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Crowd Sourcing Protection

Do you trust the crowd or only the anointed experts? Conventional wisdom says that only credentialed experts are to be trusted. Those experts will be appointed by the government. But what is the government but a collection of average people? What turns out to be true over and over is that the crowd is wise and can be trusted in spite of the fact that conventional teaching dictates otherwise. Let's look at some examples.

When Wikipedia came out most thought, "Allowing anyone with no pre-clearance or credentials to author portions of a document that's supposedly a reference point for definitive knowledge is ludicrous. It will be filled with inaccuracies. Better to leave it to the experts at Grolier and Encyclopedia Britannica." Today we know that conventional wisdom was completely wrong. The crowd trounced the experts in every regard producing a wider breadth of knowledge with higher accuracy, quicker time to corrections, and more timely information.

Critics might say that Wikipedia is a web site, but personal protection is a wholly different, more serious undertaking for which the crowd cannot be trusted. One could make the argument that citizens themselves are firefighters, extinguishing blazes themselves 99.99% of the time. For those that escalate, two thirds of fire departments in the US are crowd sourced, aka volunteers. They're not full time experts, yet they have no less effectiveness than the paid counterpoints.

Some might say fire protection is different than personal protection because weapons are involved. Every state except Illinois allows some form of concealed carrying for its citizens. In some states it's a lengthy application process they're inclined to reject, and in others like Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming, a concealed weapon can be carried without a government permission slip at all. Those against arming any citizen predict bedlam if anyone can carry a gun, but that's not what happens in those states. People don't shoot each other if they get cut off while driving or looking for a parking spot. The crowd is responsible and even thwarts crime like captured in this amazing video. (The person in the crowd had a concealed weapon permit.)

All the data indicates people are responsible with the potentially harmful items they have at their disposal. Every person entering a sit-down restaurant is given a knife, yet they don't use it to assault their fellow diners. Those attending movies could yell "fire", likely leading to a stampede for the exits trampling or even killing many, yet it doesn't happen. Turn 16 in the US and you're given permission to drive a 2,000 lb. missile among fellow citizens. The testing is minimal which appalls those in more stringent countries who are baffled it works, yet it does. The crowd is responsible.

Back to guns. Those for stricter gun controls say more guns equates to more gun crime, but the data disproves that contention. Rural residents have much higher gun ownership than urban areas, yet the murder rate is lower in rural areas. If gun-toting protectors were not trustworthy then the opposite should be true.

More compellingly, 253 journals, 99 books, 43 government publications have examined gun control laws worldwide and failed to identify any gun control that reduces violent crime. Some have even found the opposite to be true. A fascinating book arrives at this conclusion called More Guns, Less Crime. To anyone who believes in using factual data to arrive at a conclusion this should be persuasive.

Still many wrestle with the most basic logic that if there are more guns, then more bad guys will have guns. Bad guys will always have guns and it is certainly possible that a greater prevalence of guns will end up arming more bad guys, but one must look at both sides of the equation. More guns also means more guns in good people's hands and there are a lot more good people than bad. Bad guys will ignore laws, so restrictive laws remove good guys with guns from the situation.

Guns are a powerful deterrence and are often used for defensive purposes. The most thorough study arrived at the conclusion DGU (defensive gun uses) thwart crime 2.5 million times per year but other studies have concluded it's as low as 115,000. (Read this for a thoughtful analysis of the various studies methodology.) That doesn't include crimes which didn't happen at all because the perpetrator suspected a gun could be present, which is substantial. In US, hot burglaries (those where a person is home) is 13%. In more restrictive gun control countries, like UK and Canada where there's lower likelihood of confronting an armed resident, it is 50%. The positive benefits of guns are always overlooked by those demanding more restrictive gun access.

In spite of the compelling data that crowd sourcing of protection works, many will remain skeptical. They're understandably swayed by the emotion of a tragedy, a well documented human deficiency, to look for an easy solution. Hysteria is the arch enemy of reason. Guns are a natural target but so are drugs, movies and video games. In the 1950s it was comic books which the reactionary Senate cracked down on. There are no solutions only trade-offs and usually the trade-offs are lost in the analysis.

Something deeper is at work and that is a mantra drilled into citizens by government schools and well meaning parents. Children are taught that those in authority are somehow superior and looking out for their interests. They have badges, titles or some other reverential attire. These are the people to be implicitly trusted kids are taught. Don't trust the faces in the crowd.

It's a perfectly logical strategy to build a compliant citizenry, but it's inaccurate. Government officials are not morally superior. They don't care more or less for other people. They're just regular people who happen to get paid by the tax collector. A teacher is no more or less likely to treat kids well than the average person. The rash of sexually abusing teachers demonstrates that. Similarly, a cop is no more or less likely to use his gun for good or bad than the average citizen. My hometown of San Diego has seen plenty of bad cops abusing their authority.

This brings us back to the crowd. In spite of conventional teaching, crowd sourcing works and is almost always better than a central authority. Capitalism owes it success to the crowd, which always knows more about the situation and reacts faster than the central authority. That holds true for protection of citizens as well. Police typically take 10-30 minutes to respond to a 911 call. Unless you've encountered a slow moving threat, you'll need the crowd to provide security. Trust the crowd, it works.

--MR

michael@michaelrobertson.com





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