Continue reading “All One Tribe: Black Panther’s Message of Openness”

Frederick Douglass and the Meaning of Individualism

In our polarized and angry age, most people can at least agree on the brilliance and historical importance of Frederick Douglass. Most of us have more in common than blaring headlines typically indicate, and that is worth remembering.

What first struck me when reading Yale historian David W. Blight’s New York Times critique of Timothy Sandefur’s reflections in Douglass is how irascibly Blight often agrees with Sandefur. Continue reading “Frederick Douglass and the Meaning of Individualism”

Michael Shermer Stares Down the Grim Reaper in Latest Book

As a long-time atheist, I’ve made my peace with my eventual death. More or less. I mean, I want to delay death as long as feasible, given a reasonable quality of life, but it isn’t something that preoccupies my thoughts. Still, I found myself suppressing a strange sense of dread, at times, while reading Michael Shermer’s new book, Heavens on Earth (Henry Holt, 2018). Death sucks—there’s no getting around that. Continue reading “Michael Shermer Stares Down the Grim Reaper in Latest Book”

Haidt on Identity Politics: The Problem Is Collectivism

A sort of identity politics is a major force tearing at the seams of America’s liberal democratic order (broadly understood), argues Jonathan Haidt in his recent and important essay (originally a talk), “The Age of Outrage.” My aim here is to amplify and comment on his piece. Continue reading “Haidt on Identity Politics: The Problem Is Collectivism”

Property Rights and Democracy: Reply to Wilkinson

Property rights—at least “absolutist,” “hard-core,” “hard-nosed” property rights that are “rigid and all-encompassing”—are the enemy of democracy. That is essentially the theme of Will Wilkinson’s essay and follow-up on the matter.

I answer that Wilkinson, who apparently favors the “standard redistributive policies of successful modern states,” does not recognize property rights at all, but merely property permissions that can be granted or retracted by democratic majorities at will. Continue reading “Property Rights and Democracy: Reply to Wilkinson”

On the Outside Looking In at Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy

In the early 1990s I attended an Objectivist event in southern California. I’m pretty sure this event was organized by George Reisman, an economist who also advocates Ayn Rand’s philosophy, before the Ayn Rand Institute split with Reisman and his wife Edith. During a social period at this event I was talking with a fellow, not too much older than I was, who asked me, “So, are you an Objectivist?”

I answered, I thought sensibly enough, “I don’t know.” Disdain wrinkling his face, he retorted, “How could you not know?”—and that marked the end of our conversation. Continue reading “On the Outside Looking In at Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy”

Calling Vile Racists Right-Wing or Extreme Only Gives Them Cover

In Charlottesville at a rally of white nationalists, a man with neo-Nazi sympathies drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. The need to condemn racist ideologies and the violence they inspire remains urgent.

The language we use to combat racism matters. Calling white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and their ilk “far right” or “extreme,” rather than white supremacists or the like, only obscures their vile nature and helps them falsely claim ties to mainstream America. Continue reading “Calling Vile Racists Right-Wing or Extreme Only Gives Them Cover”

Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change

As Florida faces Hurricane Irma and Houston continues its recovery efforts from the intense flooding there, a lot of people are turning more of their attention to the matter of climate change, and with good reason.

Summarized briefly, my position on human-caused climate change has evolved over the years roughly from “it isn’t happening” to “it’s happening but it isn’t that big of a deal” to “it’s happening and it’s probably a big deal.” These notes represent my quick attempt to help bridge the communication gap between scientists and activists who think that climate change represents an existential threat to people on the planet and free-market advocates typically less inclined to take the problem seriously. Continue reading “Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change”