Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 397, December 10, 2006

"What will you do when your government assumes unlimited power?"


Back To Basics: Part Three
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

In our last thrilling episode, I asserted that, for libertarians, getting from "here" to "there"—from the police state that has been erected around us by the Republican and Democrat wings of the Boot On Your Neck party, to a culture where the only law is an obligation to respect the freedom of others—can be accomplished in five simple steps:

(1) Find out what people really want;

(2) Determine whether what people really want is ethical or not, and whether or not principled libertarians can ethically offer it to them.

(3) Figure out, in as concrete and colorful detail as possible, how, given enough freedom, people can get what they really want for themselves;

(4) Tell them what stands between them and what they really want; and

(5) Repeat as necessary.

I discussed (1) and a few of the ways an activist can be misled in the search for answers. I'd like to emphasize now that, for the most part, although every human being wishes to avoid the same things -- cold, hunger, thirst, injury—each individual seems to be pleased by different things. Just look at how many different kinds of music there are.

Finding out what people really want is best pursued by dealing one-on-one with individuals. This is an important clue to why it's taking so long for the Libertarian Party to get anywhere. It tends to rely on mass media, like the two collectivist parties. That may be fine for communicating the fears all people have in common (the only product broadcast news has to offer is fear of one kind or another), but it's inappropriate for spreading the politics of freedom. The most persuasive work of that kind is always accomplished face-to-face, but mounting a social and political revolution that way is slow, hard work.

Over the years, I've tried to use whatever talent I possess as a novelist to advance the argument for liberty. Judging by people's responses, I've even achieved a modicum of success. I believe that's because, while it's true that novels, too, are a medium of mass communication, they're unique. They allow the author, effectively, to spend a lot of time alone with an individual reader, time in which the reader gets to "know" the author and decide whether he or she can be trusted.

Oddly enough, sometimes it's the reader who can't be trusted, and what people really turn out to want, we libertarians simply can't offer—and they simply can't have—in the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "because it's wrong". Libertarians can't promise the voters, for example, to shut obnoxious individuals up, to keep them from gathering together, or to outlaw their strange, unpopular religions.

We can't steal personal weaponry from otherwise non-aggressive individuals in order to allow the drooling idiots across the country or in their neighborhood to enjoy a brief illusion of safety—just before the violent crime rate rises like a tsunami to innundate and sweep them away, as is happening right now in gunless Britain and Australia.

Similarly, we can't promise voters that we'll steal people's land for them because they (or we) think there's a better use to which it could be put. We can't offer to interfere in the market to help one entrepreneur of company at the expense of another, no matter how popular that "service" seems to be with the two-headed socialist party and their vile rubberstamps, the oathbreaking dullards of the Supreme Court.

All of that—like most of the political promises made by the BOYN establishment—violates the central libertarian principle that nobody has a right to initiate force against anybody for any reason. It also tramples all over the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights.

What libertarians can promise people is that, provided it damages nobody else, their heart's desire will more likely be obtainable in a society guided by libertarian principles than in any of the messes humans have squashed together over the past 8000 years and called "civilizations".

If what they really want is their own machinegun, a life-sized interactive Barbie doll, or a genuine Ming vase, we can help them get what they want: there won't be any gun laws, nobody will "volunteer" to guide or approve your sex life, and there won't be any government to outlaw the private ownership of priceless relics and hoard them away.

And we'll all be a whole lot richer.

How's that again?

Simple: the average individual gets about half his income stolen every day, every week, every month, and every year by various city, county, state, and federal governments—not to mention special tax districts. Put a stop to that—no real libertarian advocates or supports taxation in any form—and you double everybody's available wealth.

Everybody's available wealth—doubled.

The people and organizations we do business with are taxed, too, but you're the one who pays those taxes whenever you pay twice as much for goods and services as you would in a culture that doesn't teach its children that the wellspring of civilization is armed robbery. Eliminate those taxes and your money—already doubled—will now go twice as far, which represents a fourfold increase in your purchasing power.

Everybody's available wealth—quadrupled.

Now get rid of literally millions of city, county, state, and federal laws unconstitutionally regulating the economy, and your purchasing power is doubled again, which means an eightfold increase, overall.

Everybody's available wealth—octupled.

Elsewhere (in one of my earliest speeches, "I Dreamed I Was A Libertarian In My Maidenform Bra"), I described the kind of world that can result from that reform. I described it again in The Probability Broach, again in Pallas and once again in Forge of the Elders. The promise of such a civilization is a promise only libertarians can make.

This is an extremely important idea, so I'm going to repeat it: the promise of an eightfold increase in purchasing power, in quality of life, and in life expectancy that will result from eliminating taxes and economic regulation is a promise that only libertarians can make.

So far, having written of this eightfold multiplier for the last 25 years, I have yet to hear a single libertarian candidate mention it. If you're an LP candidate-type, and you haven't been winning, look no further to explain your failure, it's you who's been missing the point.

But don't worry, rescue is on the way.


Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at

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