Thinking about the 4th, on the 4th.
UPDATE: As usual, other people said it better, and at greater length.
Back in the day, when nuclear weapons were providing us with a true existential threat and books like “Thinking About the Unthinkable” were all the rage, much of the discussion around the topic was based on game theory. Game theory deals with the kind of decision you should make when the state of play, the rules, and the outcomes of each decision are known to both sides. The decisions given are clear-cut (although they may involve a random element), and any decision other than that given is irrational. Except that game theorist Thomas Schelling showed how under some circumstances irrationality is a viable strategy. If you are playing chicken, that suicidal car game so beloved of 1950’s B movies, one way to convince the other side to turn away first is to throw out the steering wheel. This is, of course, a thought experiment.
Fast forwarding half a century or so, we find organizations like NRA, RIAA, and MPAA being equally irrational and unreasonable. The reason for this is entirely reasonable. They all have core business models they are trying to protect, and they each know that the slightest amount of give could start the avalanche that destroys their existence.
RIAA and MPAA are front organizations for Big Entertainment. Big Entertainment sees the future as clearly as anyone, and knows that adapting to it will kill them. Future, fully adapted entertainment companies will no longer be Big Entertainment. They might retain brand names, like MGM and BMI, but they won’t be hiring the same executives, paying the same salaries, or hosting the same Hollywood parties. To echo Douglas Adams, they know their arms are too short to reach the sugar for their coffee, but they also know that if they evolve into something with much longer arms, they’re going to be perfectly incapable of drinking the coffee. It’s not evolve or die. It’s evolve and die.
The only rational solution is the irrational one. Deny, deny, deny. Fight every step of the way. Disenfranchise the blind and the deaf, because any concessions there will some day be turned against you.
The NRA is exactly the same. They foresee a day when the US might end up like the UK, or even worse, Japan. The liberal coasties, who only see guns as inner city killers, and the flood of off-color immigrants, who only see guns as drug lord enablers, will band together to get guns banned on the coasts, in the cities, and in The Heartland. There’s no step in that direction that is reasonable, because the NRA represents people who see it as the first step towards an unreasonable solution, and it may well be, because many other people see guns as the moral equivalent of smallpox, and won’t be content until this scourge is driven from the Earth. The NRA is irrationally against compromise, because, in their view and the view of their opponents, once you compromise, there’s no end to it. UPDATE: and here’s an example.
Myself, I’ve lived in the UK, and it’s nice knowing that the only guns in the village are a few hunting shotguns, nice to interact with unarmed police who are not only polite, but who themselves see police carrying weapons as a violation of the social contract. I can live with that. Many can’t, or don’t see why they should, and I can live with that, as well. That’s why we have democracies.
The environmentalist movement also understands this. They say there are some things too dangerous to try to live with, however well-regulated we think they may be — CFCs, lead, nuclear energy. Our organizations and regulations are too frail to control such monsters. The only solution is a complete ban, a complete denial of any possible compromise.
Where then the Fourth Ammendment to the Constitution? First, lest you think me some nutcase, let me say that I recognize that the Constitution, as one Supreme said, is not a suicide pact. I accept that there have to be limits, in the interest of the overall health and security of the country.
See what I just did there? I compromised. You won’t hear the NRA saying it’s not a suicide pact. If we want to commit suicide, that’s our God-given, nay Founder-given right, and no-one should limit our ability to do that, and if tens of thousands die as a side effect, well, everything has side effects. You won’t hear Big Entertainment agreeing that some things should be allowed in the interest of the health and security of the industry. They are the ones who say what’s good for the industry.
This isn’t to say that gun control laws don’t get passed, that the law doesn’t limit the ability of Big Entertainment to stop the step of time. What it means is that anyone attempting to extend the law in this area is going to find themselves in a bitter, no-holds-barred catfight. It means that anyone thinking of doing it had better have a more compelling reason than a bunch of dead schoolkids or a Congresswoman with her brain destroyed.
Perhaps that’s the way it should be with regards to the 4th amendment. Any changes: any new laws, new regulations, new signing statements, new interpretations, should be a political third rail that brings out the jacquerie with pitchforks and torches. In line with the copyright laws that Big Entertainment has given us, where even your grocery lists are copyrighted the instant you write ‘1 qt mlk’, your emails, your correspondents, your location, your IP address should be part of your personal privacy, uninvadable by government, big or small, the instant the bits hit OSI Layer 1. Would that open the way for criminals? Yes. Would that make it easier for terrorists? Certainly. Would more people die as a result? Without a doubt. But, as the NRA guys might say, ‘a big operation like this, you gotta expect some losses’.