An Unpopular Idea

Consensus on wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

In our system our government, not much can happen without fairly broad consensus. Most of us get to share the credit or blame, whatever happens. What worries me is that we find ourselves sharing a great deal of blame – we seem to get a lot of thing wrong.

One thing I’ve learned is that when we appear to approaching a consensus, it pays to listen carefully to the outliers. People may have good reasons to object but those good reasons may not get the exposure or consideration they deserve. Such a case may be upon us now: we seem to be moving toward a consensus about guns – particularly about the extended clips used in the tragic Tuscon shooting.

It’s worth reading a well considered objection. The claim is that the extended clips do have a legitimate purpose – a serious defense against crime, particularly for women and the elderly. You may not buy the argument or you may think the applicability is too minor to matter. Nevertheless, it is absolutely true that some people believe the use of extended clips is important to their personal protection and safety.

It can also be argued that the extended clips can too easily be abused as we saw in Tuscon. It can be argued that the cost of abuse is greater than the benefits of safety, although it can’t be strongly argued without supporting data. But even if the benefits clearly outweigh the costs, they don’t apply uniformly. X may get a benefit, but Y loses a benefit and, from Y’s perspective, a right to personal safety. Lots of things that provide benefits can be abused. Do we deny some people rights and benefits because other people might abuse their rights? Thinking about this issue in the abstract may get you to different conclusions than thinking about the particulars of this case.

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