FDL Book Salon Welcomes Adam Winkler, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Welcome Adam Winkler, (blog) and Host Mark A. R. Kleiman, (blog).

Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Host, Mark Kleiman:

Adam Winkler’s Gunfight is a book of contradictions: a dispassionate book about a passionately debated topic, a sane book about competing insanities, a page-turner about legal doctrine and obscure bits of history, a piece of serious scholarship combined with journalistic flair. Someone coming into the debates about gun policy would have no problem following the argument; I, as a minor-league expert on pieces of the topic, learned something new to me on about every second page, on average.

The topic is the gun-rights-advocates vs. gun-controllers front in the culture wars. The narrative thread concerns the Heller case which finally led the Supreme Court to say that – yes indeed – the Second Amendment confers an individual, and not exclusively a collective, right “to keep and bear arms.” Ironically, the National Rifle Association, the heart of the gun lobby, did everything it could to derail the case and to take it away from the obscure young lawyer who first brought it.

The author, by no means a fan of the gun culture, argues that the gun-rights folks had by far the stronger historical and textual argument on the meaning of the Second Amendment. He convinces me, though I don’t know the topic well enough to have an expert opinion. Moreover, he claims – and here I emphatically agree, from a somewhat deeper knowledge base – that the gun control movement has been ill-served by both unrealistic goals such as eliminating private gun ownership and fixation on symbolic issues such as gun registration. (He doesn’t stress what to me is the other main sin of the gun controllers: their sheer technical ignorance.) (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Adam Winkler, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Welcome Adam Winkler, (blog) and Host Mark A. R. Kleiman, (blog).

Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Host, Mark Kleiman:

Adam Winkler’s Gunfight is a book of contradictions: a dispassionate book about a passionately debated topic, a sane book about competing insanities, a page-turner about legal doctrine and obscure bits of history, a piece of serious scholarship combined with journalistic flair. Someone coming into the debates about gun policy would have no problem following the argument; I, as a minor-league expert on pieces of the topic, learned something new to me on about every second page, on average.

The topic is the gun-rights-advocates vs. gun-controllers front in the culture wars. The narrative thread concerns the Heller case which finally led the Supreme Court to say that – yes indeed – the Second Amendment confers an individual, and not exclusively a collective, right “to keep and bear arms.” Ironically, the National Rifle Association, the heart of the gun lobby, did everything it could to derail the case and to take it away from the obscure young lawyer who first brought it. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Richard Thaler – Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

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[Welcome author, Richard H. Thaler, and host, Mark A. R. Kleiman, author, bloggger, Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs  – bevw]

Nudge, by Richard Thaler (today’s guest) and Cass Sunstein, is an exposition of the set of ideas its authors call “Libertarian Paternalism.”   At first blush this might seem as oxymoronic a combination as “dry water,” and the goal of the book to show how the phrase might make sense.

Libertarianism holds that it is wrong to interfere with choices made by a competent adult unless those choices threaten to damage someone else (and not always then).  This follows from two claims, one factual and the other moral.  It is claimed as a fact that every competent person is the best judge of what is likely to conduce to his or her own well-being, or at least better than any actual agency wielding coercive power.  And it is claimed as a principle that autonomy is, of right, absolute with respect to what John Stuart Mill called “self-regarding actions.  To overrule someone’s  choices with respect to self-regarding action is, on this account, both disrespectful and damaging.

Paternalism, by contrast, holds that it is possible, and sometimes justifiable, to interfere with someone’s choices for that person’s own benefit.

To reconcile these positions, Thaler and Sunstein offer evidence from behavioral economics to show that under many circumstances personal choices do not reflect a fixed set of considered judgments about what is desirable and what is advantageous.  Instead, choices can be, and in fact often are, “nudged” by a variety of features relating to the choice situation rather than only the outcome set.  (more…)