David R. Henderson  

John Green on Freedom

Who Will Write This Paper, No.... Colander on Complexity...

It has become so standard, when a family has had a tragedy, for a family member to advocate some further restriction on freedom even if that restriction would create more tragedies than it would prevent. It's kind of understandable. When a family member dies, we feel so impotent. We want to do something. I've never had something like John Green's tragedy of losing a beautiful vibrant little girl. The closest I've come is my brother's suicide, which was a shock, but the suicide of a 22-year old is different from the murder of a 9-year old.

Because people often want to do something, I cut a lot of slack for people who have had a loss and who want the government to "do something." I'll still argue against them, mind you, but with a lot of sympathy.

But John Green's reaction is the first publicized one I can think of of a family member who had his grief but who didn't let that grief dictate what he thought was good policy. Indeed, my own view is that when you have your grief outright, you are doing something and will feel less need to advocate that the government "do something."

Watch these two videos. In the first one, on NBC Today, Meredith Viera does a beautifully sensitive job of asking questions and then letting John Green speak. It's about 10 minutes. The whole thing is worth watching, but if you're rushed for time, fast forward to about the 9:40 point. With no real prompting from Viera, Green says:

In a free society, we're going to be subject to people like this; I prefer this to the alternative.

John Green's bluntness reminds me of that of his father, former major league baseball manager Dallas Green. (They look a lot alike also.)

In another interview on Fox News Channel with Megan Kelly, he goes into this at length. Interestingly, Green "gets" randomness. After having said that he told his son, Christina Green's older brother, that you can't solve problems with guns, he goes on to point out that this was a random act. (0:20 to about 0:45). In response to a question from Megan about what lesson we should learn from this, he says that there will always be random acts. (2:27).

His daughter was born on 9/11 and he points out, with little prompting, that since 9/11, the restrictions on air travel have made travel "a nightmare." He even says that he knows his daughter wouldn't want this murder and the other murders to lead to more restrictions. He says, "We don't need any more restrictions on our society." (1:30 to 1:50).

John Green ends by saying:

If we live in a free society like the United States where we are more free than anywhere else, we are subject to things like this happening and I think that's the price we have to pay.

Frankly, I think we would have to pay that price even if we lived in a substantially less free society. Sure, with stricter gun control, Jared Loughner might not have been able to get a gun but also, with stricter gun control, criminals would have an increased advantage against law-abiding citizens.

But that makes John Green's comments all the more impressive. He's saying that even if freedom leads to more random acts of violence against innocent people, reducing freedom is even worse.

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CATEGORIES: Regulation

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TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/4499
The author at Samizdata.net in a related article titled Different responses to the Arizona shootings writes:
    David Henderson, over at the EconoLog blog, has astute observations to make about the statements made by a parent of the girl murdered by the Arizona shooter. I recommend you read it all. It is probably not the sort of article to appeal to Paul Krugman... [Tracked on January 12, 2011 5:51 AM]
COMMENTS (9 to date)
granite26 writes:

Penn and Teller did a show on this. The star was a lady who'd lost a daughter and founded a "dont over parent" group.

granite26 writes:

Link to show on imdb

Rachel writes:

I think that there are plenty of people like that. The real issue that the media prefers people who recommend the media's favorite solutions. I bet this guy isn't getting many interviews in the future.

Ryan writes:
with stricter gun control, criminals would have an increased advantage against law-abiding citizens.

First, I fully agree with the general take of your post and John Green's sentiments. I'm mesmerized at his ability to suppress emotion and speak to his beliefs.

For the comment above, this week, I've queued up discussions with my liberal buddies on the topic. Where can I find evidence of this? Or is it just a generalization? I can see and agree with it if outright banning was the topic.

JayT writes:

I'm actually not at all surprised that Green "gets" randomness. He's a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and (successful) people in baseball understand that a lot of what you see on the diamond is due to randomness.

David R. Henderson writes:

I'm not sure what evidence you're asking for.
Your take and mine on John Green are very different, though. As I wrote above, he didn't suppress his emotions. He had them pretty fully. I think that's healthy.

Ryan writes:

@David Henderson
I (maybe mistakenly) equate emotional response with irrational response. For someone to remove him or herself from a finite situation as this and deliver such a rational, objective response amazes me as it did you.

I'm looking for evidence, statistical or scholarly, that stricter gun control lead to higher crime. The CDC in their 2003 policy review was inconclusive. If one still has the ability to acquire a gun, but there are just more barriers for that individual to do so, do criminals have distinct advantage other than the advantages gained from participating outside of the regulated marketplace?

Mark Hinkle writes:


Try "More Guns, Less Crime" by Professor John Lott.

As I understand it, he set out to prove gun control works, but found evidence to the contrary. Using FBI statistics no less.

Ryan writes:

Thanks Mark.

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