Everyone knows that communists are disgusting fools who promote an ideology that killed hundreds of millions of people and still threatens to destroy freedom and prosperity, but did you know that you—yes, you—are also a filthy little commie puke?
British historian Robert Conquest (correctly) opined that “everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” This fundamental truth applies even to those on the left, particularly the activist class. While they may call for higher taxes, for example, they do everything they can to protect their own money from the government. Likewise, most people simply don’t take massive risks with their own lives, money, property, etc., despite many being willing to demand that you take risks with yours. One glaring example is the fact that employees of labor unions are often forbidden from…forming a union. Why? Because the union knows darn well that having a unionized workforce is bad for management, so when management is them, workers’ rights be damned. But this law of politics is not the subject of this article.
I would posit an additional law, one that is arguably the inverse of Conquest’s. It is thus: “Almost everyone is a communist about what they want.” I didn’t fully comprehend this fundamental truth until the Great Ammunition Crisis of 2020-2021 hit.
Around the fall of 2020, I started to see forum comments, social media posts and reactions, remarks on web articles, etc.—and I mean tons of it— from upstanding, law-abiding, patriotic Americans. Virtually all of them were whining about first the lack of availability of guns and ammunition, and soon after the increased prices of both.
To start, virtually every single one cried foul about the lack of supply. Despite a healthy dose of reporting on the subject in shooting media outlets and even coverage in the mainstream media, almost everyone who commented about the issue insisted that there must be some conspiracy restricting supply. The fact that there was a pandemic that made work conditions less-than-optimal for production and disrupted supply lines, or the fact that five to 10 million new gun owners entered the market in a period of about 90 days did not matter. There must have been some sinister force at play.
The supply problems were entirely due to an unprecedented increase in demand combined with COVID social-distancing measures and some resultant hiccups in the supply chain. But that was merely the start of seeing how fine Americans who likely identify as conservative or libertarian—but certainly not leftist, socialist or, with apologies to P.J. O’Rourke, puke-gutted-bolshevik-rectum-eater—slowly morphed into dirty, filthy communists.
Around the beginning of 2021, the complaints began to change as the ammunition supply began to increase and inventory started to show up on retailers’ shelves, albeit at prices most would consider ridiculous, like $50 for a 50-round box of Russian steel-cased 9 mm. I get it; that commie garbage should be like 15 cents per round, not a buck per shot. But, why might prices have increased?
Because. Of. Demand.
I will say it again: because of demand. Everyone knows that the whole damn country is buying or wants to buy ammunition. The pandemic, violent rioting in our cities, cuts in law enforcement budgets, calls to eliminate the police and hateful, eliminationist rhetoric directed at supporters of the 45th President of the United States are but a few reasons why many—if not most—Americans thought 2020 would be a good year to arm up to protect hearth, home and family. As mentioned, between five and 10 million people bought a gun for the first time in 2020. They probably figured out that the gun is fairly useless without ammunition, so they bought at least a couple of boxes of the bangy stuff, too. Add to that the 80 to 100 million Americans who owned guns prior to 2020 also recognizing that things weren’t (and indeed still aren’t) looking all that safe or stable and therefore it might be time to add to their ammo stockpile, and you can see how an increase in demand in the neighborhood of literally billions more rounds of ammunition hit like a meteor between March and June of 2020, continuing through the rest of that year and into 2021.
Supply could not match that demand, no matter how many shifts or machines were added to manufacturing capacity. When demand goes up while supply either stays the same, decreases or increases at a slower rate than demand, prices increase. This is not even Econ 101; it’s like the first discussion on the subject that one might encounter in their freshman year of high school, or maybe even earlier.
But many otherwise conservative, libertarian or just not-soulless-pinko-commie Americans simply would not accept this basic principle of economics. “Price gouging!” They cried. “Unfair to the working folks!” They bellowed. “Something must be done to stop the price increases!” They demanded. “Boycott retailers who jack up prices!” They shrieked. Why? Why would otherwise reasonable people who recognize the dangers posed by statism, socialism and wretched-filthy-revolting-pig-monkey communism demand with full voice and passion that ammunition be doled out from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs?
Because almost everyone is a communist about what they want.
And therein lies a major problem, because communism is a disgusting evil that needs to be blotted from the universe, but the people I used to think were most inclined to do so are actually closet bolsheviks. You want price controls on ammo? Fine, but why stop there? Why not have price controls on other things that people need, like food? After all, the Soviet Union was known for producing massive grain surpluses and having so much food that no one had to wait in line at a supermarket to buy endless options of every kind of food one could imagine, right?
Oh, wait. No, that’s the opposite of reality. Those communist swine had to import grain from the hated imperialist Americans, and some Soviet citizens were lucky enough to get to wait in a line stretching from Gorky Park to Dzerzhinsky Square to buy whatever meat was available on Thursday, which was your day to maybe buy miscellaneous cattle offal for your table, if there was enough to go around.
But prices were stable, comrade! Well, they weren’t, because things people actually wanted were sold on a very-capitalist-indeed black market. Purchased nalyevo, on the left, was how ordinary people got “luxury” goods like pantyhose, blue jeans, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, etc. in that stinking commie rathole.
Apparently, many people want that same situation to apply to ammunition and firearms in our beloved country. And I get it. Times are tough. Heavy-handed lockdowns and social-distancing mandates during the pandemic have cost millions of jobs and destroyed significant sources of income. People who were just minding their own business have been faced with 400- to 500-percent price hikes on ammunition at a time when spending-money is in short supply. Having some imaginary wicked force to blame is comforting, even if that blame is misplaced, incorrect and ignorant of how the economy (any economy) operates. Demanding someone or thing come fix the problem by force—because all laws are threats to use force to obtain compliance—is, sadly, an all-too-common, but understandable reaction to discovering a difficulty getting what one wants, when one wants it, for a price one considers “fair” (which for a great many people is “free”).
That reaction is why communism remains a threat despite being thoroughly discredited in the last century. And almost everyone has that reaction when something they want gets hit with a price shock. Because almost everyone is a communist about what they want.
As a result, I weep for the future.
Koba is a pseudonym for one of the industry’s well-known writers and observers. The piece was written “after answering no fewer than 150 emails from people telling me about ‘the ammo conspiracy.’”