The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Professors and Guns / Exit and Voice

Warning — Politics (but not elections, heaven for-fend!)

Driving into work this morning, I heard a story on NPR about the U.T. (Austin) Dean of Architecture, who is resigning because Texas will legalize campus open carry this fall. I’m assuming that this is national news on NPR because they are anti-gun, but I rather liked this story, which highlights one of the benefits of our system of government.

The power of Exit. (As in Exit, Voice and Loyalty).

My feeling on guns is “squishy, pro-gun” — as far as I can tell more guns leads to more deaths, but only if you count suicides. If you remove them it leads to somewhat fewer. But as to the specific issue of “Should guns be allowed on campus?” Well, I have no specific reason to think campuses will reverse that trend, but perhaps the Professor is correct and guns will be especially bad on campus.

It’s certainly debatable — although I don’t want to have a debate on guns.

No, what I want to do is applaud Professor Steiner (even though I think I disagree with him) in using his power of exit. He’s voting — with his feet! — against open carry. Democracy is the system where 51% can vote to give the rest of us a wedgie, but thanks to our federal system we can have small islands of sanity — whatever your definition of sanity. Low Tax, Low Service state over here. High Tax, High service over there. Open Campus Carry in Texas. Not so in Pennsylvania (where the Prof is moving to).

Various legal models exist in the states, and they compete.

The Free State Project just announced that they’ve triggered their goal. If it works, 20,000 libertarians will move to New Hampshire. This may annoy current residents, but the idea is to influence the laboratories of democracy — the States. (I am philosophically aligned with that project, although not willing to move to support it. At least, not until I have proof it works).

Anyway, I suspect that NPR’s intended point was “Look at Texas and how they love their guns,” or some such, but the point I heard was “If we move more power from the federal level to the state level, everyone can probably find a state that they generally like.”

Presumably NPR would be furious if open campus carry was a Federal Law. Then the poor Dean would have to leave the country. Yet somehow I think they’d be perfectly happy with a National “No-Gun” law, which would annoy (apparently) most Texans.

Me? I’m just happy when it’s the states (or local governments) being stupid.

At least then you can move. And — sooner or later — enough evidence will roll in to make a decision.

(Of theoretical interest, note that the process causes Texas to move right and Pennsylvania to move left. I think Slate Star Codex or perhaps Elizier Yudkowsky noted that this process would also cause Fundamentalist sects to become more religious as the wavering people left, and a similar ‘ablative cooling’ effect. But my Google-Fu is weak right now, and I’m just mentioning this because I find it interesting, and if Hirschman noted it in his book, I didn’t catch it).

Addendum: In case you were looking — I’ve deleted my Twitter account. (Since someone just asked me if something had happened to it). I may undelete it (I have a few weeks). I may not.

I nuked it over the weekend for the same reason the Professor is moving out — Exit is in this case more powerful than Voice.

I was already lukewarm about posting my minor thoughts on Twitter (instead of here) and Twitter’s more pronounced shadowbanning and general behavior led me to leave a few days ago.  I’ll probably add a few more categories, since I’ll now be doing a more frequent “Random thoughts and links” threads.

And — in general — I won’t be discussing politics beyond some theory now and then.

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Written by taogaming

February 29, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Posted in Non-Gaming

4 Responses

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  1. If you don’t want to have a debate on guns, probably best not to put out your position on guns since it’s largely irrelevant to the overall piece.

    Also, you do have to count suicides. They’re usually a mental health issue that the easy availability of guns makes dramatically worse.

    I’m generally on your side on this, in that the states should have a lot of freedom to experiment. But the line does have to be drawn, each community can’t be left entirely to their own devices. For example, New York has very strict gun laws because that’s what they want. But their gun policy is undermined by Virginia’s incredibly lax gun laws; who wins that dispute? If the states have policies that are provably idiotic and undermine their neighbors (not speaking specifically about guns here), do we let them do it? Can the states bring back slavery if they want? Or possibly more relevantly, can states adopt education policy that denies evolution or teaches jingoistic, whitewashed history in their public schools even though that obviously damages the students and the body politic? Can they discriminate against disfavored minorities simply out of animus, as a distressing number of jurisdictions do? Can they spew pollutants or CO2?

    The open carry thing specifically is weird though. Open carry, in isolation, can clearly be a community issue that the community could decide and nobody else should be harmed by. But; UT Austin is in a Texas’ liberal bastion – is this just Texas forcing an unwanted policy on a liberal community that doesn’t want it? Austin is legendarily gerrymandered to deny them liberal representation. (I don’t know the answer). Perhaps more importantly though, guns have become a culture war issue, and so open carry has to be bundled in with a whole bunch of other gun policy that is much more far-reaching, and less about searching for sound policy and more about cultural identity (The Federal government has, in fact, been barred from doing the research to figure out what sound policy might be). Relatively few Texans actually want to openly carry firearms, as there hasn’t been much of an uptick since that big open carry law was passed in 2015; but arguably it’s become a cultural identity thing to expand gun rights.

    These are complicated problem that needs to be resolved through politics; facile libertarian answers don’t cut any ice with me. This is why, IMO, we need to constantly attend to our democratic system and make sure that it continues to reflect the preferences of its citizens and not various special interests (business, interest groups, or political parties). Still, I do agree that the states need to have sufficient leeway to experiment with policy. In fact, we *do* have this in a lot of ways (see, Kansas).

    Chris Farrell

    March 1, 2016 at 12:22 am

  2. As a professor, I don’t like the idea of students with weapons on campus. How am I supposed to give students honest feedback if I think they may do me, or others, bodily harm?

    The point on state control is interesting, but not feasible. Lets say there are 10 issues that a person cares about, each with two choices. This results in 2^10 (or 1024) possibilities, or more states than we have. Even if focusing on a majority of choices (2^6 = 64) the plan is still not feasible and frankly, I imagine the “10” number to be on the low side.

    Chris H

    March 1, 2016 at 9:49 am

  3. It seems like this isn’t the case of a State taking power from the Federal government, rather it is taking power from the local.

    Mark Delano

    March 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm

  4. Chris, I think in order to make his point he had to give some examples.

    Eric Brosius

    March 1, 2016 at 3:09 pm


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