Why Libertarians Should Be Pacifists, Not Isolationists

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Bryan Caplan argues that libertarians should be pacifists — against all war — not just isolationists:

My claim is that in practice, it is nearly impossible to wage war justly, i.e., without trampling on the rights of the innocent. Every viable military organization in history has used forced to acquire resources, recklessly endangered civilian lives, and embraced some variant on collective guilt. War is a dirty business. It’s just too hard to win if you play fair.

At times like these, Caplan’s credibility drops like a rock. I said as much in the comments:

So a Caplan-libertarian nation is at the mercy of any invading army composed of unwilling conscripts? It doesn’t take a nuanced game-theoretic analysis to see how this plays out.

8 Predictions for Health Care

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Megan McArdle makes 8 predictions for health care:

1) Conservatively, Ezra’s arithmetic implies a reduction in the death rate of people between 18–64 of at 20,000–45,000 a year. Let’s take the low bound — 20,000 deaths a year — and assume that we should see that, or something close to it, by 2020. That’s about 3% of deaths in the relevant age group, which would show up as a very noticeably kink in the death rate. For comparison purposes, the entire fall in mortality between 1980 and 2000 was about 2.7%.

Contra Ezra, I am predicting that this will not happen. I’m about 75% confident that you will not be able to discern any effect from the health care reform among the statistical noise. But I am 95+% confident that the effect will not be as large as 3%.

2) I’m pretty sure that Kristof read the table he was drawing from wrong — he was looking at life-expectancy at birth, but he interpreted the data as if it was about adults in the 1940s. Still, age-adjusted mortality fell about 15% in just 10 years, an achievement that hasn’t been matched since. If Kristof is right, and this had more to do with health care access than antibiotics, we should be able to get a similar improvement this time around — especially since we’re already seeing terrific reductions, with a 10% decline in age-related mortality just between 2001–6. Hell, both Ezra’s numbers and Kristoff’s imply that we should be able to knock down the death rate by at least 20% between 2014 and 2024, when we add their improvements to the existing trend.

I do not think that there will be a noticeable kink in the trend line around 2014. The death rate jumps around quite a lot, so there may be a big drop (or increase) in 2014, neither of which would be meaningful. By 2025, however, I’m skeptical that we’ll see a major inflection in the trend.

3) David Himmelstein claims to believe that the majority of all bankruptcies are related to medical issues, and that this is a strong argument for national health care… i.e., he claims to believe that medical bills rather than income loss are the main causal driver here. That’s the data Michael Moore is citing. I will make a bold counterclaim: the bankruptcy rate after 2014 will not fall by half. It won’t even fall by a quarter. This is among the easiest effects to measure, as if the people citing these statistics are right, we should see a sharp and immediate reduction in bankruptcy rates in the first year, with the full effects evident by 2018.

4) Infant mortality should be no greater than that of the Netherlands by 2018. Again, I predict that this will not happen, and indeed, that infant mortality rates may not fall at all.

5) I predict at least one of the major funding sources, and possibly all of them, will be substantively repealed: the Medicare cuts (except Medicare Advantage), the excise tax, and so forth.

6) This program will not reduce the rate of growth in medical costs by anything like 1.5% a year.

7) A fiscal crisis of some sort is quite likely by 2030, though not just because of this program. But this program will make it worse, either by increasing the deficit directly, or by using up the low-hanging fruit that should have funded Medicare reform.

8) By 2030, there’s an 80% chance that the government will have imposed substantial price controls on pharma and other medical technology — and this will noticeably slow the rate of innovation.

I feel like any reasonable proponent of health care reform should be willing to take the other side of most of these bets, without weaseling that this isn’t the health care reform that you wanted. If you aren’t confident that we can get at least some of these results, than we shouldn’t have committed to spend $200 billion a year… and you shouldn’t have deployed these arguments in the run-up to health care.

A Saint in a TV-Age Religion

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Globally, who is the most revered political figure of the present era?

If you ask this question of a random sample of Americans, Americanized Europeans, etc, etc, a significant percentage will say: “Nelson Mandela.” Moreover, and more important, almost all of those who chose someone else will agree that, yes, “Nelson Mandela” is a perfectly good answer to this question.

Try this experiment: get a friend of yours to agree with this statement. Then say: “okay. Now, pretend I’m an alien. To Planet Earth, I have just now come! And I don’t know anything about Nelson Mandela. Really. Nothing at all. You say: Nelson Mandela is the most revered figure of the present political era. So tell me: who was Nelson Mandela? And what did he do?”

Although this objection may produce some elaboration, the odds are overwhelming that the first answer you receive will be phrased in entirely magical terms. For example, your friend might say: “Nelson Mandela led his people to freedom.”
[...]
Surely, if Mandela is the greatest political leader of the era, through his own personal initiative he must have brought much better government to millions of people. Surely, if one sought an objective determination of the effect of changes in government on some group or groups X, you would say: did group or groups X experience better government under the old regime, or the new regime? Furthermore: was this result, if surprising, surprising to the entirety of humanity? Or were there some predicted it? If so, who were these accurate predictors?

Anyway. Nelson Mandela is not the subject of this post. But the point is: your friend actually knows nothing about Nelson Mandela, the historical figure. He cannot answer any of these questions.

What he knows is Nelson Mandela, the magical figure. He is experiencing history via magic. Nelson Mandela is not really a historical figure to him; Nelson Mandela is simply a saint in his TV-age religion, which like all major religions practices magical thinking. I urge you to cease and desist from this practice. It is detrimental to the neurons. You will feel much better when you are all done with it.

Some influential “texts”

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Scott Sumner makes a point I alluded to, when he discusses some influential “texts”:

Perhaps you saw the movie Metropolitan. There is a scene where a young man is debating the merits of Jane Austen with a young woman at a New York cocktail party. Finally in exasperation she asks the guy “Which Jane Austen books have you actually read?” He replied “I don’t actually read novels, I read literary criticism.” I’m kind of like that asshole. I haven’t read a lot of the intellectual classics, but can spend 30 minutes telling you what is wrong with each of them. Yes, I’m quite aware of how unfair this is; I know that when you boil an argument down to its essentials the work can lose much of its persuasive power. But I did read Pride and Prejudice.

I haven’t read all of the books that I consider influential, but I have read extensively about them.

His point about history ties in with my own comment on the lesson of Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness:

I once read all the New York Times from 1928–38. History seems really different when it is actually happening. The people back then seemed just as smart as we are. Of course we have a bit more history to learn from, so we did a bit better with monetary policy this time around. But we still made many of the same mistakes, just to a lesser degree.

The class distinctions back then seemed bigger — which surprised me. I knew that was the case for African-Americans, but I didn’t realize that class divisions among whites were also much greater, and that the upper class was so uninterested in the suffering of average farmers and workers. Or how much wealth was concentrated in New York City at that time.

I also developed a much greater respect for the stock, bond, and commodity markets’ ability to forecast the economy. They reacted to lots of things that seemed very important at the time, and that I think actually were very important, which are totally ignored by historians. A good example is the gold panic of early 1937 and the dollar panic of late 1937.

Michael Lewis Echoes Thorstein Veblen

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Michael Lewis echoes Thorstein Veblen, Seth Roberts says, when he describes the investors who shorted the bubble:

They were outsiders to the market that they were betting on. And in addition, they were, in many cases, personally curious people, not clubbable members of the group. And I think that was a key to the success. I think that the fact that they didn’t feel compelled in any way, on any level, to think like other people gave them an advantage.

Veblen describes another group of outsiders:

This is what Thorstein Veblen said about Jews in a 1917 essay titled “The intellectual pre-eminence of Jews in modern Europe.” Being outsiders gave them freedom of thought. Lewis may have read that essay. A few years ago, he compiled an anthology of economic classics, one of which was Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. I mentioned this essay earlier.

Political Fatalities

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As a rule, I don’t want to live anywhere with enough political fatalities to graph, like South Africa during the interregnum between the release of Nelson Mandela on the 11th of February, 1990 and his assumption of the office of South African President on the 10th of May, 1994:

Below is a time series of recorded political fatalities on a monthly basis from January 1985 to December 1996. Data is available for a 61 month period preceding the interregnum and a 31 month period succeeding it.


During the pre-interregnum average casualties reached 92 per month, during the interregnum an average monthly rate of 288 was recorded, an increase of 214%. During the post-interregnum period monthly casualties dropped to 81, a rate lower than the one recorded during minority rule. However when combining the pre-and post periods and comparing it with the interregnum one notices that during the transition period political casualties increased by 227% or 200 persons more per month. Prolonged interregnums clearly carry high social costs and efforts should be made in ensuring a rapid and stable succession.

The Severe Touch of Truth

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

In An Essay on the Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus posits a socialist-anarchist Utopia, as imagined by William Godwin, and steps through the consequences of such a delightful living arrangement:

Mr. Godwin considers marriage as a fraud and a monopoly. Let us suppose the commerce of the sexes established upon principles of the most perfect freedom. Mr. Godwin does not think himself that this freedom would lead to a promiscuous intercourse; and in this I perfectly agree with him. The love of variety is a vicious, corrupt, and unnatural taste, and could not prevail in any great degree in a simple and virtuous state of society. Each man would probably select himself a partner, to whom he would adhere as long as that adherence continued to be the choice of both parties. It would be of little consequence, according to Mr. Godwin, how many children a woman had, or to whom they belonged. Provisions and assistance would spontaneously flow from the quarter in which they abounded, to the quarter that was deficient. And every man would be ready to furnish instruction to the rising generation according to his capacity.

I cannot conceive a form of society so favourable upon the whole to population. The irremediableness of marriage, as it is at present constituted, undoubtedly deters many from entering into that state. An unshackled intercourse on the contrary, would be a most powerful incitement to early attachments: and as we are supposing no anxiety about the future support of children to exist, I do not conceive that there would be one woman in a hundred, of twenty three, without a family.

With these extraordinary encouragements to population, and every cause of depopulation, as we have supposed, removed, the numbers would necessarily increase faster than in any society that has ever yet been known. I have mentioned, on the authority of a pamphlet published by a Dr. Styles and referred to by Dr. Price, that the inhabitants of the back settlements of America doubled their numbers in fifteen years. England is certainly a more healthy country than the back settlements of America; and as we have supposed every house in the island to be airy and wholesome, and the encouragements to have a family greater even than with the back settlers, no probable reason can be assigned, why the population should not double itself in less, if possible, than fifteen years. But to be quite sure that we do not go beyond the truth, we will only suppose the period of doubling to be twenty-five years, a ratio of increase, which is well known to have taken place throughout all the Northern States of America.

There can be little doubt, that the equalization of property which we have supposed, added to the circumstance of the labour of the whole community being directed chiefly to agriculture, would tend greatly to augment the produce of the country. But to answer the demands of a population increasing so rapidly, Mr. Godwin’s calculation of half an hour a day for each man would certainly not be sufficient. It is probable that the half of every man’s time must be employed for this purpose. Yet with such, or much greater exertions, a person who is acquainted with the nature of the soil in this country, and who reflects on the fertility of the lands already in cultivation, and the barrenness of those that are not cultivated, will be very much disposed to doubt whether the whole average produce could possibly be doubled in twenty-five years from the present period.
[...]
Alas! what becomes of the picture where men lived in the midst of plenty: where no man was obliged to provide with anxiety and pain for his restless wants: where the narrow principle of selfishness did not exist:where Mind was delivered from her perpetual anxiety about corporal support, and free to expatiate in the field of thought which is congenial to her. This beautiful fabric of imagination vanishes at the severe touch of truth. The spirit of benevolence, cherished and invigorated by plenty, is repressed by the chilling breath of want. The hateful passions that had vanished reappear. The mighty law of self-preservation expels all the softer and more exalted emotions of the soul. The temptations to evil are too strong for human nature to resist. The corn is plucked before it is ripe, or secreted in unfair Proportions; and the whole black train of vices that belong to falsehood are immediately generated. Provisions no longer flow in for the support of the mother with a large family. The children are sickly from insufficient food. The rosy flush of health gives place to the pallid cheek and hollow eye of misery. Benevolence yet lingering in a few bosoms, makes some faint expiring struggles, till at length self-love resumes his wonted empire, and lords it triumphant over the world.

See the Tragedy of the Commons

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

You can actually see the Tragedy of the Commons hit Zimbabwe in these satellite photos:




We got lucky with gravity

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

We got lucky with gravity, Aretae reminds us:

An apple falling has at least air-resistance, which varies by pressure, humidity, and apple-shape and wind to contend with. I’m really happy that in the case of gravity, Newton was able to find that gravity was sufficiently dominant so as to (for many purposes) ignore the other factors…and hence have mathematical, predictive science.

The Happiness of a Country

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

When Thomas Malthus was writing An Essay on the Principle of Population, economies rarely, if ever, grew faster than the population for any length of time:

The happiness of a country does not depend, absolutely, upon its poverty, or its riches, upon its youth, or its age, upon its being thinly, or fully inhabited, but upon the rapidity with which it is increasing, upon the degree in which the yearly increase of food approaches to the yearly increase of an unrestricted population. This approximation is always the nearest in new colonies, where the knowledge and industry of an old State operate on the fertile unappropriated land of a new one. In other cases, the youth or the age of a State is not in this respect of very great importance. It is probable that the food of Great Britain is divided in as great plenty to the inhabitants, at the present period, as it was two thousand, three thousand, or four thousand years ago. And there is reason to believe that the poor and thinly inhabited tracts of the Scotch Highlands, are as much distressed by an overcharged population as the rich and populous province of Flanders.

Books That Have Influenced Me

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Tyler Cowen recently answered a reader’s question of which books have influenced his world view the most. Some of the works I don’t recognize, others I haven’t read, others I’ve read about in great detail, and a couple I have in fact read. In that last category, Plato certainly held my interest, but I can’t point to any lasting influence. (Camille Paglia neither held my interest nor had any lasting influence.)

Arnold Kling and Bryan Caplan produced their own lists, and Tyler has since compiled a list of lists.

Naturally I got to thinking that perhaps I should produce my own list. An e-mail prod from Aretae pushed me over the edge — and just before I unleashed my oh-so-clever idea, he went and beat me to it. Anyway, here’s my list

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual – If I’m going to be honest, I need to admit that I was profoundly influenced by D&D and many other related games, which introduced me at a very young age to the entire notion of simulation — of using more-or-less mathematical models to explore how things might play out — and thus to many of the flaws in such models. Sometimes a more detailed model is less realistic, and sometimes a human’s judgment is invaluable.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas – I don’t mean to imply that Dumas’s novel furnished me with an unquenchable desire for vengeance. Rather, reading The Count of Monte Cristo in 11th grade clarified just how derivative most of the entertainment we consume really is — everything has been done better by Dumas, and he did it over a century ago — and it got me wondering why we don’t regularly enjoy the pop classics. We read new books, listen to new music, watch new TV shows, and wait in long lines to watch new movies, when most of the best works produced — best for our own middle-brow tastes — are still new to us. (It also reminded me that our public-school curriculum goes out of its way to avoid books that kids, especially boys, might enjoy, under the pretense that teenagers with no life experience will learn literary analysis by parroting back what the teacher said about The Scarlet Letter, or some other work that does not speak to them at all.)
  • “The Man Who Came Early”, by Poul Anderson – I suppose I could pick any number of science fiction novels or short stories here, but Poul Anderson’s “The Man Who Came Early” really stuck with me. If you’re not familiar, it’s the story of an American MP pseudo-scientifically transported back in time to Viking-era Iceland, where his knowledge of modern technology enables him to do… very little. Anderson’s story does an excellent job of conveying just how little modern specialized technical knowledge is worth without adequate infrastructure and just how foreign modern society would seem to anarchic medieval Icelanders.
  • Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand – There seems to be an unwritten rule that anyone who cites Rand as an influence should cite Atlas Shrugged, but I came to her work first through her short collections of essays. This regrettably stripped her enormous novels of most of their novelty; I already knew what she was trying to say. Anyway, the experience of reading Rand as a teenager is one of looking up to where God isn’t and asking, Why isn’t anyone else saying these things?
  • Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt – When I bought my college textbooks a few weeks before the start of my sophomore year, I wasn’t sure what to make of Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, because I’d already been through one year of indoctrination, and I was terrified that my econ professor was going to refute this wonderful book that seemed too good to be true. I felt quite fortunate that school year.
  • The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins – I had found evolution fascinating from long before I found Dawkins’ book, but his work took my understanding to another level and introduced so many fascinating concepts — or explained them in a much broader context, like his discussion of tit for tat and the natural balance of defectors in a lax population of cooperators.
  • The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray – The chief lesson of The Bell Curve is that if you put one small chapter on racial differences in your book, no one will talk about anything else. Far more interesting to me was the story of the shift in society from the old order, in which elite schools were filled with the social elite, to the modern meritocratic order, in which elite schools are filled with the academic elite — which has unintended consequences.
  • Law’s Order, by David Friedman – Aretae mentioned Friedman’s anarcho-capitalist Machinery of Freedom, which I enjoyed but didn’t find especially influential. I much preferred Law’s Order, which explores the nature of property rights and brings Coase’s theorem to life.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond – I don’t know to what degree his grand theory is true, but I certainly found it thought-provoking. So much of our “technology” is agricultural — domesticated plants and animals — and it’s far too easy to neglect something so vital.
  • The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz del Castillo – I picked up this first-hand account of the Spanish expedition that toppled the Aztec empire because Diamond had mentioned it in Guns, Germs, and Steel, and I was not disappointed. My primary take-away was this: Why didn’t we read this in school? Real history is nothing like school history. Oddly, real history is more like a swords-and-sorcery novel: evil priests, hair matted with blood, commit human sacrifices atop pyramids amidst a city built on a lake inside a volcanic crater; frenzied fighting ensues.
  • Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Ironically, the chief lesson of Taleb’s book, and its sequel, is humility. Things that were “obviously” inevitable after the fact, like World War II, were not obvious at the time. The Lebanese “knew” that any fighting around Beirut would soon blow over; theirs was a country where Jews, Christians, and Muslims had lived in harmony for centuries.
  • A Farewell to Alms, by Gregory Clark – I was familiar with Malthus from high school biology, and I was familiar with the standard refutation by Simon vs. Ehrlich, et al. What Clark did was to explore the conditions under which the Malthusian Trap would hold, the conditions under which it would not, and how policies ideal for one situation would backfire in the other. In an agricultural society with little human capital, the plague can raise living standards. In a modern society? Not so much.

Flanders

Friday, March 19th, 2010

There’s a passage in Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population that suggests a certain amount of geographic determinism, given that he wrote the essay in 1798:

The fertile province of Flanders, which has been so often the seat of the most destructive wars, after a respite of a few years, has appeared always as fruitful and as populous as ever.

I suppose he’s referring to the Eighty Years’ War, but I naturally think of the World War I poem, In Flanders Fields, written in 1915:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Relative Economic Development

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The relative economic development of post-colonial Africa has been miserable:

A random sample of five former British colonies testifies to this negative trend. Interestingly, their economies in relative terms to that of their imperial master were not in a dire shape in the 1960-early 70s. Taking Rhodesia/Zimbabwe as an example, the Rhodesian GDP per Capita remained steady at the interval 15-20% of the UK equivalent despite sanctions from the mid-60s due to their unilateral declaration of independence. The insurgency clearly took it’s toll from the mid-70s and upon transition to Mugabe’s ZANU PF’s rule from 1980 saw a brief comeback due to international aid.


However from the mid-80s until today the economy is in complete shambles, with the average Zimbabwean being 100 times poorer in GDP per Capita terms to that of the average UK citizen. This compares with the 1960-70s when the average Rhodesian only was five times poorer, comparable to that of the average Mexican vs Briton today.

(Hat tip to Automatic Ballpoint.)

Observations from Actual Shootings

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

A 16-year veteran police officer who has spent the last few years as a crime scene investigator offers up his observations from actual shootings:

I’m not a researcher, nor an authority on anything. I have, however, investigated conservatively hundreds of shooting scenes where no one was hit, at least one person was hit, and/or at least one person was killed as a result of being shot. Another duty of my position is to observe, document, and collect physical evidence at autopsies — of which I have also participated in hundreds.

My observations are not revolutionary, and in fact have confirmed what many other legitimate studies have stated. I have become concerned, however, with some internet postings that I have seen (not on [Glock Talk] so far) from others who claim to be in the same or similar field but report very different observations. While I do not claim to be an expert, my observations have been consistent enough to make me suspicious of reports so markedly outside of what I have observed.

Nearly all of our shootings are what could be called “criminal vs. criminal”.

Also let me state that this will be a fairly limited in calibers discussed. Where I am employed, shootings are common but calibers seem to be fairly limited. While some claim to regularly observe shootings in every caliber available, the miscreants in my locale seem to be less diversified. The overwhelming majority of handgun rounds I see used are .40 S&W, 9 mm Luger (9×19 mm), and .45 ACP — in that order. .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP (9X17 mm), .38 SPL, .357 MAG, 10 mm, etc. do pop up with some regularity, but the first three probably constitute 80%+ of handgun rounds observed.

I do not have the numbers, but I would guess that more than 25% of our shootings also involve rifles of either .223 Rem (5.56 mm) [e.g. AR-15] or 7.62×39 mm [e.g. AK-47], with the 7.62 mm being the more popular of the two. 12-gauge shotguns also come into play with varying frequency. The only times I have observed the use of “high-power” hunting rifles has been in suicide investigations, perhaps 5 or 6; all were contact wounds and all were, I’m sure, instantly incapacitating — to say the least.

First off, as a crime scene investigator, I investigate shootings where those individuals struck survive their wounds, something I rarely see discussed in these topics. Perhaps my area is just fortunate, but far more people survive being shot than die from their wounds — this includes rifle rounds.

It seems that when people discuss these topics they assume that a hit from a rifle round is assuredly fatal. I’m sure that many of our returning service men who have had the misfortune of experiencing this could point out the error of this belief. Perhaps unfortunately so could many of the “legality-challenged” that roam America’s streets.

What I have observed is that a miss with a .22 short is just as effective as a miss with a .30-06, or rather, a miss with a .30-06 is no more effective than a miss with a .22 short.

Only hits count.

I learned to shoot pistols with my father’s .45 ACP Colt 1911A1 when I could barely hold it up by myself. By my mid-teens I was competing with custom 1911′s and believed that this was the only “real” handgun and caliber. I also became acquainted with the writings of Col.Jeff Cooper, who further reinforced this belief.

In my mid-twenties, when I went nuts and left a very good white-collar desk job to answer the call of the wild and became a police officer, I was appalled to learn that the department issued 9 mm handguns. I was given the option of providing my own handgun if it was from a short list of quality makes in 9 mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP — at which I began to carry my beloved late ’80′s vintage SigSauer P220.

Over the next few years I would see many, many shootings that would begin to challenge my belief about terminal ballistics in the real world. Most of the shootings that occur in my jurisdiction do not involve anyone actually being struck. We joke about how high our homicide rate would be if the miscreants could actual hit anything!

The vast majority of “hits” we see are superficial and usually to the extremities. I don’t know how common this is, but here many, if not most of our “shooting victims” are struck in the feet, legs, and/or buttocks — especially the buttocks. This goes for both fatal and non-fatal shootings.

Contrary to what I have seen posted elsewhere, there is no difference in effect between 9 mm, 40 S&W, and .45 ACP in these strikes. All do equal soft tissue damage and all break struck bones (including the femur) with equal ease.

I read a posting where it was said that 9 mm will glance off of, or be deflected by, bones. Certainly it will, as will .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 7 mm Remington Magnum if they hit at the right angle. I have never seen 9mm fail to penetrate or break bones where either .40 S&W or .45 ACP would not have.

Also, soft tissue damage in these areas with both .223 and 7.62×39 mm is indistinguishable from 9 mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, except that the .223 hole is noticeably smaller. (No magical “hydrostatic shock” has been observed.)

When the rifle rounds hit bone, however, it is a different story. Even the puny .223 striking a leg or arm bone can be quiet dramatic — sending sharp bone fragments at high velocity through surrounding tissue. I have on more than one occasion observed such bone fragments deeply embedded into nearby auto body panels, sheet-rock, etc.

As a rule, at anything beyond contact range, bullets cause (more or less) only simple laceration, either directly, or by secondary projectiles.

Proximal or immediately associated death/incapacitation is caused by either physical destruction of or “disconnecting” the Central Nervous System, or rapid drop in blood pressure in the circulatory system.

Every proximal shooting death (as in “now”, not “later” due to complications) I have ever observed was a result of what was actually hit by either the bullet, a bullet fragment, or a secondary projectile such as a bone fragment. The effective hits are either to a major vein or artery, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, brain, or spinal cord.

I’ve never seen a miss with a 9mm of one of these structures that would have been a hit with a .45 ACP.

.223 and 7.62 mm have a higher probability of causing bone fragments, but misses with these rounds prove no more effective than with the handgun rounds (again, no magical “hydrostatic-shock” observed to compensate for a near miss).

Side note: While bullet fragmentation and bone fragments can prove fatal, they are also erratic and unpredictable. To say the least, you can not count on a fragment making up for poor shot placement.

In general, lacerating, severing, tearing, puncturing, etc. major veins or arteries, lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys, spleens, brains, or spinal cords with cause a very rapid incapacitation.

Humans, however, can vary quite a bit. I have read in various academic journals and case studies of individuals surviving what are widely medically considered to be “Non-Survivable Wounds” (commonly NSWs). And certainly there are many, many records of people doing great damage and even killing others after they themselves had suffered a mortal wound (the famous FBI “Miami Shoot-out” comes to mind).

I have seen people who were DRT (Dead Right There — instantly killed) with a single hit to the lungs, kidneys, or spleen by a 9 mm, and others all but seemingly unaffected by the same hits with everything up to 7.62 mm.

I have personally worked two cases where individuals were not incapacitated by bullet strikes through the brain. One was a man who was walking around cussing and clutching his forehead where he had been struck by a 7.62×39 mm round — the bullet exiting through the back of his skull. At the hospital it was determined that the bullet had in fact pierced and traveled through the length of the left hemisphere of the man’s brain — yet he appeared to be unaffected. Several hours later he developed complications from this injury and subsequently died as a result. None the less, for several hours after this injury, he was able to “be in the fight”.

The second individual was struck in the side of the head just above and behind the ear by a 9 mm round that exited above and behind the ear on the opposite side. This man also never lost consciousness and was released from the hospital the following day. As far as I know he is still alive today.

Progress and Poverty

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I recently read Andrew Bisset’s The Strength of Nations on a whim, because it was mentioned in Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, which argues that land is fundamentally different from other forms of property:

The English yeoman — the sturdy breed who won Crecy, and Poictiers, and Agincourt — is as extinct as the mastodon. The Scottish clansman, whose right to the soil of his native hills was then as undisputed as that of his chieftain, has been driven out to make room for the sheep ranges or deer parks of that chieftain’s descendant; the tribal right of the Irishman has been turned into a tenancy-at-will. Thirty thousand men have legal power to expel the whole population from five-sixths of the British Islands, and the vast majority of the British people have no right whatever to their native land save to walk the streets or trudge the roads.
[...]
And so the abolition of the military tenures in England by the Long Parliament, ratified after the accession of Charles II, though simply an appropriation of public revenues by the feudal land holders, who thus got rid of the consideration on which they held the common property of the nation, and saddled it on the people at large, in the taxation of all consumers, has long been characterized, and is still held up in the law books, as a triumph of the spirit of freedom.

Yet here is the source of the immense debt and heavy taxation of England. Had the form of these feudal dues been simply changed into one better adapted to the changed times, English wars need never have occasioned the incurring of debt to the amount of a single pound, and the labor and capital of England need not have been taxed a single farthing for the maintenance of a military establishment. All this would have come from rent, which the land holders since that time have appropriated to themselves — from the tax which land ownership levies on the earnings of labor and capital. The land holders of England got their land on terms which required them even in the sparse population of Norman days to put in the field, upon call, sixty thousand perfectly equipped horsemen,53 and on the further condition of various fines and incidents which amounted to a considerable part of the rent. It would probably be a low estimate to put the pecuniary value of these various services and dues at one-half the rental value of the land.

Had the land holders been kept to this contract and no land been permitted to be inclosed except upon similar terms, the income accruing to the nation from English land would to-day be greater by many millions than the entire public revenues of the United Kingdom. England to-day might have enjoyed absolute free trade. There need not have been a customs duty, an excise, license, or income tax, yet all the present expenditures could be met, and a large surplus remain to be devoted to any purpose which would conduce to the comfort or well-being of the whole people.

As that passage suggests, Henry George strongly believed in a single tax on land. This makes a fair amount of economic sense, given the inelastic supply of land, but George presented it as a matter of social justice, making him an odd combination of free-market libertarian and leveling socialist — and the inspiration for the game of Monopoly.