Who’s afraid of Jeremy Bentham?

The events in Cumbria are utterly tragic. 12 dead and many more injured as I write this testify to the horror that one man can inflict on a community.

At the moment reactions seem variously muted. Teresa May has insisted that we take stock before we discuss the merits of further firearm laws. Alan Johnson has suggested that perhaps the counter-terrorism policing skills we’ve developed haven’t spread to rural forces, but even his jerky knees remain still.

The Libertarian Alliance take a separate tack. No taking stock for them, they have published this statement calling for looser gun control. This caught my eye:

The Libertarian Alliance notes that these shootings would have been extremely difficult in a country where the people were allowed to arm themselves.

According to the LA, Libertarianism not only maximises liberty, which is a just action, but it also maximises everyone’s well being too.

There is not a logical reason that doing the just thing should maximise happiness, or minimise murder; the LA certainly do not provide any serious empirical backing for this claim.

This suggests to me that the LA are not particularly secure in their beliefs. If you think taking a certain action is immoral, such as taxing (to pay for it) and the regulation of guns, then you should refrain from that action.

The consequence of refraining may be an increase in gun crime or it may be a decrease, but I do not see a logical or essential connection between libertarian values and an optimum outcome.

By appealing to “the greatest good for the greatest number” the Libertarian Alliance are illustrating some of Libertarianism’s weaknesses as a political project in its own right.

(Hat-tip Sunny Hundal and Sunder Katwala)