Delivered April 19, 1997 at the Annual Convention of the Arizona Libertarian Party
The news was very bad the day I started writing this speech. Not
in the traditional "Old Media" -- where there's never anything but
bad news (mostly government threats and lies which it's their
principal function to convey to the populace) -- but in the only
source of good news in the Known Galaxy, the internet.
Government, it would appear, is waging war against the people.
Here in Arizona, for example, a woman first impoverished and then
terrorized by an appropriately named "criminal justice system" had
no choice but to plead guilty and to go to prison merely for
associating with other individuals who did nothing more, themselves,
than exercise rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.
Government is waging war against the people. In another state,
using his own life-threatening illnesses as a weapon against him, the
authorities were systematically murdering a man in jail (if he isn't
dead already; the sheriff is withholding information on his condition
from the public, the media don't care, and a local judge has illegally
refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus) a man in jail not for
growing a single medicinal marijuana plant on his front porch in plain
view of everyone, but for expressing his politically incorrect ideas
and ideals openly, often, and at inexhaustible length on the internet.
Government is waging war against the people. In Not-So-Great
Britain, a political regime (which came to power only because people
wanted more freedom, but which has begun jailing them for carrying
utility knives in their cars) announced its decision to outlaw
electronic privacy, declaring that from now on, PGP and other
encryption programs would be licensed, and a decrypting key provided
to the selfsame obnoxious bum-sniffers that these programs were
invented to keep out of the individual's private business in the
Government is waging war against the people. At the same time, the
actor Sean Connery -- James Bond himself, indomitable hero of dozens
of inspiring adventure films and, in real life, the likeliest leader
(some say president, some say King) of a free Scotland -- was
recording vicious, lying voiceovers for advertisements on behalf of
the vile English equivalent of Sarah Brady, demanding a complete ban
on everything that shoots, right down to .22 single-shot target
pistols. In the 90s, apparently, "007" means a license to kill
Government is waging war against the people. Back home, the
National Rifle Association, which calls itself the "world's oldest,
largest civil rights organization" was exposed in an incredibly
corrupt and apparently not unprecedented scam in which they offered
to defend an individual set up and falsely accused by the BATF -- the
original baby-butchers at Waco -- but only if the NRA got all of the
publicity and retained the right to plead the individual guilty
(despite his innocence) whenever they reckoned they'd spent enough
money on him.
Government is waging war against the people. Meanwhile, the
distinguished editor of a high-quality gun magazine wrote an editorial
in which he conceded -- as if he were a tobacco company executive
staring down at the carpet and scuffing it with a guilty toe -- that
maybe gun control isn't such a bad idea after all, and that there are
undeniably some kinds of people (and who might they be, Jan, the
Chinese, the Irish, the Italians, blacks, women?) who probably
should be denied free ownership of firearms, despite the fact that
it's been unequivocally guaranteed to them by the highest law of the
land, the Bill of Rights.
Government is waging war against the people. The Republican Party
-- the party that talks very glibly about individual liberty whenever
it wants its candidates to win elections, but that spends more time
and effort between elections sneaking around behind our backs raping
the Bill of Rights with what Charles Curley has called "Pearl Harbor"
legislation -- the Republican Party lies paralyzed, like a whale
stranded on a beach somewhere. And given their recent record, that may
be a good thing. One by one, GOP leaders that many had counted on to
help fix things were disappointing their constituents: Dick Armey,
Trent Lott (don't forget Ken Starr), maybe even Fred Thompson. And Mr.
Spock was wrong: only Newt Gingrich could go to China, on the arm of
Government is waging war against the people. All over the country,
little kids were getting busted: for kissing each other at school; for
sharing Midol and Alka-Seltzer; for carrying wee pen knives -- by a
public institution that long ago proved itself utterly incapable of
(and uninterested in) teaching them to read, or of doing much of
anything else except advancing the National Education Association's
fascist agenda. At the same time, American jurors were being
threatened for rendering the fairest verdict they were capable of, and
elderly ladies were being arrested for feeding other people's parking
Government is waging war against the people. The nation's courts
-- more specifically, its judges -- have begun converting democracy
into a museum of totalitarian horrors. In a state where voters decided
that individuals may determine for themselves whether to live or die,
and under what conditions, a court determined for them that such a
decision was somehow unconstitutional. In another, where voters
decided not to create another politically protected class by granting
special privileges to homosexuals, courts told them they couldn't make
that decision, either. In yet another couple of states, where voters
decided to ease marijuana laws for medical reasons, the government
deluged physicians and the public with threats. And in a state where
voters decided to sweep away 30 years of unconstitutional preferences
based on race, courts again reversed the will of the people, a finding
since invalidated, although the quota-socialists still have at least
two levels of appeals to fall back on.
Government is waging war against the people. The mass media go
easy on mass-murderers like Deng Xiaoping or Janet Reno because in
trade where, "if it bleeds it leads," they're seen as benefactors.
Yet Amnesty International and the so-called "American" so-called
"Civil" so-called "Liberties" so-called "Union" maintain their
cowardly and hypocritical silence with regard to Waco -- which, I
suppose, is better than the Anti-Defamation League which actively
supports the Clinton massacre and attacks anyone who criticizes it --
Waco, an infamously historic event regarding which the so-called
"presidential" so-called "candidate" of the so-called "Libertarian"
so-called "Party" had to be bullied for two solid years before he even
mentioned it in his so-called "campaign".
Government is waging war against the people. And that was just a
single day in the life of a single individual member of this
civilization, the day I happened to start writing this speech. It all
sounds quite thoroughly insane, doesn't it? In fact it sounds very
much like the ergot-induced mass insanity people suffered from in the
Dark Ages. It also sounds like the "Crazy Years" that Robert A.
Heinlein predicted and wrote about in his outline of future history.
Yes, it's clear that government is waging war against the people.
But if you haven't given up altogether -- given up on civilization,
given up on humanity, given up on yourself, given up on the future of
any of those things -- if you haven't given up, then the next
questions that naturally arise are these:
"Why is government waging war against the people?"
"Why is all of this insanity happening?"
"And what, if anything, can we do about it?".
The first thing you need to know, in order to establish some
perspective and avoid panic, is that the violent government excesses
we're seeing today are far from unprecedented. They don't represent a
new pattern at all, but one that's very old indeed -- even in "the
land of the free and the home of the brave".
In World War I (just to begin in the 20th century, and as a single
example out of thousands from that era) a young Hutterite --
Hutterites are a German pacifist sect who immigrated to America to
avoid conscription by the Kaiser and settled principally in the
Dakotas -- a young Hutterite boy who refused military service for
reasons of religious conviction, neverthless agreed to do everything
required of him by the Army except put on its uniform. Taken to the
prison at Fort Leavenworth in the dead of Kansas winter, he was
suspended for weeks by wrist-manacles from a pipe in a cellar with a
foot of water on the floor. When he caught pneumonia and died, before
his grief-stricken mother could arrive by train to claim her dead
son's body, the Army buried it.
In a uniform.
In World War II, Japanese-Americans were confined in
concentrations camps illegally, while the homes and farms they'd
labored all their lives to build were stolen from them by neighbors or
local governments, often never to be returned.
In the 1950s, federal agencies invaded a community of Mormon
polygamists, sorted the families out like herds of animals and made
humiliating photographs of them, while the husbands and fathers were
held in prison until they signed written statements denouncing plural
marriages and rendering their children illegitimate.
We all know how tax-resistor Gordon Kahl was ambushed, publicly
defamed, hunted down, and finally gassed, machinegunned, and
incinerated (and where have we heard that before?), while his
daughter was found mysteriously shot to death in her car on a lonely
country road a year later. Most of us also remember how a group of
people in Philadelphia, accused of nothing more serious than
disturbing the peace, was bombed by a police helicopter. The resulting
fire killed 11 and destroyed 60 homes, and the mayor who ordered the
bombing was reelected.
What it all means is that you can't let anybody get away with
claiming that today's horrors are rare, regrettable exceptions,
aberrations, the acts of isolated renegades within the government.
What they are -- what they've always been -- are expressions of
policy, a policy that invariably places every consideration before
that one indivisible value the United States was created to cherish
above all others, the life, liberty, and property of the individual.
Since 1750, human lifespan has been lengthened 3 1/2-fold by
science and capitalism. But how much, on average, has it been
shortened by governments which, in just this century alone have
murdered a quarter of a billion people? There can be no net benefit
from government. The worst thing about the Nanny State is that Nanny
needs babies to mind, and if she can't find them, she'll make them
out of the materials at hand. And if the potential babies resist --
well, you can't have Hillary's healthcare without Hitler's Holocaust.
They arise from exactly the same source, the power of the state to use
brute force against the individual to get whatever it is they --
Hillary and Hitler -- decide they want.
There is, however, one highly important difference between
yesterday's failures of the American Dream and those we witness with
increasing alarm today.
A few years ago, my good friend and esteemed colleague, Alan Bock
of the Orange County Register, wrote a book called The Fourth
American Revolution: Reviving the Dream (still unpublished, which is
significant in and of itself) in which he asked the question of our
age. The Cold War, Alan observed, the most prolonged and terrible
conflict between good and evil in the history of mankind, is over. We
won it. Now think about what Times Square looked like at the end of
World War II, the famous photo of the sailor kissing the girl -- how
come we aren't all out dancing in the streets?
The answer of course is that, no matter what the hagiographers of
Saint Ronald Wilson Reagan would have us believe, "we" didn't win the
Cold War, at all. Any society based on central planning and a command
economy is untenable, against the laws of nature, and bound sooner or
later to collapse of its own weight, whether acted upon by an outside
force or not. And the dismal historic truth is that most of the
"outside force" that came from us was meant not to defeat the Evil
Empire, but to prop it up. "We" didn't win the Cold War. "They" lost
And, more importantly in the present context, a surprising number
of that "they" who lost the Cold War still make up a majority of those
by whom we find ourselves governed, in what we naively once believed
was the Free World. I'll repeat that, since it's central to everything
else I'll say tonight. Some of that "they" who lost the Cold War are
those by whom we now find ourselves governed.
I once said -- or I will; I get confused when I'm writing more
than one book at a time as I am now; it's almost as bad as time-travel
-- that if you put a "little" man in a position to say "no", he
inevitably will. Robert A. Heinlein spoke more to the point: "Don't
frighten a little man. He'll kill you."
The domestic foes of individual liberty -- those by whom we find
ourselves governed -- are "little men", deep down inside. They see
themselves that way, exactly as they were bred to do. Exactly as they
were indoctrinated to do. Otherwise, they'd be doing something else,
something genuinely productive for a living. Otherwise, they'd leave
us the hell alone. Otherwise, they'd be us.
What's more, these "little men" by whom we find ourselves
governed, who were unable or unwilling to learn a lesson from the
fatal flaws spreading within its foundation like cracks caused by the
settling earth, have watched the world of their fondest, most
cherished hopes and dreams collapse with the demolition of the Berlin
Wall and the demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
To them, because they were unwilling or unable to learn the
fundamental laws of nature, it must have seemed an inexplicable
nightmare. What we all witnessed in those heady days was a rebirth of
long-suppressed freedom. What the "little men" by whom we find
ourselves governed were forced to witness was the humiliating and --
to them -- mysterious fall of their counterparts, their alter-egos,
people they admired, people to whom they offered as much political and
economic support as they dared, people with whom they attended
glittering cocktail parties and diplomatic receptions. People with
whom they knocked back vintage champagne and beluga caviar as if
somebody else were paying for it.
Which we were.
Publicly of course, these "little men" by whom we find ourselves
governed always claimed there was a universe of difference between
the collectivized East and the particularized West.
Privately, they know their own thoughts.
They know that there isn't a microgram of difference between their
innermost philosophy of governance and that of their sadly fallen
comrades. They hate, loathe, and despise the free market system.
They hate, loathe, and despise private industrial capitalism. They
hate, loathe, and despise the Bill of Rights. What's more -- and if
you doubt me or think I exaggerate, just have a conversation with any
cop, any judge, or any city councilman -- they perceive even the
slightest manifestation of individuality (let alone of individualism)
as an administrative inconvenience and a potential police problem.
Naturally, the "little men" by whom we find ourselves governed
fear that a disaster similar to that which consumed their Soviet
colleagues may overwhelm them.
And they are terribly, terribly afraid.
Remember what Heinlein said: "Don't frighten a little man. He'll
If you'd like an idea of what the "little men" by whom we find
ourselves governed are most afraid of -- and of how far gone they are
in terms of mental and moral health -- consider that for decades we've
been handed a line of guff about how policemen are a "thin blue line"
keeping us from being overwhelmed by the barbarian criminal hordes.
Uncountable billions of dollars -- extracted from us at gunpoint by
the very institution that claims to be protecting us -- have been
spent because of that line of guff, while we've been compelled to
surrender more and more individual rights the Founding Fathers
believed were inalienable and essential.
However now we learn (although it may be buried on page D-143 of
the local fish wrapper) that although civilians are attacked by
violent criminals three times as often as policemen, policemen kill
the wrong individual five times as often as armed civilians. Allow me
to reiterate that astonishing statistic: although civilians are
attacked by violent criminals three times as often as policemen,
policemen kill the wrong individual five times as often as armed
Now, over the past few years -- motivated by the threat of pending
victim disarmament statutes originally proposed by Republican
theorists like William Bennett and enacted by regimes like the Clinton
Administration in collusion with prostitutes like Bob Dole -- ordinary
individuals have purchased weapons in unprecedented numbers. Americans
are better armed at present than at any other period in history. At
the same time -- also in unprecedented numbers -- they are carrying
those weapons, whether legally or illegally, about their persons.
Where those two things are going on, violent crime rates have
plummetted, calling into doubt the entire concept of government
peacekeeping and delegated self-defense. Policemen prevent crime the
way a crowing rooster brings the sunrise.
Clinton -- who's actually stated publicly that the Founding
Fathers were too radical and gave us too many rights and that it's
time some of them were taken back -- has tried claiming that
diminishing crime is a result of the limits he constantly imposes on
our liberties, citing crime rates that have not fallen in places that
already had stringent victim disarmament. The trouble with this lie
(which nobody on either side actually believes in any case) is that
real deterrents, gun ownership and concealed carry, have never been
allowed to work their not-too-terribly-mysterious wonders in such
places. And now we discover why. Too many cops and bureaucrats stand
to lose secure jobs and fat pensions. Better to let women and children
die in the streets ... than to give up money and power.
It doesn't help to allay their fears that President Jed Klampetsky
the hillbilly Marxist has been telling anyone who'll listen that "the
era of big government is over". Because even they can't tell when he's
lying and to whom, and because it's bad news to them (and they are
human, we must concede, and therefore more inclined to take bad news
seriously than good) the "little men" by whom we find ourselves
governed are more inclined to believe him about its being the end of
the era of big government than we ever were.
And, all over again, they are terribly, terribly afraid -- for one
thing, because not one of them believes he can find employment in the
productive sector of the economy.
Understand that for the most part I don't think any of this
represents a fully conscious awareness on the part of the "little men"
by whom we find ourselves governed. To a greater extent than many of
us realize, perhaps, they aren't capable of a fully conscious
awareness of anything. Otherwise, as I say, they'd be doing something
productive, they'd leave us alone, and they'd be us.
No, it's more like the desperate mindset of a trapped animal. The
pursuit of coercive power over others will someday be universally
recognized as a symptom of profound mental illness. In individuals who
already have such power in small or large amounts, the earth-
shattering political events of the last decade have given rise to what
I was trained to call a "psychotic break". To put it in technical
terms, the "little men" by whom we find ourselves governed are all
"going postal". Whenever something happens -- whenever anybody does
anything -- that they interpret as a threat to their authority, their
reflex is to overreact hysterically
If you take nothing else from my speech tonight, take this, and
understand it clearly: this is not the firm, confident hand of a
triumphant conqueror we're seeing at work here -- and certainly not
the signature of an enemy too powerful or deeply-entrenched to be
dislodged -- but the bloodless, trembling, uncertain fingers (although
they still lay across the triggers of a million terrible weapons) of
the defeated representatives of a rapidly dying way of life.
And so in the long run, as absurd, as ironic, and as horrifying as
it may seem, all of the government atrocities that we've been
witnessing are hallmarks of good news yet to come. However before we
begin to celebrate, before I get to what we can do to rid ourselves of
the terrified "little men" by whom we find ourselves governed, before
I begin discussing how to pry the guns out of their quaking,
white-knuckled grasp, we must face one final unpleasant fact together.
You may not know that when a baby dolphin dies, its grief-stricken
mother, unwilling to accept the fact of its death despite her finely-
honed senses (and probably because of her powerful intelligence)
will often work herself into exhaustion for days, in an attempt to
keep her dead baby afloat, until its rotting carcass falls apart
around her, and drifts slowly to the bottom of the sea.
Beloved friends and comrades ... the national Libertarian Party is
dead. All you have to do is look, as if for the very first time, at
its presidential totals, climbing to a disappointing peak in 1980 --
when we spent a shameful, historic, record-breaking five dollars a
vote for a mere 900,000 votes -- then falling raggedly down to figures
that can be accounted for statistically (with more than hundred
million people voting) by the number of unfortunates who happened to
sneeze at the wrong moment and pull our lever or punch our hole by
In fact, the national LP has been dead for so long it shouldn't
have been a surprise when the vultures, the hyenas, the jackals, and
the maggots moved in and began feeding off its rotting carcass, into
the lifeless, speechless, breathless mouth of which, frozen open in
the rigor of death, we continued to pour nourishment, unaware of what
lay within and was really being fed through all of our sacrifices.
Like that pathetic mother dolphin, we simply couldn't bear to face the
truth, that something we had loved so well had left us.
The head of the rotting corpse (an by the way, isn't "L-PUS" as
appropriate a name as "criminal justice system"?) the head of the
rotting corpse has been gnawed off; its putrefying juices have been
sucked out by a loathsome gang of scavengers who spent 1.6% of the
million and a half dollars raised in last year's presidential effort
on actual campaigning, then stuffed the rest into their own bulging
pockets, and are now getting ready to do the same thing in California,
and to as many other state parties as they can recruit drooling morons
in to help them to get away with it.
The sad fact is that none of this tragedy was necessary. If you
want to know how to wage the most successful presidential campaign in
the history of the Libertarian Party -- and spend almost no money
doing it -- I can tell you how in a handful of sentences. At the same
time, I can also tell you how to prove to your own satisfaction that
I'm right, and the national LP is dead.
Simply announce, in a speech more or less like the one I'm giving
here that you will run for the presidency, say in the year 2000, if
those individuals who want you to run can collect at least 2,000,000
certifiably legitimate pledges to vote for you. That's how Tory
Aquino came to be president of the Philippines. Tell them if they want
to see your political "platform", they can find it in every almanac
and encyclopedia, and almost every dictionary, in libraries and
It's called the Bill of Rights.
Tell them to read it carefully, and not to take the word,
concerning what it means, of anyone who collects a government
paycheck, because if it's properly enforced -- stringently enforced
-- it'll shut down 95 percent of that government, and eradicate every
last remaining trace of socialism in American civilization.
Add that you don't want anyone to send you any money! (That
thump! you just heard was probably the late, great macho mastermind
of the Browne-Cloud campaign passing out cold.) No money, just those
formal promises to vote for you. I guarantee that as those promises
begin to pile up, you'll get all of the free publicity -- TV,
newspapers, radio -- that you could ever possibly desire.
Now I'm sure you can see that an enterprise like this has many
advantages. For one thing, it isn't a political campaign at all, but
simply one individual in the process of being persuaded by his friends
-- all two million of them -- that he has some chance of making an
impact, and therefore ought to run. As such, it isn't subject to the
tangled laws and regulations governing political campaigns.
For another, the pledges don't have to conform to any standard
imposed by the "liitle men" by whom we find ourselves governed. All
they have to do is satisfy the potential candidate that they represent
real voters and are sincere.
You may want to retain the LP's 50-state ballot status. Frankly,
I've always been amazed at the accomplishment it represents. But
everything else -- everything the LP has ever done to participate in
any national election -- is a complete waste of motion and money. The
League of Women Voters still won't let you into their presidential
debates, not because you don't qualify, but because they don't want
you in their phoney baloney debates, under any circumstances.
And the way you'll know that the LP is dead is that, when you walk
into the national convention with those 2,000,000 pledges in your
pocket, more than twice the number of votes ever earned by any LP
presidential candidate -- and no way to extract the fillings out of
the teeth of anybody who gave you those pledges -- the LP, so
putrescent with corruption at its uppermost levels that it shines in
the dark like fish rotting on a beach, will nominate somebody else.
Almost 140 years ago, the officers and cadets of the United States
Military Academy are said to have assembled in a field just outside of
West Point to salute each other one last time and ride their separate
ways upon the even of the War between the States.
Almost 30 years ago, Libertarians who had owned no other home,
politically, but would not lower themselves to endorse conscription or
the war in Vietnam, walked out of the Young Americans for Freedom
convention in St. Louis and met beneath the great arch to create the
Society for Individual Liberty.
Today we have reached another historic crossroad, another parting
of the ways. The time has come to separate the cowards, the cretins,
and the con-men of the national Libertarian Party from the people of
principle and purpose.
Beloved friends and comrades, the national LP is dead, and even
if we loved it once, as deeply as the poor mother dolphin did her dead
baby, we must be wise enough, and strong enough, and faithful to the
truth enough to let it go.
Many people -- the entire Libertarian Party National Committee,
for example -- will refuse to believe that all of that was hard for me
to say. But this has been a rough couple of years for me in many ways,
characterized by blinding flashes of insight of the kind that are
usually accompanied with a slap to the forehead and the Homeric -- no,
let's make that Simpsonian -- expletive, "Dohh!"
A case in point -- and almost the only reason I'm standing here
now -- is David Brock's strange and strangely compelling book The
Seduction of Hillary Rodham.
If you haven't read it -- and I recommend highly that you do for a
reason I'll get into shortly -- on the surface, it's the more or less
straightforward political biography of the most thoroughly detested
woman of our times, written by an investigative journalist who
displays a novelist's inclination to become enamored of the character
he has created no matter how sick and disgusting she may happen to be.
I tend to do this myself, and I understand the impulse very well.
Whatever other readers may get out of Brock's fascinating book,
whatever he meant them to get out of it, something else entirely leapt
off its pages at me, something he probably didn't give much thought to
beyond its use as the setting in which his principal character acted
out her role. Revealing it to you now, I feel embarrassed and ashamed
that I haven't been fully aware of it for each of the 35 years I've
considered myself a Libertarian activist. Even now it's difficult to
wrench myself around to discussing how naive I've been. (See, I'm
stalling now!) My only consolation is that, if you're honest with
yourself, you're going to feel exactly the same way in a moment, and
we'll all spend some time, at least figuratively, slapping our
foreheads and exclaiming, "Dohh!"
What it all comes down to is that I've been belatedly impressed --
if not to say, humbled -- by the length, breadth, depth, and -- for
want of a better expression -- the complexly interwoven "density" of
the left wing's cultural and organizational "infrastructure". Wherever
leading Democrats happen to go, whatever they happen to require to
advance their agenda, there already exists some well-heeled, well-
oiled, well-organized instrumentality, from various "public interest
research groups" or the Jane Jeffersons, at the grassroots, to the
Children's Defense Fund or the Legal Services Corporation at a higher
level -- and everything you can possibly imagine in between -- to make
I think these observations explain certain phenomena that -- at
least to the right wing -- remain mysteries even deeper than the first
ten amendments to the Constitution. They tell us, for example, why the
left seems to own the media. Not only do they run the public schools,
where they pound their lying propaganda into helpless children for 13
years, not only do they run the journalism schools where they teach
their former victims to do the same thing to others, they've created
or control hundreds of fraternal organizations, clubs, professional
associations, and honorary societies that no journalist is likely to
avoid belonging to if he wishes to advance and be respected by his
Now ... not only were we Libertarians naive in the extreme to
think that the Libertarian Party could achieve success without this
kind of ... well, I've actually been thinking of calling it
"infraculture" ... the fact is that even the Republicans don't have
anything like it. They have a few political action committees here and
there, a scattered handful of think-tanks, even a couple of newspapers
whose J-school graduate news personnel smirk at them behind their
backs. They have nothing like the Democrats in terms of length,
breadth, depth, and complexly interwoven density. Which explains the
very narrow range of circumstances under which they can gain and hold
power. They can never have the Presidency, for instance, unless the
Democrats field a singularly inept candidate like George McGovern,
Walter Mondale, or Michael Dukakis.
Republicans can win local elections, because they are capable
of creating small, effective, local organizations. And since
Congressional elections are all local, they can win and even hold onto
Congress -- although it's a toss-up whether they took the Senate
through Democratic ineptitude or Republican ... well, "eptitide".
Ironically, this makes the GOP rather like the Communists in Italy,
who've traditionally been most effective at the municipal level. It
also explains why Newt Gingrich -- whatever his real faults from a
Libertarian standpoint -- had to be attacked and destroyed. He'd found
a way of linking all those effective purely local Republican efforts
into an effective national one.
Now, does anything I've said rule out political activity on the
part of Libertarians? All I've said is that we've failed on the
national level and that the national LP is dead. Where we're effective
-- like Republicans -- is at a local level, provided we're willing to
be rational about what constitutes success. Several times in the last
decade -- mostly by accident -- we've attracted enough marginal voters
to swing the election over to the other candidate.
It's fun to listen to Republicans whimper, "But you'll give the
election to the Democrats!" That part they understand, although why
they think that's worse than Republicans being elected, especially on
the basis of their recent cowardly, stupid, morally repulsive
performance, I'll never know. What they never get -- what we must
make them get -- is that all they have to do to prevent it is to be
better than we are, principally by enforcing the Bill of Rights. If
they'd do that -- repeal taxes, regulations, 20,000 gun laws, and the
War on Drugs -- we wouldn't be a threat to them at all, now, would we?
But I digress.
Three elements hold the leftist infraculture together. The first
is pure power-hunger, as I said earlier, a form of mental illness
characterized by a need to influence the behavior of others through
the initiation of force or the threat of force. The second is greed,
which in this context I define as a desire for the unearned wealth
that only political power can obtain. The third is the actual
content of the infraculture, consisting of literature, music, dance,
graphics, drama, and other forms of expression which convey its values
to each new generation, and reaffirm them in those who already share
Two of those elements are forbidden to Libertarians -- although
this may comes as news to the Libertarian National Committee and their
henchmen at the Watergate -- power-hunger and greed as I define it
here. What remains is the third, and I believe strongest, most
effective element of the three: shared culture. Even if it weren't the
strongest, most effective element of the three, it remains the only
one that's ethically available to us, and the one that -- having
failed to change America politically -- we must now begin to
It would be more correct to say "begin again". When the
Libertarian movement got its real start in the 1960s, it was almost
exclusively cultural in character. This was a time when 80-odd percent
of the people who called themselves Libertarians said that they'd
joined the movement (if they admitted to having joined anything at
all) because of the works of two novelists, one who didn't know she
was writing science fiction and one who knew perfectly well that he
was. This was a time when most of us learned everything we know today
about philosophy, politics, ethics, and economics by sitting around in
each other's living rooms listening to big black vinyl disks of a
little old lady speaking in a heavy Russian accent.
More importantly, it was a time when nobody within the movement
would have said that the Non-Aggression Principle is outdated,
irrelevant, or excessively limiting, because they understood perfectly
what principles are and why they are vitally important. It was a
time when nobody would ever have suggested that a "little bit" of
aggression -- oh, say, a 10% flat income tax or a 5% national sales
tax -- was acceptable, because they all knew better than that. Because
they were all better Libertarians -- and better human beings -- than
Today, "pragmatists" -- whose "pragmatism" has earned us fewer
votes than the average Flat Earther candidate, "pragmatists" who, for
all intents and purposes, have finished off the national LP -- sneer
at those among us who sat around listening to Ayn Rand and Nathaniel
Branden. They sneer at those among us who were inspired by the novels
of Robert A. Heinlein and Poul Anderson and H. Beam Piper. All they're
capable of doing is sneering at others because they have nothing
real of their own to be proud of. All they have is a lot of hype and
noise and big promises, and when none of them come true, lame excuses
and baldfaced lies.
It was, I believe, Newt Gingrich who, taking a look at TV, the
movies, popular music, and so forth, identified what was going on
inside and outside of those media as a "culture war", one which his
side -- and ours no less than his -- was losing. I tried telling the
same thing to my book editor at Random House -- a self-described
conservative -- 20 years ago, and he laughed me off, just as he did
when I predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union 10 years before it
happened. I say now that Gingrich was right, and furthermore, that you
can't fight a culture war if you ain't got any culture. Which is
where 20 years of monomaniacal focus on nothing but electoral politics
has left our movement.
I'll say it again: you can't fight a culture war if you ain't got
Okay now, let me offer you an idea -- just a single idea out of
thousands of potential ideas -- of how we might fight that culture war
effectively. And to avoid any accusation that I'm advancing my own
career here (like a certain former presidential candidate) while
pretending to lecture on politics and culture, I'll talk about
somebody else. When I'm through, I'll talk about myself.
I know of at least half a dozen excellent writers with novels that
-- like Alan Bock's non-fiction book -- just aren't getting published.
We could infer that New York publishers simply don't understand these
writers, and to certain extent, that would be true. I could tell you
stories about that, myself. Or we could infer that New York publishers
understand them all too well, and are desperately afraid of the new
paradigm they represent -- or that they're simply unwilling to face
the negative pressure from colleagues that publishing them would
inevitably engender. I have a story or two I could tell you about
that, as well.
But the best case in point that I can think of is Victor Koman's
wonderful novel Kings of the High Frontier, a broad, hot, healthy
ray of unfiltered sunlight shining into the dark, moldering dungeon
that America's space program has become. And, we must acknowledge
sadly, always was. The shadowy creatures who lurk within that musty
darkness know this bright light for exactly what it is and apparently
their allies in New York have done everything they can to help them
avoid the healing radiation Kings of the High Frontier represents.
Koman proves that America doesn't need a space program. It needs a
hundred space programs, a thousand space programs, ten thousand
space programs. And the idea that drives this book -- this book itself
-- is the only way we can get them. Our culture -- and our culture war
-- needs Kings of the High Frontier.
Okay, I pretend to hear you say, what can I do about a book that
can't seem to find its way into print? More importantly, what can I do
with it? To begin with -- believe it or not -- thanks to the myriad
wonders of the internet, you can buy it. Tell your search engine to
find , download Kings of the High Frontier for the
princely sum of $3.50, help feed Vic Koman's family, keep him writing,
and sooner or later your efforts in this connection, coupled with
those of others, will help force the book into print.
I'm happy to tell you that since I began writing this speech,
something has already happened. Claire Wolf reviewed Kings of the
High Frontier very favorably in The Libertarian Enterprise, and
then The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction gave it a rave
review, as well. (This is an unpublished book being reviewed here.)
As a direct consequence, the manuscript is back in the hands of at
least three publishers that I know of, and with a much better chance
at getting a fair reading than it ever had before.
Now, once it's been published in the conventional sense, your
mission in the culture war -- should you decide to accept it -- will
be to help make it a best seller. Buy the book yourself, bestow it as
a treasured gift upon your family, friends, and enemies whose lives
you want to see shortened by stroke or heart attack. Talk about it on
the radio. Write letters to the editor about it. Invite the author to
come to conventions, pay him a lot of money so he won't have to sell
real estate for a living, and get him on the radio and TV.
In short, treat the author exactly as if he were your candidate
running for the highest office in the land. Invest all of the time,
energy, and money in promoting his work that you used to invest --
with no measurable effect -- in the national LP. You'll get real
results this way. You'll begin to alter the culture around you far
more effectively, far more profoundly than you ever did politically.
You'll know where every dime of your money is going, and you'll be
getting something tangible for it: a book in your hand that you would
have written yourself if you were a book writer; a book that you
chose to speak for you.
If you can help make Kings of the High Frontier a bestseller,
not only will you be broadcasting Koman's ideas to a wider audience
than any of our presidential candidates ever reached -- certainly more
than ever watch the debates -- you'll be elevating his prestige as a
writer and a spokesman for individual liberty. He'll wind up talking
to Letterman and Leno, and you can count on Victor never to geek out
or soft-pedal the ideas he's suffered so much adversity to champion.
He'll be a "candidate" you can "campaign" for proudly, and for more
than just a year or two, but for a lifetime and even beyond.
And you'll embolden other writers who've been cautious about
expressing their views.
But the advantages of this process -- commonly known as the free
market system (pardon me for sounding like an infomercial) -- don't
stop there. Unlike the collectivist, zero-sum process by which we
choose our political candidates, you can promote the author of your
choice without cancelling out somebody else's choice. If Koman's
Kings of the High Frontier is too blatant or noisy for you, you can
help Robert Boardman get his novel Savior of Fire (which only seems
gentler on the surface) into wider circulation than it's previously
enjoyed, and get his second novel, The Trashers into print. You can
invite Bob to your conventions (where he can appear on a panel with
Victor), talk about him on the radio, and write letters to the
editor about him.
But where, you ask, does all this get us? Science fiction is fun,
but in a broader sense, what is it for? Well, so far, we've all been
"preaching to the choir". Now it's time to "play the Palace", to take
our message out and begin altering society with it. There are many,
many possible approaches. I offer this idea merely as one example. I
call it "Project Zola", referring to the way French author Emile Zola
was able to rally overwhelming public support in 1898 for Captain
Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer framed, railroaded,
court-martialed, and sent to Devil's Island for the crime of treason
-- which had actually been committed by one of his accusers. It
required 12 long years to vindicate Dreyfus -- but then Emile Zola
didn't have the internet to work with!
For lack of a better name, there is a need to establish something
we might call "Artists and Writers for Enforcment of the Bill of
Rights", a coterie of individuals with respectable credentials, and of
every political stripe, who could begin immediately, by sending a
petition over their signatures -- echoed in full page newspaper ads --
to whatever Executive has authority in the matter, demanding clemency
in the case our comrades Dean Pleasant, Wally Sanvil, and their
friends the so-called "Viper Militia" who are clearly guilty of
nothing more than exercising their rights under clear Constitutional
guarantees that, increasingly, are being illegally ignored or swept
aside by a pack of power-hungry politicians -- the "little men" (and
women) by whom we find ourselves governed -- and who are apparently
unconcerned about turning America into a fascist dictatorship as long
as it will sufficiently advance their despicable careers.
In general, this group (maybe scientists and scholars would form a
sister organization later on, and there are even a few pro-freedom
educators and lawyers out there) would stand publicly against the
violent hysteria of the BATF, the FBI, and other agencies, demand real
justice with regard to Waco and similar atrocities, an end to RICO and
the War on Drugs, and advocate stringent enforcement of the first ten
Amendments to the Constitution as the only viable alternative to our
becoming the world's largest banana republic. I can think of many
relatively well-known writers -- right, left, and libertarian -- who
would probably be willing to help, at least by going on record, and
there will be many more as they persuade their friends and
colleagues. If we had even a hundred such outspoken individuals to
begin with, this could become an extremely effective effort.
And after a dozen such effective efforts, or a hundred, or a
thousand -- or how ever many it takes -- in the same way that we all
put an end to the war in Vietnam a generation and a half ago, we will
teach this culture to laugh at and reject the "little men" by whom
we'll finally find ourselves left the hell alone.
And all because you helped a deserving writer get published and
become a bestseller.
I haven't even scratched the surface of the advantages of the
cultural approach. The possibilities are endless. We typically get
stuck with one candidate who usually can't resist the temptation to
try to be "all things to all men" by watering down principled
Libertarian positions on the issues until they're almost
undistinguishable from those of Republican or even Democratic
candidates. By contrast, somebody who can't be reached by one of our
writers may be accessible to another, without the ideas we stand for
being diluted at all.
Now I'm only going to address the cultural area I'm familiar with.
I won't even try to begin talking about the backbone of the movement,
thousands of books by hundreds of philosophers, historians, and social
commentators from Lysander Spooner to Murray Rothbard to Jeffrey
Rogers Hummel (whose august ranks I plan to join in a small way with
my own collection of essays, Lever Action). What I know best is
fiction -- with an emphasis on practically the only "literature of
ideas" that remains in human civilization, science fiction.
But understand that we have others practicing in other areas, some
of them famous, like humorists Dave Barry and P.J. O'Rourke, screen
writer, producer and director John Milius, Clint Eastwood, Orson Bean,
Michael Moriarty, and the unclassifiable Dr. Demento. (I won't discuss
the critics here, useless parasites I have difficulty considering
human, let alone Libertarian.) We do have non-fiction writers who
specialize honorably in cultural matters, supreme recognition -- with
oak leaf clusters -- going to Wendy McElroy, who began her tenure in
the movement as a poet. And where would any of us be without an
individual I'm proud to call my friend, and happy to have on my side
in this brawl we call the marketplace of ideas, Andrea Millen Rich of
Laissez Faire Books?
But to get back: if your prospect for "conversion" to
Libertarianism is of a traditionalist frame of mind, then the
"proto-Libertarians" like Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, H. Beam
Piper, or Eric Frank Russell may be just the ticket.
Or how about "classic" Libertarian novelists like: Robert Anton
Wilson, co-author (with the late Bob Shea) of Illuminatus!; F. Paul
Wilson, author of An Enemy of the State and the forthcoming Deep As
the Marrow; Vernor Vinge, author of Across Realtime; Melinda
Snodgrass, formerly of The Next Generation and author of the
Circuit trilogy; J. Neil Schulman, author not only of two fiction
works, Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza, but of two
important non-fiction efforts, Stopping Power and Self Control Not
Gun Control; Victor Milan, author of The Cybernetic Samurai; Brad
Linaweaver, author of Moon of Ice; Ken MacLeod, author of The Star
Fraction, The Stone Canal, and, forthcoming, The Cassini
Division; Victor Koman, who gave us The Jehovah Contract and
Solomon's Knife long before Kings; James P. Hogan, author of The
Gentle Giants of Ganymede and Voyage from Yesteryear; Glen Cook,
author of A Matter of Time, and (he mumbled modestly), yours truly,
the author of some 20 books including The Probability Broach and
Pallas. Watch for Bretta Martyn in August followed later by The
Help feed my family; keep me writing.
I mentioned the late Robert Shea, author on his own of Shike.
He's not the only classical Libertarian novelist we've lost. There's
also the late, and very greatly missed Kay Nolte Smith, author of The
Watcher and Venetian Song, and my friend Brian Daley (author of the
Star Wars Han Solo trilogy, the "Coramonde" books, and my personal
favorite, Brian's Hobart Floyt-Alacrity Fitzhugh trilogy). Brian
never understood, I think, why I insisted that he was a Libertarian,
but he never advocated the initiation of force in any of his novels,
and stood up for the freedom of the individual at every turn. These
brilliant, hardworking people passed away before they could see any
cultural result from their many labors. They'll be remembered fondly
by Libertarians until they're celebrated by everyone as the courageous
and hardy pioneers they were.
Happily, we have many newcomers to take their places. I mentioned
Robert Boardman, who, interestingly enough is the second cousin by
marriage (I think) to my managing editor at The Libertarian
Enterprise, Yiing Boardman. There's also W.T. Quick, not exactly a
newcomer, but whom I recently met thanks to the internet. Wendy
McElroy informs me that she just sent her first SF novel off to her
agent. And last but not least, your own formidable Fran van Cleave who
has penetrated the statist inner sanctum of Analog with her story,
And we have the even newer comers, those who've completed novels
but not yet sold them: my old comrade David Anderson (the fellow who
"piped me in" to the address I delivered at the 1993 national LP
convention in Salt Lake City), distinguished former USA Today
columnist Patrick Cox, and my friend John Cornell.
Think of them all as your perpetual presidential candidates. They
will help you to accomplish many wonderful things you thought were
impossible. By spending your money elsewhere for the next several
years, you'll be able to starve the Watergate and National
Headquarters parasites in exactly the same way you'd cut off its blood
supply in order to kill a tumor. When the money's gone at national,
they'll go away to work some other flim-flam on some other suckers.
When I returned to the LP in 1993, following an absence of some 13
years, I was shocked to see the way it had "grayed". Where were all
the young people to pick up the torch of liberty when we drop it and
carry it into the future? Well you see, young people don't have much
money to contribute to campaigns and to the "consultants" who feed off
them, so the LP's future had been abandoned. If we let that trend go
on, it won't be just the LP that's dead, but the movement. And I can
guarantee that we'll attract and win and hold many more young people
with Anthem, Red Planet, The Starfox, The Great Explosion,
and, dare I say, The Probability Broach, than we ever will with Why
Government Doesn't Work.
Ayn Rand was well known for her negative opinion of Libertarians
and the Libertarian Party. Part of it was merely an understandable (if
not entirely forgivable) conflict of time and place. Rand was the
greatest philosopher, advocate of reason, and champion of liberty of
her time. She was also a little old immigrant lady, not unlike my
wife's Bohemian grandmother, who couldn't accept the logical
conclusion -- anarchism, as Roy Childs pointedly informed her -- that
her philosophy of uncompromising individualism inevitably leads to,
who didn't like men to wear long hair and beards (I'm sure earrings
would have blown her mind completely) and who was disgusted by certain
expressions of uncompromising individualism such as homosexuality and
recreational drug use.
On the other hand, Rand tried to warn us that America wasn't
ready for a Libertarian Party. In essence, she said you have to
change society first, and that the political payoff -- provided you do
things right -- comes later. Over the past three decades or so, I've
thought a great deal about the position she took on this. I even think
I always agreed with it. America isn't ready for a Libertarian Party.
(Arizona may be.) But make no mistake: one individual's unsupported
opinion -- even Ayn Rand's opinion -- didn't constitute a sufficient
reason not to try.
Now we know that she was right. Not only can't you fight a culture
war, you can't fight a political war if you ain't got any culture.
The political payoff -- provided you do things right -- comes later,
and I might add, easily.
Look: even if a Libertarian president were elected by a miraculous
fluke this very minute, he'd be able to accomplish absolutely
nothing. Like Newt Gingrich, he'd be forced to waste every minute of
the next four years fighting for his political life. Maybe even for
his literal life. At the very least he'd be impeached for the "high
crime and misdemeanor" of attempting to enforce the Bill of Rights.
Change the culture and you won't be able to stop people from
voting Libertarian, or from bringing about the political changes we've
fought for all our lives.
I'm sure many of you must have noticed that until this moment, I
haven't mentioned today's date, April 19th, and the many historical
events associated with it. April 19th was first marked by the "shot
heard 'round the world", the battles of Lexington and Concord and the
start of the American Revolution. April 19th is the date associated
with resistance to the Nazis at the Jewish Alamo, the Warsaw ghetto.
In 1993 the "little men" by whom we find ourselves governed got their
revenge at the Waco ghetto. Two years later, in Oklahoma City, they
bulldozed the evidence as fast as they could, just as they had in
I saved mentioning it until last because I want to make a promise
to you. Someday, April 19th will be everything it should have been for
the past two centuries, a holiday that surpasses the Fourth of July.
It will become a day when, by tradition, laughing children will burn
the "little men" by whom we find ourselves no longer governed in
effigy, and the land will echo with the ringing of bells and the
rattle and bang of fireworks bought and set off by individuals.
In the immortal words of Elvis Presley, "Thank you very much."
Before I finished composing this speech, I wrote to various
individuals on the 'net, requesting names of Libertarian "culture-
warriors" I may have overlooked. Although the appointed day came and
went, data kept coming in. I felt much of it was important enough to
pass on in this addendum to the "as-delivered" version of my speech.
To begin with, Tibor Machan (if philosophers were treated like
rock stars he'd be at least the Mick Jagger of the movement) endorses
the works of David Karp, author of One and The Last Believers.
According to Wendy McElroy, among others, David Brin, author of
Startide Rising, deserves mention, and I'm prepared to say that
anybody who puts talking porpoises in his novels is all right by me.
Andrea Millen Rich wrote me about Shelly Reuben and Richard Uberto.
Individual works people mentioned include Dean Koontz's Dark
Rivers of the Heart, Ira Levin's This Perfect Day, and The Girl
Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson. Henry Hazlitt also wrote a novel,
although I believe it's been out of print a long while. My vote in
this category (I'm not kidding) goes to Dr. Suess for Thidwick the
Big-Hearted Moose and Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, which
concern themselves with the evils of altruism and power-hunger.
This summer will see publication -- at long last -- of Free
Space, an amazing collection of (A) stories by Libertarian writers
and (B) Libertarian stories by "civilians" (a mixture of established
names and newcomers) all set in the same universe and edited by Brad
Linaweaver and Ed Kramer. The trials involved in getting this pioneer
work into print -- consisting of a bitter struggle against ideological
bias and political "correctness" -- comprise an adventure tale in
themselves and will be told here when it becomes practical to do so.
It's only fair to add that Brad's been doing novelizations and
original print stories for the TV series Sliders and informs me that
what they love him for most is the Libertarian content of his writing.
What else? Emil Franzi, who interviewed me on the radio in Tucson
certainly deserves to be noted as a veteran combatant in the culture
war. And the title of Patrick Cox's (temporarily) unpublished novel is
Finally, Anders Monsen, prime mover-and-shaker at the Libertarian
Futurist Society and editor of its wonderful newsletter, Prometheus,
put me onto Zach Smith, author of the novels Cloth, The Bot Who
Wept, Man-Like, and numerous short stories. Anders also mentioned
Michael Flynn, Steven Burgauer, Titus Stauffer, and Karen Michaelson,
writer and leader of the Libertarian rock band "Point of Ares".
Anders is probably the best person to alert whenever you discover
another Libertarian writer. It's important in this connection to say
that you can enlist immediately in the culture war by joining the
Libertarian Futurist Society and helping to choose the winners of the
annual Prometheus Award. Write Anders at [email protected].
L. Neil Smith
Fort Collins, Colorado
April 28, 1997