Thursday, 17 December 2015


This is the most original contribution I have seen to the debate about America and guns.

I'm going to rephrase it this way. America is the policeman of the world. But what sort of person is a policeman? A gentle, cuddly kind of guy who shies away from guns and spends all his free time making artisan soda bread? No, he's the a rough and tumble, can-do kind of guy who doesn't mind using guns on his time off too. And that's America in a nutshell. A decent hegemon in a violent world is going to have a citizenry who has a comfort level with weapons and a capacity for sympathy righteous violence, and we shouldn't be surprised if that extends to the domestic sphere. The upshot is that you can consistently want America to be de-gunned at home and a non-interventionist wimp abroad, but query whether you can pick and choose between those two outcomes.

As I say, it's an interesting story. But it's a specifically American story. If you look at Switzerland, Israel, Iceland, Canada, China, the UK, Australia and so on then you get a number of different mixes of guns at home and intervention abroad tendencies. Cowen may be onto something about the culture that supports foreign interventionism in the US, but he's making a culture-specific rather than a more general point.

For the foreigners among us, the question is perhaps a bit easier: are we happy to allow Americans to carry on being a bit mad about the relative dangers of guns, Kinder Eggs and unpasteurised cheeses, so long as we get to free-ride on them keeping them the peace?

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