Monday, February 21, 2011

Quotes of the day

So tightening legal gun ownership will do little to reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals and unstable individuals. Indeed, it could increase the number held by would-be or actual criminals since the supply of guns available in the illegal market would increase, at least initially, as some of the guns that are pushed out of the legal market by more stringent controls would migrate to the illegal sector. While some criminals may decide they no longer need guns since victims would be less likely to have them, others who would not have used guns before might now decide that guns would give them a greater advantage in attempted robberies. The most effective way to reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals without reducing the number of guns legally owned is to punish persons who own guns illegally and those who use guns when committing crimes. Many jurisdictions already punish more heavily individuals who use guns while committing crimes, but it may be necessary to make that additional punishment more severe. The expectation that punishments will be severe to apprehended criminals who had used guns in their crimes will induce some criminals either to use less lethal weapons, or to go out of the criminal business entirely.--Gary Becker

The lethal blow that the Internet has helped to deliver to the Mubarak regime is likely to push fellow tyrants to catch up on the latest developments in Silicon Valley and learn the ropes of online propaganda. Take the Khaled Said incident. Although the two police officers suspected of beating up Mr. Said were eventually arrested, the Egyptian government ignored the anger of their netizens for far too long. That anger subsided, but it never went away; the turn of events in Tunisia helped to reinvigorate it. Compare Egypt's experience to a similar case in China, where in 2009 Li Qiaoming, a 24-year-old peasant detained for illegal logging, was soon reported dead. The police told Mr. Li's parents, implausibly, that he had hit his head on a wall while playing a game of hide-and-seek with fellow inmates. The incident quickly generated almost 100,000 comments on just one popular Chinese blogging site, and the authorities reacted quickly. Instead of trying to suppress online conversation, they reached out to the outraged netizens, inviting them to apply to become members of a commission to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Li's death. The resulting commission wasn't really allowed to investigate anything, of course, but by then the social unrest was quelled. ... The most urgent Internet question facing many dictators today is what to do about American social networking sites like Facebook. Many are bound to follow the lead of Russia and China, which have championed homegrown competitors. An online group calling for the overthrow of the Russian government wouldn't survive for long on Vkontakte, Russia's alternative to Facebook.--EVGENY MOROZOV

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