The shibboleth referred to by the title has now been heard enough times to deafen every ear in America. "If it saves even one life, it's worth it." "If it saves even one life, we have an obligation to try." It's the mating cry of the Safety Nazi, the cheerleader for Mommy (or Nanny) Government, whose overriding commitment is to keep us from harming ourselves. And as vapid as it is, that typeset phrase bludgeons many an American who'd otherwise stand and fight for his rights -- rhetorically, at least -- into a sullen silence.
Well, friends, never let it be said that Francis W. Porretto, dictator verborum to the World Wide Web, isn't on the job, standing at the ready with the words you need. In this case, the refutation consists of a single word:
What I mean by "Net!" in this connection is, of course, a variation on Bastiat's refutation of the Fallacy of the Broken Window:
In Bastiat's tale, a man's son breaks a pane of glass, meaning the man will have to pay to replace it. The onlookers consider the situation and decide that the boy has actually done the community a service because his father will have to pay the glazier (window repair man) to replace the broken pane. The glazier will then presumably spend the extra money on something else, jump-starting the local economy. (For related reading, see Economics Basics.)
The onlookers come to believe that breaking windows stimulates the economy, but Bastiat points out that further analysis exposes the fallacy. By breaking the window, the man's son has reduced his father's disposable income, meaning his father will not be able to purchase new shoes or some other luxury good. Thus, the broken window might help the glazier, but at the same time, it robs other industries and reduces the amount being spent on other goods. Moreover, replacing something that has already been purchased is a maintenance cost, rather than a purchase of truly new goods, and maintenance doesn't stimulate production. In short, Bastiat suggests that destruction - and its costs - don't pay in an economic sense.
In Bastiat's words, the Fallacy rests on "that which is not seen:" what the man would have done with his money had his window not been broken. In the rantings of the Left over gun control, "that which is not seen" comprises the great host of social goods, including lives saved, that arise because Americans are copiously armed.
Gun control proposals of the sort the Obamunists are advancing might result in particular lives being spared, in incidents where the would-be murderer refrains from killing specifically because he lacks a firearm. But it would cost lives that would be saved by the presence of the banned firearms in other circumstances. For public-safety purposes -- i.e., all the arguments about the right to own such weapons pushed to the side for just a moment -- the net change to homicide statistics is what would matter...but the gun-controllers have quite deliberately effaced the lives saved by private firearms ownership from the discussion.
The riposte of "Net! Net! Net!" would put the gun-controllers on notice that the public's grasp of the real situation has defeated their propaganda. Imagine how Barack Hussein Obama, currently the nation's chief Safety Nazi, would have cringed had the crowd responded to his pious posturings at this event with a mass shout of "Net! Net! Net!" He'd have slunk away with his tail between his legs, Gentle Reader. He might never have dared to broach the subject of gun control again.
Needless to say, the "if it saves even one life" cant phrase isn't the only one in our political discourse. Here are a few others:
- "Assault weapon"
- "Right to health care"
- "Reasonable regulation"
- "A woman's right to choose"
- "Let the rich pay their fair share"
Typeset phrases, all. Each of them attempts to conceal an important consideration about the issue under discussion -- if "discussion" is the right word for the sort of shouting match that typifies political intercourse today. And each one deserves to be met with the matching refutation.
Let "Net!" be our starting point.