L. Neil Smith's
Number 215, March 17, 2003


Under the Thumb of Municipal Socialism
An invitation from L. Neil Smith
Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise

Special to TLE

It's one thing, I've discovered, to be a theoretical anarchist, and quite another to try to make the theory effective on an everyday basis.

For 31 years, since the summer of 1972, I've been an advocate of the position, "That government is best which governs least" (Thomas Jefferson), and, "The government that governs least is no government at all." (L. Neil Smith). My friend and partner Rex May is a bit more practical. He says, "That government is best which governs someone else."

I know precisely where and when my conversion from limited statism occured because, while I was attending a seminar with the great Robert LeFevre in Wichita, and adroitly avoiding his repeated attempts to turn me into a pacifist, when I wasn't looking, he turned me into an anarchist.

I'll defend anarchism, theoretical and otherwise, some other time. (I know, you were all wound up and ready to have at it. Sorry.) My point today is that, in all that time, three point oh three three three three three (and so on) decades, I have yet to abolish a single government. The shame and guilt I feel over this failure are almost unbearable.

In a general way, my view is that, partly owing to our history, and partly to our technology, our species is in the gradual process of outgrowing government. We've outgrown many another institution and unsentimentally let it fall away. There aren't many flintknappers or stagecoach companies or buggy whip makers any more. The only reason we haven't sloughed off government, as well, is that too many thieves and parasites—pardon me, politicians and bureaucrats—(those, in short, who are furthest behind on the growth curve) can't find honest work in the market system, and somehow believe they have a right to carve themselves a nice, thick, juicy slice of the Productive Class instead.

I also believe that the whole disgusting War on Terror Homeland Security Patriot Act mess we find ourselves wading through with the Bush-Clinton-Bush Administration today is a direct result of their correct—if hysterical—perception that their time is very nearly done. Before this century is over, human society will be organized as differently from society today as today's is from that of the Middle Ages.

The entry level for the second-oldest of all professions is often the municipal government. To a lot of people, running for Congress, the Senate, or the Presidency may seem a bit ambitious, even arrogant—like deciding to become a novelist. But the idea of your next door neighbor the shoe salesman running for city council seems as American as pizza or burritos. You can't imagine anybody voting for him, but before you know it, you find yourself down at City Hall in the council chambers, begging this cretin not to tax your windows by the square inch.

Meanwhile, the cretins who got in before him are already telling you how often to cut your lawn, when to run your fireplace, how long you can park your car in front of your own house, and what you can do in your backyard behind a six-foot wooden fence. Fail to comply, they show up bright and early on your doorstep with a summons and a nasty little cop, her elbows just quivering to snatch that 9mm Glock 17 out of her racing holster, fill you with tiny holes, reload, and do it all again.

Don't laugh. It's happened to me. I'll tell you more about it sometime.

It doesn't take very much of this before even the most moderate of gradualists (or the most gradual of moderates) begins to ask himself what city government does that he actually wants done and how much of that could be done a whole lot better and cheaper by non-governmental organizations. Not to mention more safely, in the absence of nasty little cops. Private electricity and water are cheaper, and private security companies are more polite because they're afraid of getting sued.

So here's the deal. Editor John Taylor and I are hereby soliciting articles, demonstrating that city government is obsolete as a form of human organization and—if only from the standpoint of public health—should be abolished. As always, it's for the children. Don't bother trying to be fair or evenhanded. The other side has had its way for 8000 years. Like the man says, we are equal time. If we get enough items, and they're good enough, we'll put a book together and look for publishers.

Mind you, we're out to start a genuine, historic social movement, here —call it "demunicipalization"—in part to make up for my 31 sad, wasted years. No compromises, please. If you happen to be one of those folks who still think privatizing dungeons and torture chambers constitutes an improvement of the human condition, we will be happy to recommend any number of other publications where you'll be better received.

Eight hundred to a thousand words, please.

You have nothing to lose but your building codes.

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

L. Neil Smith writes regular columns for The Libertarian Enterprise webleyweb.com/tle, Sierra Times sierratimes.com, and for Rational Review rationalreview.com.


Your generous donations will help us stay online!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 215, March 17, 2003