Disclosure: Yes this is a left wing article designed to attract the ire of the NRA! That being said, I want to point out one thing at the start of this article. I am pro gun ownership! I also smoke cigarettes and on occasion drink too much as well.
In the beginning, before there were guns; there were knives, swords, axes, clubs, maces and all manner of other ways to kill people. People would settle their differences by fighting. I hope that most of you have read Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers; there was a lot of dueling in that and there is the rub. The dashing heroes who all owned guns, musketeers, settled their quarrels at the point of a sword. Mainly because the guns were lousy, in fact even a novice bowman had a better chance of hitting you with an arrow. If you were looking for protection a sword was the way to go. Incidentally the best swords were made from Damascus steel.
Jump ahead to the War of Independence and not too much has changed. It is important to consider that this is the time period that the constitution was written. Sure the guns were a little more accurate, but they were also more cumbersome. Most people also carried a knife, sword, hatchet or whatever else as well. Reload times were still too long and the "right to bear arms" was not just guns.
Q: Is my right to walk down Wall St. carrying a broad sword protected under the second amendment?
A: Yes!! However, it is still not legal.
I know that I am skimming through history. I also leave myself open to those that want to nitpick over inaccuracies but the point is the gist, so I will continue.
By the time we get to the Wild West, guns were much more sophisticated. Duels were still considered legal; although not in the high noon style that the movies depict. Protection and provision were still the two main reasons for owning a gun but there was a change. Proudly wearing your Colt Patterson where everyone could see was also a deterrent. The other big change was that, in many towns out west there was a Sheriff. Law and Order was starting to take over. The days of pistols at dawn were numbered. It started in the saloon: if you wanted to get drunk you better check your weapon beforehand. Totally unreasonable! I mean who would think that a bunch of drunken yahoos, running around with guns was a bad thing. I guess the sheriff just did not want to get shot. Oh P.S. and the best gun barrels were made from Damascus steel.
So, jumping ahead to the cold war and a lot has happened; machine guns, tanks and all sorts of other personal protection. Enter the ICBM and we hit an international stalemate. Just ask JFK, that whole Cuban missile crisis thing was just posturing. Oh, wait! I forgot you can't, some idiot shot him with a gun. I bet if we had a séance and you asked him;
"Which is more dangerous a nuclear bomb or a rifle?"
He would answer something like,
"I might have lost more sleep over the nukes, but the bullets got me in the end."
If I remember rightly he was surrounded by "good guys with guns". This apparently did not work as a deterrent. In fact Jack Ruby could also be characterized as a good guy with a gun; the sane and rational among us prefer not to do that. We are no longer at the OK Corral and no one deputized him. Ooops I digress.
So return to topic, the sheriff did not want to get shot. The towns' folk, aka the UN Security Council appoint the IAEA as sheriff to govern over the new standoff. Be honest, you can't use the bully stick if everyone has a stick. The modern-day equivalent of checking your guns at the bar is the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. It is for this reason and this reason alone that America has cast itself as the world's police force; or to keep the metaphor going, sheriff.
According to a report by The Center for American Progress in June 2012; violent crime costs the US taxpayer 3.7 billion annually. The report was entitled The Economic Benefits of Reducing Violent Crime.
If we look at the table from the FBI, we can see what the percentages relating to just handguns.
I know that 3.7 billion is peanuts compared to the sequester, but it is still a lot.
The report goes into further detail and expands on other economic benefits. While reading this ask one question,
How much QE would the FED have to implement to get the same results?
"The results from homicides are reliable, however, and the economic consequences of reduced rates of homicides can be very large. Here, we were able to roughly estimate the metropolitan statistical area-wide impact for seven of the eight sample cities (all but Houston). We estimate, for example, that a 10 percent reduction in homicides could increase the value of the housing stock of the Boston area by $4.4 billion in the following year. (see Table 5 on page 17) Similarly, a 10 percent drop in homicides could increase the value of the housing stock by $3.2 billion in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, by $2.9 billion in the Seattle area, by $2.4 billion in the Dallas area, by $2.2 billion in the Chicago metropolitan area, by $800 million in and around Milwaukee, and by $600 million in the Jacksonville area. A 10 percent reduction in homicides, therefore, should generate large revenue gains from the property taxes applied to those values."
Perhaps Detroit would not have gone bankrupt. So here is Table 5:
Housing values rise as homicides decline
Estimated impact of a 10 percent reduction in homicides in 2010 on total residential
housing values in 2011, by metropolitan area ($ billions)
Metropolitan area Value of all housing, 2010 Increase in value of all housing, 2011
Boston $532,000,000,000 $4,400,000,000
Chicago $266,000,000,000 $2,200,000,000
Dallas $294,000,000,000 $2,400,000,000
Jacksonville $75,000,000,000 $600,000,000
Milwaukee $99,000,000,000 $800,000,000
Philadelphia $391,000,000,000 $3,200,000,000
Seattle $349,000,000,000 $2,900,000,000
Source: Zillow Real Estate Market Reports of December 2011; authors' calculations.
The numbers are staggering; trying to work out the whole country will make you dizzy. At this point I will just stop; leaving this section with the words "gun violence is expensive!"
You may be asking yourself what any of this has to do with the IAEA or economic sanctions. I apologize; I get an idea in my head and just start writing. In most cases I have no title until I am finished. This has the advantage of not knowing how this piece will end but is hurt by a lack of empirical research. So here is what I have off the top of my head.
In 1979 some crazy students took control of the US Embassy in Tehran. The Carter administration was none too impressed and seized about 12 billion in assets. There was a lot of legal arguing and I don't think that it was ever resolved. The end result is we have been paying lawyers' fees for the better part of 35 years, pretty expensive.
Sometime in the mid eighties Iran invaded our good friend and buddy Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Ronald Regan imposed sanctions prohibiting the sale of arms to Iran and equipped Iraq. Meantime he and Maggie engaged in another pointless standoff with the USSR. They had their finger on the button and were ready to blow the whole world up. Maggie (Baroness Thatcher) was prohibited, by law, from supplying Iraq but discovered that if you change the packing label it's ok. There really is not much difference between huge gun barrels and oil pipeline parts. She then went off to fight a war with Argentina over corned beef. I will let all of you work out what the associated cost were of dealing with Saddam under the Bush dynasty.
Then we have the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) which was revised to the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) after we decided that the Libyan Government was awesome. Incidentally the change happened about seven years ago and there was a civil war in Libya for almost half that time because that awesome government was not too nice to its' people. Incidentally, the guns are no longer made from Damascus steel and Syria is in about as much trouble as anywhere else. Even more recently President Obama made the sanctions tougher and apparently Iran now wants to talk. Most of the recent sanctions have had something to do with the idea that Iran is building nuclear weapons which brings us back to the big stick argument. You could add N. Korea in here too, but for the sake of simplicity I will not do that.
Context, over this time period our economy has been hit and damaged by higher oil prices.
"In 2011 Deutsche Bank estimated that a 1 cent-per-gallon increase in the price of gas translates to a $1 billion increase in household energy spending -- money that consumers would otherwise be spending on other goods and services. Put another way, a sustained increase in the price of gas to $5 per gallon -- an unlikely prospect, according to most analysts -- would wipe out almost half of the 2.2 percent GDP growth projected by economists for 2012." Bloomberg By Adam Freedman | March 19, 2012
So when I hear that lifting the sanction means that Iran could be producing 4 million barrels a day by midsummer; I have to ask what the economic cost has been to the average household over the last 35 years.
The Crux of it all;
So why did I write this article?
Like at least 70% of all Americans I favor reasonable gun control. I also accept that this will not stop crazy people from shooting up a cinema, shopping mall or school. The data shows up that any reduction in violent crime is beneficial to our economy. I find it abhorrent that on the anniversary of the Sandyhook shootings congress would be more inclined to actively pursue policies that would further hurt us.
When it comes down to it, restrictions on guns are little more than sanctions. Not too much difference to the tax I pay on cigarettes or alcohol. Not too different from the required insurance I pay for the liability I assume when driving a car. These sanctions may in fact benefit our economy. The sanctions that congress wants to consider will do nothing but hurt us and the Iranian people. We finally get to the point where we are talking and congress wants to up the ante? Hang the sword of Damocles? For what, to make the president look bad!
I have three questions,
- How many people have been killed by violent crime in the USA since 1979?
- How many Americans have died upholding the ideal of these sanctions?
- How many Americans have the Iranians killed since 1979?
Iran, take a leaf out of the American corporate playbook. Fund a few congressional candidates in the midterms it is cheaper. Form a superpac like the NRA or the Koch brothers and save us all a lot of trouble. Perhaps they would repeal that ridiculous law that gives first amendment right to non sentient beings.
Perhaps if Congress imposed sanctions on the second amendment we would all be better off. One can only dream. To anyone reading this please forward to others.
As a father my heart goes out to the families of Sandyhook and in no way do I want this article to offend you. I write this because I am trying to find an economic reason for congress to act. Apparently that is all they will listen to. I am greatly disturbed that this is the case, and that they could see no moral value in trying to prevent a recurrence of such tragic events. In part I mean this in tribute to your struggle and to let you know you are not forgotten.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.