Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Failure Of Mercy

Let's look at an assessment of failure that has already been thoroughly discussed, the Newtown shooting. We know Megan McArdle will respond to the Newtown massacre by analyzing the failure and using that information to make correct decisions in the future. Alternately she will ignore failure since it is systemic and therefore indecipherable; it all depends on whether she is currently on Team Failure or Team Success. So McArdle (probably) will determine the point of failure, which will be fairly obvious, and that failure will point the way to success.

The universe being a complicated place, you can usually tell multiple stories from the same pieces of evidence. We learn by gambling on what we think the best answer is, and seeing how it turns out. Most of us know that we have learned more about the world, and ourselves, from failing than from success. Success can be accidental; failure is definite. Failure tells us exactly what doesn't work.
Yet--somehow---Megan McArdle was unable to figure out what to do about child massacres. She did manage to come up with a solution but sadly the Constitution would make it impossible to implement.

There's Little We Can Do To Prevent Another Massacre

But I doubt we're going to tell people to gang rush mass shooters, because that would involve admitting that there is no mental health service or "reasonable gun control" which is going to prevent all of these attacks. Which is to say, admitting that we have no box big enough to completely contain evil.
Problem Identified: Evil

Basis For Claim: Judeo-Christian mythology

Solution For Problem: None

And there you go. Megan McArdle has finished turning failure into success, as she has garnered what must have been an astonishing number of hits.

Not everyone is brave and honest enough to advise parents to train their children to rush a gunman firing an automatic weapon at them. It takes a libertarian to show that kind of personal responsibility and ability to obtain gains (freedom!) from trade (children's lives!). Not to mention a Randian disdain for childish weakness.

Let's look at the causes of the massacre, according to McArdle. As we just said, the massacre was caused by Evil.
The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold. Since we can't understand it, we can't change it. And since we can't change it, our best hope is to box it in.
The obvious alternate cause is mental illness but McArdle does not discuss it as a cause. She states the killer had access to mental health professionals so obviously providing more mental health opportunities would not prevent future killings. McArdle does not compare this shooter to any other mass shooters; a sample of one is enough. Because we can do nothing about Evil, which is random and invisible and strikes without warning, any solution we come up with will fail.
Not every problem has a policy solution. We should always be mindful of Johnson's famous epigram:
How small, of all that human hearts endure  
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
In this case, there probably is a policy which could stop mass shootings. But we are not going to implement that policy. And since nothing else is going to work, we are not going to pass a law that will stop these sorts of mass shootings. We may pass a law, mind you. But whatever we do pass, we will have more of these evil happenings ahead of us.
McArdle examines possible laws for flaws:

Ban guns and ammunition--can't be done, it's unconstitutional.

Lock up the mentally ill--can't be done, it's unconstitutional.

Naturally, nobody can do anything ever.
When I pointed out some of these things on Facebook this weekend, the responses were generally angry, or incredulous. "Megan, you're not presenting an argument, you're just poking holes in others' arguments," said one friend. "Anyone can do that. Bottom line, how do you suggest improving things?"  
The answer, I'm afraid, is that I don't. I know this is a very frustrating answer. It got me a fair amount of angry pushback on Facebook, particularly since my friends know that I am in favor of much less stringent gun control than they are. It's not surprising that they feel that I'm hiding the football--poking holes in the stuff that won't work while ignoring the stuff that will, in an attempt to deceive people into giving up on a gun control that I would oppose for entirely separate reasons.  
There's a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:  
1. Something must be done  
2. This is something  
3. Therefore this must be done 
. . . . and hello, Gulf War II.  
It would certainly be more comfortable for me to endorse doing something symbolic--bring back the "assault weapons ban"--in order to signal that I care. But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better. We shouldn't have laws on the books unless we think there's a good chance they'll work: they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks. This is not because I don't care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend. But they will not breathe again because we pass a law. A law would make us feel better, because it would make us feel as if we'd "done something", as if we'd made it less likely that more children would die. But I think that would be false security. And false security is more dangerous than none.
Yes, nothing can be done and it is dangerous to try to find a solution. Which is what happens when you start off with an ideological platform that states we cannot enact serious gun laws ever. Now a pundit can avoid researching countries that have enacted serious gun laws and discourage any substantial increase in regulations, which are abhorrent to the Koch-fed.
My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
Remember this the next time someone tells you that we have to listen to the people in authority because they are smarter, better educated, richer and more successful than we are. They have no heart. They claim they do; they say their hearts bleed for the poor but they are lying, as they lie about so very many things.
It breaks my heart to even type these details; it was worse to read all the stories in which I collected them. 
This is not because I don't care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend.
And yet, the only solution McArdle could come up with was a little law tweaking and training children to rush gunmen "because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once." Doesn't that statement just ooze with heartbreak?

Dead children and a few parents don't support think tanks and provide internships, jobs, book contracts and tours and speaking fees. Anti-regulation billionaires do.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Spy on everyone without warrants: No Problem!

Susan of Texas said...

We can't do that. It's unconstitutional.

Mr. Wonderful said...

"they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks."

Sez you. And aren't most police departments in favor of stricter gun regulations?

It's adorable, in a sickening way, to note a libertarian's citation of "evil" as the (unfathomable, and therefore unpreventable) cause of such things. She might as well be blaming SATAN. Except that those who believe in Satan at least believe He should, and can, be resisted and opposed.

In any case, I would pay good--well, okay--money to watch Megan teach the second grade kids how to rush a gunman with an automatic weapon. "Don't worry about how you feel! Don't worry if you're afraid! Some of you will make it!"

Later, when the kids are all traumatized, she can write knowledgeably about "failure."

Hmdk said...

Yelling: "serpentine!" does seem like a perfect task.

nilsey said...

let's hope her publisher learns from this and drops her next project.

fish said...

But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better.

Like attack protesters with a 2X4

Anonymous said...

Rush the gunmen?
Welcome to Gallipoli grade school.

Susan of Texas said...

I predict enormous success for Our Miss (David) Brooks.