December 17th, 2012

tree_face

Hobby Lobbies

I'm always hearing how powerful the NRA is in Washington, and I believe it - but I confess I don't understand the economics. Presumably it's money that wins them political influence rather than the compelling nature of their arguments, but I'm surprised they're rich enough to be politically impregnable. No doubt the gun manufacturers contribute a lot to their coffers, but are they really richer than, say, than the tobacco or drinks lobbies - which seem to have a harder time imposing their will on the lawmakers? Or maybe they supplement their fighting fund with whip-rounds at shooting ranges and hunting clubs, the way they used to pass the NORAID hat round Boston bars?

Anyway, from here it's strange seeing a group of hobbyists hold the government to ransom. It's rather as if it were a by-word that "You don't mess with the morris dancers", or "They'll never put VAT on balsa wood - the model aircraft enthusiasts wouldn't stand for it."

The closest comparison I can think of is fox-hunting, which took a lot of outlawing (and then in a half-hearted, tenth-enforced sort of way), and would no doubt have been reinstated long ago had the Tories been governing alone. Although they are different in several obvious ways, there are some points of similarity in the two groups' rhetoric. The fox-hunting lobby didn't become powerful because riding to hounds really is the most efficient way to control foxes, any more than the gun lobby has become powerful because Thomas Jefferson wanted assault weapons for all. But both groups have managed to identify their own narrow interests with sacred and immemorial national freedoms, of which they see themselves as guardians. A neat trick, if you can pull it off.