Quote of the day—Samuel Culper

Politicians know that the groundswell of peaceful pro-gun activism is backed up by something harder. That’s why in the near term they’re most likely to try and erode support for “assault weapons” and legislate them out of existence, as opposed to confiscate everyone’s AR-15s… for now.

Samuel Culper
December 23, 2019
Eyes on Virginia 2020 – Here’s what to expect
[Via email from Tony.

Scott Adams almost categorically dismisses slippery slope arguments in the general case, not just in the case of gun control. I mostly disagree with him. Here, and in the post this quote was taken from, Culper alludes to my disagreement with Adams.

Adams, in his most recent book, Loserthink: How untrained brains Are Ruining America, elaborates more on this. He says, if I recall correctly, that it’s a slippery slope only until something changes.and then it isn’t. In the case of gun control case he claims travel down the slope will continue only until gun owners stop it. Things that are not terribly unpopular will be enacted, perhaps background checks for retail sales, but that doesn’t affect the probability of gun confiscation. They are two different, unrelated things. Gun owners, and even many non-gunowners, will put up much stronger resistance to gun confiscation and the slide down the slope is stopped.

I don’t see it that way.

As Culper points out, the political response is to make it costly to be a gun owner. Not just in dollars and thing like requiring insurance and difficult licensing procedures but in risk and day to day hassle. I went to the range with a friend in Canada a while back. Each gun had to be unloaded, a trigger lock installed, then locked in a case, and put in the trunk of the car in order to transport it from his home to the range and back. If he were to have lost a trigger lock while at the range he could not have legally transported the gun back home without the risk of going to prison. The “gun-free zone” within 1000 feet of a school is another example of a cost imposed on gun ownership through increased risk of committing a victimless crime.

As these costs increase it decreases the number of people who are willing to pay the “price”. Each of these relatively small price increases is not sufficient to take a bunch of time off work or to donate a lot of money to help defeat it like you would if it were something like confiscation of America’s most popular rifle. Yet, because the increasing cost of gun ownership it means fewer gun owners which means there is less resistance to the next slide down the slope. Whereas in Adams view you get increased resistance as you slide down the slope.

We both see the slope as non-linear but he sees the slope as upturning and stopping further progress and I see it as downturning and increasing progress.

I claim we can see support for my view on two different slopes.

Look at the slippery slope the anti-gun people are on. For decades they fought the passage of concealed carry licensing laws as they slowly swept the nation. Now Constitutional Carry is slowly spreading. I remember people saying licensing our rights was actually a step in the wrong direction for us. It should be “Vermont Carry”, as what we now call Constitutional Carry was called 20 years ago, or nothing because once the right to carry was licensed we couldn’t get back to a principled claim of right to carry without a license. The anti-gun people have been sliding down this slope for something like 30 years now with no end in sight.

On the other side we can see the march of restrictions on “assault weapons” up and down the west and east costal states. Each year they come up with another type of restriction or cost to add to the burden of owning and using them. Had the anti-gun people gone for an outright ban and demand for confiscation, again about 30 years ago, few politicians would have given the ideas support. This year people hoping to become president seem to be competing on who can confiscate them in the shortest period of time. We have slid down a slippery slope. Those early restrictions enabled further restrictions as soon as the legislature reconvened the next year.

On the other hand Adam could say the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary movement proves his point.

Am I missing something? Adams is a smart guy and I may too close to this issue to see the issue clearly. Is there some special case situation that Adams would concede in my examples while being substantially correct in the more general case?—Joe]

16 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Samuel Culper

  1. Adams is a smart guy, he is very good at explaining wrong ideas. Also, he can’t be convinced he is wrong.

    • Maybe he’d understand the concept better if we used the example of the income tax. When it was first inflicted, it was sold as only one percent on the top income earners in America (I forget the cutoff, and the exact number isn’t that important). As time wore on it became a bigger percentage on lower incomes, until nearly everyone paid income tax during WW2, where it was withheld directly from paychecks. We’ve been in a seesaw battle ever after, where we find that reducing the rates brings in more revenue
      If he thinks that isn’t a slippery slope, Adams should talk to his alter ego Ratbert more.

  2. I think Scott here is failing to account for the dual effects of time and the reduction of gun owners due to mobility. When you gradually increase the barriers and legal friction to gun ownership and use, those who consider guns rights to be important look to move elsewhere or adjust their preferences to follow the easier path. It doesn’t happen immediately, but it happens over time. So, yes, there’s an inflection point where significant increases are proposed (ban on aw sales -> ban on aw ownership / confiscation) but by the time you hit that point you’ve already driven out the people most willing to resist so the inflection point is a much smaller change than it would have been otherwise.

  3. I agree with you. Fifty years ago there were few limits – if you could put the cash on the counter you could buy a gun. Now we have restrictions that were implemented step by one ‘good’ step at a time and more are on the way.

    Most of us are law-abiding so new restrictions will be followed. And more importantly, businesses and associations will be forced to be law-abiding. Sure we will complain and perhaps join legal/political groups to fight new laws, but this is a piecemeal process. And if we ‘win’ then gun control groups come back with more regulations next year and the next year. They are playing the long game.

    All they need to do is to have a modest success rate of one ‘good’ step at a time and we will lose in the long term. Only if they get too grabby will they get resistance. And again when they fail they can just come back next year with more restrictions.

    * ‘They’ is too precise a word. I can’t point to a specific ‘they’ – at best ‘they’ is ‘our’ vague collective world view.

    And this is not just about guns – it’s our whole society as we slip and slide towards a socialist one that becomes more and more broken. Today we live in a society that demands ‘first-class’ for everyone, but it is one that does not work for everyone. Those that can’t afford that first-class life become lawbreakers that are often given a pass (it’s OK’ to shoplift so long as it is under $). Fifty years ago you could live in a shack on your own property without any amenities. Now that’s illegal. So our homeless problem has exploded which in turn just pushes us even farther down the path of socialism with ever more unintended consequences.

  4. I think you (Joe) are correct but missing part of the point. For any given instant of time, the “slippery slope” does gain more friction the further down the slope you go. “If I let them register my printing press, they will come take it tomorrow” just doesn’t happen. And if it did start to happen, the push back would rapidly reverse the sign of the slope.

    On the other hand, there is the “slope” of reducing the social acceptance of gun ownership, and standing up for gun rights.

    I was at the dinner yesterday. Mostly locals, mostly reasonable, and nobody in that dinner would get loud about any political opinion. We all speak in quiet voices to each other and only express our opinion to people that have already expressed an openness to speak on that subject.

    So I wear a patch that says “I Plead the 2nd” and another that is a collection of rifles that says “I’m Pro Choice”. They are in subdued colors and it is my way of telling people “I’m safe to talk to about pro 2A things”. And I get people that do talk to me.

    But I don’t ware a yellow and black “Don’t Tread On Me” patch, because that patch would attract too much negative attention and could escalate a confrontation.

    The slope that I’m concerned with is the shutting down of speech. The shutting down of my willingness to speak freely about pro-2A subjects. And of the slow change in how the children see guns.

    The slope of silence, the slope of “2A extremists” vs “common sense gun-violence prevention”, the slope of “guns kill” all lead to less 2A supporters in the next generation.

    So in the next generation, the fight is less well attended on the 2A side, and a few more “common sense” gun control(people control) laws get passed. And when those fewer people stand up and protest, they are more easily painted in the the “extremist” camp.

    I tell the story of my Canadian friend who found a rifle her grandfather had hidden. Her grandfather that had survived Nazi’s conscripting him and sending him to die trying to stop the Russians. The grandfather that survived by pretending to be dead and hiding under the bodies of his fellow soldiers. The grandfather that had felt the bayonet graze his leg but not kill him. That grandfather had felt the cold hand of history on the back of his neck and had hidden the means for his grand children to defend themselves.

    And when his grandchild found that simple, bolt action rifle from WWII hidden in the basement, she called the RCMP, terrified that the gun hidden in the rafters was going to kill her child.

    The slippery slope is not the gun law of today, it is the grandchild of tomorrow.

  5. Part of the slope is social conditioning. It is the intentional “othering” of a certain group of people, specifically trying to marginalize them among the wider population,trying to make them seem alien, sketchy, paranoid, dangerous. It’s is about the opposite of inclusion and tolerance that the left tries to gaslight people with. It is about making a certain attitude – independence, self-reliance, skepticism of government, “traditional Americanism” if you will – appear to be socially unacceptable and OK to discriminate against. Indeed, it’s even obligatory to discriminate against them, as all right-thinking people would.

    The current day-to-day harassment is just a side-issue. The bigger picture is social manipulation and programming.

  6. I love Scott Adams and he is mostly excellent at political analysis from a persuasion mindset.

    He also has no belief in or concept of rights displayed in his work.

    He has nothing he would die for.

    Which makes him a great guide to understanding politicians in general, and also unknowingly blinded to the behavior of those who believe honor, or rights, or anything is worth more than life itself.

  7. “Whereas in Adams view you get increased resistance as you slide down the slope.”

    That all depends on the state of the culture, of course, as Rolf indicates.

    The subject at hand, and the question you’re asking, is; “Does Progressivism work?” Well of course it does. That’s not even debatable. Ted Bundy first appears as a nice man with a broken arm, then he asks you for help, then he leads you over to his windowless van, then he leads you into the van, etc. By the time you realize how he’s been manipulating you all along, it’s too late, and your “push back” won’t matter. There are countless examples of this, such that it is ludicrous to even question the concept. Any good salesman knows all about it too.

    “Social conditioning”, “othering”, “gaslighting”, “Progressivism”, et al, are terms which describe the spiritual war that’s raging.

    In a staunchly principled (fundamentalist) society the attempts at corrupting the culture are met with instant and sure corrections, but that has never lasted for long; usually not much more than one generation.

    Story after story after story after story in the Bible depict this sad state of affairs. Jezebel gets into your camp, standards begin to slip a little bit, then they slip a bit more, and before you know it the enemy has you infiltrated and their generals are running your institutions.

    It works a bit like chemical addictions; one little drink is not going to hurt a thing, and we’ve heard reports that it might even be good for you! Then after your third DUI, and about the time you’re diagnosed with liver failure, you begin to see where things, step by step, went wrong.

    The slippery slope in the 2A issue lies in the fact that we never prosecute the offenders. Until that happens, regularly and predictably, we are losing even when we think we’re winning. The perps know that they can violate the Bill of Rights with impunity. Sure; they might lose an election here or there, but they can always fight the constitution in other ways, as much as they like, openly and officially, and never face prosecution and conviction. But on what grounds or what moral authority would we prosecute, while we tolerate and may even embrace other encroachments on the constitution? We are all hypocrites.

    Our very best efforts are exactly like stopping a bank robbery in progress, then dusting off your hands, declaring victory, and letting the perpetrator walk away, only to blog and tweet about his efforts to rob banks, rally his supporters, openly, in public, recruit allies, and come back to do it again tomorrow. He knows, for a certainty, that he will eventually succeed.

    In other words, no one has demonstrated a shred of seriousness in upholding the Supreme Law of the Land.

    Anyway; all of the prophesies have been fulfilled except for the last few, so fortunately for Christians they know how this all works out, and don’t need to trouble themselves over the strategy details in global politics (and make no mistake; this IS global politics!*). For everyone else, there will be much confusion and much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    America may have been a tough nut to crack, but the enemy will have gotten what it wants out of us.

    *It’s been said that “all politics is local” but in the final analysis all politics will have been global. Why for example do you think that we’re importing voters and influencers and who do you think is arranging to have them sent here?

    • Black Walnuts and Macadamia nuts are also tough to crack, but Macadamia nut candy is available in Costco, as is “milk” made from them. Virginia has all these sanctuary counties and cities because of Leftist overreach, the same reason Trump was elected and will be reelected.
      There was no slippery slope in
      Germany between the wars until it was too late.
      It only seems like resistance has formed against the slippery slope in Virginia because this step came too soon.

  8. Lyle makes an interesting point: “The slippery slope in the 2A issue lies in the fact that we never prosecute the offenders.”

    Implementing restrictions – the usual “ratchet” effect the Left applies to all freedoms and liberties – is free. California for example; AR-15 Bad, but banning them would spark (probably severe) pushback, so AR-15s “legal” as long as they do not have a user-detachable magazine. Or pistol grip. Or flash hider. Or….On our side we think the “bullet button” that gets around the non-changeable magazine is brilliant and a non-adjustable stock that resembles warped driftwood is genius because both “allow” the AR-15 owner to possess a non-reloadable, barely shoulderable rifle with a semi-automatic action. Yippee.

    My concern is that absent pushback, and not that it won’t happen, because it will. The years between 1776 and 1789 proved that pushback eventually happens; the next pushback may very well be sufficiently severe to deeply compromise, if not destroy, the foundational structure of the country. We’ve failed to seek treatment for the minor aches so at some point must undergo radical surgery for the cancer. Or die, which, unfailingly, is always present as an option.

    Some time back Joe and I had an email discussion about trajectory, finally arriving at what got termed “ballistic arc;” graphical representations of drop tables show a steadily increasing rate of negative vertical movement the farther from the muzzle a projectile travels because as air resistance slows a bullet gravity, which is a constant, has increasing time per distance unit to act on the bullet. We’ve seen similar effect on political impact to our firearm rights as society has moved farther from when guns were widely capable tools of necessity, and regarded positively for those properties, to guns being represented as implements of danger or crime and luxury goods for a decreasing number of individuals who are frequently seen as biased and “out of the mainstream.”

    • My wife and I have observed that pushback is all but absent in our justice system. We keep hearing any day now, but day after day passes with just words. If anything it seems that enforcement of laws is becoming more selective and biased in favor of the left’s protective classes.

      This reminds me of JFK’s quote: ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’

  9. “Politicians know that the groundswell of peaceful pro-gun activism is backed up by something harder.” This should be referred to as the “Gun Standard.” And as quoted by Herbert Hoover in reference to the gold standard, “We have gold because we cannot trust the government.”

  10. I think both Culper and Adams are pretty sharp guys. Framing gun control vs rights as a slippery slope is really a problem unto itself. It implies that there is a natural tendency toward change and an ultimate ‘bottom’ when really there are people actively trying to change laws and cultures in either direction.

    This is ultimately a tug of war. People on the ends of the spectrum are pulling the hardest while people nearest the middle are mostly just holding the rope. Every time there is a big event that gets people’s attention a few people near the middle get drug through the mud puddle and over to the other side. A very public shooting with scary black rifles can drag a few people to the anti gun side. A permit holder who saves lives can pull a few people the other way. They may still be near the middle, but they add mass to one side or the other making it harder for the others side to pull the rope.

    The scary part is when voting districts get so skewed that there is an insurmountable mass on the left. People on the left who are smart won’t pull too hard and just slowly chip away at the people on the right. People who are brash are apt to yank the rope, causing the other side to simply drop it. Of course with no rope to hold, both hands are free to stuff magazines. THAT is when things get bad.

    Stay safe out there!

Comments are closed.