December 11, 1996

Via e-mail

Robin MacDonald
[email protected]
Health & Safety Administrative Technician
Streets Department
625 Ninth Street -- P.O. Box 580
Fort Collins, CO 80522-0580

Ms. MacDonald:

         As I promised when you came to my door this morning, we're mailing you a check in the amount you demand, in payment for "services" we never consented to. We still don't consent, and are only paying you to avoid being beaten up or killed.
         Read this carefully: it isn't meant as any kind of threat; if anything, it's an expression of gratitude that you've "raised our consciousness", inspiring us to become involved in local government.
         We're not hard folks to deal with; we're not too weird. I'm a novelist with two literary awards to his credit, who wrote three books in the Star Wars series, gives good radio, and gets paid to speak at conventions all over the country. I was an Eagle Scout. My wife is a much-admired professional who just won an award for excellence at CSU. All we demand is that you obey the law -- and know which law it's most important to obey.
         Apparently, you don't. A couple of weekends ago -- on a Saturday morning -- in aggressive violation of our First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Amendment rights, you sent a laborer with a weedeater across our fenceline to execute an ordinance meant to impose social esthetics under the specious guise of health and safety. Although he left when ordered to, he gloated that we'd be getting a bill from the city for his "services". It wasn't the first incident of this sort. Last time, your minions not only went through the motions of rearranging our property to your satisfaction without our permission, but stole firewood from us, as well.
         Until now, we've paid the bills you sent because it was less trouble than whatever else we might have done. Clearly, this was a mistake. We (of all people) should have known better. The price we've paid is, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evincing a design to reduce them [meaning us] under absolute despotism". It's the second Christmas you've spoiled this way.
         One reason we've been "more disposed to suffer while [such] evils are sufferable" (quoting Jefferson again) is that we're politically active at the national level, preferring to expend effort that way, rather than disturb the peace of our hometown. I'm the most widely- published and prolific Libertarian author in the world. I was the recent campaign chairman for a third party Presidential candidate; I'm the head of an international civil rights organization; I publish a globally-circulated online magazine. I've been called "the most frequently crossposted writer on the internet". As the author of 20 popular (and very political) novels, I'm constantly beset by fans (only in the nicest way) and critics, and relieved to enjoy my relative anonymity here. Now you've made that untenable.
         Another reason we've put up with you is that I'm a 50-year-old diabetic who suffered two heart attacks in 1993 and my wife spent part of this summer in the hospital with a life-threatening gastro- intestinal disorder. We'd rather spend our precious time walking around the neighborhood (three miles a day) enjoying each other's company than, say, canvassing to replace current city council members with people who manifest some regard for the highest law of the land.
         In my view (and there may be millions reading this on the internet who agree with me) there's no moral difference between what you've done to us and what was done to the government's 81 innocent victims -- 22 of them little children -- near Waco, Texas. It's only a matter of degree. What's more, atrocities like Waco happen (not to mention Ruby Ridge, the Philadelphia MOVE bombing, and the murder of Donald Scott) because we hesitate to protest the "little" things.
         George Washington observed, "Government is force". Lord Acton added, "Power corrupts." So we end up -- at best -- with ludicrous incidents where bureaucrats, drunk on miniscule amounts of authority, suspend schoolkids for a Kindergarten kiss, for wearing lipstick of a politically incorrect color, or for possessing a Swiss Army knife, or Midol. At worst, as I say, we end up with thuggish Ninja wannabes in black nylon, body armor, ski masks, and Nazi helmets, machine-gunning, poison-gassing, and incinerating to death families who've done nothing but choose to worship in an unconventional and unapproved-of manner.
         That's what you've made yourself a part of. A small part, as you protested to me, low on the totem pole, but a part nonetheless, with no more excuse for your intrusions into other people's lives than the bleating of German concentration camp guards that they were "only following orders". That "defense" was properly rejected at Nuremburg after World War II; it's no more acceptable to me. As I asked when you were here, what happened to whatever it was you once believed in?
         Consider what may seem a minor facet of this situation: who was the creature you sent to violate our rights? Suppose my daughter had been out playing in what she assumes -- what every little girl has a right to assume -- is the safety and privacy of her own back yard? Are you prepared to vouch for him? Do you even know who he was? Are you willing personally to accept civil and criminal liability for his behavior? How about moral responsibility?
         Now, as I say, we're paying you because we're perfectly well aware that you have city ordinances to fall back on (and to hell with the Bill of Rights), ten times more cops than is healthy for a city this size, and courts that rubberstamp whatever government feels like doing to those, like us, who are forced at bayonet-point to pay for it.
         Happily, there are other splendidly democratic remedies available. For starters (and this is only the beginning of a list longer than I want to write just now, or you want to read), there's the "English" jury. Under that 1000-year-old system, a jury has the right, power, and duty to weigh not merely the facts of a case, but the law itself. Judges and trial lawyers hate it, and try not to let juries know about it, but there isn't a thing they can do to stop it. Mention "jury nullification" to any DA or city attorney. Stand back and watch what happens. You may want to wear a raincoat.
         Equally happily, I'm acquainted with the leaders of a national movement -- the "Fully Informed Jury Association" -- which exists to apprise potential jurors (meaning the general public) of their 1000- year-old right, power, and duty. I've been too focused elsewhere to offer them help before, but now you've changed that. The minute you cash our check, I'll take personal satisfaction in inaugurating FIJA's "Robin MacDonald Chapter", to remind everyone who prompted its creation. About the time it starts costing local prosecutors all of their victimless crime cases, you ought to be real popular.
         At the same time, I'll contact as many victims of your predations as I can, to discuss a series of lawsuits, not against the city (as taxpayers, we'd just end up paying ourselves) but against you. While I mistrust a "justice" system carefully reshaped over two centuries to deny Americans the full exercise of their rights, even a total victory is too costly if you must spend the rest of your life in court -- and everything you possess -- to achieve it.
         I have 50 or 60 other ideas. Teams (we may name them after you, as well) will monitor all city vehicles and work crews, recording every minor infraction of the law, noting how much time workers spend on breaks or simply leaning on their shovels, and then reporting their findings -- for hours on end -- at every city council meeting.
         It also occurs to me that Lovelanders dedicated to dismantling the city sales tax could use Fort Collins allies. I know their leader, although we haven't spoken in years. You'll be bringing two old friends together because it's clear to me (as it will be to everybody else) that there's too much government in this town, and that an initiative to reduce the budget -- by, say 85% -- would improve the quality of life, if only by shutting your office down. If we say "85%" often and loudly enough, want to bet we can't achieve a 40% cut?
         Another notion I'm fond of is the "Non-Aggression Amendment", an initiative under which city employees, especially the police, will be forbidden, under any circumstances, to initiate force against anyone for any reason. Libertarians live by this principle -- I have myself, for 34 years -- so why shouldn't government? And if it protests that it can't, what will that say to the average voter? Maybe we'll call it the "Robin MacDonald Non-Aggression Amendment".
         What can you do to forestall this political frenzy, prevent the initiation of several dozen similar projects, and reshift our focus back to the national level? Simple: get out of our yard and out of our lives. Return our check uncashed, consult your records and refund our previous extortion payments. We want a letter of apology, and a promise in writing -- countersigned by the mayor and city manager -- that you won't do this sort of thing any more, to us or anybody else. In general, remember the Bill of Rights and keep it wholly.
         Oh, yes -- and bring us a 7-foot hardwood log (preferably maple), at least 9 inches in diameter, to replace the one you stole from us.
         Finally go to Barnes & Noble, buy Pallas and The Probability Broach, and read them. Don't be put off by the fact they're in the science fiction section. That's where George Orwell properly belongs, along with Aldous Huxley and Ayn Rand. These books will tell you more about who I am, and what I stand for, than anything I say here. I'm told every day that they've changed thousands of lives. They could do it for you. They should be required reading for all bureaucrats.
         Someday, they will be.

L. Neil Smith


L. Neil Smith's Prometheus Award-winning The Probability Broach offers a window onto a Libertarian civilization -- and enough sex and violence to keep even the most apolitical reader turning pages. Buy it at bookstores anywhere, or call Laissez Faire Books 1-800-326-0996


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