OSD 114: One size fits each
Civil disobedience as a decentralized discovery process for finding the optimal noncompliance strategies.
A couple Instagram posts made a bit of a stir this week:
Both of these come down to civil disobedience, the principled refusal to comply with an unjust law. And that’s controversial, because it requires people to hold two somewhat dissonant ideas at the same time:
It’s socially valuable to have people publicly not complying with unjust laws.
It’s individually costly to not comply.
This is really just a specific instance of the general concept of sacrifice. In economic terms, the name for this is “positive externalities” — an individual’s private choices creating benefits for uninvolved third parties.
The cognitive dissonance comes from the fact that while someone may recognize the social value of civil disobedience, they might not be willing to personally bear the risks of delivering that value. That’s uncomfortable, and potentially even shameful. And as each person in a community navigates that internal discomfort, they each find their own personal risk tolerance threshold. When people with different thresholds try to decide whose threshold is “right”, an argument happens.
And you know what? That’s fine. It’s good, even. People with high risk tolerance forge a path. That’s awesome. Some will pay off and some won’t. That is a discovery process to efficiently identify the best paths forward. People with low risk tolerance will fall in once effective paths are mapped. And sure, it’d be better to have more support earlier, but the other side of that coin is that people need to pick their battles. They can’t sustainably pick fights they’re guaranteed to lose.
So the optimal community-level strategy is that each person picks the (metaphorical) battle where they personally are going to be effective.
A good example of this from recent history: New York’s SAFE Act only achieved a 4% compliance rate because, through an incremental process of civil disobedience, upstate communities decided they just wouldn’t comply.
When people take on personal legal risks in order to peacefully benefit the community, that’s socially valuable. It’s how positive social movements have always worked. Along the way, there are going to be disagreements about the “right” level of risk tolerance. But here’s the thing: there is no one “right” level of risk. It’s a personal thing, and each person thinking about how they’re best-positioned to contribute is a great thing. That’s how we’ll find the best paths as a community.
It’s good to see “ranges shouldn’t ask to see NFA paperwork” becoming table stakes. Onward from there.
This week’s links
A detailed gear breakdown that starts simple and by the end gets you really up to speed.
Check out the state-of-the-art for ARs in 1989, and the early days of modern competition shooting, all narrated by a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young Lenny Magill.
If people have to choose between dressing in clothes they like and carrying a gun, most people will choose the clothes. So good carry tips mean not forcing people to make it an either-or choice. Here’s Lucky Gunner’s Chris Baker being characteristically thoughtful about letting fashion-conscious CCWers have their cake and eat it too. “Fashion matters.”
The headline at the link buries the lede, but this is one more dataset confirming the trend we identified in “Gun rights are winning and nobody has realized it”. Namely:
We’ve all seen these headlines: “Gun control support surges in polls” (Politico), “Gun control support has surged to its highest level in 25 years” (Time), etc.
The headlines have something in common, though. They’re based on polls taken immediately after — within a couple weeks, or even sometimes a couple days — of a particularly media-saturating mass shooting. (A recent study of mass shooters from 2013 to 2017 found they had received media coverage worth $75 million.)
Gallup has decades worth of polling data on guns. And when you zoom out, the signal is clear: we are in the middle of a multi-decade decline in support for gun control, with occasional temporary upticks after a mass shooting.
Video interview and writeup from Reason’s Zach Weissmueller ☝️
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