L. Neil Smith's
Number 195, October 21, 2002


How Many Americans Does it take to Change a Dim Bulb?
Remarks By L. Neil Smith To The Second Annual Freedom Summit
October 12th and 13th, 2002, Phoenix, Arizona

by L. Neil Smith

Special to TLE


Ladies and gentlemen, fellow children of the American Revolution, I have a question for you: how many Americans does it take to change a dim bulb?

It would appear that honest individuals, in what I've been known to call the "general freedom movement", differ with one another over the practicality, the efficacy, and even the morality of the existence and operation of a libertarian party.

I'm not here today to argue one side of that or another. The fact is that the Libertarian Party exists, and, for better or worse, its various candidates - its presidential nominee in particular - are the most publicly visible spokespersons for individual liberty in our civilization.

However you want to slice it, this is a sobering thought.

At no time in modern history has the very concept of individual liberty been in greater danger of being snuffed out, brutally and abruptly, by those who have solemnly promised to protect it. And yet the vast majority of Libertarian Party candidates do not often speak of the kinds of liberty and the extent of freedom in which I'm interested, and for which I've struggled, almost my every waking hour, since I was a 15-year-old inmate at Choctawhatchee High School in Okaloosa County, Florida, reading his first Ayn Rand novel and perhaps his 20th book by Robert Heinlein.

There are two reasons for this failure to speak for the essence of freedom, and they are dismal ones. The first is the fear, common among party libertarians, that a frank and fully frontal expression of our desire for freedom won't "play in Peoria", that straightforwardness and passion will cost the Libertarian Party votes. And winning votes, of course, is so much more important than actually being free. At least that's how it sounds sometimes to this 40-year veteran of the general freedom movement.

Another, even less admirable reason to shade the discoveries that libertarian theories inevitably lead us to, and to soft-pedal the music that those discoveries would play for us, is that it might turn off politically conservative, mostly Republican contributors who have no courage or convictions themselves, and have to pay someone else - in this case the Libertarian Party - to have courage and convictions for them.

But not too much courage, thank you, or too many convictions, please.


That, my friends, defines the process by which the LP finds itself in the present mess it's in: 31 years of frantic, futile struggle. And yet, with the acceptance of one, single, simple, self-evident, and, ultimately liberating truth, all of that can change almost overnight, and a libertarian party - perhaps even this Libertarian Party - can become an effective tool to regain, preserve, and expand individual liberty.

That simple truth is that a libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, not in 2004, not in 2008, not in 2012. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to think the unthinkable in public, to speak the unspeakable, and even, occasionally, to do the undoable.

A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to rush in where Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives fear even to think about treading. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyay, so he can afford to step fearlessly on every "third rail" there is in American political life.

Think about it. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to be the one who takes the risks, the one who breaks the ice, the one who sets the tone, the one who establishes the level of discourse in the debates he's going to be left out of anyway.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say, forget the theoretical differences between Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, between fascists and communists. It's all an illusion, intended to conceal the fact that every government in the world, just like every government in history, is a kleptocracy - meaning "government by thieves" - and every politician is, first and foremost, a soul-brother to every pickpocket, shoplifter, con-artist, cutpurse, mugger, burglar, and stickup man on the planet.

Government isn't about justice, it isn't about national defense, it isn't about protecting Americans from poverty or a loss of dignity, or pit bulls, or assault rifles, or underarm odor, or secondhand smoke, or crime in general - above all, it isn't about protecting Americans from crime - on the contrary, it's about extracting as high a percentage as possible of the wealth that the productive class creates before the productive class begins to notice that the whole thing is a scam. And before the productive class can begin to do something about it.

Perhaps, despite all the years we libertarians have spent arguing the contrary, there really is only a two-way political spectrum, a line - a very short line, because there isn't any middle - at one end of which we find those whose lives and careers consist of making up and acting on excuses to steal other people's money, and at the other end of which we find those who refuse to participate in theft. The non-theft end of the line is for libertarians only. Everybody else - including greedy or misguided LP members who want taxpayers to subsidize their election campaigns - belongs at the theft end of the line.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that all taxation is theft, and it isn't the job of a libertarian presidential candidate to cook up new ways to commit theft.

He can also afford to say that any government as "humanitarian" as this one advertises itself to be wouldn't tax food, clothing, shelter, transportation, or the means of self-defense, all of which are basic necessities of life.

He can afford to say that a government as dedicated to freedom as this one advertises itself to be wouldn't tax anything - that is to say, any activity or object - which is protected by the first Ten Amendments.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that the only reason gun control - more properly referred to as "victim disarmament" - enjoys such a high priority among the kleptocratic class is that they want to be able to threaten members of the productive class, to steal from members of the productive class, to brutalize members of the productive class, and to kill members of the productive class - or have their black nylonned, Kevlar vested, ski-masked, Nazi-helmeted, jackbooted thugs do it for them - without the slightest fear of any consequences. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that, in this context the proper term for "gun control" is "taxpayer disarmament".


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that there is nothing about the public school system that can be fixed by tinkering with the public school system. Funded by theft and populated by kidnapping and slavery, it is rooted in a moral inversion, so that the more resources that are sacrificed to it, the worse it gets.

Considering the 100% negative contribution they make to it, public school teachers are the most obscenely overpaid individuals in our civilization and that someday history will recognize the public school system as an atrocity comparable to the Soviet system of gulags, or, more appropriately, to the Soviet system of psychiatric hospitals that were used to medicalize and eradicate dissent.

The public school system must be abolished, its buildings razed to the ground so that not one stone is left standing on another, and salt sown on the ruins.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that Social Security was a criminal hoax from the beginning, from which there can be no recovery. Just as it isn't the job of the cops to repay the victims of a con-artist, it isn't the job of a libertarian presidential candidate to look for ways to repay those who, however innocently, counted on Social Security to feed, house, and clothe them in their declining years.

The fact is, most Social Security recipients - or would-be recipients - like most "victims" of con-artists, are not really that innocent, anyway. The con-man relies on a certain degree of larceny in the heart of his "mark", an illicit desire for something unearned. The politician relies on the willingness of his elderly constituents to provide for their future by cutting themselves a nice, thick, steaming, bloody chunk of the quivering flesh of their own children and grandchildren.

Recognizing, as we must, the "Tompkins-Suprynowicz Principle", government assets - land, in particular - can't be sold off casually to make up any deficit, even Social Security. Either that land belonged to somebody, from whom it was taken in the first place, or it should have been equitably distributed, and later is better than never. Yet the politicians who passed Social Security in the first place, those who have maintained it ever since, those who've made a career of "saving" Social Security, these criminals and con-men all have assets themselves which could be seized to make up as much of the loss as possible.

The government can't give you back your money - it was all spent long ago, and they'd just have to steal it from somebody else - but thieves can be forced to make restitution, even to those who foolishly or greedily counted on Social Security.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that providing prescription drugs, even for the elderly, is still socialism. And socialism is just another fancy word for stealing. The elderly, as a group, have more money than anybody else, and the image of your great-grandmother reduced to pan-frying dogfood so she can afford her heart pills is just another socialist lie. Worse, it supplies an excuse to loot generations to come, and to destroy their future.

We must oppose programs that would take food from the mouths of younger generations to buy prescription drugs for old people, and we must do it ... for the children.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that corporations are an extension of the government "by other means" and they are among the worst enemies that individual liberty has in our culture. Despite the legal fiction that protects them, they are not individuals and they do not have rights. Only individuals have rights. Like the government, corporations must be bound with the chains of the Constitution, and especially of the Bill of Rights.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that government secrecy has always been used more against the American people than against the enemies their government has chosen for them, that it has an historic record of laughable failure, and that, in the long run, it was the elements of our culture that are the most obvious and least secret that defeated the Nazis and the Soviets, not anything the government struggled pathetically to keep under wraps. In a future libertarian administration, the keeping of secrets by the government will be a crime, punishable by a long prison sentence.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that we live today - and have for generations - in an Empire of Lies, from "Honest Abe's" uncountable prevarications, including the one that secession isn't a fundamental Constititional and human right, to the Zimmerman telegram cooked up to get us into the First World War (and the actual status, under international law, of the British auxiliary warship Lusitania), to the way Franklin Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor, to a Tonkin Gulf Incident that never happened, to the way the government created Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, to nearly every aspect of domestic and international politics as it exists today.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions of people in the rest of the world, have died as a result of lies told by the American government - lies it is the government's right to tell, or so we have heard, over and over again, especially since the war in Vietnam. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that it should therefore be a felony, punishable by death, for any official - at any level of the government - to lie to any member of the public about anything, for any reason.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that city governments are obsolete as an economic unit or a social form. All things considered, they are deeply damaging to the human spirit. City governments continue to exist only because of federal subsidies, bestowed upon them because they represent a concentration of client-voters. They foster the cancerous growth and abuse of bureaucratic and political power and are an unconscionable waste of resources that could be better used elsewhere - especially if those resources were never collected from taxpayers to being with. City governments ought to be abolished, if only as a public health measure.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that no bureaucrat or politician, whether elected or appointed, should be allowed to collect, in salary or benefits, any amount exceeding the salary and benefits earned by his average private sector constituent. Moreover, to keep him in touch with those he claims to represent or serve, any wealth or assets he possesses independent of his political career should be held in escrow or blind trusts - along with the wealth and assets of his spouse and dependent children - until five years after he leaves office.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that, in peace or war, only individual men, women, and children count, and that, even in war, no amount of "collateral damage" is acceptable to a morally decent administration.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that there were too many cops in this country even before September 11, exercising powers that go far beyond anything intended by the Founding Fathers, and they need to be reined in severely.

To start with, no policemen should be permitted to carry or use any weapon forbidden to civilians in his jurisdiction. Just as important, the police should wear their badge numbers in six-inch digits across their backs, like football players, their names in large letters on their chests, and it should be a felony for them to wear ski masks or to obscure their faces in any other manner.

Any organism that will allow another organism to steal its offspring, for any reason, doesn't deserve to pass its genes on. Therefore, in the death of a police officer, social worker, or other government employee, it should be an affirmative defense that they were trying to take your children away.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that "Homeland Security" imposed by a fascist government is a hollow sham with an ulterior motive. Spy cameras at every intersection, fingerprints and retinal scans at the bank, electronic implants in our children, x-rays, anal probes, and wand-rape at the airports are worse than the problems they have failed to prevent.

History, current events, and common sense demonstrate beyond the palest shadow of a doubt that the American homeland will never be secure until every man, woman, and responsible child is free to exercise his or her unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon - rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything - any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.

A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to point out that before, say, 1913, Americans didn't allow themselves to be tagged, earmarked, tracked, traced, folded, spindled, or mutilated by government busybodies. They were free to live their lives, if they wished, in perfect privacy and anonymity. This is no longer possible, and the results, for individual liberty and the health and safety of the nation, have been disastrous.

It's time to organize a broad-based and aggressive "disidentification" or "identification resistance" movement that would call a screeching halt to all of these obsolete and evil "Progressive Era" practices and abolish Social Security numbers and cards, do away forever with draft registration, drivers' licences, the registration of possesions like cars and guns, repeal the 16th Amendment, and deeply reexamine the Census,


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that the War on Drugs has dragged on since the 1870s, when a handful of do-gooding idiots demanded that alcohol be outlawed, until today, when an entire nation finds itself in chains, every one of its once-trusted institutions corrupt beyond redemption, its populace being relentlessly watched, searched and probed at the slightest excuse, breathing, bleeding, and urinating on the command of jackbooted thugs and corporate neckties, helpless to prevent their children from being indoctrinated by the same gang of criminal scum, and forced to pay for it all with the highest taxes - and most intrusive taxation system - in civilized history. A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that the War on Drugs must end, and within the next five years, or there won't be any America left at all.

The War on Drugs employs millions - politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, and now the military - that probably couldn't find a place for their dubious talents in a free market, unless they were to sell pencils from a tin cup on street corners. Or accept transfer, under a libertarian administration, to a Department of Bill of Rights Enforcement where their natural prey will become politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, and now the military.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that tobacco smokers today are being treated the way black people were treated 75 years ago. It is nothing short of barbaric to force them to huddle out in the rain and snow. And in many cities they're not even allowed to do that any more. It's even worse to tell the owner of a restaurant what to do with his own property with regard to smoking or anything else.

Raising the political consciousness of smokers could awaken a sleeping giant and place the LP in at least second place, displacing one of the traditional parties. On the other hand, if libertarians continue to display the same bigotry and intolerance toward smokers that others do, they don't even deserve the place - a very distant third - they occupy today.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that, likewise, the war on terrorism - as well as the war on privacy and freedom that came with it - must stop and now. Ask Donald Scott, ask Gordon Kahl, ask Randy Weaver, ask the Branch Davidians: if the government were really interested in stopping terrorism, it would turn its guns on itself.

The claim that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked because fundamentalists hate our prosperity and freedom is a ridiculous lie. It's true that we are prosperous, and it's equally true that fundamentalists - for example, Jerry Falwell - probably think we have too much freedom. But September 11 happened for a simpler and more understandable reason. We've been dropping bombs on their children for 10 years, and for a century before that we've helped Europe tell them how to run their lives and their countries.

What would you do, under the same circumstances?

It was a handful of individual criminals who hijacked those airliners, destroyed those buildings, and snuffed out all of those lives. Most of the criminals died with their victims. If there are any of them left, they should be found and dealt with, as individual criminals.

This new way of looking at things - this refusal to accept or act on collectivist premises - could have prevented many of history's most terrible calamities, but for most people it requires a difficult readjustment in their thinking, one they may not be up to for another generation or two. However if we desire change, if we want the 21st Century to be freer of war and bloodshed than the 20th century was, it's insane to think that we can achieve that goal by thinking the same old thoughts, doing the same old things, pursuing the same old mindless policies that we did before.

Even so, September 11 could have been prevented if we were really a free country, not just one that advertises itself as such. If the Second Amendment rights of the passengers of the hijacked airliners had been respected and enforced, if only one or two of those passengers had been carrying competent weapons, it would never even have occurred to the criminals in question to hijack the planes, and two great landmarks and the unique, precious, and irreplaceable lives of two or three thousand individuals could have been saved.

George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Ridge, Norman Mineta, Condoleeza Rice (should I include Tony Blair?), and the rest of the Pinky and the Brain Administration would rather see those precious, irreplaceable thousands of individuals dead, their bodies vaporized or mangled beyond recognition, than see them with guns in their hands. To a career kleptocrat, the most horrifying sight imaginable is that of an armed taxpayer.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that, as America's history grows sadder and Americans give up more and more of their rights, it's hard to decide which institution has done more to damage what the Founding Fathers created, or done less to preserve and extend it, the judiciary or the mass media.

As far as the judiciary is concerned, short of cleaning the whole system out with flamethrowers and fire hoses, every sitting judge (there may be one or two exceptions) should be removed from the bench and replaced with someone who knows that the Bill of Rights is a covenant, not a "living document", and that the 1000-year-old right and duty of a jury is to review the law, as well as the facts of a case.

As to the media, they are protected by the First Amendment, as they should be. But so is anyone who launches a national boycott against their advertisers, establishes a website containing more personal information about individuals in the media than perhaps they'd like to see made public, or organizes a national movement calling for media reform.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to say that this country, and the world of which it's a part, face a threat far worse than what the government likes to call terrorism. This planet is 15 million years overdue for an asteroid strike like the one that killed the dinosaurs. Last June, a rock the size of a football field came three times closer to the Earth than the Moon happens to be, and in July we learned of a planet-wrecker that could hit the Earth toward the middle of this century.

Governments are either helpless or unwilling to do anything about this. Believe it or not, that's the good news. It is individuals who must be encouraged to undertake the unprecedented - and unprecedentedly profitable - effort to prevent the annihilation of the human race.


A libertarian presidential candidate isn't going to win anyway, so he can afford to think the unthinkable, speak the unspeakable, and occasionally do the undoable. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be easy to find such a candidate. So far, even the best of the libertarian presidential candidates have been extremely timid about spelling out to the public exactly what libertarians have in mind for this country's future. Ironically, this timidity hasn't done them any good - even the most moderate of libertarians are still branded by our political opposition and their house-trained media as radicals and anarchists.

Of course, some of us are radicals and anarchists, and I've always believed in making your enemies' worst nightmares come true if you possibly can. The media are used to dealing with denials and backpeddling by their spiritual brothers in politics. They can't handle honesty and integrity. It derails what little brainpower they have, and shuts them up. So when they say, "Do you really mean to abolish the Federal Reserve System, the Medicare System, or whatever other unconstitutional - and therefore illegal - system they happen to cherish most, simply reply "Yes, and ... ?"

The question remains, what can libertarians do, in the absence of a good, strong presidential candidate - or even in his or her presence - to bring about the changes this nation and the world so badly need?

First, we must continue to communicate to the public our central philosophical tenet, the Non-Aggression Principle. It's not that hard, really. It's already embedded in American thought. Everybody always wants to know who started it, who hit first. Look at the trouble poor old Silverfoot Junior is having, justifying what amounts to an initiation of force against Iraq.

One small suggestion: For as long as I've been a libertarian, some 40 years, we've referred to the Non-Aggression Principle and used the acronym N.A.P., which spells "nap". There's a certain dynamic lacking there, a little zip, a little pizzaz. I propose, instead, that we begin using the name "Zero Aggression Principle", which, of course, spells "ZAP".

Next, we must remind people every chance we get of that 1000 year old right and duty I mentioned, of juries to weigh the law as well as the facts of the case. It's clear that the establishment is terrified at the prospect of having to deal with fully-informed juries. Half the laws in this country are unconstitutional and the other half are stupid.

Juries ended alcohol prohibition. They can end the War on Drugs or whatever other war the kleptocrats dream up to keep us in line and keep their hands in our pockets. Never forget your right and duty as a jury member.

Finally, we need to launch a "Vote for No Incumbent" campaign. In the last general election, Silverfoot Junior won by the tiniest imaginable handful of votes. Libertarians have already proven, on many occasions, that they can swing the election from one candidate to another, usually from the Republican to the Democrat.

Many people who don't really belong in the Libertarian movement still think that this is a bad thing, causing Democrats to be elected instead of Republicans. I might have agreed with that, myself, once upon a time, but I believe that, by now, this gang of thieves and mass-murderers has taught anybody with any capacity to learn that it doesn't matter: Republicans are as bad as Democrats who are as bad as Republicans who are as bad as Democrats. Or is it the other way around?

In truth, Republicans and Democrats are halves of the same evil political entity I call the "Boot on Your Neck" Party. This one-party system consists of nothing but parasites who want to get elected or re-elected so they can steal your life, liberty, and property. There's no harm playing one parasite against another. If none of them can get re-elected over the next ten or twenty years, they might just get the message. And if they don't, their younger replacements - or their replacements - will.

So the question remains, how many Americans does it take to change a dim bulb? Well, it depends. If we want to change the current dim bulb for another dim bulb, that's relatively easy. The Democrats are warming Algore up again right now.

Changing a dim bulb for something altogether brighter may take a little longer.

But it'll be worth it.

Thank you.


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