Thursday, January 03, 2013

Are "stand-your-ground" laws (un)libertarian?

Following the Sandy Hook shooting, I've been gloomily anticipating an authoritarian knee-jerk reaction to ban some types of guns. I've read libertarians calling for a renewed commitment to the pro-gun message. Despite this, I won't fall for the old trope that the pro-gun movement is somehow libertarian. Libertarians should evaluate each pro-gun initiative on its own merits to decide whether it advances liberty.

For instance, the NRA is clearly not a libertarian organization. Not only are they willing to attack free speech (by blaming violent media for real violence), but they are perfectly comfortable establishing a permanent police presence within schools. That's not to mention their refusal to address any other infringement on liberty, even those that so clearly exacerbate gun violence (such as the drug war).

The NRA has even managed to institute pro-gun policies that directly infringe on liberty. For instance, private institutions are often forbidden from regulating whether guns can be brought onto their real estate, all in the name of "gun rights". One issue of contention right now are the "stand-your-ground" laws, so I am wondering if these laws are libertarian.

On the "plus" side, the obligation to retreat is a regulation on individual behavior that is enforced by criminal penalties, so eliminating it seems to be libertarian. However, since it is only regulating an involuntary interpersonal interaction, I think that it can't really be libertarian or anti-libertarian.

On the "negative" side, many of the "stand your ground" laws over-ride the civil tort system (see Table 1, here), which seems anti-libertarian to me.

This issue is a bit difficult for me. Much of my libertarian preference is based on the idea that we should use the minimal necessary force when dealing with others, therefore I am opposed to the tough-guy spirit behind "stand-your-ground". On the flip side, I a person who stands his ground is not so far out of line that it is necessary to use force against him.

But this is coming from someone who is still pondering whether force is justified to deter theft.

P.S. more information on self-defense laws.


b-psycho said...

The laws strike me as redundant, to begin with. Right of self-defense is already existent, it's just a matter of drawing the line as to what is legitimate and what is actually initiation of force (thus a crime). Because of that, the most dangerous feature of Stand Your Ground is in their interpretation and the source of discretion.

Try to imagine the outcome if in the Trayvon Martin case in the scuffle the gun had went off while pointed towards Mr Zimmerman. Trayvon more than likely would've been arrested on the spot & charged with murder regardless of anything else. That so much other than facts of each case influences application of SYG suggests these laws are a stealth increase in gov't discretionary power -- wolves in sheepskin.

Ricketson said...

I'll give that some thought. So do you think that the "duty to retreat" makes police decisions less arbitrary?

Volkah has some interesting posts on this topic. One is where he discusses whether being forced to retreat is an acceptable infringement on liberty. In the other, he puts self-defense laws in the context of broader attempts of the state to regulate violence... note that he says that "stand your ground" is not particularly novel (but I'm not sure that he's giving proper consideration to the distinction between public and private space).

Lorraine said...

I can forgive a single-issue organization for not taking sides on the war on some drugs, but the much-awaited press release on school safety should certainly have put ALL the libertarians on notice as to whether they have even a single-issue ally in the NRA.

Also, as you point out, pro-gun legislation isn't the same as anti-gun-control legislation. Surely people who frame liberty as negative liberty should recognize the right not to bear arms.

As for using force to deter theft, it seems to me the very essence of disproportionate force. I refer to a widely circulated pirated copy of Schroedinger's Cat (You're one of those anti-IP libertarians, right?)

The Code Hubbard, the most important revision of primate jurisprudence since the Code Napoleon, divided all crimes into three classes.

Crimes against convention-so-called victimless crimes- were not penalized at all. A citizen could be interrogated about each behavior only after complaints by a minimum of one hundred neighbors. The interrogators, a group of trained neurogeneticists, would then publish a report, either mildly recommending relocation of the heretic, or, much more commonly, strongly advising the neighbors to mind their own business.

Many libertarians objected to this, since they wanted victimless crimes abolished utterly. Hubbard had pragmatically realized that such libertarian penology was impractical until the primates totally outgrew the morality delusion.

Those who chose relocation were assigned by the Beast to an environment where their heresy was "normal." Most of them found that the Beast recommended an L5 space-city, and most of them liked it when they got there. They had futique genes.

Many of the heretics, of course, chose to stay where they were and go on annoying the bejesus out of their neighbors. This is the typical recalcitrant streak found in certain domesticated primates on all planets.

Crimes against property were regarded as improper economics requiring adjustment. The felon was compelled to pay in full the value of that which had been appropriated or destroyed. If unable to pay, the felon then had a literal "debt to society." The government paid the victim, and the felon repaid the government by working at half wages on some socially useful project, such as longevity research, space research, or just as a forest ranger in the growing number of national parks that were appearing since Industry was moved off the planet into Free Space.

Crimes of violence were defined as the natural, inevitable, tragic, but intolerable resultant of some combination of genes, imprints, and conditioning. The biots who committed such acts were sent, without condemnation but irrevocably, to Hell.

Hell had previously been the state of Mississippi. After the aborigines were resettled in an environment suitable for two-circuit (prehominid) primates, Mississippi became Hell by simply surrounding it with a laser shield that made escape impossible. Everything within the shield was intact. The violent biots were free to do what they wanted, and they soon had several forms of feudalism, war, piracy, commerce, slavery, and other early primate institutions functioning in a manner that seemed normal to them.

The only problem here, of course, is that there is assumed to be a government that compensates the victim and collects from the offender. But debating whether a lobbyist organization is on your side is also thinking within a basically statist framework. The point as I see it is that property crime and violent crime reside in vastly different orders of magnitude. The dichotomy between "force or fraud" and "not force or fraud" definitely propels me toward the nonlibertarian camp.