How about some reader mail?
Dear DR Team,
I am an Agora Reserve member and really take a great interest in your views. I love Addison’s and Bills books and am looking forward to IOUSA. However your description of Charlton Heston as great is way over the top. He was never a great actor regardless of his academy award. He was just lucky enough to star in a couple of Hollywood epics that made a lot of money. In recent years his main claim to fame was as President of the NRA. At a meeting of that despicable and powerful lobby group he stood up holding a gun and proclaimed “You can take my gun from my cold dead hands”. Overly dramatic and terrible overacting. This made many Americans sick as it did me. Americans shoot more of one another than any other comparable country on earth. Gun control is essential.
I could spend a long time compiling a list of great Americans but Heston is not one of them – not even close.
Stick to your knitting fellas, you’re really good at that.
Just for the record I’m a licensed shooter that believes in very strict gun control.
We will take your note in the spirit which it is offered Tony. But surely you know, as a long-time Markets and Money reader, that we rarely stick to our knitting. After all, the Markets and Money is free. We give ourselves permission every once in a while to write about things that are not strictly financial.
In this case, we have to respectfully disagree with you on Heston and gun rights. As a migrant to Australia, we realise this position is the one that most Australians find baffling if not irrational, offensive, and morally reprehensible. Gun rights?
We can’t really explain it. But as a libertarian from the American West, the best explanation we have to offer is that Americans have always had a deep distrust of authority. Perhaps this comes from the origins of some of the country’s first settlers, escaping religious persecution in the Old World.
What’s more, for its first 100 years, America was a frontier society. You couldn’t call the police if you were having trouble with a neighbour or wild animals attacking your livestock. You had to fend-and defend-for yourself. Guns were practical tools of personal self defense. In many places they still are.
Now we know that many of the weapons on sale at low prices in America are not “practical” in the sense that farmers and ranchers are using them as tools. You would not shoot a wolf with an armor-piercing bullet.
In fact, as America’s workforce moved off the farm and into the cities in the early half of the 19th century, having a well armed populace took on a whole new dimension. People in large cities seem to be more uncivil toward one another and more distrustful. Gun crime (much of it related to drugs) has increased.
We chalk this up to the utter stupidity of America’s drug laws, which perpetuate high drug prices and incentivize drug crime. It pays more to deal drugs in America’s inner cities than it does to work for an honest living. Decriminalise drugs and the prices fall, meaning drug lords wouldn’t be going to war to fight over falling profits.
But really, the core of America’s gun culture is both violent and fiercely independent. As Australians know, the frontier is a violent place. America was a vast frontier and its gun culture matured as that frontier was explored.
Today, the right to own a gun is a man’s only real defence against the arbitrary abuse of government power. That doesn’t mean you can go shoot your neighbour if you feel like it. But it does means-and we are merely trying to explain in to our fine Australian readers-that some Americans still have a fundamental distrust of the supposed benign nature of the coercive power of government. They see guns as their last defense against that coercive power.
In our experience, Australians are not nearly so suspicious of government power. This is a generalisation, but Australians-from our observations so far-seem to basically believe that the government is there to help you, can usually be trusted, and is more or less on your side.
Those are all alien thoughts to us. But then again, we’re a legal alien, so they would be alien wouldn’t they?
Please don’t write in telling us to see any Michael Moore movies or telling us about school shootings. We know the issue up and down and inside out. We’re just trying to give you an insight about why Americans hold on to their guns. Maybe it’s actually worth thinking about, instead of just criticising in a knee-jerk fashion.
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