Parkland and the American Revolution

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This essay is on Wikiversity to encourage a wide discussion of the issues it raises moderated by the Wikimedia rules that invite contributors to “be bold but not reckless,” contributing revisions written from a neutral point of view, citing credible sources -- and raising other questions and concerns on the associated '“Discuss”' page.

After the February 14 massacre in Parkland, FL, President Trump recommended bonuses for the between 10 percent and 40 percent of educators who he said could be granted concealed weapon permits. “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes," he went on during several tweets. "It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”[1]

In fact, policies similar to what President Trump recommends have already been tried and found to be counterproductive. However, the public is largely unaware of the facts, apparently because the media have a conflict of interest in honest reporting. The US can fix some of these problems with an Internet-savvy resurrection of citizen-directed subsidies like what it had with the Postal Service Act of 1792. The following summarizes the research on gun control and explains how this postal subsidy seems to have made a far bigger contribution to the growth of liberty, justice, and broadly shared prosperity in the US than the violence of the American Revolution.

Research on gun control

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Would arming more educators reduce school shootings? Experiments like that have already been done: Different states in the US and different nations have had different laws and different numbers and types of guns at different times. The Wikipedia article on “Gun control” summarizes the state of available research as follows:

The best available research appears to contradict President Trump's recommendations.

Is Wikipedia credible? Journalists and academicians recommend Wikipedia as a “great place to start” but caution against using it as a sole source. In controversial topics, "the two sides actually engaged each other and negotiated a version of the article that both can more or less live with. This is a rare sight indeed in today’s polarized political atmosphere, where most online forums are echo chambers for one side or the other.”[4] Conclusion: Check Wikipedia but don't believe it without further fact checking.

On gun control in particular, a source seemingly independent of Wikipedia, the Harvard Injury Research Center, summarized six different studies published between 2000 and 2015. They found consistently that locations with more guns have more homicides.[5]


  1. Public policy is driven too much by money.
  2. If public policy were driven more by facts, these kinds of terrorist acts would likely not be as frequent nor as deadly.
  3. What about the media?

There has been substantial concern about the corrosive impact of money on US public policy. I believe that campaign finance would be a less of a problem if the media (both traditional and social) were more responsive to the needs of the electorate.

The media and gun control

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Has the research on gun control been honestly and fairly presented in the mainstream media in the US? If not, why not?

My answer: Follow the money. Media organizations everywhere sell changes in the behaviors of their audience to their funders, to the people who pay their bills. A media organization without an audience has nothing to sell. If the audience fails to change behaviors to please funders -- or, worse, changes behaviors in ways that displease funders -- the funders go elsewhere. Media organizations may bite the hands that feed them only if doing so seems likely to increase audience enough to offset the loss of revenue. Commercial media in the US get most of their money from advertising, and advertising rates are set based on audience size and the dollar value of measured changes in audience behaviors.

Do major advertisers care about gun control? At least some gun dealers advertise, and stronger gun laws reduce their market. Beyond that, many multinationals have substantial business dealings with repressive governments that could be threatened by more effective gun control in the US -- another domino theory.

I believe that progress in this and many other areas would be easier if the US had citizen-directed subsidies for journalism: This is a middle path between having advertisers vs. government bureaucrats set editorial policies. In fact the US had citizen-directed subsidies for journalism under the US Postal Service Act of 1792: Under that act, newspapers were delivered up to a hundred miles for a penny and beyond for 1.5 cents, when first class postage was between 6 and 25 cents depending on distance. This subsidy reportedly amounted to 0.2 percent of national income (Gross Domestic Product or GDP).[6]

Media subsidies vs. the American Revolution

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Latin American Liberator, Simón Bolívar, Nov. 9, 1830, six weeks before he died: “America is ungovernable. Those who served the revolution have plowed the sea. ... This country will fall unfailingly into the hands of ... tyrants”.

Moreover, I claim that the subsidies provided by the Postal Service Act of 1792 made a far bigger contribution to the growth of liberty, justice, and broadly shared prosperity in the US than the violence of the American Revolution. How else can we explain how the American Revolution escaped the fate of all the other major violent revolutions of world history -- the English Civil War of 1642-1651, the French Revolution, the Latin American wars of independence, the Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Algerian, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian revolutions, all of which from at least some perspectives replaced one brutal repressive system with another. Simón Bolívar, the great Liberator of Latin American, complained six weeks before he died,

“America is ungovernable... . Those who served the revolution have plowed the sea. ... This country will fall unfailingly into the hands of ... tyrants”.[7]

How did the US avoid this fate? My answer is twofold:

  1. Almost sixty percent of adult white males could vote in the thirteen British colonies that declared independence in 1776, and the revolution didn't change that.[8]
  2. The citizen-directed subsidies provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792 encouraged literacy and reduced political corruption, both of which contributed to the cohesion and the broadly shared economic growth that helped make the US what it is today. While the former Spanish colonies in America splintered and shrank, the US grew.

I believe the world could benefit from a modern, Internet-savvy resurrection of the citizen-directed subsidies provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792. That subsidy at roughly 0.2 percent of GDP became overwhelmed with the advent of advertising as the primary funding source for media beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Between 1919 and 2007, advertising averaged roughly 2.2 percent of GDP[9] -- roughly 11 times the citizen-directed subsidies provided earlier. And most advertising is brainwash -- more image than information.

There have been several suggestions for how citizen-directed subsidies could work. Media experts McChesney and Nichols have suggested giving each citizen a voucher worth $100 per year (for 0.2 percent of GDP) that they could spend on any combination of qualified noncommercial investigative journalist organizations.[10] Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman suggested disbursing a comparable amount on the basis of qualified mouse clicks.[11][12] Dan Hind proposed "public commissioning" of news, where "Journalists, academics and citizen researchers would post proposals for funding" investigative journalism on a particular issue with a public trust funded from taxes or license fees with the public voting for the proposals they most supported.[13] Dean Baker suggested an "Artistic Freedom Voucher" to provide citizen-directed subsidies to journalists, writers, artists and musicians, who place their work in the public domain. He claims that our current copyright system locks entirely too much information behind paywalls for far longer than required “to promote the progress of science and useful arts,” as required by the United States Constitution.[14][15] Julia Cagé has discussed “Nonprofit media organizations,” which are charitable foundations devoted to media with democratic governance split between the funders, the journalists, and their audience.[16]

In sum

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If the above analysis is correct, we will not likely see a serious reduction in gun violence without improvements in media funding and governance -- without an Internet-savvy resurrection of the citizen-directed subsidies provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792 at something close to the 2.2 percent of GDP devoted to advertising (aka brainwash).


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  1. Price, Greg (2018-02-22), Trump wants bonuses for teachers who carry guns: 'I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected', Newsweek, retrieved 2018-02-28
  2. "The Congressman Who Restricted Gun Violence Research Has Regrets", The Huffington Post, retrieved 2015-10-11
  3. Me, Angela; Bisogno, Enrico; Malby, Steven (2011), Global study on homicide (PDF), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), p. 43, retrieved 2018-02-28.] p. 43. Retrieved: October 9, 2016.
  4. Peter Binkley (2006), Wikipedia Grows Up, Feliciter 52 (2006), no. 2, 59–61, retrieved 2018-03-01
  5. Homicide, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, retrieved 2018-01-03
  6. McChesney, Robert W.; Nichols, John (2016), People get ready: The fight against a jobless economy and a citizenless democracy, Nation Books, p. 169, ISBN 9781568585215
  7. Gutiérrez Escudero, Antonio (2005), Simón Bolívar: aproximación al pensamiento del Libertador (in Spanish), vol. 7, Revista Iberoamericana de Filosofía, Política y Humanidades, pp. 221–235, retrieved 2018-03-01, 1o) La América es ingobernable para nosotros. 2o) El que sirve una revolución ara en el mar. 3o) La única cosa que se puede hacer en América es emigrar. 4o) Este país caerá infaliblemente en manos de la multitud desenfrenada, para después pasar a tiranuelos casi imperceptibles, de todos colores y razas. 5o) devorados por todos los crímenes y extinguidos por la ferocidad, los europeos no se dignarán conquistarnos. 6o) Si fuera posible que una parte del mundo volviera al caos primitivo, éste sería el último periodo de la América...
  8. Keyssar, Alexander (2000), The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, Basic Books, p. 7, ISBN 046502968X cited from Graves, Spencer (2005-02-26), Violence, Nonviolence, and the American Revolution (PDF), Productive Systems Engineering, retrieved 2017-11-07
  9. "Annual U.S. Advertising Expenditure Since 1919". September 14, 2008. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  10. McChesney, Robert W.; Nichols, John (2016), People get ready: The fight against a jobless economy and a citizenless democracy, Nation Books, p. 167, ISBN 9781568585215
  11. Ackerman, Bruce (2010). "5. Enlightening politics". The Decline and Fall of the American Republic. Harvard U. Pr.. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-674-05703-6. 
  12. Ackerman, Bruce (May 6, 2013), "Reviving Democratic Citizenship?", Politics & Society, Sage, 41 (2): 309–317, doi:10.1177/0032329213483103, retrieved June 16, 2013
  13. Hind, Dan (2010). "10. Public Commissioning". The Return of the Public. Verso. pp. 159-160. ISBN 978-1-84467-594-4. 
  14. Baker, Dean (November 5, 2003), The Artistic Freedom Voucher: An Internet Age Alternative to Copyrights (Briefing paper), Center for Economic and Policy Research, retrieved 2017-03-30
  15. See also Free Culture: Lessig, Lawrence (2015). Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (US paperback ed.). Petter Reinholdtsen. ISBN 978-82-690182-0-2. 
  16. Cagé, Julia (2016) [2015], Saving the media: Capitalism, crowdfunding and democracy, Belknap, ISBN 9780674659759