L. Neil Smith's
Number 160, February 11, 2002
Cetius, Altius, Fortius

[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words.]

About a week and a half ago, I received a membership renewal notice from the national Libertarian Party. I always route my renewal through my state (PA) affiliate for a number of reasons, which I won't get into here, so needless to say the wad of papers hit the can with only the most casual scan.

That quick toss was unfortunate, since a throw away comment in the letter resurfaced from my subconscious a few days later. It seems the folks at national were approached to defend eating horsemeat on a radio show and politely refused. Now I'm no horse shooter ala Glenn Cambell but I don't see why national felt the need to cast the horse eaters over the side of our tiny vessel of self-determination. I suppose hunters and beef farmers are next. Some radio programmer assumed that libertarians wouldn't oppose people eating (ah, eating horses not people), which was hopefully a good assumption, unfortunately capital "L" Libertarians put that assumption in doubt. As Carlin so eloquently put it, we are "circling the toilet bowl" kids. Is it time for a change of leadership and / or tactics?

Gerard Griffin griffins@epix.net

Dear TLE,

Since I've published a few articles in TLE, I thought your readers might be interested in learning about my new column at the Laissez Faire Books [laissezfairebooks.com] web site. It will be published once a week, each Friday. The first article is about trash.

I'm not the only one who is excited about this column. Here are just a few of the spontaneously laudatory blurbs I extracted from various notables:

  • "David M Brown is a master in the art of clear-headed provocation!" -- Tomas Larsson, author of THE RACE TO THE TOP

  • "David M. Brown cuts right to the bone--without anesthesia. You don't want him as your doctor, but as a writer you can't live without him. He is, really, the best libertarian writer alive today. Sort of like a latter-day Mencken, only without all the saccharine sweetness. Put it this way. If words were bullets, Handgun Control would regard David M. Brown as Public Enemy Number One. Freedom-lovers won't want to miss a single thrilling installment. (Okay, uh, David, can I have my ten bucks now?)" -- Paul Jacob, President, Citizens in Charge

  • "The advent of David M. Brown's new column is the greatest thing since sliced bread and/or the invention of the wheel, or so he tells me....But seriously, folks, David is a bright and sensible individual whose reflections can only add sparkle and wisdom to the vitality of our public discourse." -- Tibor R. Machan, author of INITIATIVE: HUMAN AGENCY AND SOCIETY

  • "David M. Brown is by turns hilarious, maddening, provocative, excessive, off-the-wall, over-the-top, absolutely right, and infuriatingly wrong. But informed, insightful, and ever entertaining. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get in one of David's pieces--but you know it will be fresh and delicious. His is the voice of a true original." -- Robert James Bidinotto, author of CRIMINAL JUSTICE?

  • "David M. Brown's weekly column for Laissez Faire Books is cause for great celebration! We've missed his regular presence on the web since TDO went belly-up. Now David will have us all holding our bellies...from hysterical laughter...even as we're frowning in thought." -- Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL

  • "Like the man himself, my brother's writing is both eloquent and potent. (Don't tell him I said that.)" -- Maria T. Brown, relative

  • "I look forward to reading David M. Brown's trash...whoops, I mean Trash. Semi-seriously, David is a good writer with a unique worldview. His two stints at Laissez Faire Books were great fun for me, as well as productive. I plan to read his column regularly. You should too!" -- Andrea Millen Rich, President, Laissez Faire Books

  • "I would say that anyone who fails to read my column for Laissez Faire Books is not keeping up with what's going on and what's happening in the America of today. If you want to be hip, if you want to be with it, if you want to be at the cutting edge of all that is true and good and holy, do not miss my column. Ever. Not even once. Otherwise, we let the terrorists win." -- David M. Brown, columnist for Laissez Faire Books


David M. Brown witscribbler@hotmail.com

Once again I am doing my annual thing to get back some little amount of what was stolen from me. My tax return.

Every year I feel dirty doing this. To get the most back I must use all of the little weasel paths they've given me to recoup my hard earned dollar. Child credit, Education credit, you name it. Step into the chute to be next in the abattoir.

This reduces the amount they get to keep to about a third of what it would be if I filed no return at all.

While I'd like to dispense with paying it altogether, with my luck, I'd be the lucky guy who gets the oft mentioned flammenpanzer.

But tax time brings another pain. I only get back a portion of the amount deducted from my (and my wife's) check. Friends of ours are getting back MORE than they had deducted.

At first I thought, "Good for them, screw the man!" But now I think, "Hey, that's MY money they're buying that house with while I have to rent."

I'm paying in the neighborhood of 30% directly to the Feds and they're getting nearly a 25% bonus every year. Both of them are able to work, in fact they do work. Yet they are paying negative taxes on their income. To me this is worse than welfare.

To add to the issue, they complain endlessly about how they didn't qualify for deductions because their taxable income had already been reduced to zero. It's like a mugger complaining in court that his victim wasn't carrying enough cash and having the judge award a settlement from my pocket to his!

Curtis Handsaker chandsaker@phoenixtechinc.com

From La Nacion:

De la totalidad de los 57 escaños, 20 serían para legisladores de la Unidad, 18 para Liberación, 14 para Acción Ciudadana y cuatro para el Movimiento Libertario.

So the Costa Rica LP has four out of 57 seats in the CR Congress. Now this is just because of proportional representation... but still.


Two comments about material in the 2/4/2002 issue of the Libertarian Enterprise:

First, in a letter to the editor, Angel Shamaya wanted to know "how one might go about 'trying' to accomplish [reaching the immigrant heart and mind with libertarianism] when the overwhelming sentiment coming from the 'Reconquistadores' jumping the border in California, Arizona and Texas is that 'we don't even have to learn your language, let alone your values' -- or, vastly more importantly, the values of our nation's Founding Fathers."

There are two types of immigrants coming over the border from Mexico; those who want to live off the government teat, on welfare and assistance; and those who want a chance to get a better life, and aren't afraid to work. No libertarian would open the border without first starting the demolition of the welfare system, meaning the first type would no longer want to come this way. The second type has already had enough trouble with big government's keeping them from getting above-board employment, and is in my opinion open to our philosophy if they're ever exposed.

Secondly, Patrick K. Martin's article "It's About the Money, Stupid!" needs to be taken with a grain of salt, in my opinion. A large grain. Ahh, hell, a salt-lick sized grain.

Mr. Martin, like many other people, tends to confuse the Federal Reserve with the US Treasury and its multiple roles. While our current fiat currency system makes me both unhappy and uncomfortable, it is not quite as bad as Mr. Martin seems to think. The fact is, if it were that bad, the FRN would've collapsed into hyperinflation a few years after it had been established.

If you'd like to REALLY know why the Federal Reserve is a bad thing, I recommend you study Murray N. Rothbard's seminal work, "What Has Government Done to Our Money?" which can be read online at http://www.mises.org/money.asp This history of the development of money and currency will show how barter grew into coinage and then paper, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

John Hoffman theshadow@shambala.net

With no apologies to the folks who wrote the anti-drug ad that appeared during the Bowl:

I killed 100,000 Iraqi teenagers to keep gas prices low in the United States.

I propped up dictators all over the world, which lead to the murder, rape, and torture of millions of innocent civilians.

I put millions of people in prison for victimless crimes.

I assassinated foreign leaders who were on the wrong side during the Cold War.

I trashed the Constitution in the name of fighting Communism, the War on Drugs and the Never-ending War on Terrorism.

I funded the Military-Industrial complex, creating jobs for millions that might have otherwise been employed in useful professions.

I am an American taxpayer.

Bob Shock bobshock@ix.netcom.com

This letter to the editor is in response to Angel Shamaya's response to Neil's open letter to Patrick Buchanan.

Mr. Shamaya writes, "I happen to be one of those who does not favor opening our borders, but not because it's not an idealistically good idea. I don't favor open borders at present because, as it stands in America today, the Demopublican party will lure several million non-English-speaking folks to vote for them by taking more of my money and giving it to them, in one form or another -- and those votes, invariably, lead to yet another slew of moronic bills and laws that foolishly seek to deny my right to keep and bear any arms I damn well please (and many other rights, as well)."

The point I would like to make through this letter to the editor is that is already happening regardless of the nationality or legal status of the voter. The slew of moronic bills continues unabated immigrant or no immigrant. The money that they - I believe you mean the government - take from you to give to them has been voted on and approved by the representatives that you yourself vote for and sent to Washington, DC. Again, those moronic laws and bills passed by representatives that people who understand what America is about vote into office. The relaxed border is not the reason that liberty has been on the wane in America for the past century and a half. For the past century and a half, Americans who have an "understanding" of what America means have been voting to restrict individual liberty and freedom.

[L]iberty has been on the wane in the United States [for] four main reasons -

1.) The desire of the government to seperate itself from the Constitution. Supported by Americans as well with their votes and allegiance.

2.) The institution of a permanent military and the aggressive use of force, both of which go against the Constitution.

3.) The imposition of an income tax that robs opportunity and money from sovereign individuals. Voted on and ratified by Americans - if you believe the myth.

4.) The rise of democracy without any rise in the number of representatives thereby dilutes any legitimate pretence of a representative democracy. Supported and hailed by Americans.

Liberty is threatened by a shredding of Constitutional borders, not geographical ones. I would not matter if two billion or two immigrants came across the border if the borders of the Constitution were respected.

Live Free,
Keith Shugarts shugartk@yahoo.com

In the state of Pennsylvania the average time served for a life sentence is 18 yrs. On the surface it would appear to warrant a response of "no wonder Judges sentence some convicts to three and four consecutive life sentences!" These statistics seem to fly in the face of reason. I and I think it's safe to say most people, believe if your crime warranted a sentence of life then you had better be carried out with a toe tag and in a body bag. Your possessions may be sent to the next of kin.

Facts being stranger than fiction it appears that the average life expectancy for prisoners serving life sentences in PA prisons is about 18 yrs. The study I refer to is the Pennsylvania 1998 Annual Statistical Report on Prisoners. Even though this report has an element of confusion, (e.g. There is a 10.7 on the line where it says average time served) it still shows that time served for a lifer is considerably less than one would expect. This is not because all the sentences were commuted though, in fact from 1995 to 1998 (1998 being the last year of the report) 82 lifers died while incarcerated with no lifer's sentences being commuted. One more thing, this study doesn't show whether these prisoners were convicted of one life sentence or more.

The reason for my look into the time served by those sentenced to life was inspired by the charges brought against the shoe bomb suspect, Richard Reid. Hearing the charges announced by Attorney General Ashcroft I noticed some charges that were redundant. Maybe the AG felt that one life sentence just wouldn't be enough, although if the life sentence were served in PA it might not be very long but chances are it would be terminal. Mr. Reid (1) attempted to murder 197 people onboard a Trans-Atlantic flight, he also (2) attempted to commit homicide against 197 people onboard a Trans-Atlantic flight. Mr. Reid (3) planned to destroy an aircraft, he also (4) planned to wreck a mass transportation vehicle. Mr. Reid also (5) planned on using a weapon of mass destruction, while (6) placing an explosive device on an aircraft, and was (7) using a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence. Oh, and he then (8) interfered with flight crewmembers and attendants.

Isn't being charged with murder, and homicide like being charged for stealing, and theft? How about using a bomb, placing a bomb, and using a bomb to commit violence? How about interfering with flight crewmembers and attendants, can a person who holds up the snack tray because they have to get up and use the bathroom be accused of interfering with attendants?

If I understand right then once a person is charged with a crime, such as attempted murder, against 197 people that means they are charged with 197 counts, of say, attempted murder. Right? If this theory is correct then Mr. Reid will be charged with a grand total of 400 counts of some crime. 394 of these being for attempted murder/homicide. Now if the crime of attempted murder/homicide can carry a life sentence then Mr. Reid could receive 394 life sentences.

Does it really take 394 counts of murder/homicide to put this guy away forever? Is this part and parcel of the aftermath of 9/11? Will all crimes be charged as double, or triple, or even more? Will jaywalking become not crossing a street at a corner, and crossing the street in the middle of the block, using feet to commit a crime, willfully interfering with the proper flow of traffic, using a weapon of low impact to unlawfully traverse an asphalt surface at a point unregulated for pedestrian motion?

How about crimes that already seem questionable like say smoking a doob in the privacy of your home? Let's see that would be using an illegal substance, smoking a marijuana cigarette, using any part of the hemp plant for consumption, using a class 1 narcotic without a prescription, intent to use a class 1 narcotic without a prescription, conspiracy to use a class 1 narcotic with or without a prescription, using a narcotic while sitting, using a narcotic while standing, using a narcotic that doesn't have a narcotic effect on a person.

Potentially this sort of piling up of offences could get someone the chair for something as trivial as jaywalking. I hope you understand a good (or bad) part of this essay was tongue in cheek, but that doesn't mean that this isn't a serious issue. Piling up multiple charges for one offense is insidious in nature and before we know it we may find that all the freedoms we hold dear are lost incrementally as we are all cheering at the sentences of the worst of us.

If this is going to be the trend then maybe we should have 10 Bill of Rights, each saying the same thing but worded slightly different, then move the other 16 amendments to 101st amendment and so on. Imagine, 100 amendments that say that government is limited in what it can do to us.

So if they arrest you for carrying a weapon your defense could be based on the 2nd, 12th, 22nd,32nd, 42nd, 52nd, 62nd, 72nd, 82nd, and 92nd Amendments to the Constitution, not to mention the 9th, 10th, 19th, 20th, ... well you get the idea.

Really, I would feel more secure knowing that if a person is going to attempt to murder someone that person is charged with no more than one count of attempted murder for each person they attempted to kill. Also that person should be given no more than one life sentence. A real life sentence that ends when that person dies.

Although Mr. Reid may have thrown away most of his rights when he attempted the crazy stunt on Dec. 22nd that doesn't mean we have to throw away all of our rights to deal with his ilk.

One other thing, after hearing about Richard Reid and learning about the lifestyle he led and now knowing the extreme charges he must face, I think we can all agree that we wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Kevin Tull thejclib2@juno.com

Let’s talk about the legal system and the ramifications of being swallowed up in it. I have unwillingly been caught up in it with my ex husband, who through his own fault, has been entangled in the web of the legal system in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now to say I condone irrational or irresponsible behavior is wrong, because I do not. But we have become the politically correct society, we clamor to help immigrants, we praise the leaders when they make sound judgments about our current legal enterprises. But what about the white guy trying to make it on $6.50 an hour? Get a public defendant everyone says. Well I have experienced that too, and many of them are about as useful as a water hose at Oceans of Fun.

But people often tend to forget what really goes on in these courtrooms, with the lawyers clamoring to grab all the defendants they can, and the judges growing weary of seeing the same defendants over and over.

Why is this so many people ask? Well there are many factors. Namely, these people committing petty crimes, are required usually to pay large fines. What do you call a petty crime? Depends on your region and your background of course, but someone being stopped and having an amount of marijuana equal to the size of the eraser on a pencil, is petty in my book. Yes it’s illegal, and yes it’s a crime, but why does someone in that group have to pay $1500 in fines, when it’s usually someone who has nothing more than a $6.50 an hour job? Yes we can all sit here and say, "Well that person should not have been doing the crime".. I agree with that idealogy, but the fact remains, if we impose these sentences on these people, they end up right back up in that courtroom when they have problems paying their fines, and handling probation or parole. Thus, they end up back in to the taxpayer’s pocket.

When your name enters the system, you are flagged. When famous people are acquitted and/or get off lightly compared to Joe E. Public, for having pounds of it, I say there is a problem. There isn’t equal ground here to even stand on, and that causes a vicious circle. I am not contending that these people should be let off in any way, but I think the fines are excessive, considering how much money the county programs take in, in confiscating stings and such. On top of that, the judges REQUIRE these people come in with an attorney. There are many cases in which they could just issue a fine, let them pay it and be done with it. Instead they dream up ways to drag more money out of the defendant’s pocket, and thus keep him locked into the grid. They also force the defendant to attend court any number of times, usually 8 or 9 times. Each visit to the court costs money that must be paid to the attorney, costs in the form of missing work, if even they can keep a job that will let them miss work. I am not using statistics or exact numbers, nor am I slamming particular judges or public defendants. I am using personal experience and I AM slamming the "system" they are all a part of. It can be reworked so these guys can pay off their dues, pay reasonable amounts to their attorneys, and not have to miss a half dozen days of work. Reworking the system would alleviate some of the burden to the taxpayer, alleviate the stress of the money woes, and everyone could get what they want.

Kellye Bauders kbaud25@hotmail.com

RE: Laura Haywood's arch-conservative opinion on the inextricable relationship between having sex and procreation:

No birth control method is 100 percent reliable. If you want to be 100 percent sure you don't get pregnant, you don't have sex. If you have sex, you've made your choice. 'Pro-choice' should be changed to 'pro-second thoughts.' ...

Excuse the French, but screw you, lady! If you insist on tying ANY sexual relations involving intercourse to an IMPLICIT acceptance of the risk of conception, and offer NO alternative to someone who -- despite HER best intentions, and all the precautions possible (or simply the heat of the moment?) -- finds herself with a zygote inside.

You are consigning every woman to chattel slavery, by the mere fact that she is the one who must in your view now submit to 9 months of pregnancy, painful childbirth and 18+ plus years of raising what is now a born child.

I fully agree that there is a clear zone after which point a decision has been made, whether or not it is explicitly stated, to carry a fetus to term.

I DO NOT agree that this zone begins at some point called "conception" (a moment which cannot even be determined until some weeks later in most cases. I fully support all methods for preventing implantation of the zygote, as well as an early-term period during which the choice to carry or terminate the organism should clearly be up to the woman it so directly concerns, and her alone.

Anything else, as Neil has himself (along with Aaron?) so eloquently pointed out in "Hope" ... is asking for a police state bureaucracy designed for only one purpose: breeding women like cattle, according to the dictates of the state!

Steve Trinward strin@earthlink.net

I'll renew my challenge to anyone who would like to debate the correct libertarian position on reproductive choice and invite TLE to host the exchange.

I don't know if I have the energy or inclination to dive into a rigorous debate on the subject, but will gladly offer a few thoughts on the matter.

I consider myself to be both "pro-life" AND "pro-choice", and see no necessary contradiction between the two camps.

Simply, the rights of the host supercede the interests of the parasite. To wit: Mom rules. If she's game for the exercise, then by all means, let her bear young. If not, then not. No one else is qualified to choose on her behalf. A vigorous economy, substantial tax cuts, more liberal abortion laws, and a culture of personal responsibilty will definitely help sway her decision, but in the end, it must be her decision and no one else's.

Personally, I believe that human life begins at conception, and that abortion is homicide. Killing enemy soldiers on the battle field is also homicide, to force a clumsy parallel, but neither act is necessarily murder. I consider abortion to be a tragedy, and when government (or other nosey neighbors) imposes itelf, it COMPOUNDS the tragedy.

For the record, I am male, the father of three, and will never be placed in the position of having to make the choice. I don't believe the accident of my birth, however, should be considered an indictment of my reasoning.

Kind Regards,

Citizen Duquesne
Libertarian for Congress

[See also "IS NOW PRO-CHOICE OR PRO-ABORTION?", by Wendy McElroy, in this issue - ed.]

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