Guns, Knives, and Money | guest post by: L. Neil SmithSeptember 13th, 2012
There is a phenomenon, long known and well understood, among historians specializing in the 19th century. It has to do with guns and knives, and ultimately, with the relative availability of human endurance.
Starting some time before 1800, personal firearms — meaning handguns, as opposed to rifles, muskets, and shotguns of military or agricultural application — were impressively large and cumbersome. They usually delivered only a single shot before they had to be laboriously reloaded, which could be a real problem in the middle of a fight.
They were expensive, too. A flintlock rifle like Daniel Boone’s or Davy Crockett’s represented a year’s work by a skilled craftsman. For a young family starting out in life, it was more expensive than a car is today. I imagine it scored a lot of points with any prospective father-in-law if his daughter’s suitor already had a rifle. It meant the fellow could feed and defend his family, not just on the frontier, but in areas usually considered “civilized” but still mostly rural in character.
We were once, it seems, a nation of farmers.
The way things are going, we may be again.
A quality flintlock pistol probably cost about as much as a rifle, and offered considerably less to the man who carried it. It wouldn’t shoot far. The barrel (even at eight to twelve inches) was too short to build up decent velocity. My guess is a majority of handguns was unrifled, limiting power and accuracy further. And the short distance between the front and rear sights made it a poor alternative to the rifle — if most pistols had even had sights, which they usually didn’t.
Almost invariably, a rifleman — or pistol-fighter — chose as his “second shot” or backup weapon, a blade, usually a very large knife, as proper swords were just as expensive as a rifle, and awkward to use indoors or in dense cover. The earliest “rifleman’s knife” I’ve ever seen had an 18″ blade (the same as a _gladius_ or Roman short sword). A good, big knife was useful in combat, or in cooking and various camp chores. A man with a Pennsylvania rifle (named for where it was made) or a Kentucky rifle (the same piece, named for where it was used) and a good knife was a power unto himself. Add a couple of dogs and he was king. Of the wild frontier.
But then a peculiar thing — although no more peculiar than the centuries-long race between trousers and underpants which left Sir Walter Raleigh, to name an example, wearing his skivvies (called “pantaloons”, which somehow seems appropriate) on the outside — began happening.
Weapons began improving, which, in this context, means they acquired a different, more reliable ignition system, another barrel (in one of the final Hornblower stories, Lady Barbara gives her husband a brace of double-barreled percussion-fired pistols), and eventually, a five- or six-shot cylinder. Finally, the self-contained metallic cartridge came along. You no longer had to pour powder into the piece, crunch a bullet in on top of it, and cap the nipple at the back.
This process — the development, not the reloading, although it sometimes seems that way — took a century, during which knives began to shrink. A knife is a good tool to have, to sharpen your quill pen, cut the end off your cigar, or carve notches in the handle of your sixgun, but a three-inch folder is as useful (maybe even _moreso_) as the fixed-blade 16-incher Buffalo Bill wore on the prairie and in his Wild West shows. The usual Bowie knife was more like nine to twelve inches.
In cultures where firearms didn’t catch on, or were forbidden, as in Japan, blade technology and technique went on developing until government acquired enough rifles to force everybody else to disarm themselves. But I digress.
That’s the story as it’s usually told, and as far as it goes, it’s correct. But I have long suspected that there’s another aspect to it that hasn’t been explored and discussed. The same historical period that saw twelve-inch Bowie knives gradually shrink into three-inch Uncle Henrys also saw the rise of bank drafts, paper currencies, checking accounts, and credit cards, each requiring less physical protection from freelance criminals than the silver or gold coins they supplanted.
(I’d mention here it was credit cards, the socioeconomic structure built around them, and a political mindset that sees hard-won real wealth as mere numbers in a machine, that made the recent record theft of 17 _trillion_ dollars by government and the big “banksters” bosses possible, but I wouldn’t want to have to apologize for digressing once again.)
The basic principle here is relatively simple. There are a great many reasons government and its owners are opposed to using precious metals as money. The metals involved — copper, nickel, silver, gold, platinum, and possibly iridium and palladium — are all elementary, which is to say, composed of one kind of atom, and nearly impossible to counterfeit. This makes inflation — a huge source of government and bankster income — virtually impossible. And within two weeks of switching to real money, there’ll be clever devices on the counters of every mom and pop convenience store to verify the authenticity of the coins.
Nor is it easy even to “corner” the market — that is, to collect enough of the stuff so that you can decide the price. I believe it was the Hunt brothers who were the last to learn that the hard way, with silver. (There’s a natural law, the Law of Marginal Utility, that explains why, but I won’t go into it here.) It would probably be impossible even for government to corner a bimetallic or trimetallic market.
Governments and their owners hate, loathe, and despise real money mostly because they can’t fake it or control it. But another reason people don’t often think about very much is that real money makes the carrying of personal weapons, if not absolutely obligatory, then at least highly advisable. And even more than “heavy metal”, government and its owners are deeply unhappy about people carrying personal weapons.
Think back to the movies, or to ancient tapestries and paintings, if you prefer. Do you ever see somebody with a money pouch hanging on his belt who isn’t also carrying a sword or dagger? Even the women (who sometimes had daggers, too) carried great, big, scary scissors. In those days, government was just as crooked and useless as it is today, but more people knew it, and provided for their own security. Not only does this obviate the need for cops — they were never much use anyway — but personal weapons affect people’s psychology, make them more resistant to being stolen from, or lied to, or told what to do.
Sure, government will issue you a license to carry concealed (something it was your unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to do anyway, any time, any place, without asking anybody’s permission.) Pushing permits was a huge strategic error on our part. It gives government lists of those who own weapons, and sometimes what those weapons are. This is exactly what we fought _against_ when I first became politically involved, more than half a century ago.
But they had to: from the late 60s on, folks were carrying anyway, and crime had begun falling in double digits. It’s the same principle as repeal of alcohol prohibition. Not only were ordinary, everyday, Productive Class people ignoring it, the state couldn’t get juries to convict violators. So to save face, government very “magnanimously” repealed the Volstead Act, leaving a tax structure in its place that now supports acts of state terrorism like Ruby Ridge and the Waco Massacre.
Government will go on resisting the oncep of armed individuals carrying hard money. They’ll find every excuse they can to deprive us of our property, our liberty, and our lives. That’s why they steal it from you if you carry what they can represent as too much cash. That’s why they issue dire warnings about “terrorist” traits like having a Ron Paul bumper sticker on your car. It will get worse before it gets better.
It’s started happening in some places already: the green light has been given to BATFE thugs. People with both concealed weapons permits and medical marijuana cards will be denied the right to own weapons at all. (Government desperately wants to do the same thing to military veterans who’ve undergone post-combat psychiatric counseling of any kind; those who’ve seen the little man behind the curtain up close and personal are especially dangerous, which is why the current regime is attempting to deprive those who are deployed of their right to vote, as well.) House-to-house searches will almost certainly be conducted, with all of the happy “accidents” and tragedies” that they usually involve. Film — mostly of some government goon’s gloved palm — at eleven.
There was a time when you might be issued a permit to carry a gun even in the strictest jurisdictions like New York City under the 1911 Sullivan Act, if you could demonstrate a “legitimate need”, beyond general self-defense (which was apparently as illegal in New York then as it is today). Working at a trade or in a profession where you often carried large amounts of cash (depositing the daily proceeds of your jewelry store at the bank, for example) was one such “legitimate need”, probably because government expected its piece of the action eventually.
Under a hard money regime, everybody will have a legitimate need to carry a weapon, and that’s going to cause ten million headaches for totalitarian toads and tin-pot tyrants typified by New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He’s already pretty worried, since the Supreme Court put the kibosh on gun prohibition in D.C. and several other places.
So: get yourself a gun to defend your fundamental right to real money. And buy silver (and those other naughty metals, too) to uphold the Second Amendment. There’s really only one right, after all, and that is to remain absolutely unmolested by government or by anybody else.
L. Neil Smith is a Science fiction Author of The Probability Broach plus many more titles.