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Assuming that everyone is like me

Instapundit linked a while back to a very short blog posting entitled Why are anti-gun activists so violent? This being in connection with a news story about a politician accused of abusing his wife.

The question seems to be rhetorical, but I can think of at least one possible real answer, which you arrive at by reversing the question. Why are violent people inclined to be anti-gun activists?

If you are yourself of an unusually violent disposition, and if you yourself sometimes believe that, had a gun been handy for you, you might have been tempted to kill your wife with it during a domestic disagreement, and you simply add in that one crucial extra assumption so often added, so wrongly, in so many situations, to the effect that most others are just like you, then it would make sense to say that you and your fellow men-on-the-verge-of-a-murderous-tantrum ought to be denied the means of committing murder. Arming the majority, in your eyes, is no answer, because the majority shares your own tendencies. That would only make things far worse.

In my opinion, an amazing number of mysteriously vehement, evidence-defying opinions can be better understood once you understand that the expresser of such opinions is unthinkingly assuming that most others are, in some particular respect, just like him.

Consider another quite common figure in our world: the repressed homosexual, who assumes that most “heterosexuals” are, like him, homosexuals who manage to suppress their natural homosexual urges. Such a person quite logically believes that homosexuality constantly threatens to overwhelm society (merely because it actually only threatens to overwhelm him) and to bring child-rearing and with it civilisation itself to an abrupt end.

Another consequence of the unexamined assumption that everyone is like me is that society becomes quite easy to plan from the top, because we all have the same tastes, preferences, ambitions, beliefs, and ways of going about things, don’t we? Us deciding about how to satisfy other people’s wishes does no great harm, because we effortlessly know what these wishes are. They are just like ours!

I first collided heavily with this everyone’s-like-me notion not in political discourse, but in the course of doing, of all things, career counselling. A client who thinks that everyone else wants what he wants is caste down into unnecessary pessimism about his own chances of a happy life. He desperately wants to be a hotel manager. But so does everyone else! Brain surgeons, motor mechanics, professional sportsmen, hairdressers, estate agents, popular novelists – all these unfortunates are merely frustrated hotel managers. So what chance can he possibly have to buck this universal trend? The same inevitable fate awaits him. He is doomed to eke out his living by becoming a movie star (who occasionally gets to play a hotel manager), or some such hideous and soul-destroying compromise. Shining a torch on such everyone’s-like-me assumptions can provoke lasting happiness. Hey, I might get what I want after all! There are far fewer people in the race I’m trying to do well in than I thought!

In what way does my sometimes vehement libertarianism result from assumptions that I make about others mostly being like me? What do libertarians generally assume to be true of people generally, which actually isn’t?

59 comments to Assuming that everyone is like me

  • Falco

    With profound regret: That they want to be free.

  • I’ve noticed – you probably have too – that a lot of libertarians go on about freedom, whereas plenty of non-libertarians barely ever mention it. Even freedom of speech is pretty qualified among the Guardian-reading classes I sometimes hang out with. As far as they seem to think, being pushed around by “experts” is a fairly small price to pay for social harmony.

  • Jim

    A good point that those who wish to convert others to their way of thinking should take great note of.

    I suppose it would be true to say that those of us of a libertarian nature probably have a fear (hatred?) of lack of freedom of action, that perhaps the rest of the population do not have.

    Which is why I suggest that libertarians should not campaign to get everyone in their camp, but to get the rest of society to allow us to go our own ways, free from the strictures that the rest seem to actively want.

  • For me Libertarianism was never about freedom as the be-all and end-all. It was about good-quality government.

    Good quality government provides huge quantities of personal and economic freedom to it’s citizens, but to view freedom as the goal in and of itself, is to confuse cause and effect.

  • John B

    ” . . good quality government . . ” ? ouch.

    Yes, the best is the least.

    Individual freedom and individual responsibility.

    The thing to avoid is trying to control, or rather, the desire to control. To organise, or to mould to my precepts.

  • pete

    ‘Assuming that everyone is like me’ is just one problem.

    What about the ‘Assuming that everyone is not like me’? This is very common too.

    ‘Liberals’ often want something banned because of the influence it’d have on everyone else. The BNP is a good example of this phenomenon. Clever and caring ‘liberals’ could listen to BNP speeches 24/7 without ever being tempted to vote for them, but they assume the gullible, naive and stupid masses need protection from certain views.

  • Laird

    What a nonsensical statement, sconzey. How do you define “good quality government”? What’s the measuring stick? If it isn’t individual freedom, even the “best” government (however you choose to define it) is merely a stepping stone to complete tyranny.

    “Liberty is not the means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.” — Lord Acton

  • Richard Thomas

    But Pete, a lot of those self same “liberals” are guilty harboring similar thoughts to the BNP under their thin veneer of respectability. Why else does class X of people need special help and assistance unless they are in some way inferior? Let’s also not forget that the unions were against immigration when they were more about representing their members (now, of course, they see opportunities to increase membership).

    This is not a new phenomenon by the way, I have often heard it referred to as “projection”, the projection of your beliefs, ideas and attitudes on to someone else.

    Since individualists and conservatives are often accused of lack of empathy (a lie), perhaps this is what these people think empathy is.

  • This is a very interesting problem. I will have to think about it before writing anything here, or elsewhere. I think Brian has hit, if not /THE/ nail, the “a” nail, on the head.

  • Rob

    I always assume that few are like me. ie, they are all statists who sub-conciously understand that they benefit from living at other peoples expense. To acknowledge this to themselves they would have to acknowledge that they are moraly weak- cognitive dissonance.

    I don’t assume that they would prefer to be free. I think that freedom would shine a light on their character and I believe that does scare some people.

    Sconzey – “Good Government” – really, do you long to be Governed as long as you are Governed well? I prefer to be SERVED well, and that usually happens as a valued customer.

    When I see someone desire to be Governed it cements my opinion that people like to give responsibility for themselves to someone/thing else rather than take responsibility themselves.

    Maybe I am too pesimistic about people, maybe they would love freedom if only they knew how it felt?

    Maybe the problem is more that people have preconceptions about how other people think, whether one believes “other peoples views” are similar or distinct to their own is an individual thing.

  • Brian indeed nails it. I assume absolutely nothing about others, other than that every person is endlessly different from all the rest. I simply seek those whose opinions and personality are closest to mine, and consider myself very lucky every time I meet someone like that.

  • Craig

    BTW, this is an already well-known psychological effect called Projection.


    Understanding projection is essential to understanding politics. And in many ways, life in general. I personally consider it as important to understand as passive-aggression.

  • Frank Booth

    This reminds me of an article I read in The New Republic in 1986. The writer had been taken to a pistol range, where he had held and fired a gun for the first time. He had the questionable judgment to admit that on holding the gun, he felt an overwhelming compulsion to commit a crime of some sort, and another compulsion to kill someone.

    By his “logic,” guns make criminals behave as they do. Indeed, the essence of projection. I hope someone put the sick little turd out of his misery before he hurt anyone else.

  • Porkov

    Vive la différence! I read two books in my twenties that shaped my sense of freedom – Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom” and Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.” You’d think you would hear more about them from libertarians.

  • Jeff

    I get what you did with that Hotel Manager-Actor thing.


  • Peter Warner

    Bingo to Brian and Craig.

    Understanding this dynamic of Projection helps explain how people can be so casual about the very real personal threat of Islamic encroachment and terrorism. By assuming others have similar good intentions, we can be blinded to hostile intent.

    Begin each interaction with sincere respect, but never assume the other party is honest or decent.

    Best regards, Peter Warner.

  • Alsadius

    We assume that most people actually value liberty over security. Mind you, most do in one field or another – there’s plenty of people who will bitch about taxes while complaining about “unregulated” banks, or who will defend the free speech rights of loathsome idiots while finding nothing wrong with the government being over half the economy, or what have you. But an actual, universal preference for liberty over order is very rare, I think.

  • Good quality government provides huge quantities of personal and economic freedom to it’s citizens, but to view freedom as the goal in and of itself, is to confuse cause and effect.

    Huh? So we need to be free so we can have better… government?

    Seems to me it is you who are confusing cause and effect if you think it is some state of government that is the ‘objective’ of freedom, rather than achieving a form of government that supports ‘freedom’. Freedom is the objective and government at its very best is nothing more than a means to that end (and usually it is nothing of the sort, unfortunately).

  • M. Report

    What would be the nature of societies of clones ?

  • Since I have kids with Asperger’s Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder), who have to be consciously taught basic social skills, I think I have a unique perspective on this.

    Kids with AS are slow to come to the realization (which we all must come to eventually) that those skinbags around them aren’t just realistic-looking androids, but actual people, with their own thoughts and minds. They frequently don’t realize that people can have the same sensory inputs as them and yet have different thoughts. It’s not unusual for an Aspie (even an adult one) to suddenly start talking about a topic and just assume that everyone else knew what they were talking about. To others, of course, this is a total non-sequitur to the earlier conversation.

    To some extent, everyone assumes that people are “just like me.” It’s natural to generalize based on one’s own experiences; after all, who else’s experience is available to you to generalize from? But people with AS can be taught to understand that people can’t hear their internal thoughts, and sometimes learn to interact better than their “neurotypical” counterparts. So maybe it’s not just people with AS who need social skills training.

  • Libertarians might think everyone, or at least most, want freedom. It is shocking to realize that freedom has enemies. Many liberals I have known seem to want there to be strict rules about everything. These are people who think government is failing if it’s not passing a lot of new laws all the time. To them, Obamacare is an “accomplishment.”

  • Troll Feeder

    Sconzey – “Good Government” – really, do you long to be Governed as long as you are Governed well?

    Posted by Rob at November 15, 2010 05:03 PM

    I’m not Sconzey, but I just long for the rest of you chaos generators to be governed. I don’t need any, myself.

    Same way as I am all for the complete ban of weapons of all kinds. For the rest of you.

  • Gareth

    Another consequence of the unexamined assumption that everyone is like me is that society becomes quite easy to plan from the top, because we all have the same tastes, preferences, ambitions, beliefs, and ways of going about things, don’t we? Us deciding about how to satisfy other people’s wishes does no great harm, because we effortlessly know what these wishes are. They are just like ours!

    Which is why the answer to ‘bad’ Government is not ‘good’ Government but less or no Government. Central planning that is failing is not solved by more central planning. The current gang in power have painted themselves as the good guys taking difficult decisions yet they are constantly getting into a pickle, whether it is university fees or the NHS, welfare reform or Policing.

    Their attraction to authority is sufficiently great that the niggling problems of having to come up with ideas, shoulder the blame for stuff and all that is a price worth paying. It is a pity they don’t realise that they could make their own lives so much easier and pleasant if the Government retreated from many areas of our lives.

  • What do libertarians generally assume to be true of people generally, which actually isn’t?

    It isn’t that we incorrectly assume everyone wants to be free. It’s that we incorrectly assume that everyone defines “freedom” the same way that we do.

    Never forget the paradox of the Vietnamese soldiers: it is said that if one had asked the question “What are you fighting for?” to both a soldier in the South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese armies, you would have gotten the answer “I’m fighting for my freedom.” When you understand how that was possible, you understand how people can define freedom differently.

  • Tom Billings

    While it is true that some believe others are just like them, and thus come come to the conclusion that all others would be as violent as them, the opposite is also the case. I have met many who are all for reducing the number of weapons available, of any sort, and willingly bully others in their vicinity. Without weapons *they* are large enough and strong enough to be dominant, and they like it! I have seen this in *both* men and women, though more in men. You can find them not by looking at *their* public face, or even so much in their private face, as at the private face of those who must often be around them, when they are around them.

    They *use* the rhetoric of non-violence to increase the payback from their own violence. As more people in a society are armed *with*projectile*weapons*, fewer opportunities are available to simply use physical strength to come out on top.

  • JG

    Found one. Libertarians value freedom as priceless, so they assume that those who have made compromises regarding it must not want it at all. Hence the answers so far.

    For the most part people want tomorrow to be the same as today, and dramatically changing a system they’ve come to terms with is not appealing when things are running smoothly. So you’ll see more libertarian ideas in times of economic trouble, but when it swings back around people will choose to make the best of a messy but workable compromise.

    I’d be fine with enormous reductions in government interference, but I must admit there’s a limit to how far I’d be willing to go. I never expect to see it get that far, though hopefully we can get a lot closer.

  • Calvin Dodge

    A column in the Rocky Mountain News a few years ago demonstrated this point exactly.

    The author was a woman who’d mentioned previously that she was taking Prozac. In this column she talked about the anger she felt when somebody took her parking space, so she was glad she didn’t have a gun on hand. From this she generalized to “if concealed carry is expanded in Colorado, you’ll see violence in the streets”.

    My reaction was “no, but it sure sounds like YOU shouldn’t have a gun”

  • Stephen J.

    The unconscious projection you talk about is real, but most firearm-control advocates actually aren’t particularly violent people, personally. If anything, they look at it purely as a matter of statistics: there are simply so many guns now in circulation that the incidence of fatal abuse or accident is already unacceptably high. In this mindset, the only really effective way to reduce the incidence of firearm injury/mortality is to reduce the pool size: keep those allowed to use guns to an absolute minimum and take them away from everyone else.

    The thing that must be understood about leftist / progressive thinking in this regard is that it always proceeds from a collectivist perspective aimed at ensuring equality of outcome and protection from harm. The motives and responsibility (or lack thereof) of any given individual are irrelevant; it’s not whether you or I might be dangerous with a firearm if angry or careless enough, it’s that in any large enough group with enough guns in circulation, someone will, and that’s reason enough to keep the firearms themselves to the minimum amount possible.

    (If anything, your assumption that people who want guns controlled would have reasons similar to your own libertarian thinking — i.e., based on a direct personal comparison of yourself to a hypothetical other — is itself your own projection.)

  • Sunfish

    What do libertarians generally assume to be true of people generally, which actually isn’t?

    That most people will be nice (or at least civil, or even just not aggressive) towards other people without being intimidated away from aggression.

    I don’t know how many will or won’t fall into which group-my sample size is probably badly skewed in the opposite direction from everyone else-but it almost doesn’t matter.

  • Ian

    The so-called public concern about paedophilia is certainly in this box. Look at all the ridiculous restrictions that are imposed to “protect the children”. Suspicion should be attached to the proponents of these edicts, and often is….

  • Tedd

    I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I’m certain this is not projection. Projection is about attributing to other people (or things) aspects of ourselves that we are unaware of. By definition, neither thinking others are like me nor thinking that others are different from me can qualify as projection because to make the comparison I have to be aware of the factors I’m comparing. An example of projection would be a person who rails against statist control-mongers not realizing that his anger is actually the product of a repressed desire in himself to control other people. (I’m not suggesting that applies to anyone in particular, just giving an example.)

    Also, I’m not sure that’s it’s always a bad idea to use the “others must be like me” model. It’s likely to be true about many things, although I acknowledge that it’s probably true mainly about trivial or obvious things. I see a much bigger danger in people explaining away contrary points of view by some kind of pseudo psychological analysis, instead of engaging with the contrary point of view and trying to understand why it makes sense to other people.

    Every “ism” and every point on whatever political scale you choose has logic behind it, whether or not most of the people who self-identify with that position got there logically. What separates the “isms” is premises. There’s little point engaging with the people who didn’t get to where they are logically, but there’s a lot of value in working back to the premises of a contrary point of view and engaging with them. It’s the only way to truly understand a contrary point of view, and it’s also the only way to avoid being sloppy about your own point of view.

  • EmA

    True, True, True. I have been saying this for years.
    In college I had a roommate who was paranoid that everybody else was stealing from him. Turned out he was a klepto and ended up getting kicked out of school for theft. Another guy I knew was always worried the girls he dated were going to cheat on him. Funny thing was he cheated on every single girl he was with.

  • Milo

    The “Judgeing others by using ourselves as the yard-stick” syndrome.
    It’s a window into their their innermost selves.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Whenever a libertarian hears the words ‘gun control’, he should automatically think- “I must use BOTH hands!”

  • Alan Little

    A wise and profound question, Brian.

    Libertarians wrongly assume that other people are also confident that they are clever and motivated enough, and have or can easily acquire relevant skills, to thrive in a world without a welfare state to “look after” them.

  • Rob

    This is a great thread.

    Do we underestimate the dangers caused by other people?

    To be a libertarian you must have faith in human nature, perhaps as we are the good guys we assume other guys are also good and moral – are they? How far will other people push self interest?

    A friend of mine in the police mentioned sociopaths/psycopaths as an example. They monitor known psycopaths but there are many unknown. Psycopaths have a tendency to want power over others and feel no compassion, empathy or guilt. They often despise our “human” qualities. It is thought that up to a quarter of Sociopath/psycopaths are high functioning.

    With about 500,000 of them in the UK that is about 125,000 high functioning sociopaths (now multiply that accross the world).

    I dismissed this at first but those numbers kept me thinking and also remided me of Hayek’s thoughts on the type of people that seek power.

    However, I still believe in Human nature and the thought that these people try to keep their mindset hidden from society shows that they fear the impact of the majority opinion of good people. It is in their interest to do so so they do it – thus confirming that most people are good guys!?! Maybe..

    Sorry, slightly off topic.

  • I am constantly depressed at the fact that I feel like an alien in my own culture; hardly anybody else wants the things I want, which is why the simple freedoms I desire are not available. That’s why I’m a little less keen to just blame “the government”. It’s people in general. I often puzzle as to why I ended up this way and most everybody else didn’t. Am I the mad one? Presumably I am.

    Also, to defend Sconzey, I think that’s my perspective too. Short of a profound change in human nature, government-like structures will arise in any society of significant size. I would be content simply with better- considerably better- ones than we have now. Anarchists seem to believe they can have freedom- in a strict technical definitional sense- by privatising those structures, but so far as I can see you just end up with the same thing sans the “government” label. Or to put it a different way, “the government” is the “sole enemy” now precisely because it monopolises coercion. Remove the monopoly, you don’t get no coercion, you just get a multitude of coercers.

    Within the next couple of centuries, unless a Dark Age occurs, we will have the capacity to live in Utopia; free from ageing and disease, free from work due to a post-scarcity economy. What bothers me most is that most of the elites, and indeed much of the proles, in our society are actively opposed to that happening. I really don’t understand them. Like I said, it’s like being an alien in human form. I understand why they are the way they are, but I still can’t quite get my head around it. Usually to be honest I just wish everybody else would fuck off and leave me alone, really. We have nothing whatsoever in common.

  • David Roberts

    Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, for me describes the corner stone of Libertarian and indeed Anarchistic thought.
    In the real world sh*t of all sorts happens, for avoidable and unavoidable reasons. My faith is that we can best deal with this reality through our capacity to reason. This capacity, I assume, can be improved by our own effort and by interaction with others, both living and dead. Different people will have varying abilities for this capacity but effort will improve all. In my view the time since Adam Smith has increasingly validated this approach.
    We should not fall for the Them and Us fallacy but use our reason to arrive at the future as described this morning by Ian B.

  • PeterT

    In case anyone is still reading this thread I think this link is relevant


  • Very interesting, PeterT – thanks for the link.

  • I should probably elucidate a little on what I meant: there are many metrics for good government. As a free-marketeer and an individualist, I can just use my personal preference. “given these two countries with slightly different policies, which would I prefer?”

    But yes, freedom is another metric of good government. My general point was: All ways that get you good government will get you freedom. Not all ways to get you freedom will get you good government.

  • Now that I mention it, I can’t think of a counter-example to prove that previous point. It’s quite easy to consider individual decisions that maximise that individual’s liberty but result in a non-preferred outcome for everyone else, but that’s not what I said.

    The difficulty is separating ideal and implementation. If you inject freedom into a society in the wrong place at the wrong time, you risk creating a positive feedback loop that actually reduces freedom.

    A neat example is Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Expanding the franchise clearly increased freedom. Yet it allowed the vicious and bloodthirsty insurgents to manipulate the election and sieze power, resulting in a reduction in freedom in the long term.

    Only once the insurgency had been dealt with, was it safe to expand the franchise. Although you might convincingly argue that increasing economic freedom would have dealt with the poverty fuelling the insurgency in the first place.

    As a hypothetical example: repealing the legal tender laws most definitely increases freedom. However, it would probably result in currency flight from GBP and a collapse in the value of most peoples’ savings and sterling-denominated assets, hitting the economically ignorant the hardest.

    A better course of action is to stabilise the Sterling price level and then slowly phase it out; accepting it in payment of taxes but not printing any more, maybe even burning a few percent of our treasury once a year — a stealth tax rebate.

  • Rob

    The term anarchist is not helpful as it implies anarchy when we know that human interaction and bilateral trade is seen to bring about ordered but evolving structures to service these transactions.

    When people desire to be governed well (does anyone desire to be governed badly?) they assume that an ordered structure would not exist to provide them with the services that the state currently provides.

    So I reiterate that it is better to be served than to be governed.

    I have a similar alien feeling to Ian B but they joy is all the greater when I meet another alien.

  • GrumpyOldFart

    What do libertarians generally assume to be true of people generally, which actually isn’t?

    That they define “justice” as “the rules apply equally to everyone”. I’m fairly certain the vast majority of people define “justice” as “a decision in my favor”.

  • The term anarchist is not helpful as it implies anarchy

    Well, of course it does. The problem is that the term ‘anarchy’ is being understood as synonymous with ‘chaos’ – which could not be further from truth.

  • Re: “Governed” vs. “Served”

    Firstly, I don’t consider “government” a pejorative term. Consider “corporate government” — management. Likewise, just as bad management has given management a bad name, so too has bad government given government a bad name.

    I dislike “served” because it has some odd connotations, given what we require of government.

    However you constitute your government — as an anarcho-capitalist protection agency, a minarchist democracy, or an enlightened absolute monarchy — it’s fundemental role is to prevent one individual exercising their liberty in such a way as it infringes on another individual’s freedom to exercise theirs.

    Whilst I — the victim of theft — rely on my loyal servants, the Police, are the Police also the servants of the cutpurse brigand who stole from me? In a way they are, as they give him a fair trial and consider the evidence justly, but in a way they are not, as they eventually sieze some of his money to pay me reparations, before throwing him in prison.

    “Governed” is a better word than “served.”

  • From Peter T’s linked article:

    “Haidt and his colleagues eventually recognized that their Moral Foundations Questionnaire was blinkered by liberal academic bias by failing to include a sixth moral foundation, Liberty.”

    Haha! Tickle my tummy!

    They should make an “Irony Questionnaire” specifically for people of low IQ. I wonder what their biases might fail to include in that…

  • Rob

    Thank you Alisa, much better.

  • Tedd

    To be a libertarian you must have faith in human nature, perhaps as we are the good guys we assume other guys are also good and moral – are they? How far will other people push self interest?

    There’s a strain of utopian libertarianism that’s like that, but I disagree that libertarianism, in general, requires faith in human nature.

    I suspect there’s a fairly large sub-set of libertarians — libertarian cynics, let’s call them — who oppose government power specifically because of human nature. Which is perhaps “faith” in humane nature in a literal sense, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Rob meant in the above quote.

    I also know for certain that there are at least some categorical libertarians: those who support libertarianism on principle without necessarily believing that it would produce better outcomes in some measurable sense. That doesn’t require faith in human nature, either.

    Then there are what we might call “procedural” or “constitutional” libertarians: those who are mistrustful of human nature but who have faith that abstract principles, such as due process and an independent judiciary, are sufficient to deal with it. These tend to be minarchists, as opposed to anarchists.

    Perhaps there are other kinds of non-utopian libertarians, too. Anybody want to self identify?

  • Eric

    Individual freedom and individual responsibility.

    Hmm. Perhaps they feel that they can avoid responsibility for their actions, and/or their failures, by abdicating to the Nanny State? There has been a noticeable trend towards avoiding responsibility over the last few decades. This

    I’m just a helpless victim

    attitude has been steadily growing. Is this political attitude just a natural outgrowth of being socialized to avoid personal responsibility?

  • Rob


    You are right, these assumptions we have are individual and it highlights Brians original question about our preconceptions of other peoples thoughts.

    My preconceptions were that other libertarians thought more like me than they actually do.

  • My preconceptions were that other libertarians thought more like me than they actually do.

    They are not talking about herding cats for nothing:-)

  • llamas

    Maybe it’s time to re-state the rule of 90, 9 and 1. I’m sure that Sunfish’s observations of humanity in the cross-section will be similar, although the proportions may vary.

    Out of every 100 random persons that you meet

    90 will be perfectly harmless, amiable, affable, and have goals and aspirations generally in line with the other 89. IOW, the vast majority.

    9 will be more-or-less feckless idiots, with attitudes aspirations and moral compasses (compii?) that deviate significantly from the 90. This group includes the criminally foolish, the weak-willed, the easily-led, and similar. Many of these people will have had more-or-less serious run-ins with the law.

    And Mr 100 (it’s virtually-always a he) will be a serious, intractable, and likely quite-dangerous sociopath, more-or-less entirely lacking in empathy for others and society in general, and often (but not always) driven by aspirations and desires that vary very widely from the normal.

    Many perople assume that everybody is like them because everyone that they come into contact with is like them. I’m reminded of Pauline Kael’s oft-quoted line that she didn’t understand how Nixon got elected – noone she knew voted for him. Many people operate in a highly-limited cocoon of people whose affect is very similar to their own. Gun-control advocates may very well adhere to their beliefs precisely because they hang with a group of people who they could very-well see as being able to behave very badly , given half the chance. There’s also (as others have noted) the grouping that wants gun -control for everybody else, just not for them – the late Senator Kennedy, or Carl Rowan, for exmaple.



  • Sunfish

    I won’t disagree, too loudly. 90:9:1 is correct at least in concept, in my experience, though it seems like the 1 is really 2 or 3 and the 9 can make enough mess for the 90 to have their hands full.

    But my own observations are fully supportive of the idea that nice people have the not-so-nice people vastly outnumbered. (Which doesn’t sidestep the point that nice people can still do not-so-nice things requiring not-so-nice consequences, which still doesn’t make them bad people, and every now and then not-so-nice people go through a fit of being good.)

    I’d definitely be the libertarian cynic. So few people have the wisdom to guide their own affairs sensibly, that I suspect that nobody can really babysit the entire human race. Although there are people who will claim that they can: we can usually call them scam artists and liars.

  • another_anon

    The author was a woman who’d mentioned previously that she was taking Prozac. In this column she talked about the anger she felt when somebody took her parking space, so she was glad she didn’t have a gun on hand. From this she generalized to “if concealed carry is expanded in Colorado, you’ll see violence in the streets”.
    My reaction was “no, but it sure sounds like YOU shouldn’t have a gun”

    The frightening thing is – she’s got a car…

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    This business about projection- it sure explains Afterdinnerjacket and his neurotic talk about ‘Zionist’ conspiracies to take over the world!

  • David Roberts mentioned Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. Seconded. As you yourself mentioned somewhere, Brian, that book has a view of human nature that both reasonably positive and yet also aware of evil, and has had a continuing effect on libertarian-ish thought.
    This view was that:

    a) given power over others people can behave very badly indeed
    b) deprived of the use of force, however, they tend to be cooperative, to seek approval, to trade favours and to generally behave nicely.

  • Cormac

    I’ve got a bit of a temper, myself…I knew this before I bought a gun, and I knew I had to get it in check before I could even consider owning (much less carrying) a handgun.

    I noticed that whenever I was armed for a shipboard watch (Navy), I unconsciously assumed a calmer, more professional and more situationally-aware demeanor. I was better able to focus; because I understood the responsibility that I assumed (or was bestowed upon me) simply by being armed.

    This was the key to getting myself under control. I carried myself as if I was armed everywhere I went.
    I was quicker to avoid or try to verbally deescalate any potentially violent situation I found myself in.

    When I found myself behaving this way without thinking about it, I walked into the MCX (Marine Corps Exchange) in Norfolk and picked up my Springfield. 😀

    …maybe these anti-gunners just need to grow the hell up!

  • Ah, this is what I have called the “Ahenobarbic Fallacy.” I don’t have my Suetonius before me, but I believe he reported that Nero believed everybody else was as crooked and depraved as he, and only pretended to be honest and virtuous to get off lightly in court.

    Nero famously would always let off a criminal who appealed to him who gave a nasty reason for what he was up for, as an honestly evil person, but was very hard on anyone who protested his innocence, as he didn’t believe such a thing existed.