by L. Neil Smith
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Thirty-one years ago, in 1977, in what turned out to be my first novel, The Probability Broach, I asked a rhetorical question about the nation’s Independence day, the Fourth of July: “What was left to celebrate?”
Even then, long before September 1, 2001, Homeland Security, Abu Graib, and Guantanamo (in those days, it was just a navy base), it was clear to me that what America’s Founding Fathers had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to create was being destroyed, at a faster and faster rate each year, by those to whom the very notion of individuals at liberty to control their own lives is a nightmare straight out of hell.
The holiday itself presents all the evidence one needs to reach a conclusion like that. Then, as now, if you attempt to enjoy it in the manner traditional to our ancestors, heavily-armed uniformed thugs will show up on your doorstep, steal your fireworks (which they’ll shoot off later, behind the station house, when they think nobody is looking), and if you tell them to go where they belong, they’ll smash down your door, Taser you into convulsions, beat you up, and haul you away.
Or kill you.
For your own safety.
Happy Independence Day.
If you were to “shoot the anvil”—by placing a charge of black gunpowder beneath it and setting it off, sending the anvil a dozen or more feet into the air—they’d soil themselves, and then call in an airstrike.
You are perfectly welcome to celebrate freedom, as long as you do it in chains. TV and radio nags, most of them government-empowered one way or another, spoil the day for weeks in advance by preaching over and over that “you’ll shoot your eye out” if you try to enjoy your own fireworks, and that everything else you might happen to love about the day—especially your Fourth of July barbecue—will give you a heart attack, cancer, or (despite the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom from religion) somehow despoil and offend the Earth Mother Goddess.
In this best of collectivist worlds, all joy must be shared equally—or strictly prohibited. Hence enormous municipal socialist fireworks displays that entertain the media-numbed and publicly educated, while obliterating the true meaning of the Fourth of July completely.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. Once upon a time, it was the government that feared the people, rather than the other way around. Still, as a writer and thinker, I have never wanted to be anything like those ancient Roman political philosophers who, suddenly noticing they had become subjects of a gigantic world empire, whimpered ineffectually for centuries for a return to their Old Republic. They never seemed to notice that their Old Republic contained, as the saying goes, the seeds of its own destruction. Their Old Republic was precisely what got them into the Imperial mess they found themselves in.
If the Old Republic had worked, there never would have been an empire.
Our own Old Republic is no different. It began to crumble right away—as early as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, possibly even earlier—and became worse and worse, every decade after that. What we have now, the police state that has been constructed all around us by Republicans and Democrats, by conservatives and liberals alike, is the direct and logical outgrowth of what came decades and centuries before.
The Whiskey Rebellion was the young nation’s first mistake, perhaps, but then there was the War of 1812, possibly the Mexican War, and certainly the War Between the States. Following various wars of consolidation out west, and the idiotic Spanish American War, the United States entered the ranks of world empires—and an almost unbroken series of the most terrible conflicts ever fought in human history.
A century of war.
To return to our Old Republic would mean that our grandchildren and great grandchildren would have to go through all of that, all over again.
This is why I invented the phrase “Bill of Rights Enforcement”, rather than calling for restoration of the Constitution as an old-time conservative might. It’s also why I wrote The Probability Broach, to show what we could be, instead of what we were—and still are today. Like that of the ancient Romans, our Old Republic is gone forever, broken beyond repair, and it didn’t happen overnight, or in the last ten or twenty years. It was flawed from the very beginning, exactly like the Liberty Bell. It cracked, basically, the first time it was rung.
It is time, as a prescient Thomas Jefferson wrote in the document—the Declaration of Independence—that is the only remaining reason to celebrate this day, “to provide new guards for [our] future security”. The best, possibly the only way to get through this period of oppression is to make plans now for what we’ll do on the other side.
I don’t know if anybody else noticed it at the time—certainly I never saw anything about it on TV—but when the Soviet Union was flying apart, its various captive nations escaping as if hurled away by centrifugal force, the whole world was talking about freedom, for all of the people of those nations, and for the Russian people, as well.
Then somehow, insidiously, but in fairly short order, all of that talk about freedom—especially in the American mass media—was transmogrified into gushingly effusive pablum about the wonders of democracy.
Boss Tweed said it best: “I don’t give a damn who does the voting, as long as I do the nominating.” The dream of worldwide individual liberty was over. A former KGB torturer took over in Moscow. Warlords, mafiyosi and other scum got hold of most of the ‘Stans, and those individuals whom Washington had once called “freedom fighters,” in places like Chechnya and Afghanistan, in a lightning-swift, Orwellian revision of the English language, became “terrorists” and “insurgents” overnight.
Another threat to the New World Order—which was actually the Old World Order—potentially the worst threat since 1776, had been contained.
Our key word is and, at all costs, must remain freedom—accept no substitute, no matter how splendid it may sound. Politicians and groups who make a promise of democracy—to us or to their victims overseas—are not friends of individual liberty. Democracy is simply another kind of socialism, one in which, in the words of Robert LeFevre, “Everybody tells everybody else what to do”, an unstable form that, sooner or later, must devolve and collapse into oligarchy or dictatorship. It is the means by which the individual energies of millions become harnessed to serve the state and those who feed off it.
It is freedom—limited only by the Zero Aggression Principle—that can get us out of the mess we’re in, and back on the road to where we all, individually and as a civilization, were going to begin with.
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