One of my regular reads is Fear and Loathing In Georgetown, and one of FLG’s favorite themes is that a key difference between the Left and Right is what he calls “time horizons.” As I understand it, he contends that liberals tend to take a much shorter frame of temporal reference, focusing on empirical points and immediate action, while conservatives tend to look at the longer term, with concern for such matters as unanticipated consequences, historical record, and so forth. (Major, before you launch on me, I must point out that when I’ve looked at historical issues for both Left and Right, you’ve acknowledged your relative disinterest on those matters and a “focus on the Now.”) I tend to try to look at the longer diachronic picture myself, not least because I study a period roughly a millennium long, looking at trends and ideas that develop over spans of centuries. Again, I’m not necessarily a medievalist because I lean Right, but I can see the connection.
In any case, I thought of this theory when I was reading Tim Kowal’s post on the Second Amendment at Notes From Babel. I occasionally hear anti-gun folks arguing that we:
2) Would be wasting our time employing our privately owned weapons against, say, the Marines. (Of course, that seems to assume that overwhelming odds are never worth facing, as well as some other things.)
It’s that first point that comes under review in Kowal’s post. Even if we stipulate that the current government is well intentioned, that does not guarantee that such will always be the case:
Our Founders did not take for granted, as we do today, the stability of our political order. We don’t continue to honor the Second Amendment to protect a liberty interest in cutting down soda cans. We honor it because it is absolutely essential to the galvanizing idea underlying our political order: that our government serves by and through the people’s consent, and no version of that government could ever be deemed to have the power to strip the people of their means to exit that political order upon a declaration of a long train of violations of their natural rights.
Here, a short time horizon says, “The U.S. government is benign, so there is no need for violence against it, and perforce no need for some of what is ostensibly allowed by the Second Amendment.” The Founders, per Kowal, took a longer view, noticing that history indicates the phenomenon of government with the consent of the governed is the exception, rather than the rule. I’m glad they did, but as FLG might note, I would be.