"Guns and butter" refers to the economic calculation a (more or less) developed nation must make about where it draws the budgetary line on expenditures for international security of its borders versus outlays for the security and domestic comfort of its citizens. I have a new metric, however - I replace butter with cheese. Guns and cheese is the new calculation.
One of this country's principal exports, something we still manufacture at home and which the current administration hopes will go some way towards balancing a hopeless trade deficit, is arms of all sorts. It appears that we've increasingly been selling American-made firearms to pretty much anyone who can afford them. On the theory that the country has to get back into the business of making and selling stuff people want, it's the obvious thing. We make so many of them and people seem to want them.
What red-blooded patriot could object to this brisk international business in fair-trade arms? If Guatemala can export fair-trade coffee and fair-trade native textiles, then we should be able to export our own native handicrafts on an open market. It's a windfall for the national GNP, and if anyone needs a boost now it's the good old U.S.of A. You need a tank, Vladimir? We got plenty.
My main hesitation here is that I don't really want a gun and I don't care to up our import quotas in that department. But there are some imported things I'm not allowed to get my hands on, and some other things that aren't imported but I'm still not allowed to have them. I'm starting to feel the rub - it seems like if you just refuse your God-given right of gun ownership in this country, you get Zimmerman-ed one way or the other.
Here's a case in point: Twenty-one states ban the sale of raw milk. Some states permit its sale in stores, while others only allow it to be purchased directly from farms - and then only in small quantities. Raw milk may harm me and I am privileged by my citizenship to be sheltered from such wanton dairy-borne mayhem. Big deal, I hear you say. Raw milk. It's not the milk I'm after, however, it's the raw milk cheese. I'm not legally permitted to buy cheese from France, let's say, or Spain, if it's made with raw milk. (And once you've tasted cheese from raw milk, you never go back. It's like converting from Christianity to Islam - you're forever lost to your better lights.)
Fromage by any other name is just Velveeta
While we're on the subject of imported foods, there's the question of haggis, the quintessentially Scotch concoction of sheep's offal. It's a safe guess that any recipe beginning "Wash, dress and clean thoroughly one sheep's stomach . . . ." ends up contraband in this land of triglycerides. I'll be the first to admit that if it were legal I wouldn't touch it with your hands, but it's the principle of the thing after all. It can't be worse for you than a Daylight Donut, which is pretty much a nutritional benchmark.
They can make it, but they can't make it pretty
There are, however, some comestibles that I legally cannot get but do want. I'm not talking about foie gras - it's hard on the goose I understand, so I can live without it. But what about absinthe, the fin-de-siecle French version of medical marijuana. Turns out that it is not legally to be had in these United States if it contains wormwood. And absinthe without wormwood is like a grenade launcher with no grenades. Why self-lobotomize if you're just going to wake up and remember everything clearly?
By itself, sitting in its little glass, it looks harmless enough, but the wormwood is the stuff that carries it off, makes it an otherworldly experience, I'm told. Absinthe, like ouzo and Pernod, turns a milky white when cut with water, as in the glass on the table before the young cafe patroness below. You can tell by the lady's eyes that she has suffered permanent transfiguration and will be none the worse for it in memory.
What's more, I can't legally travel to Cuba . . .
. . . nor can I have in my possession a Cuban cigar.
Given that the elfin Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has refused to take our last few Presidents with the seriousness their fundamental gravitas requires, and that we are in some mysterious way beholden to the nesting mania of the Israeli nation where the West Bank is concerned, I can never lawfully acquire a Persian carpet.
But I can own one of these things with less ID than it now takes to vote in Pennsylvania and Florida.
For that matter, one of these is pretty much all the voter ID you need to vote in Florida. Freedom's just another word for nuthin' left to shoot.