Thursday, January 17, 2013

Putting Armed Guards in All the Schools is Nuts

Putting armed guards in all the schools is nuts.  There's like 100,000 public schools in the US, which, with (just) two guards apiece, at say $60,000 per year comes to $1.2 Billion.  This is a cold calculation, but this investment would have to stop the killing of about 300 people, children, valued at $4 Million a person, a child, each year to be worth the cost to the economy.  Note the phrase: "would have to stop the killing of."  Even with this security there is no guarantee of efficacy.  Besides, there's the school buses, too, which would have to be protected.  And then there are shopping malls, public parks, and all kinds of public events where people gather.  A society is simply a soft target, which is why societies have traditionally sought to fight their wars somewhere else besides their home turf.   
 The $4 Million figure is roughly the economic contribution made by a person to society (in the US) during his lifetime. Figure 150 Million people actually working in a $15 Trillion per year economy makes the average of each person’s contribution $100,000 per year. Figure 40 years effective working life, $4 Million total contribution.  The actual average contribution is probably a little less, (although one can argue also considerably more, as much of an individual’s contribution to society is not measured,) so even this overvalues the economic value of a life. This site gives a figure of $5 Million, depending:
The EPA in 2010 said $9.1 Million as the value of a life, but that’s too much, and overvaluing life is as harmful as undervaluing it. If you spend too much money trying to save lives you don’t spend enough money living life.   Suppose you valued people’s lives at $1 Trillion dollars each.  Then you would spend that much money keeping each person from getting killed. But you’ve only got $15 Trillion to spend, so you could only keep 15 people per year from dying. You and everyone you knew would spend your entire labor insuring those 15 people didn't die. And then you wouldn’t have any money for anything else.  
About 2,500,000 people die each year in the US, and gun violence, especially when you subtract out gangs, is not more than a blip. Deaths due to medical error is about (at least, either about 100,000 or 200,000, depending on who you ask) 10 times as much, and one can argue that 'guns to protect people’s rights' is, like medicine, a necessity, despite the unfortunate statistics, for both the gun industry and medicine.

Homicide of all sorts came in at number 16 in leading causes of death in the entire population, in 2011, firearms accounting for 11,100 or so.  But... If you tease the data a little bit, homicide is 3rd or 4th leading cause of death up to age 34, comparable to suicide, ahead of cancer, and only clearly behind unintentional injury, (ie accidents, I suppose,) compared to which rate it is about a third.  This will get you to the site:  About 4/5ths of these homicides are gun related.  So for that age group at least, gun control advocates have an issue.
But I don't think it is worth the cost, given history and the culture.  Although I also think gun advocates are off a little, too.  Organization, not individual gun ownership, is necessary to protect against tyranny.  And here, for instance, the effective destruction of labor unions, which many gun owners favored, has removed one of the people’s great barriers to tyranny .  Militias?  As long as the government can concentrate force, and is the corrupted captive of Finance...

Also, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy behind the gun lobby’s proposal.  It is often the same people who argue against universal health care.  If they really valued those children’s lives, they would favor universal health care, since the denying of insurance is effectively a devaluing of life.  They propose to spend $40 Million per saved life due to gun violence, ( and expand the government’s police force by 200,000,) but they won’t spend the thousands per life, and save the many thousands of lives, to reduce the death rate of the not so well to do to one or another possible medical problem. 

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