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The Contender
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0 Points

Should nukes be legal?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/1/2013 Category: Economics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 918 times Debate No: 37244
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




It would obviously be preferable for there to be no nukes in the world at all. The reality is that they're here, and they'll likely continue to exist well into the future. My argument is that allowing reasonable people to purchase and own nuclear weapons will reduce the likelihood of a nuclear war. This probably sounds odd to most people, so I'll try my best to explain this clearly.
Presently, nuclear weapons are almost entirely in the hands of politicians. If a politician (who will be represented here by a subscript 'p') fires a nuke, he or she will face a moral cost, (Mp) a punishment cost, (Pp) and a reputation cost (Rp). The total cost faced by a politician can be written as Mp+Pp+Rp=TCp. If a private individual (who will be represented here by a subscript 'i') fired a nuke, he or she will also have to pay the financial cost (Fi) of the nuke. The politician doesn't need to consider that, because taxes pay for Fp, whereas Fi is payed for by the private individual directly. The total cost to the private individual, TCi=Mi+Pi+Ri+Fi.
Now the question is, which is greater? I can't think of many ways to measure the morals of a person, so I can't make assumptions about any relationships between Mp and Mi. However, I can measure the others. In almost every case Pp(Mi+(Pi-Pp)+(Ri-Rp)+Fi), you should expect that TCp Wars are far more likely to come about when there is an oligopoly on military power. If there are 1000 small militaries, military 1 won't try to fight military 2, because that would only make both nations vulnerable to militaries 3 through 1000. However, if there were only 3 world powers, and military 1 conquered military 2, that would strengthen military 1. I can't think of many examples through history where a concentration of power didn't result in war. There are many other reasons why concentration of power results in war, as examined in 'Source 2'.
Now, combine those two elements, and it should be clear that a concentration of nuclear weapons in the hands of politicians is far more likely to result in a nuclear war than dispersed control in the hands of private individuals.

Source 1:
Source 2:


First of all you state the conclusion that "allowing reasonable people to purchase and own nuclear weapons will reduce the likelihood of a nuclear war".

To support your claim you compare the total cost faced by the politician (Moral Cost + Punishment Cost + Reputation Cost)
compared to that of the individual (Moral Cost + Punishment Cost + Reputation Cost + Financial Cost)
You claim that a politician does not need to pay for a Financial Cost.
You use the formula of Pp (Mi+(Pi - Pp)+(Ri-Rp)+Fi to prove that the more militarise there are, the less wars will happen.

I can't assess the formula but I will use common sense.

First of all I believe that the purpose of war needs to be defined as: achieving victory by a) destroying your opponent b) destroying its will to fight. (We must take into consideration that many wars end before they begin if the force of the opponent is strong enough).

If we accept that wars can end by destroying the opponents will to fight, then
In a war it is preferable to stop fighting if this means that you will survive to definitely die if you keep fighting.
Nukes definitely win wars by breaking the opponents will to fight.
Due to their destructive nature, it doesn't matter how many nukes you have (one or many)
So far, apart from a preemptive strike (with a high level of uncertainty of success) there is no real defence against nukes.

Therefore it is a reasonable conclusion not to go to war against someone who has nukes, if they intend to use them in a case of war.

This argument does not account for individuals or politicians because we can assume that individuals may "steal" or indeed "buy" nukes, no matter how expensive. Some individuals have fortunes larger than the total revenue of a small country!
Also I don't take into consideration the amount of available armies with nukes, mainly because a. They are highly destructive and B. there is no defence against them.

About the individual ownership of nukes

War is always against an opponent.
The purpose of war is to defeat your opponent.
At the end of war the victor rules his opponent.
An essential part of the victory is to control land.
Having nukes always gives you victory because your opponent will not choose to fight with you.
To control people and land gives you political power.
A person in possession of nukes is equal either to a king or a dictator, which essentially cancels the argument that individuals can wage nuclear wars.

Debate Round No. 1


The purpose of war isn't exactly to defeat the enemy. There's usually some reason why these armies are fighting in the first place. If they can accomplish whatever they came for without defeating their enemies, they would certainly consider it.

While it may be the case that one nuclear weapon has enough destructive power to do considerable damage, being in possession of a nuke does not yield instantaneous victory. The main reason for this is that once you've fired your nuke, you've lost your advantage. If you're going to lose your advantage, you won't want to fire because that puts you in an inferior position. Since the other army knows that you won't want to fire, they'll attack without being too concerned.

The situation changes when you have multiple nukes, and they don't have any. Then there's very little stopping you from conquering them. If only one army had nukes, that army would have a relatively easy time taking over the world.

The defense against a nuke, is to have your own nuke. They know that if they launch a nuke at you, you'll launch a nuke back at them. They don't want to be nuked in a counter-attack, so they won't launch a nuke at you in the first place. If two or three armies have nukes, they won't nuke each other, but they might threaten some of the other armies who don't have nukes of there own, and who therefor can't use the counter-attack strategy.

If many armies had nukes, I can't think of any reason why it would ever be worth it to use them. They would have them only to show that they are capable of a counter-attack. In that case, those in possession of nukes wouldn't be dictators at all. You don't gain any political power from having something that everyone has. They'd just be ordinary people who are capable of defending themselves.


If the purpose of war is not to defeat the enemy, then would accept as a definition that it is to impose you will against the enemy? Is seems that it would be an acceptable premise.

In the second paragraph you state something that seems to be self-denying.
a. Being in a possession of a nuke does not give you instantaneous victory.
b. If you fire a nuke first, you lose your advantage.
c. If you lose your advantage you won't fight because it puts you in an inferior position.
d. If the opponent knows that you won't fire, they will attack you.

But this would mean that the opponent will lose his own advantage, and therefore put you in a superior position.
The correct conclusion from what you have stated seems to be that neither you or your opponent will strike first for fear of losing the advantage. This would not result in war at all.

Next you present the argument that having multiple nukes will help you conquer the world, but you add "and they don't have any". I believe that the initial assumption was that they have at least one.

In any case you move on to say that if multiple armies have nukes this would stop them from attacking each other, and in the last paragraph you say that possession of nukes by individuals would be a kind of self-defence.

If you agree with my understanding of your argument then it seems to me that the argument has moved on from the issue of war to the issue of private self-defence through nukes, probably by an individual who is in fear of being attacked by nukes privately and wants to defend himself. Let's say he is a kind of Iron-Man with all his technology for self-defence but also for destruction.

I suggest then to move on to examine the term legal in this respect.

If we accept the meaning of the word "legal" to be "abiding by the laws of the country" and "self-defence" as being part of these laws, then it seems that he would have the right to bear nukes.
the law also accepts the notion of "being innocent until proved guilty". In this sense a stranger at your door should not be killed because you "think" he is a murderer, he might just be the mailman.
Therefore, unless you are paranoid, you must have clear evidence that someone is planning to attack you, if the law would allow you to posses any kind of protective weaponry.

In this sense a level of proportional violence may be considered as acceptable by law, for example you wouldn't nuke a person just because he hit you. Law also is something to which a person must obey which was created by others, otherwise if he is both the judge and the jury then it would create the paradox that whatever action appears "just" to him is also "just" no matter how irrational. And the private possession of a nuke for self-defence would appear irrational to many people which would definitely oppose the law as, if you have one as individual then I need one too, but I can't have one, so it will be illegal for you to have one too. I don't count on people's sympathy for someone with a possession of a nuke. If people can be protected by law, then they would chose that rather than equipping everyone with a nuke. The question is that, even if such law existed, what exactly would make it irrational or self-contradictory?

The feature of the law that would make such law contradictory is that a law has to be applied equally to all. This feature of the law makes it take forms counter to the interests of individuals. Suppose there is a law that states "All people after the age of 50 will be executed" this could be implemented in principle but it would be contrary to the notion of either self-preservation of self-defence. Or something less dramatic a law that said "All people must shave their heads", this would not mean that people want to do what the law suggests, some of them might want to have hair, but the law is for all and individual preferences are ignored. My point is that some laws do not and should not take into account personal opinions or desires.

In this sense a law that said "People are allowed to have nukes at home for protection" would be another kind of law, a conditional law which allows people "freedom" for self-defence. It would be a conditional law because "allowed" is probably the correct word as opposed to a law that said "people Must have nukes at home for self-protection". Now, when the law gives you a choice, you can choose either side of the law, either to have, or not to have nukes. If such a law existed then it would suggest that anyone can exercise their right to nukes. This might seem unambiguous at first glance.

If a law is conditional and people can choose to follow it or not, then the existence of the law depends on the existence of choice in society. For example, you can not choose to go to school A or B if there is only one school. So for a law to exist it means that pragmatically more than one individual can have nukes. I challenge the claim that would be a realistic option for a society.
Debate Round No. 2


When I said "they'll attack without being too concerned", I was refuting your point that:

"Nukes definitely win wars by breaking the opponents will to fight. Due to their destructive nature, it doesn't matter how many nukes you have (one or many)"

An army can be deployed multiple times, whereas a nuke can only be used once. Once you've fired a nuke, you've lost your advantage; however, they can deploy soldiers without permanently losing their advantage. It costs a considerable amount to reequip soldiers between battles, and you can obviously just buy another nuke, but that would be a second nuke, meaning that the number of nukes does matter.

You say:

"...unless you are paranoid, you must have clear evidence that someone is planning to attack you, if the law would allow you to posses any kind of protective weaponry"

That's no different than saying that you need to have clear evidence that you need a car before purchasing one. After all, you're imposing a risk on everyone around you by driving. In a theoretical world where you have to get everyone else's permission to impose a risk on them, nothing productive ever gets done. If someone asks you why you're buying something, you can honestly tell them that it's none of their business. If you actually fire a nuke, and cause damage to others, that kind of situation is already covered quite well in tort law.

In response to your closing sentence, society is just a simple way of referring to all people. Since there's a wide variety of differing opinions about every conceivable thing, it makes sense for people to make their own choices rather than having a single rule imposed upon them. The people who are making the rules have their own incentives, and if they make choices on your behalf, the result should not be expected to suit the needs of society any more than the choices that you make individually. The laws against private ownership of nuclear weapons are created by the same organizations that currently hold large numbers of them. It isn't in their best interests to allow regular people to have them too.



I have been to Hiroshima. You have no idea about the size of destruction we are talking about. You don't lose any advantage by firing a nuke, you annihilate your opponent.

In any case we are debating the issue of the legality of private ownership of nukes, not the number of nukes. If something is legal you can have as much as you want or afford, it doesn't matter to the eyes of the law.

Comparing owing a nuke to owning a car is out of any proportion. Can you really say to someone, its none of your business if I own a nuke? First of all, if he doesn't know that you own a nuke you wouldn't be able to use it as a deterrent, which is the reason why you want to obtain it in the first place. If you can defend your right to owning a nuke and say that no one can say or do anything about it, you are wrong. Even in the case of firearms you need a license. To drive a car you need a license. They will test you to see if you are fit to drive, if you know all the traffic rules and so on. Why does the law demand from people to have a car licence before the hit the road? If they don't they are are a risk to themselves and to others. If they are such a risk, no license is given. Can anyone prove that he is a responsible owner of a nuke and not a risk to others? Having a nuke instantly makes you a threat to someone else, whether he has it or not.

Imagine that Russia has such a law and there was actually a Russian that you know nothing about that possessed a nuke and a ballistic missile. The country has no laws about nuke licensing and the guy is crazy. Now he fires the nuke, you fire back and soon the whole world is destroyed. Are you saying that we are going to defend private ownership and risk global destruction? I don't think so. The US attacked Iraq for suspicion of possession of weapons of mass destruction. Even if they had them, then according to you, nothing should have been done about it. Clearly a limit has to be drawn.

When you are defending the legal right to possess a nuke you are also defending the right of the individual to do as he pleases with his private property. If a nuke, which is a radioactive weapon, is allowed, then why not the ownership of a deadly virus next door to you. Even if your neighbor does nothing and he is the best man in the world, would you risk an accident happening which would kill you and the whole town you are in simply to protect his private property? People have laws not only to allow things, but also to prevent bad things from happening and every day we use them and demand that they are respected.

My argument is that private property already has limitations according to law and these limitations are well justified. You need rules to live in a society. If private property is to be defended at all costs, then when it comes to dealing with other people, they simply wouldn't allow you to have certain things. They wouldn't give them to you for all the money in the world. Can you sell you baby son or daughter? Exchange them? If private property is to be defended for all things, then money can buy anything. This is definitely not the case.

To say that people who make laws which allows "them" to own nukes and not "you" because it is not in their best interests, you make the case way too personal. Nukes are not a case for private property, but for public policy.
Debate Round No. 3
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Jonathan11 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: That was a mind blow, I feel that the con could of done a a better job refuting the points on buying nukes instead of soldiers.
Vote Placed by donald.keller 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: S&G: Spelling was the same between both sides, and Conduct was even. Pro was the only one with sources. Argument: Con cherrypicked Pro's argument a few times, arguing against something while ignoring an an argument Pro gave that would have prevented Con's argument. Con also argued with a lot of Common Sense... Which works great, if you were arguing on whether to make Eggs or and Egg Sandwich... Common Sense has no regards to the complexity of a political conversation. Con did argue well though, but I don't feel he matched Pro.