Saturday, April 17, 2021

The limits of personal liberty may have to do with how it scales (especially with self-defense and public health)


Pulse, Orlando, July 2015

The Editorial Board of the Washington Post has post a long detailed list of all the mass shootings and victims starting with Columbine in Colorado in 1999. The largest incident is Pulse in Orlando in 2016.  I hope the Post lifts its paywall for this one!

Now, I move on.

CNN has an analysis by Zachary B. Wolff this morning that probes the limits of personal liberty. The first title you see is “Choosing personal freedom over public safety”. On the article text the title reads sarcastically, "On guns and Covid, it's liberty over lives".  The byline is more telling. “Americans who didn’t volunteer for duty are on the frontlines and dying for your freedoms every single day.”

The most obvious freedom to dissect is, right now, the Second Amendment.  Generally, a lot of us in the mainstream have no problems with closing background check loopholes and limiting the size and efficiency of weapons that can be possessed in the home (no assault weapons, essentially).  It’s not always easy to draw the line.

There are situations where the “pro 2nd amendment crowd” has a point.  There have been a few situations, with home invasions, where the possession of an assault weapon by the homeowner probably saved the family (one particular case with a pregnant mom with kids in northern Florida).  In my own mind, it’s a question of how people are expected to share risks.  There is no way around that.

Furthermore, on the other side of the scale, homeowners or even renters who do not have firearms are indirectly protected by those who do, as a kind of herd immunity.  Criminals may be deterred or run if they believe the homeowner is likely to have a firearm and be proficient in it.  Examples of this are known in the LGBT community even (“Pink Pistols”).

Let’s move on to the pandemic, and the rather ridiculous exchange with Dr. Fauci with a member of Congress.  For any policy choice that libertarians would prefer (such as no vaccine passports, or no mandatory vaccines, or mandatory testing, or even lockdowns), the expected outcomes and results have to be considered.  Some extreme positions would amount to “survival of the fittest”, with huge numbers of deaths and people incapacitated for life, to be thrown away ("purged") as failures?  That simply leads right back to fascism, even Nazism.  Look at what is happening in Brazil.

I understand the decision to vaccinate the elderly and care homes first, in order to reduce burden on health care system.  But ordinary workers in retail and in making in home repairs or installations, for example, have to take more risks than the “elite” who can work from home or the elderly who may be retired, and may disproportionately be POC.  There is a real issue with risk-sharing here.

That gets us back to old issues of the past, with the previous  military draft and deferments. 

The pandemic issue still leaves open the social behavior that will be reasonable in the future.  I hope discos can come back.  Right now, you can’t effectively go to a bar without being in a “pod” first, which I am not.  But it is not completely clear that the vaccines will allow the wild scenes of the past with the dirty dancing to resume.  It’s not completely clear that the vaccines will overcome the safety issues of large indoor events like big classical concerts and opera.

Back in the 1980s, the male gay community lost the “baths” for good. 

Now, a different virus, transmitted casually that seems to target large families (behave in a manner 180 degrees opposite to HIV) still threatens the socialization and independence that younger adults need to build their own “high agency”.

And we have a similar problem with “freedom of speech”, well, really, “freedom of reach”, and uncontrollable radicalization, related directly to mass inequity.  And the misinformation that can spread without previous gatekeeping can undermine public health and potentially make a mutating pathogen more dangerous and lock everyone done again, maybe more indefinitely. 

And freedom an individual needs, especially early in adult life, must entertain whether it scales up, and if it does, how others will behave in practice in an inequitable environment. It does invoke the memes "skin in the game" and "no spectators".  I can certainly take this further.  

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