Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 378, July 30, 2006

"The Founding Fathers made that very mistake..."

Letters to the Editor

Send Letters to
Note: All letters to this address will be considered for
publication unless they say explicitly Not For Publication

[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words. Sign your letter in the text body with your name and e-mail address as you wish them to appear.]

Letter from Curt Howland

Letter from John D. Ballentine III

Letter from Dr Sean Gabb

Letter from Carl Milsted

As found in How The Irish Saved Civilization

The writer does a better job of defining the Greco-Roman history and literature as being what was saved, not just "civilization" which was doing quite well in the eastern half of the Eurasian contenant, but a publisher has to sell books, ne?

Anyway, here's the quote. Two paragraphs, p. 203-204. He's discussing how the intellectual environment even among the learned folks had slipped:

    The Greek approach to thought was now almost completely lost. Baptism, though it had connected the Irish to a larger world, had hardly made them Athenians. And though the Irish—and now the Saxons—succeeded in transcribing the works of ancient philosophers, they could not really understand them—nor for that matter could the few remaining Romans of the west, like Gregory the Great. The intellectual disciplines of distinction, definition, and dialectic that had once been the glory of men like Augustine were unobtainable by readers of the Dark Ages, whose apprehension of the world was simple and immediate, framed by myth and magic. A man no longer subordinated one thought to another with mathematical precision; instead, he apprehended similarities and balances, types and paradigms, parallels and symbols. It was a world not of thoughts, but of images.

    Even the "Romans" at Whitby presented their point of view in the new way. They did not argue, for genuine intellectual disputation was beyond them. They held up pictures of the mind—one set of bones verses another. Indeed, the Northumbrian king, who ruled in favor of the Roman party, did so because he imagine that Peter, Rome's supposed first bishop, to whom Jesus had, in a metaphorical phrase, given "the keys to heaven," would use those keys to lock the king out of heaven if he ruled against Rome.

Who among those who I imagine will read this letter has not stood in awe as "imagery" and "emotional appeal" win battle after battle in the war for and against individual liberty?

The "dark ages" of Europe are defined by the very real lack of literacy over a very wide area, self-reinforcing through emotional terror.

Has the replacement of reading by television as the primary information resource in "the west" begun another slide into a "dark age"? Can "computer literacy" keep the fall from being complete, or has the advent of the visual 'Net simply moved the ignorance of imagery into yet another medium?

Food for thought, and a hearty recommendation for this book.

How The Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill, Doubleday. ISBN: 0-385-41848-5

Maybe Mr. Editor can add a link that will benefit TLE?

Curt Howland link: [BUY ME AT AMAZON.COM]

Re: "Looking beyond Nuclear", by Sean Gabb

Well now. It's been a while since I had to reply to such a propaganda piece as this, so bear with me—I may take a while to get to the point...

First of all, let's start with the false argument. "...ask what Tony Blair thinks about it. Since he has now said he likes it, and since everything he says or does is bad, we have an answer." Ah, yes, obviously the world is black and white—if he thinks that something is good (presumably including breathing, eating, and other such optional activities), then it is bad. This isn't the case—even for hyperbole, it is a bit much.

"I begin by asserting that nuclear power is inherently dangerous." OK, I will give you that one. Unfortunately, the same can be said of almost all other power generation—if you don't treat the process with respect, it can be quite dangerous. About the only exception I can think of is solar energy... And that is only because we have many years dealing with the dangers of the sun. I have seen several stories over the years of the dangers of natural gas (transfer pipes exploding, that sort of thing). Gasoline (or petrol, I should say) seems benign because we deal with it daily, but it is highly flamable, even explosive. Even hydro power has it's own danger—in the US, at least, it is most commonly used by creating huge dams upstream from major metropolitan areas... Until we come up with a way of generating power without dealing with substances that contain power, it is impossible to remove all risk.

"There is now also the possibility of terrorist attacks." Yes, there is that possibility—but have you been to a nuclear power plant recently? Near my house, there is a huge (~100 feet in diameter) natural gas tank. An explosive attack on that would cause much more damage than anything you could do to a nuclear plant...

"Moreover, the waste products remain dangerous indefinitely, and disposing of them requires storage in conditions that will remain safe through all the accidents of time."

No, that is another environmental scare tactic. Look up half-lifes of nuclear byproducts. There is probably only a need to store waste for ~200 years or so—something that is very plausible with current technology. (Yucca mountain in the US is being held up by frivolous lawsuits, alleging that the storage must effectively last until the earth is destroyed by the sun...)

"I will simply ask whether, in a world without government, there would be many nuclear power stations." I would be very interested in that myself, but without your negative connotations. If we did have a free market in the energy generation business, I suspect we would have significantly different power sources by now.

"But we have been using coal and oil for this purpose for over a hundred years, and the health and the happiness of mankind have been measurably improved thereby. " And we used wood burning for similar purposes before that, as well as slave labor. Just because we are currently using a technology, doesn't mean it is the best or most desirable way to go forward.

"And our reliance on oil for much of our electricity and most of our transport has raised political difficulties." I wholeheartedly agree! (I bet you didn't expect that...) With this, and with most of the next few sentances. But then, you come up with this line:

"I suspect that if forced to name the lesser of the two evils, I might decide a century of suicide bombers to be preferable to having nuclear power stations all over the place. " This is the line that really inspired me to write this diatribe. Leaving aside the false argument of one or the other, how can you say this? I haven't been directly affected by a suicide bomber, nor do I know directly anyone that has been. That doesn't stop me from being appalled at this line of reasoning. That is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to government—"I know better than you do, so I am going to tell you what to do." I strongly suspect that if you gave most people the choice, they would much prefer nuclear power if it was an either/or choice...

"But I do not see why we need choose between the two. " Mighty generous of you... After this line, I once again agree with most of what you say - while disagreeing somewhat with your eventual point.

"It would be so much better if some means could be found for individual households and businesses to generate their own electricity. " I especially agree with this statement—if some method could be found to bring power generation down to the neighborhood or household level, without (for example) the polution of wood smoke, that would be a wonderful thing. Most of the next few paragraphs come straight from the arguments that solar power proponents have been making for years. Unfortunately, at this point no one has come up with a reasonable process to do this. I have no doubt that if someone made a ~100 dollar appliance that took care of an average household's power needs for a year or two, it would be such a huge seller that it would vanish from store shelves as fast as it could get there.

There is no need to even suggest government involvement in this research - multiple US universities already have such programs in place. A surprising amount of research is by corporations—they have no more desire to pay ludicrous rates than you or I do...

"Establish a prize of 10 billion, to be paid from our taxes..." And here is the spot where you just lost most people that would be reading this proposal. I would expect to see this as a Democratic party platform, not from a Libertarian point of view. The way I see it, if someone is able to come up with the magical device you are asking for, they would make money to put the old robber barons to shame... And I would pay happily. The free market is pushing us in that direction already—most Americans don't realize that gas prices are approaching what the rest of the world has been paying for years. If these prices last for 5 to 10 years (as I am already hearing oil company P.R. people hinting), we will see cost effective alternatives appearing—as the common American start to create alternatives. No government involvment needed, or wanted!

"Does any of the above make sense? I have not enough understanding of the relevant sciences to know. But Mr Blair has not said, and will not say, any of it. That should indicate I am not writing utter nonsense." I imagine that Mr Blair hasn't said that the sun will rise in the west, either... But I wouldn't put money on it happening.

This is a grand direction to go—but we will still need power to get there. I don't think that nuclear power is a long term solution, but with appropriate safeguards, it is a good step to help reduce oil dependance.

John D. Ballentine III

News Release from The Libertarian Alliance
In Association with the Libertarian International

Release Date: Saturday 29th July 2006
Release Time: Immediate

Contact Details:
Dr Sean Gabb (Director, The Libertarian Alliance), +44 7956 472 199
(UK access code),

For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
Release url:


The Libertarian Alliance, Britain's most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute, today welcomes the rise in truancy rates announced in a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb:

"State schooling is an instrument of ruling class control. It is a means by which ideologies of obedience are imposed on the young.

"State schools have always encouraged intellectual passivity and trust in the authorities. In the past generation, they have begun also to celebrate illiteracy, innumeracy and a general ignorance of the world. Add to this endemic bullying and temptations to unwise experimenting with sex and recreational drugs, and we have in state schooling a comprehensive absence of what used to be meant by education.

"Rising truancy levels are to be welcomed. They show that increasing numbers of the young are withdrawing from the process of mass brainwashing. The young may not yet be expressing positive discontent with the corporatist police state New Labour and the Conservatives have made for us. But they are beginning to vote with their feet.

"While the Libertarian Alliance does not encourage breaches of the criminal law, even if the law happens to be pointless or malevolent, we do look forward to a time when state schooling will be as dead an institution as the workhouse and the debtor's prison."

The Libertarian Alliance believes:

  • That all state funding and control of education should be abolished;
  • That all compulsory attendance laws should be repealed;
  • That the assets of all the various education authorities should be sold at once, and all their archives destroyed.


Note(s) to Editors

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He is also Deputy Director of the Truancy Unit at Buckingham University and author of "Home Schooling: A British Perspective", published in Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader (2005) by Bruce S. Cooper (Editor)

He is also the author of The Column of Phocas a novel. Publication date: 4th August 2006. Available via Amazon UK.

Dr Gabb can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by e-mail at

Extended Contact Details:

The Libertarian Alliance is Britain's most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 700 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at

Our postal address is

The Libertarian Alliance
Suite 35
2 Landsdowne Row
Tel: 0870 242 1712

Associated Organisations

The Libertarian International——is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.

Sean Gabb's personal website——contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives.

Hampden Press——the publishing house of the Libertarian Alliance.

Liberalia——maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.

Dr Sean Gabb

Mr. Smith:

Regarding: "The Portland Purge" You have done a reporting job worthy of the mainstream liberal media. You have assumed various properties to your opponents and reported based on those assumptions. A few hours of reading the Libertarian Reform Caucus' public web site might have revealed some insights—assuming that you aren't too hard-headed to take real data into consideration.

As a primary instigator of the Portland Purge, I will have you know that I am neither a Republican infiltrator nor stupid. I joined the LP in 1981 and hold a PhD in theoretical physics (unusual behavior for stupid people). However, I am guilty of being a scientist. This has multiple consequences:

1. I am capable of thinking in terms of quantities vs. categories. Cutting government by a mere 90% is significant—more significant in terms of liberty than cutting the remaining 10%.

2. I appreciate economics: including such concepts as marginal utility, diminishing returns and public goods. (National defense is a public good. A modern military system kicks ass over privately held firearms. Inconvenient and unpleasant, perhaps, but true.)

3. I do experiments. I gave the Rothbard approach to selling liberty an honest appraisal. I worked at it dilligently for about a decade. It doesn't work. It is unconvincing to 99% of the population.

4. I look at the data. 100% of anarchic peoples have been conquered by governed people, adopted government internally, or are in a state of civil war (Somalia). This does not prove anarcho-capitalism to be impossible, but it does put the burden of proof on the anarchist. Lumping small government libertarians in with fascists and socialists is petulant, childish, and silly.

5. I am unimpressed by circular philosophical arguments and a priori reasoning. Neither Rothbard nor Rand's natural rights theories are provable. Learned this from the likes of Robert Anton Wilson—hardly a Republican. Freedom is desirable because it is desirable—but so are other values. Fortunately, freedom is mostly compatible with many other desirable social values. (see

6. There does exist a large market for increased liberty and reduced government. I have done large scale informal polling ( and extensive focus group work. While this may be uninteresting for those incapable of using real numbers (see point 1), it is significant for those of us who love liberty and want to do more than whine on the sidelines.

The Libertarian Party has been relatively ineffective over the years because it has waffled between two conflicting business plans. It has tried to function as a radical protest organization (a PETA for liberty) and as political party to get freedom lovers elected to office. This is about a viable a business model as Bubba's Day Spa and Auto Parts Emporium.

Split the two business plans into separate businesses and both grow stronger. A protest organization that does not worry about electability or credibility can go all out with the radical message and entertaining street theater. A political party that shies away from the extremely unpopular issues can actually win on those libertarian issues where the public has already been convinced (by the libertarian protest organizations, think tanks, etc.)

Think of an assembly line. The radical protest organization puts a far out issue into the public consciousness and renders it thinkable, think tanks and the like put some thought into the issue, grassroots organizations and the like craft palatable variations on the issue, politicians run on the palatable version and get it put into law. Over time, government shrinks.

If you want to form a separate "political party" that is utterly pure and focuses on educating the populace, you have my blessing. We need radical libertarian organizations that make the Libertarian Party look moderate.

I have no desire to turn the LP into a more libertarian version of the Republican Party. As I wrote in the February 2005 LP News, our optimal market niche for increasing liberty in this nation is left of center economically. (Left in terms of equality, not amount of government interference.)


For Liberty,
Carl Milsted

[L. Neil Smith's reply to this letter is to be found as the article "Teaching Pigs to Sing" in this issue—Editor]

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates. We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
  Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 378, July 30, 2006

Bill of Rights Press