[Get Opera!]

L. Neil Smith's
Number 171, April 29, 2002

In Association with the Libertarian International

London, Saturday, 13th April 2002
For Immediate Use


The Labour's government's plans to integrate the personal data held on British citizens by various government departments and agencies is a dagger to the heart of liberty, says the Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties think tank and pressure group.

Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Chris R. Tame, says:

"In the light of the ever-more blatant attack on civil liberties in this country - including the proliferation of camera surveillance systems, the increasing involvement of intelligence agencies in political surveillance and dirty tricks operations, the push for a national ID card and DNA database, the gradual abolition of common law liberties by the removal of jury trials, of the presumption of innocence, of the right of silence and of double jeopardy, and by the adoption of the EU's despotic corpus juris - this proposal is even more ominous. The government's claim that data would be processed only 'where necessary' is laughable - especially when one sees that their list of 'necessary' reasons covers every conceivable excuse for nanny statism, paternalism, censorship, socialism, prudery, puritanism and prohibitionism.

It is ironic that when the state has demonstrated that it is incapable of providing any 'public service' adequately, when it cannot defend its citizens from predators of every stripe, that is should be attempting to turn us into supplicants and serfs. The common argument that 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' is absurd. In an age when health fascists have declared smoking to be a form of child abuse it is clear that everyone can be subjected to the prejudices of demented paternalists - whether of the fundamentalist religious nutters, the peddlers of PC pieties, the environmentalists, or the feminist anti-sex cranks. Your life style, your tastes, your sexuality, your political and social views, can be subjected to tomorrow's moral panic, propaganda scare campaign and witch-hunt and legislated as 'crimes' or as 'politically incorrect'.

The citizens of Britain need to send a message to our would-be masters that we are not numbers, that we will not be pushed, filed, indexed, stamped, briefed, debriefed, or numbered - that our lives are our own.

It is now clear that the 'social contract' has been broken by the state. Resistance to the usurpations of the state is both a right and a moral duty. It is the right, the duty, of all to resist and disrupt the state's data gathering and record-keeping ability, by whatever means are necessary".

Dr. Chris R. Tame [chris@libertarian.co.uk]

The current argument over government vs anachy misses the target. There is a distinction that needs to be brought to the forefront, that is the distinction between 'state' and 'government'.

Through sloppiness of language (perhaps purposefull) the term 'the government' is used to refer to 'the state'. One handy way of reminding ourselves of this is to refer to the federal state rather than the federal government.

The argument needs to be made for distributed forms of government rather than centralized political power.

The state then can be thought of as 'monopoly government'.

Remember the terms monarchy, aristocracy, etc. refer to rulers as heads of state and thus anarchy would refer to a system without rulers rather than a system without rules.

However, the term anarchy has come to mean chaos for most listeners and perhaps should not be proffered as discriptive of a libertarian society.

As has been said before, many of us can agree on which direction to go and we should focus our energies on that rather than disagreeing on how far we should go.

Sam Grove [sam@kogagrove.org]

For the record, William "Il Duce" Bennett's exact words were:

"It's your constitutional right to criticize. But when you criticize, you take the consequences for your words. Your words may be responded to and your words can be interpreted in such ways that they hurt the national resolve."
[enormous long URL]

Scott Cattanach [sendtoscott@yahoo.com]

Ironically, I was reading Burt Blumert's response to David Brown's "To Tell the Truth" at http://www.lewrockwell.com/blumert/blumert50.html when I opened this week's issue of TLE, and found the juxtaposition fascinating.

For starters, how could any libertarian support Bill Bennet's AVOT? Isn't that kind of like a Jew supporting the Gestapo? Yet Mr. Brown implies in his article that he supports AVOT.

Of course, having gone through Mr. Brown's previous articles, I see that his specialty seems to be attacking anyone who operates from solidly libertarian principles, and so wonder just what his principles are. It's hard to tell, given that lately his writing doesn't seem to promote any libertarian principles - merely to attack those who have libertarian principles.

Could it be that, in Mr. Brown, we have discovered a LINO?

Then again, what else can you consider someone who claims to be a libertarian, while simultaneously supporting the brutal murder of innocent people, merely because they happen to be living in a country where the imperialists on the Potomac claim there may be people who might be connected in some way to someone who they think (but have no solid proof of) had something to do with the attacks on September 11?

Bill Hartwell [whartwel@zianet.com]

To the editor:

In two recent articles, I criticized, in no particular order, a) terrorism, b) libertarianesque excuse-making for terrorism, c) libertarianesque sloppy misrepresentation of and/or outright lying about one's ideological opposition.

Apparently, judging by the resultant controversy (some of which further and abundantly illustrates the very syndrome on which I was reporting), to criticize either soft-peddling of mass murder and/or argumentum ad hominem is the very worst sort of thing a person can do. ("Argumentum ad hominem" is a logical fallacy that involves "attacking the man" instead of "attacking the argument." See http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/attack.htm.) I plead guilty to excessive regard for human life and polemical plausibility, as well as to providing actual detailed examples of what I was talking about.

I'm guessing that if certain "libertarians" were around during the time of the French Revolution, they'd be downplaying the rampant head- chopping perpetrated during the Terror by reference to the sins of Marie Antoinette.


David M Brown [dmb1000@juno.com]

On the never ending debate on:

"How to resolve the abortion issue through an institution that cannot resolve any problem except by getting out of the way."

"How and when to use force to make one group follow the beliefs of another."

"If your only solution is a hammer, why the problem has got to be a nail."

Coercive government is not, will not and cannot be the solution to any question. Even if a theoretically superior form of government could resolve such an issue as abortion and install a means of benignly instituting its solution, we do not have such a government and such a government does not and has never existed on the face of this earth. And we are not likely to see one anytime in the near future.

The only workable solutions will arise from the free market. Why not debate, and for those who feel strongly, institute current free market solutions while there is still some free market left?

Business plans can be conceived. Money can be raised. Charities can be started. Do something other than yammer about what government should do.

Any arguments about what government should do are convenient excuses not to take responsibility for your beliefs. Instead, true believers want to pass laws to intimidate, coerce and, if they resist, kill anyone who disagrees with them. Thatís easier than accepting responsibility and getting off your dead ass and doing something.

If you feel strongly, do something. If you donít, find something you think is worth doing to talk about in this newsletter.

Of course, thatís just my opinion and I donít own this newsletter.

Don Winfield [btp2@mindspring.com]

Regarding James Antle's remarks on abortion, he is making one main point, and also affirming his position on abortion. The main point is that the Supreme Court should not have been thought to have the power to interpret the constitution as applying to abortion.

But in arguing that the States should be able to regulate abortion, he surely raises a question: why should states be able to regulate it rather than individuals? No individual can be required to adopt the "pro-life" position on abortion, or to renounce it. Those who believe abortion is wrong will presumably not practice it themselves, and those who believe it is permissible will presumably feel free to practice it, or not, as they see fit. What is the sense in allowing fifty states to impose fifty different practices here? No matter what they do, it will conflict with the self-perceived interests and beliefs of a lot of their citizens.

Antile says, correctly, that "Many pro-lifers argue that Roe is comparable to the Dred Scott decision in that it depersonified a class of human beings." They argue this way, but unlike the Dred Scott decision, which uncontroversially did what could be thus described, the Roe decision "depersonalifies" fetuses only in the sense that it allows individuals to make up their own minds about that. It does not, because you cannot, "depersonify" them in the sense that it requires people to regard fetuses as nonpersons. Rather, it says that the status of fetuses does not justify requiring people to treat them as persons - unlike the status of, say two-year olds or forty-year-olds. There is ample controversey about the status of first-few-months human beings; there is no controversey about the status of normal grown people or children.

Antle's other claim is on the issue itself. He says, "It is this writer's contention that the unborn child is in fact a human being, a complete physical human organism, in the earliest stages of development." In saying this, he pronounces what may be regarded as a truism. The question then is: yes, but are these the entities to which governments must accede rights, such as to own property and be protected from life-threatening attacks? Antle's claim does not answer that, but I think he thinks it does, as do so many other people professing that sort of view about abortion. It would help matters out a good deal if people, including Mr. Antle, recognized that it does not.

Antle is quite right to say that "pro-life beliefs are not required to recognize Roe as a judicial usurpation of power." But are they such a "usurpation"? The Founding Fathers did not, of course, address themselves to the issue of the moral status of fetuses. When that is so, does it follow that they are leaving this issue in the hands of state legislatures? Why? Why is it a "usurpation of power" to decide that no government, federal, state, or local, may forbid individual people to do what they want about a matter that clearly does not involve any sort of violence or loss to any other persons uncontroversially designated as such?

He is right to say that "Overturning Roe would not necessarily make abortion illegal." What it would do, though, is to turn a matter that currently is regarded as one of individual conscience over to state legislatures, to re-decide in many ways. Many of those states will decide on the basis, essentially, of the perceived religious views of the majority, which could be viewed as violating the first amendment. Again, one could perhaps stretch things a little and view state intervention into the affairs of individual women vis-a-vis what is happening inside their own bodies as a violation of the fourth amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable .. seizures".

One could appeal to amendment 9: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Of course, there is also #10: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. But #10 leaves it open which of the two they are to be reserved to - however, one could argue that #9 takes precedence, whenever there is not a clear case for allowing a state legislature to legislate on a given matter. When the "given matter" is an individual one like this, it is hard to see what clear case there is for allowing state legislation about it.

What Roe vs. Wade did do was to go into the biological and philosophical case for regarding entities such as fetuses as having the sort of rights which the Constitution of the United States clearly intended for all ordinary people in the usual uncontroversial sense of that term, with the rather explicit and embarassing exception of black people. The case for excluding negroes from thoseo rights is philosophically zero, and as we know it took a long time for this politically-induced anomaly to be fixed. There is, as Mr. William Westmiller astutely observed, ample historical precedent in cultural practice for fixing the point at which human organisms can be regarded as having rights against their mothers somewhere around that at which the court did fix it.

Taking all those things together, I don't think it's true that Roe vs. Wade undid something clearly there in the Constitution of the U.S., and that it did do something that can be plausibly regarded as within the broad intentions of the framers.

Jan Narveson [jnarveso@watarts.uwaterloo.ca]

It seems to me that most of the positions adopted in the argument over abortion have accepted the premise that people have "rights", but then look to science to define when one becomes "human". My question is this: What does science have to say about "rights"? Has the scientific method been used to comment on the existence and nature of these "rights" or not? If science has yet to address this purported objective phenomena, then perhaps there is a reason for this silence.

Philip Prescott [associationist@hotmail.com]

In his first letter, Mr. Chirachua implies that by arguing what is conventionally described as the "pro-life" side of the abortion debate with William Westmiller I was advocating some variant of the animal rights position. Now in his follow-up, he argues that I am a "racialist" - presumably favoring the human race, since nothing I have written on this or any other subject could logically be construed as racialist in any other context.

Thus, we may have discovered new common ground for libertarians on opposite sides of the abortion debate. All of us who hold that human beings intrinsically have rights on account of their humanity are guilty of "speciesism." At least until we have discovered an appropriately uplifted orca.


Mr Hutchinson, in TLE#170 you wrote:

"Let's try to avoid Sarah Brady's arguments, okay?"

I agree completely with your sentiment, and I wish to point out the different direction of argument I was trying to take.

Robbery is something done to you. With the chemicals and compounds I was bringing up, I was trying to address how someone is able to perform an abortion on themselves.

So trying to prevent abortion is like trying to prevent smoking, or drinking.

And we both agree how successful those prohibitions have been.

I hope you understand now what I was trying to say. Thank you for letting me know I was unsuccessful in my first attempt.

Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]

* * *

True. However, I don't think the relative difficulty of others discovering one's actions could possibly have any bearing on their criminality, or lack of same. To give an example with which we can probably both agree, a single mother/hermit who beats her 1-year-old on a single occasion in their secluded cabin is obviously a criminal, despite possibly standing almost zero chance of being caught. I can condemn her behavior without calling for a nationwide monitoring of recluses.

Robert Hutchinson [hobbs@surfsouth.com]

* * *

I didn't say anything about relative difficulty. Prohibition is wrong not just because it doesn't work, but because it's wrong. Without choice, even the choice to do wrong, there is no freedom. The purely utilitarian argument against it is often enough without the real moral argument. It's nice that it works that way, as most people seem to avoid moral arguments like the plague.

Living without the ability to do 'wrong' is not virtuous. In the Christian system, it is the overcoming of temptation which is rewarded. In the Eastern systems, enlightenment is attained by direct experience, the same principle. The Shadow had been the most evil of men, and only by realizing it, by mastering himself and overcoming that evil, was he redeemed.

To quote Cicero, I think, "Laws do not persuade simply because they threaten."

The knowledge of good and evil destroys Eden, but I have no wish to live in ignorance or have my independent will subsumed into the state in order to be safe. Nor will I advocate anyone else by so subsumed. The womb was nice, but I'm all grown up now, let me make my mistakes.

I read a great article about this just today: "Read This Or Be Assimilated" by Bob Wallace http://www.lewrockwell.com/wallace/wallace34.html

Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]

In TLE #170, 4/21/2002, William Westmiller defended Roe v. Wade.

He failed to note that Roe v Wade was solidly based on Griswold v Connecticut, and could hardly have been decided against Roe without overturning that earlier decision.

Mr. Westmiller offered a link to Roe v Wade http://caselaw.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=410&invol=113

Here's Griswold v Connecticut: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&court=US&case=/us/381/479.html

Perhaps "Griswold" reached the correct result, but used the wrong rationale. The result should have been reached on First Amendment grounds, and left alone the asserted "penumbra" of the bill of rights. The "penumbra" is a good libertarian idea, which ought to be respected by our legislative and executive branches, but inviting the courts to delineate that "penumbra" invites an expansive and activist role for the court, a role for which it is ill-suited, and which has, I think, proven to be ill-advised.

Bill Bunn [billbunn@free-market.net]

* * *

Worthy point. I did note that "Both landmark cases were thoroughly supported by legal precedent," but decided that extensive citations weren't necessary or necessarily persuasive.

Of course, if the "penumbra" had been found wrongly, I would have disputed it on the merits, not because the court should avoid applying "overshadowing" principles to the literal words.

William Westmiller [Westmiller@aol.com]

To The Editor:

James Antle III, in his most recent article, uses a favorite rhetorical trick of the right wing when he states that "There is absolutely no evidence that the Framers intended to create a right to abortion". The lie in this case is the allegation, implicit in the statement, that an individual has only the rights that a government deigns to allow him or her to possess. The opposite, of course, is true. Under the Constitution, as amended by the Bill of Rights, the individual possesses rights, independent of any statement of founders, or license of government. One of those rights, unenumerated but implicit, is the right of privacy the right to be left alone by a government. That right is at the core of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.

Where the federal government, or the states, attempt to impinge upon a fundamental liberty, such as the right to privacy, they must, under constitutional law, demonstrate a "compelling state interest". What constitutes a "compelling state interest"? Health and safety have risen it that level in constitutional jurisprudence. Originally, many abortion laws were written to secure the health and safety of the mother. These were written in the 19th century and were enacted because, at that time, all abortions were septic, and therefore usually fatal to the woman. However, with the advent of germ theory and surgical asepsis, septic abortions were no longer the norm, if performed in medical facilities. In fact, by the time of the Roe decision, it was generally accepted that abortions were, medically, safer than carrying a child to term. Therefore, while there might have once been a compelling state interest, as defined by the court, in limiting or preventing abortion, that was no longer the case.

The second set of laws banning abortion were primarily based on the religious belief that human life begins at the moment of conception. As the Court pointed out, there was no general consensus on when life began, and therefore, it would be imprudent (and impudent) for the court to attempt to establish one out of whole cloth.

The second most-common right-wing argument in the issue of abortion is that the Court had no right to strike down the decisions of the states to ban abortion. This is a sort of modified "states rights" theory. However, if you follow the logic of this theory, it basically holds that, while the powers of the federal government are limited, it is perfectly permissible for the states to establish 50 little dictatorships, and deprive people of life, liberty, property and privacy at whim. While some might welcome this sort of Orwellian nightmare, I for one have no taste for it. The states, along with the Federal government, have altogether too much power already.

In summary, not only is there no rational libertarian argument in favor of the anti-choice position, there is no rational argument in favor of it under American Constitutional law.

Michael W. Gallagher [mwglaw@msn.com]

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

Until men can get pregnant, please do not print any more anti-abortion letters from men. And may I recommend Solomon's Knife by Victor Koman? He discusses transoption: the transfer of zygote, blastocyst, etc. from one host to another. The recipient need not always be female.

Renata Russell, Signatory [archergirl@netzero.net]

Dear John,

Just to keep you informed of my present endeavors, I include my latest missive to a local news rag's forum section. The Herald's pertinent web site address for what I am about to discuss is: http://forums.heraldnet.com/viewtopics.cfm?Forum=12

That's the 'sound off' page. That's where I spend time to see what the local -- and not so local -- opinions are voiced. My latest input follows. I invite anyone to log-in and proceed to do their best at what they might, in the cause of liberty.

Well, it would appear that this whole issue of airplanes and firearms has pretty much been exposed for what it was all along: Emotional outburst by people who can't substantiate their claims.

The law has been stated numerous times, and has been shown to be subverted by politicians, jurists, and conniving private citizens who wouldn't know what the term 'brave' meant, if it slapped them upside the head, like a cold side of beef.

It has, it would seem, entirely devolved to emotional drivel, and it's no wonder that people die as a result of being disarmed by fiat law. Yes, the state will take care of you, just as it did, on 9/11/2001, all the way to the ground.

In finality, the only thing the state will help do, it bury your butt. Consider it this way: there are people who want to 'feel safe', and in order to do so, want to disarm all others in the process. It MUST be noted, that 'feeling' a certain way, in no way connotes an actual circumstance. If you kill somebody, you might 'feel good', but that in no makes what you did 'good'.

So, in essence, what happened on 9/11/2001 was that those who felt 'good' about having their fellow citizens being disarmed, were is essence nothing less than moral cowards. Those people could not allow the chance that if the citizens were armed aboard any of those jet liners, that maybe -- just maybe -- one or more of them could have been wounded or killed in the saving of those planes -- and so very many more people.

No, instead what they did was take everybody else aboard down with them, and several thousand more on the ground, in the process. What better way to die than to take everybody else with you, right? That is the essence of disarming your fellow citizens: Your own cowardice is used to kill everyone else.

E.J. Totty [echeghlon@seanet.com]

I want to thank you for your article, "War of the Weenies," and your continuing, unswerving adherence to principle in these difficult times. Seeing one of my favorite writers -- Vin Suprynowicz -- abandon his principles for blood rage, and seeing my favorite news site -- WorldNet Daily -- devolve into a pack of cheerleaders for the Warfare State has left me quite dispirited; your column cheered me up considerably, as it let me know that not everyone has lost their head.

Kevin S. Van Horn [Kevin.VanHorn@ndsu.NoDak.edu]

In "WAR OF THE WEENIES" TLE #170, 4/21/2002, L. Neil Smith offered a rousing defense of the anti-war position, little of which seems to call for disagreement. In this article, he wrote:

"If they can only fight back against specific individuals who attacked them, they can't very well justify dropping explosives, ... on entire populations ..."


"... attempting to whitewash taking it on yourself to mete out group- punishment to folks as a whole who never did you any harm."

These are easy propositions with which to agree, in view of the phrases "on entire populations", "group-punishment" and "folks as a whole".

Then he writes "The Non-Aggression Principle allows no room for 'collateral damage'".

But If we rigorously exclude collateral damage, do we not, in effect, make the bad guys an offer to disarm ourselves if they will but take a few hostages? Ought we thus reward hostage-taking? If the bad guys use innocent human shields while shooting at you, must you then refrain from shooting back, for fear of harming one of those innocents?

Must we really, in order to be true to liberty, thus handsomely reward hostage-taking?

Bill Bunn [billbunn@free-market.net]

* * *

"Must we really, in order to be true to liberty, thus handsomely reward hostage-taking?"

No one has a right, under any circumstances to initiate force against another human being for any reason. This is not my formulation, it has been a part of the movement for over half a century, and for good reason. Open the ethical door a crack, and in an instant, it will be slammed back to the wall, the barbarian hordes will come rushing in, and that will be the end of the whole concept of libertarianism. It's happening right now, as we speak.

No, we do not handsomely reward hostage-takers. We arm everyone, so that the likelihood of being taken hostage is far smaller. We teach people to become uncooperative hostages and to know what to do when rescue is at hand. And we become better shots (a matter of technology and training) so we can remove the top of a hostage-taker's skull where it sticks up from behind a hostage.

L. Neil Smith [lneil@lneilsmith.org]

* * *

I appreciate your concern about initiation of "force against another human being for any reason", and your concern for the "slippery slope". But perhaps we can distinguish between initiation of force against an innocent third party (one the one hand), and (on the other hand) using defensive force against a villain, despite a substantial probability of collateral harm to an innocent hostage. This does not seem to be a subtle distinction, that puts us on a slippery slope, but rather a rather clear difference which can be easily recognized.

If you would persuade us that risking collateral harm, even in self- defense, even in extremis, puts us on a slippery slope, perhaps you need to make a clearer, more compelling argument.

And I appreciate the idea of learning to avoid being taken hostage, and learning means of taking out a hostage-taker without harm to the hostage. But I wonder if it is really possible to do these things so effectively as to eliminate any real probability of a successful hostage-taking. Is it really possible to make hostage-taking unrewarding without any substantial risk of collateral harm, however well organized and prepared a hostage-taker may be, and regardless of how many villains may be involved? (Imagine, for instance, villains in a tank, or a battalion of tanks, with hostages tied to the outside of the tank.)

Bill Bunn [billbunn@free-market.net]

We are about to begin our major advertising campaign on behalf of the Free State Project. To date, we have been attending state Libertarian Party conventions and advertising online (in free-market.net and rationalreview.com). The money for this has come out of the pockets of the organizers, and we've achieved a signup rate of 3 per day. But to reach 20,000 participants within five years, we need 12 per day. We think we can do this - if we take our message to the thousands of libertarians and classical liberals out there who have not yet heard about us. Here are some venues we are targeting:

  • Full-page ad, "LP News"; cost: $1000
  • Full-page ad, "Reason"; cost: $1790
  • Full-page ad, "Backwoods Home Magazine"; cost: $1650
  • Full-page ad, "Liberty"; cost: yet to be determined
  • Banner ad, newsmax.com; cost: $1350/week
  • Banner ad, WorldNetDaily.com; cost: $4500/month

Those are our primary goals. We will, however, undertake this publicity in stages, so as to grow our membership base at each stage and improve our financial situation.

For now, our goal is to raise $2500 to pay for a full-page ad in "LP News" and in one other location. Even if you are not a member of the Free State Project but support our efforts, please consider helping us out with a contribution of $10, $25, or $100. The organization is setting up its own bank account, and you can make out your checks to "Free State Project" and send them to:

Debra Ricketts, Treasurer
Free State Project
565 College Drive Suite #C-160
Henderson, NV 89015

Or you can contribute via e-gold (www.e-gold.com), account number 479789. Fully 100% of contributions go toward publicity. By the end of the year we should have 501(c)(3) status, so that your contributions are also tax-deductible.

Thank you very much for your continued support; with perseverance we will see a free society - in at least one state - within our lifetimes.


Jason P Sorens [jason.sorens@yale.edu], President
Free State Project


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