If you’re an advocate of gun control, as is billionaire financier George Soros, is it wrong or hypocritical to invest in gun and ammunition manufacturers? Although it may seems so, the case is far from clear. In his work on what he called constitutional political economy, the late Nobel laureate economist James M. Buchanan distinguished between a person’s preferences over the rules (i.e., preferences about what the rules should be) and that same person’s preferences under the rules (i.e., preferences about what to do given the régime of rules). It’s not clear that ethics (or avoiding hypocrisy) demands that we act as if our preferred rule régime were in place when it’s not. Examples of behaving contrary to one’s overall political preferences abound: In the late 1980s, Washington Post columnist Carl Rowan, a passionate gun control advocate, used a gun to fend off a trespasser. Not living under the gun control régime he favored, Rowan reasoned he was entitled to use a gun if others could use one against him. Similarly, also in the 1980s, libertarian political philosopher Robert Nozick sued the landlord of his Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment for excess rent he paid under Cambridge’s rent control ordinance, even as the political philosophy he favored in his book, Anarchy, State & Utopia, would have found any agreement between himself and his landlord struck without force or fraud to be just. In explaining his decision to recover the overpayment, Nozick explained that the book didn’t obligate him to be taken advantage of. In effect, people in Soros’s, Rowan’s, and Nozick’s position are saying they’ll willingly give up their benefits if everyone else does, but they won’t forego them if others don’t. Their preferences over the rules don’t obligate them to suffer under rules that are different than those they advocate. >>>
LINK: Democratic Financier George Soros Invested In Firearm Companies While Backing Gun Control Groups (by ANDREW PEREZ for International Business Times)
On Thursday, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Soros expressed interest in the divestment idea. Asked by International Business Times if investors who support gun control should sell their holdings in firearms companies, Soros responded: “I’m very much against guns. And if it can be organized on a large enough scale, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
Securities and Exchange Commission filings reviewed by IBT show Soros Fund Management as a top institutional shareholder in Vista Outdoors — considered the country’s top ammunition manufacturer — and Olin Corp., which makes ammo under the Winchester name. Soros Fund Management purchased a stake in Vista in early 2015 and possessed $11.4 million worth of shares in the company at the end of September, the most recent time the firm reported its holdings. Soros’ firm appears to have bought $5.2 million worth of Olin shares between July and September.
He is not alone among Democratic Party supporters in investing in the firearms industry. Many of the biggest Wall Street donors to President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — who have both called for stricter gun regulations — are among the largest institutional investors in guns and ammunition manufacturers. While the American Federation of Teachers, a key part of the Democratic electoral coalition, has backed gun control proposals, some of the pension savings of its members may be invested in the firearms industry. For example, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — which has divested from assault weapons manufacturers — owned $7 million worth of shares in Vista and Olin as of September.
What do you think?
In fairness, we should apply the same reasoning to an example or two of LEFT-leaning individuals whose behaviour *seems* on the surface to contradict their espoused values. Here’s a hypothetical one: someone on the left might rail against the current system under which corporations are (in this person’s view) able to reap excessive profits at the expense of other values, but he or she might at the same time be a shareholder who shares in said profits. The argument above suggests (rightly, I think) that this is not hypocritical, given the distinction between a preference over the rules (a preference for what rules ought to be in place) and a preference for how to live UNDER the rules.