F.A. Hayek’s term “the fatal conceit” is often reserved for statists who want to centrally-plan society, but it can just as easily be applied to many libertarians.
Ever since Ohio started issuing concealed carry permits in the mid-2000s, there has been a push to make gun laws uniform throughout the state, which has involved the Ohio Supreme Court overturning municipal bans on carrying firearms in parks. The justification for this is that if someone has permission to conceal-carry from the state, that permission should extend to everywhere in the state.
Many now-illegal municipal gun bans are still on the books in certain cities, however, and activists are contacting those places with threats to either remove them or be sued. This has even happened to my lovely little town of Oberlin, a staunchly anti-gun community.
This is good if you’re a libertarian, right?
The gun debate is one of the most highly contested social issues in the country right now, and there are smart people and good arguments and empirical studies on both sides of the aisle. Therefore, libertarians and gun activists seizing state leviathans and imposing their policies on municipalities is highly irresponsible, and indeed a case of the fatal conceit.
It’s time to abandon the gun control debate and let spontaneous order do our work for us. Let the thousands of municipalities throughout the country decide their own gun control policies, and simply see what works and what doesn’t. Millions of trials and errors will yield more discoveries than states or nations ever could.
This should be a policy for every issue where there’s no consensus, by the way.
Sure, we know free trade is good and slavery is bad. But there are huge disagreements on just about everything else: taxation, regulation, monetary policy, drug laws, criminal punishment — you name it. It’s in those issues where libertarians and statists alike need to stop trying to decide for their millions of fellow countrymen, and start following the advice of Hayek.
Two objections to such a system jump to mind, but they shouldn’t trouble libertarians. First, the objection that allowing cities to decide their own policies would lead to an impossible maze of laws the gun carriers couldn’t navigate: This would lead to entrepreneurial opportunities! Imagine the dozens of websites that would appear overnight to help people navigate the different policies.
Second, the objection that the right to carry a gun is a “natural right” and shouldn’t be violated by any government on any level: This is another case of the fatal conceit. Trying to use a framework of “rights” to deduce specific public policies for millions of people should be is just silly. It starts from arbitrary axioms that lead to ridiculous conclusions. But even ignoring that epistemological point, natural rights arguments don’t make any sense when public property is in the equation.( Yes, the easy response to this is that we should just get rid of public property, but let’s get real here).
If libertarians ever want to be taken seriously, they need to abandon these extreme and unrealistic arguments and, again, follow the advice of Hayek.
Ken Silva is a writer from Ohio. Gun control image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | James Velasquez
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond