Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Right-to-Carry Victory in the District of Columbia

The seal of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Nearly five years ago, the case of Palmer v. D.C. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Following the landmark victory in D.C. v. Heller, which overturned D.C.’s ban on handguns in the home, this matter challenged the District’s total prohibition on carrying firearms for self-defense outside the home. Various motions were submitted over the course of the next year, but then the case languished, waiting for a decision on summary judgment. Meanwhile, a variety of other right-to-carry challenges made their way through the courts to their ultimate, conflicting resolutions.

Peruta v. San Diego and its brethren in the Ninth Circuit were the only other major right-to-carry cases that hadn’t been fully resolved, but even they were simply waiting for the final judicial shenanigans to be completed at the appellate level. Palmer was still pending at district court, seemingly consigned to eternal judicial delay. Until today … that is.

Ruling that “the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional” under any level of judicial scrutiny, the court struck down that ban and enjoined the enforcement of the applicable sections of D.C.’s penal code. The right to bear arms in our nation’s capital has been secured. For today … that is.

Monday may bring appeals and/or new legislation, so the struggle is still far from over.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the Unequal Distribution of Wealth

Lately, economic discussions (and arguments) have often focused on the inequality in the distribution of wealth. While much of the concern is directed at the extreme ends of the distribution range—the desperately poor contrasted against the tremendously wealthy—there is also a vocal set who decry any unequal distribution of the economic pie. To them, any economic inequality is an artificial construct of nefarious human intentions and therefore unfair and unjust.

While I would argue that wealth and income inequality isn’t as much of a social problem as some make it out to be, I won’t dispute that some of the unequal distribution is the result of ongoing political corruption and cronyism or of historical exploitation and other injustices. However, the assertion that any unequal distribution of wealth is necessarily bad and should be eliminated is patently false.

Industry and trade are the engines that create and distribute wealth. However, like all dynamic systems, an economy is fundamentally about the organization and flow of energy. These forces are driven by differences in potential, moving and consolidating energy here and there about the system. Of course, some energy is also lost to entropy—and we see economic waste as well.

To describe a situation where there is no unequal distribution would require an appeal for total consolidation or for total entropy. Neither scenario is physically possible within a dynamic system nor desirable for human economies. The artificial controls and constraints that we impose on economic activities often do little more than introduce more inefficiency into the system, especially when such are built upon previous flawed attempts at interference. In other words, instead of applying a few careful drops of lubrication to our economic engine, we tend to throw random handfuls of sand into its moving parts. When that fails to produce the desired results, we throw in more sand.

On top of this legislative and regulatory blundering—and here I’ll set my usual cynicism aside—the mistake that too many “liberals” make is to equate all industry with exploitation and all trade with theft. While problems do exist, they are confined to a small segment of economic actors. Our response should be appropriately narrow and measured. Instead, as always, the impulse is to punish everyone for the crimes of a few. That impulse is as foolish in the statehouse as it was in middle school.