Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Drew Gardner makes a lovely point about the place of nuclear weapons in our constitutional democracy:

If the idea of the right to bear arms is based on the idea that the population should be able to remove an oppressive government by force, and if the government now has nuclear weapons, then shouldn't every citizen now own tactical nuclear weapons? Perhaps give them out instead of a tax rebate? Wouldn't this ensure a patriotic attitude in the population (concern for what the country is doing) if people knew they could just nuke Washington if the politicians attempt to wage profiteering wars of foreign occupation for the enrichment of Haliburton?

I always wished I had thought of that myself! A series of talks Elaine Scarry was peddling around many years ago first brought the question to my attention--doesn''t the pro-gun-lobby's logic entail the view that Congress may not constitutionally infinge on citizens' right to keep and bear nuclear arms?

Hearing her talk, I thought she was making (among other things) a kind of reductio thrust against 2nd-amendment absolutism. If such absolutism logically entails the citizen's right to keep a nuclear arsenal, and the idea of such a right's being Constitutionally fundamental and absolute is patently absurd, then it follows that 2nd-amendment absolutism cannot stand. I often repeated some version of this as "Scarry's argument."

Many years later I read the law review article--Elaine Scarry, "War and the Social Contract: The Right to Bear Arms," 139 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1257 (1991)--and confirmed my long-held opinion. Not about Scarry's argument. I mean my opinion about what a complete idiot I am. Scarry actually makes a much subtler and more wide-ranging argument.

I'd love to write more about it (& about Garry Wills on the 2nd Amdmt as well) but I have to go and pick up Max & Anneliese. We have an assignation with the Hound of the Baskervilles.
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