"[M]onopoly profits exist over the long run only when the government guarantees them, as in utilities and cable. And for concentration of market power, no robber baron can hold a candle to the U.S. government.... The hugest concentration of market power in this country does not lie with the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates, but with government itself.... No private company, no matter how huge or wealthy, could possibly have as much widespread power over the function of American markets as government does." ~ Brian Doherty
The Wisdom of Fools
Exclusive to STR
I was perusing the May 2006 print edition of the American Rifleman when an advertisement for Barrett Firearms Manufacturing (featured on page 66) caught my eye. And not because of the item being displayed, either. No, while the Barrett Model 82A1 rifle is an interesting specimen of a rifle, what caught my attention and, upon further reflection my admiration, was a tiny small-print blurb at the bottom corner of the ad. This inkblot read as follows:
'The California Legislature has banned the .50 BMG from the good citizens of the state of California , violating their rights and the constitution of our republic. Therefore, Barrett will not sell to or service any California government agencies.'
That was indeed refreshing! Barrett was willing to forgo any sort of government business selling or servicing their line of rifles to any of the Golden State 's police agencies because of the state of California 's laws making most of them illegal for ordinary people to own.
Now as a matter of principle I cannot help but applaud Barrett. Choosing principle over sales income is hard indeed for a businessman. I know because I am one. And much to my chagrin and personal embarrassment, here I have to confess that I have done business with politicians, judges, and law enforcement types that I despise politically and in some cases personally as well. But see, their money was green, and that's what I'm in business for. Sure, I know all about Stalin's famous prediction that when it came time to hang the last of the capitalists, they'd bid against each other to sell him the rope.
However, dead cynical dictators aside, and speaking practically, it's hard to say how much effect this will have on California's political class and the armed forces they employ in order to maintain their position of authority. Probably not that much, I'm thinking, because for every principled Barrett Firearms sort of company competing in the market for rifle sales, there are no doubt others who would, can, and will if given the chance, sell to California's cops. Sad but true. So the cynic might say that Barrett is making a virtue of a necessity. And maybe they are. But who besides God knows what's truly in a man's heart?
Markets don't have that problem, though. If a good or service is demanded for a price high enough to induce the entrepreneurial to provide it, then the actual value of the good or service is self-evident. Meaning, 'is it's own evidence' as explained in the thesaurus. Only God may truly know what's in a man's heart, but cash on the barrelhead can be enumerated, eh?
During the 1990's the anti-gun lobby persuaded many cities, states, and crime victims to try and sue the pants off of anyone in the firearms or ammunition business. I often wondered at the time why the defendant arms companies didn't do what Barrett has done here and just refuse sales or service the plaintiff's police agencies? I don't know if it would have helped, but it sure couldn't have hurt, either. Political and economic leverage is where you find it, after all.
I mean, how can Chicago , Detroit , or Cleveland arm their cops with Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Sig firearms and then turn around and sue them? And then turn around yet again and ask them for bids or submit service and purchase orders? And yet they did.
It seems to me that unless the ruling authorities in these cities were willing to follow the example of the UK and deploy their police with only truncheons and pepperspray, they'd be open to credible charges of hypocrisy and incompetence. Worse, they'd be mocked, taunted, and held up to ridicule by editorial writers and cartoonists as well as late night talk show hosts. Imagine the sight of the sawdust caesars and little league tyrants going apoplectic with humiliation and rage in city halls all over America . Such is the power of the marketplace combined with public opinion. A weapon potentially more powerful than the very hardware these companies make, too.
Now that would have been a real 'shot heard round the world.' Too bad none of these companies had the pluck of Barrett Firearms. They had the perfect bulls-eye shot lined up but lacked the nerve to squeeze the trigger. If the management of these craven firms ever do need to find other work because some of their customers sued them out of business, they should perhaps consider careers as rope salesmen.