Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People

This bumper sticker statement implies two closely related ideas. First it implies that all gun deaths are intentional, and second, if there were no gun the killer would simply find another weapon.
Let me start with the first point. If guns don’t kill people, people kill people, that means that every time a gun is used to kill someone it is intentional. Let’s address the idea that every gun death is intentional.

Here are a couple recent news stories to help flesh out this idea:

“Toddler shoots 5-year-old” A three year old in South Carolina shot and killed his five year old cousin with a gun.

The tables were turned in Kentucky when a “5-year-old shoots toddler sister to death.” On May 1, 2013, a five year old boy playing with a “Crickett” riffle, shot his little sister.

These are tragic incidents, and I don’t want to make light of them, but in my view the GDKP – PKP statement trivializes these deaths. The statement implies that the three year old in South Carolina would have toddled out into the garage and grabbed a crowbar to beat his cousin to death, if the gun hadn’t been available. Clearly that’s absurd. Clearly there are cases of accidental gun deaths.
According to the CDC, approximately 600 people die from accidental gun use every year. [See:,] These are people cleaning guns, dropping guns, inadvertently hitting the trigger, as well as small children who use the gun not realizing that it is a real weapon and not a toy.

This blithe bumper sticker statement ignores hundreds of unintentional or accidental gun deaths a year. Those deaths, those people, don’t seem to count for many advocates of gun rights.

The GDKP – PKP statement also implies that there is a level of murderousness that we simply can’t control. It implies that in every case where a gun is used to kill someone, the murdered would have simply used a different weapon, a knife, a golf club, a hammer, a rope, his bare hands.

It is true that people kill, and they do everywhere. They kill with guns, they kill with knives, the kill with bombs, they kill with their bare hands. For the GDKP – PKP statement to be true the murder rate should be roughly the same everywhere in the world. But it’s not. It varies dramatically by country.

Here’s a chart from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
[Murder Rates by country: ]

According to the UN Office On Drugs and Crime the worldwide average murder rate is 6.9 per 100,000 people. [, citing UNODC statistics, which were verified]

This rate varies dramatically be region. It’s 17 per in Africa, 3.1 per in Asia, 3.5 per in Europe, 20 per in South America, and 3.9 per in North America. The U.S. has a pretty high murder rate for a developed country, at 4.7 per 100,000. In fact it has the highest murder rate of any of the G20 countries, except for Russia.

Clearly murder is inherent in the human condition. Some people are enraged, others are depraved or unconstrained by the normal bonds of human behavior, and they kill. But the fact that murder rates vary dramatically by country indicates that social conditions affect the likelihood of killing.

One point to note is that the murder rate does not correlated directly to the rate of gun ownership, though there is some relation. Europe has a very low murder rated and a low gun ownership rate. But South American has a very high murder rate but a low gun ownership rate. [See] and]

The main controlling factor for the murder rate appears to be level of economic development: the higher the level of economic development, the lower the murder rate. The main exception is the United States.

There is one other point to note: The US a very high gun death rate, at 10.0 per 100,000. This is much higher than the murder rate because most gun deaths are suicides.

I find the GDKP – PKP argument silly and disrespectful of the intelligence of the American people. I find that it is unhelpful in the public debate.

That being said, there are valid arguments in favor of gun ownership, and it is for these reasons that I support the rights of Americans to own firearms.

Guns are important for self-defense. There may be an argument about actual numbers, but there is absolutely no doubt that there are many cases where homeowners have protected themselves and their families with a gun. It is well known that thieves tend to target houses where no one is home for fear of being shot by a homeowner. So guns are absolutely used for self-defense.

Guns have been safely used for hunting and sporting uses by millions of Americans for hundreds of years. In fact the vast majority of gun owners are sensible and safe.

Guns are part of American culture and American history. This is a true statement, and part of a valid argument in favor of Second Amendment rights. Although the history argument brings up issues of gun ownership related to free blacks before the civil war and freed slaves after the war. And discussion of culture raise issues of the negative impact as well as the positive impact on American culture.

The reality is that millions of Americans safely own and safely use guns every day. The reality is also that only a tiny tiny fraction of the public misuses firearms. We should not let the irresponsible behavior of a small hand full of people impact the rights of the majority.

I’m sure that some people will suggest that I oppose gun rights, or support restrictions on Second Amendment rights, but this is untrue. I have no interest or intention in changing gun laws. Despite some recent high profile cases the rates of gun deaths in this country are largely static. Crime rates have been coming down in the nation over the last twenty years of so, and rates have inched down for murders.

My argument here is for a sane, sensible, and reasonable discussion of these rights, and not to advocate for restrictions on these rights.

The Science, Sociology, and Logic of Abortion

In order to explain my support for abortion rights I’ll address a couple of common statements from the anti-abortion movement. First a couple of bumper sticker statements: “It’s a Child, Not a Choice” and “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” These imply a number of things, but primarily that a fetus is equivalent to a living child from the point of conception. This implies that life begins at conception. I don’t know as a theological or philosophical matter when life begins, but I do know from some research into the medical literature that the vast majority of fertilized eggs do not become full term babies. According to the best statistics I can find, barely 50% of all impregnated eggs adhere to the wall of the uterus and result in a full term pregnancy. Some statistics indicate that far less than 50% of fertilized eggs eventually adhere to the uterus, and as many as 20% of “known” pregnancies spontaneously abort. The reason for this low success rate is that the process of gene splitting and differentiation that occurs in the zygote is highly complex and does not always work correctly.

For Information on Miscarriage and Spontaneous Abortions See: MedlinePlus: Miscarriage []

I have a hard time reconciling the theory that life begins at conception with the medical fact that, due to the complexities of human genetic development, less than half of all fertilized eggs become a living child. The best we can say is that a potential life begins at conception.

A related fact is that it is virtually impossible for a preterm baby to survive if born before 24 weeks of gestation. There is one recorded example of a baby being born at 22 weeks, and surviving, but only one. This means that a fetus is not viable, and is not a life independent and separate of the mother, until after 24 weeks. The Supreme Court has said that abortions should be available before fetal viability, which means that abortions must be available before the 24th week, and conversely states can begin restricting abortions after 24 weeks. It is also important to understand that a significant number of preterm or premature babies have significant health issues. So “life” is extremely tenuous in the early stages of pregnancy.

See: Healthy Children: Premature Babies at

Because of this, I believe that the real issue is balancing the rights and interests of the potential life of the fetus against the rights and interests of the life of the woman carrying the baby.
It is important to understand at this point that making abortion illegal will not make it go away. Abortion has existed since the beginning of humanity, and it exists in every place on earth. Abortions happen in countries where it is widely accessible, and it happens in countries where it is illegal.

Abortion exists because unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist. Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist because of human nature. Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies exist because people are not always careful when they have sex. That is a fact of human life that has been with us since the dawn of humanity. So unless you change the laws of human nature, you will not make unplanned and unwanted pregnancies go away. And as long as there are unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, abortion will exist.

The reality of human nature is that some of the women who have unwanted pregnancies will seek to end them. History and human experience bear this out. If these women are forced to end these pregnancies through illegal means, they will do so. And in many cases illegal abortions are unsafe. And unsafe abortions frequently result in the death of the woman. We saw that in this nation before abortion was legalized, and we see it around the world where abortions are illegal.

Making abortion illegal will not make it go away, but it will make it unsafe, and making abortion illegal will result in the death of women. We saw that in this country before abortion was made legal, and we see that in nations around the world where it is illegal.

The other option for women seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy is that they will go to places where abortion is legal. This will mean that abortions will be yet another thing that only the well-off can afford.

So if the question is balancing the rights and interests of the potential life of the fetus against the rights and interests of a living, breathing human being, I think the scales tip towards the rights of the living human being. I believe that we need to be more concerned about the rights of the living human than the rights of the potential human. This means that, whether we like it or not, abortion needs to be safe. And the only way to make is safe is to keep it legal.

That being said, I don’t oppose common sense restrictions on abortions, like bans on late term abortions. The problem is that most of the current crop of legislation restricting abortion rights are not about making abortion safer, or stopping it in extreme cases, but are attempts to create such onerous restrictions that effectively end abortion. The best current example is the attempt to restrict abortion after 20 weeks, rather than 24 weeks. This seems reasonable, but the problem is that most women do not realize that they are pregnant until 20 weeks.

Here’s another bumper sticker: “It’s a Child, Not a Choice.” I think we need to address this idea of “choice” not only in relation to abortion but in many areas of life. In many cases in life the choices we face are not always good. The bumper sticker logic implies that the choice is between a really good thing (a bouncing baby!!!) and a really bad thing (murdering your baby.) But this is nonsense. In most cases the choice is not, metaphorically, between cake and ice cream. In many cases the choice is not even between a good option and a bad option. It is not, metaphorically, between the lady and the tiger. Some times in life the choices are bad, and the choice is between bad and worse, or even between bad and awful. Sometimes the choice is, metaphorically, between being hit head on by the truck in the wrong lane, and swerving and going into the river. Sometimes all the choices are bad and we have to cut our losses.

I do not support abortion because I think it is a good choice, but because I recognize that in some situations it is the least bad option. There are situations where a fetus is deformed and will be born only to live a short time. It seems cruel to force a parent to carry a child to term only to watch that child die. There are situations where the pregnancy would endanger the life or well-being of the mother. There are situations, like rape or incest, where it would an unspeakable cruelty to force a woman to carry the child of her abuser. And there are also many situations where a baby would cause untold problems for the mother or family. It seems cruel beyond words to me to force someone to bear and deliver a child against their will.

I also believe, as I have mentioned in a previous essay, that we strip women of part of their humanity if we pass laws that control their bodies and their lives. If we believe in freedom we have to give people freedom and trust that they won’t, in the main, misuse that freedom. And because some people misuse their freedoms doesn’t mean we should restrict freedom for everyone else.

Abortion and the Decline of the United States

Some conservative Christians blame the Roe v. Wade decision for the decline of the United States. They not only pin what they see as the social decline of the nation on the Supreme Court decision, but they also blame it for what they see as the economic decline as well as the loss in international stature.

At the end of the Second World War the United States stood astride the globe as an economic and moral colossus. Our industrial might, our military strength, and our high moral standing saved the world from truly evil forces. We were unrivaled on the world stage. But that seemed to change in the 1960’s, as the culture changed, and as the war in Viet Nam dragged on. But the wheels seemed to truly come off in the early 1970’s.

Roe v. Wade didn’t necessarily create moral degeneration, but it certainly put the government imprimatur on the existing cultural slide. Government may not have created the “anything goes” culture of the 1960’s, but Roe v. Wade was certainly a stamp of approval. Conservatives blame the degraded nature of our society on a wave of immorality and licentiousness that peaked, in their view, with the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

This almost makes sense on a very superficial level. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) was handed down in 1973. That’s the same year that the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, and essentially “lost” the war, the first war in U.S. history that the nation lost. The Arab – OPEC – Oil embargo began that same year, which threw the nation into economic turmoil and was the beginning of nearly a decade of economic stagnation and inflation. The sense of change, of loss, was palpable in the early 1970’s, and it hardly seems happenstance that it began after Roe. The rest of the seventies were a pretty nasty time, economically, politically, and culturally. (I know, I was in high school and college then. The clothes alone were enough to make your skin crawl.)

The American economy entered a serious slump starting in the 1970’s, and except for a few good years during the Reagan administration, was in the doldrums until the 1990’s and the Clinton boom. And now it’s back in the doldrums again.

After the loss in Viet Nam, the American dominance of world affairs came to an end. The emotional nadir may have come when a group of scruffy Iranian college students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. American was no longer feared, and barely respected.

Society has changed dramatically in the last forty years, and the culture has become debased and degraded. Women were liberated, there was a sexual revolution, and now movies and music are drenched with sex, and pornography is everywhere. Along with that cultural decline, all social cohesion and a shared sense of purpose are gone. We are divided by more things – cultural, social, economic – than we are bound by. Our politics have decline to the point of near perversity. Our elected officials are corrupt and sleazy, and partisanship is toxic.

In the minds of many social conservatives it all started with Roe v. Wade. Certainly some conservatives date it a decade earlier with the Supreme Court decision banning prayer in public schools, which began the decade of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But other conservatives date it nearly a decade before that, with the liberal Warren Court and a whole host of liberal civil rights decisions, which set the stage for everything else. (They don’t want to say Brown v. Board of Education because of its shadows of racism, but you can almost hear references to it.)

This is an interesting viewpoint, and there is no doubt that the chronologies match up. Because of this the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand. But the time line ignores the fact that the rest of the world actually exists. It isn’t just a backdrop for the American drama.

The Arab Oil embargo, for example, was the result of tensions in the Middle East over Israel, and over America’s support for Israel. Yes certainly there is an American element, but the conflict between the Arab nations and Israel go back to the founding of Israel in 1948. It was, and is, a longstanding conflict based on religious and historic tensions that have nothing to do with American domestic policy. The roots of the Iranian Revolution go back at least to the mid-1950’s, when the United States supported the Shah of Iran during the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister.

The supposed “decline” of the American economy, starting in the 1970’s, was a product of the fact that the Asian and European economies were finally and fully rebuilt after World War Two, and were now competing with America on an equal footing. The reality was that the American economy was still growing at a healthy pace in the 1970’s, but much of the developed world had now caught up.The “decline” was in relative terms, not in real terms.

The loss of manufacturing jobs since the 1990s is a product of the rise of automation and the development and implementation of computers, as well as the changes in the Chinese economy, which began in 1978. To blame, for example, the loss of American manufacturing dominance on abortion is to ignore the contributions of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in ushering in the computer revolution, and to assume that Chinese Premier Deng Xioaping decided to allow private ownership of business in China in response to American social policy.

This view seems to presume that the United States is the center of the world, if not the universe, and that other nations only make decisions based on a keen observation of American public policy. This view presupposes that inventors and innovators are either motivated directly or indirectly by changes in the American culture. It’s a surprisingly simplistic and childish view of the world, of the economy, and of international affairs.

This also only works if you agree with the conservative view of American decline. Many of us don’t. Most liberals, in fact, probably think that, all things considered, the nation is in much better shape today than in the 1950’s. Certainly the economy is not growing as it was in the immediate post war period, and not producing blue collar jobs that pay middle class wages, but beyond that, when you look at things like life expectancy, standards of living, and opportunities for all Americans (and not just white men) things are actually pretty good. The world is a much safer, fairer, and saner place. We don’t deny that there are problems, mostly with the economy, but we place the blame for these problems on different things than conservatives. (And some blame conservative economic policy, but that is for another essay.)

* * *

There is a quote misattributed to de Tocqueville that says that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

This concept, if not these words, underlie a great deal of the desire of the anti-abortion movement to change abortion laws. They believe that abortion is a moral stain on the nation, and even if it did not directly lead to the decline of the nation, it creates a deep moral fissure that must be healed.

The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that abortion is evil, and that it can someone be stopped. But as I noted above, abortion existed even before it was made legal, and making it illegal will not make it stop, it will only make is unsafe, which is a form of evil all its own.

The reality, in my view, is that there are two competing rights: the rights of the living woman to control her life and her body (a thing we might call freedom) and the rights of the unborn person. As noted in a previous essay [here] the unborn person is only a potential person until a certain point in the term of the pregnancy. So we are balancing freedom against potential life. Finding the right balance is in no way an easy task, and I’m not suggest that it is. It is a very difficult decision, but I think that, in the land of the free, we need to defer to freedom. Perhaps that is not a good choice, but it is a realistic choice.

What Works

We have roughly two hundred years of experience with modern capitalistic market based economies, and there are roughly 200 countries on earth, each obviously with an economy, and most with some variation of a modern capitalistic market based economy. From that history and that range of practical experience we have a pretty good idea of what works, and what doesn’t work.
Here are the main components of a successful society with a successful economy.

First, science is the foundation of modern society, and the most successful economies are highly dependent upon science. It drives technological advances that create new industries. The industrial revolution began when James Watt successfully applied Boyle’s law, and since then scientific advances have eventually led to technological changes, and these changes altered society and the economy. Throughout history, those societies that are most open to scientific advances, and most adept at applying them to new technologies, have thrived.

Second, the most scientifically advanced societies, and the societies with the most successful economies, are the most “open,” open to new ideas and new people. The history of the “modern” world shows that this is true. The Renaissance, which began the transformation of Europe from the Dark Ages to the Modern world, started in the port cities of Italy in the 14th Century. Traders from those ports were traveling to the Arabian world, and were bringing back new people and new ideas, not to mention reintroducing old ideas to Europe. (Of course they had also brought the bubonic plague a century or so earlier, but I suppose you have to take the good with the bad.)

There are two major components to this idea of openness. The first is that open societies have governments that are responsive to the citizens of the nation. Unfortunately the U.S. government has grown sclerotic and is often as much a hindrance to society and the economy as a benefit. That is why I am proposing a new system to make the nation more democratic, and give is a government that is more responsive to the needs of the people. The second component of social openness is that societies that discriminate stagnate, and societies that are open and tolerant are the most scientifically, culturally and economically successful. Tolerance is a key component of a successful economy.

Third, throughout history and across geography, the most successful economies are based on the free market, but have a degree of government oversight to prevent excesses, inefficiencies and extremes. Modern conservatives believe that we should have a hands-off, laissez-faire economy, with no government control or oversight. But they can’t point to a single example of where this theory has been successfully put into practice. History teaches that unregulated markets tend to excess and instability, but it also teaches that too much government control can stifle innovation and economic growth. The goal is to achieve the proper balance between the openness of free markets, but with some degree of government oversight to prevent harm to citizens.

Based on this brief overview of what makes a successful economy, I will focus on four sound bites in my campaign, and all four relate to the economy:

1. Science is the foundation of the modern economy. To grow the economy we must support science.

2. Tolerance is a key component of a successful economy.

3. Government Gridlock hurts the nation, and also harms the economy.

4. We need Goldilocks regulation: not too much, nor too little, but just the right amount.

Campaign Opening Statement

Note: I am not currently running for Congress. I withdrew from the race in 2014 because of family medical issues. But I am contemplating running again in 2016. One of the main issues that I may address is the nearly complete breakdown of the American political process. Partisanship has gotten so extreme that nearly nothing gets done in Washington and many state capitals. The focus of my campaign, should I run, will be my plan to end partisanship. To read more about that click: Plan to End Partisanship.

In the meantime, here’s the opening page of my previous campaign web-site:

The Four Pillars of My Campaign

The main goal of my campaign is to try to find ways to improve the American economy. In order to get there we must fix many problems with our government, and one possible way to do that is to reform our electoral process. This will be one of the central features of my campaign, but it is part of a broader agenda, which is based on four main principles. These four principles are derived from a detailed analysis of the key components of successful modern economies. The goal of my campaign is find ways to improve the American economy by addressing these four issues.

To read more: What Works. Campaign Opening Statement. Old Front Page

1.   Science is the Foundation of the Modern Economy

The industrial revolution began when James Watt applied Boyles Law to create an effective steam pump. Since then technology has driven the economy. From James Watt to Steve Jobs, technological advances have created vast new industries and opportunities, and all have relied upon scientific principles. We need Representatives in Washington who understand this, and who support science in education, government research, and public policy.

The read more: Science and the Modern World; Science and the Foundation of the Economy, Science and Government Support, Science and the Economy, No Solyndra

2,   Tolerance is Good for Business

The Renaissance began in Italian port cities because they were open to Arab traders who brought new products and new ideas. Since then, those societies that have been most open to new people and new ideas have been the most economically successful. History clearly shows that tolerance is a key component of a strong economy. We need government policies that allow everyone to fully contribute to the economy, and fully participate in every aspect of life.

To read more: The Market has Spoken, The Cost of Discrimination, Tolerance is good for the Economy, Immigration Reform

3.   A Responsive Government is Vital to a Strong Economy

Since the dawn of political liberalism in the early 18th Century, counties with the most open and responsive governments have had the most dynamic and successful economies. Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, due largely to extreme partisanship, our government has become ineffective and unresponsive to the needs of the people and the economy. It is no coincidence that this period of extreme partisanship and partisan gridlock corresponds with a period of relative economic stagnation. Our government is simply unable to deal effectively with the problems facing the nation. That is why I’m proposing a plan to fundamentally restructure our political and electoral system, as well as a number of other policy changes to reform our political systems.

To read more: Proposal to End Partisanship, Government Reforms

4.   Successful Economies have a Properly Regulated Free Market

Market capitalism is the best system on earth for creating a broad range of goods and services and distributing them to the widest range of people. Market capitalism is the best system on earth for improving the lives and living standards of the greatest number of people. Despite that, the history of modern economies also shows that without some level of government regulation, markets spin out of control, producing vast disparities in wealth, creating market inefficiencies and dislocation, and resulting in social instability. We need Representatives who understand the need for common sense and time tested regulations, and are not beholden to untested and extreme economic theories.

To read more: Red v Blue Economy, What Went Wrong, Ma Bell, Abolish the Fed, So this is Capitalism