The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed. That’s great. There were over 600,000 hunters.
Allow me to restate that number. Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay.
But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week. Michigan’s 700,000 hunters have now returned home. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia, and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.
These numbers are part of why those of us who grew up in rural parts of the country simply don’t comprehend the gun-grabbing impulses of some. Every single year, millions of Americans carry high power rifles into the woods and more or less do as they please – some shoot at deer, some just drink a lot – and it is a complete non-story. The number of people injured and killed by these guns will pale in comparison to those injured and killed in driving accidents during the same time period.
But however well or badly we handle our guns, woe will befall he who thinks he can conquer America. 500 years ago, Machiavelli compared ancient Persia with then-modern France. Persia was highly centralized, so the emperor was firmly in control of all parts of his realm, and could muster enormous numbers of men to any part of the country. But if you could defeat that army and the central authority that raised it, then you would almost immediately control the whole nation, as Alexander showed. Medieval France, on the other hand, was very decentralized, with petty dukes controlling small centers of power throughout the country. Because of this, the king of France had only marginal control over vast swaths of his country , but no invader could stand a chance at conquering France because of all the small bands of local opposition.
I wish N.M. was around today, if only to hear the praise he would have for a nation that every year assembles and then disbands the world’s largest army purely for the purpose of managing its deer population. For millenia, philosophers have pondered how one can maintain a well-armed population that can fend off all attackers, while simultaneously maintaining ordered governance. In America, we’ve fulfilled this dream, and we’ve done it so well and so effortlessly that no one seems to have noticed.