L. Neil Smith's

Number 14, September 15, 1996.

Shop Now and Avoid the Rush

By L. Neil Smith

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         How often lately have you heard frightened conservatives -- reacting to unmistakable evidence that their "revolution" is a fake -- argue with Libertarians: "Why can't you be satisfied to work within the Republican Party. You're not gonna win. All you do is take votes from us and help Democrats. Want Bill Clinton for another four years?"
         Which puts me in mind of something that happened recently in our family that may tell you what kind of people we are.
         My wife Cathy has wanted a high-powered rifle a long while, to hunt antelope, mule deer, and elk. I knew less about rifle ballistics than the ballistics of handguns, so we made a careful project of deciding what gun -- especially what cartridge -- would be best, taking into account accuracy, power, the amount of bullet-drop at long range, reliability, recoil, her size and weight, ammunition availabilty, and, to some degree, aesthetics.
         We decided on a bolt-action manufactured for .270 Winchester, the second or third most popular cartridge in America. We also decided that any of three different brands would fulfill our specifications, a Winchester Model 70 (preferably pre-1964), a Remington Model 700, or a Ruger Model 77. Because Cathy felt it was beautiful -- and in spite of the stupid political views of corporation founder William B. Ruger -- she chose the Ruger, a model called "International" due to its long, graceful "mountain" stock.
         We were unable to afford a new rifle for her immediately, and because of Ruger's politics, she preferred to buy used, rather than pay him another cent (we own several Ruger firearms) to support his liberal-appeasing ways. Then last week, while we were in a local emporium after something else, Cathy asked the proprietor if she could look at rifles (a rite of passage for her; gunshops can be intimidating for women) and mentioned her preference for a Ruger Model 77 International, in .270 Winchester.
         "Got one coming Monday," the proprietor told her (this was Friday), "from a guy who really needs the money. You oughta be able to get a deal."
         Well, that was a very long weekend. Cathy had "gun fever" as badly as I'd ever seen it -- not all that different from "car fever", which I've also seen, or "computer fever". Also known as the "wantsies", I've had it myself, many times, and she's suffered through it with me. This time, it was my turn.
         Monday came and it turned out the guy wouldn't be in until Tuesday. When the calendar finally ground around to Tuesday, the proprietor, hoping for the best, told us he had the gun, it was, indeed, a Ruger Model 77 International, and in beautiful shape.
         Trouble was, it was a .30-06, not a .270.
         Cathy ... well, all weekend she'd been mentally sighting the damned thing in at 300 yards. I even looked into having it rebarreled, but these days, that costs about as much as a new rifle. So, we politely turned the proprietor down. He was disappointed -- he'd wanted to make a sale and help his friend -- but being a rifleman himself, he understood. The .30-06 just wasn't what she wanted.
         We're still looking. And ever since, I've been thinking about what it would have been like if Rush Limbaugh had been behind the counter, unhappy with Cathy's decision.
         "I just don't understand," he would say. "Thirty-ought-six, two-seventy, -- what's the difference? Why can't you be happy with what's available? Why do you have to hold out for what you can't get?"
         "You mean what you don't have in stock?" Cathy would reply. "Because it's what I want, Rush. Because my husband and I did our homework: .30-06 won't do all the things I expect from a .270."
         "But it's such a tiny difference! The primer's the same, the powder's the same, even the cases are almost the same. Three-hundred eight thousandths minus two-hundred seventy-seven thousandths (the true diameters in question). That's only thirty-one measly thousandths of an inch!"
         "Yes, and because of that measly thirty-one thousandths, I can shoot further and flatter, and with only about half the recoil; .30-06 hurts when it goes off in a light sporting rifle, and doesn't kill game as cleanly. It was designed for war, where the object is to wound the enemy, not kill him, so he uses up more of the other side's resources."
         "You're just too picky," Rush would pout. "Thirty-ought-six is the only game in town. You keep insisting on what you want, rather than accepting what you can get, you'll hafta wait a long time -- and you may not get what you want, at all."
         "Listen, if I can't get what I want, I don't want anything else. What would be the point? I'm willing to wait, even take the risk of not getting what I want, because -- if I buy what you've got to sell, Rush -- I won't be getting what I want anyway. Will I?"
         "Okay, lady," Rush would scowl at my wife, "that's it for you. You've failed the kook test!"
         Rush never will get the point because, besides being a political wussie, he's a gun wussie, too. Maybe I should have written this about expensive cigars, but I stopped smoking three years ago, and don't know anything about them. Maybe accepting only one percent of what you want -- along with another 99 of what you don't want -- is okay where cigars are concerned.
         But the inconvenient truth is that Republicanism is not what Libertarians want. It won't abolish taxes or economic regulations, it won't end the War on Drugs, it's getting worse about abortion and censorship, and, deep inside, it's just as terrified of privately- owned weapons as Democrats are.
         Libertarians want something else, as different from the policies of Republicans as from those of Democrats. Libertarians want control of their own lives, something Republicans and Democrats claim they want, but have demonstrated that they hate and fear. So, no matter how much Republicans whimper -- even if it means Democrats may win -- real Libertarians will go on voting for real Libertarians.
         Because we're willing to wait for what we really want.

L. Neil Smith's award-winning first novel, The Probability Broach, long out of print, has just been republished in an unexpurgated edition by TOR Books. A complete list of his novels and collection of his essays and other data may be reached on the World Wide Web through http://www.lneilsmith.org//. Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author, provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.

A Juror's Creed: As an American juror, I will exercise my 1000 year old duty to arrive at a verdict, not just on the basis of the facts of a particular case or instructions I am given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience.
-- L. Neil Smith

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